Travel Related

Rookie Wednesday: What does Delta owe you for a – Delayed Flight, IROP, Cancellation and more?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

Snowy flight from DTW to MKE Delta Points blog

One of my favorite jokes someone once told me about Delta is that they are not really an airline. They said while they look like they are an airline, they actually are a law firm that just happens to also fly airplanes. Plus, most folks do not think twice about the FIFTY ONE page domestic COC or Contract of Carriage they are agreeing to when they “click buy” for a Delta ticket or the SEVENTY ONE (yes, 71) page COC when booking an international ticket.

In fact, I doubt most fliers have ever even taken the time read the COC in their lifetime. Beyond that the COC changes constantly and the COC that matters is the one that was in effect the day you purchased your ticket, not the current one on here for domestic and here for international.

what delta air lines owes you if they cancel a flight
What part of NO do you not understand? 😉

So let’s get right to the heart of the matter as a reader pointed out the other day that it would be good to have a post stating just what Delta does or does not owe you in case of whatever in including things like canceled flights and long delays. If you search the word “delay” or “cancel” in the COC a number of hits come up and the most important bits are simply this – Delta legal does not owe you much – but will do their best to take care of you if the problem is their fault and get you to where you need to go. They will often times even put you up in a hotel as well.

But if it is weather, that is another issue. And as I have seen first hand, Delta can claim weather when it really is not and there is very little you can do about it. It is better to be proactive than trust the airline to cover everything!

citi prestige travel insurance coverage

Because of all of the above, most folks who travel often choose to pay for travel (or at least part of the travel) with the “right” travel card. One of the best for this is the Citi Prestige card. Yes, it has a steep $450 per year fee but it gives you $250 back each year in travel credits so if you use this it could be looked at as a net $200 per year card even if just for travel insurance. The key part is it kicks in at the 3 hour mark.

CSR trip delay protection

The next best one is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) card that does about the same thing as the Citi Prestige, but it kicks in at the 6 hour mark (or either one for an overnight).

While there can be exceptions, both of these cards cover you if you pay for a “portion” of the fare with the card. Award tickets they explicitly cover if you use their points to pay in part or in full, but I have had reports of others getting coverage even on other frequent flyer tickets as long as anything was paid with the card so just know this can be a YMMV situation. Bottom line is up to $500 per ticket you are basically covered. Read the T&C for either the Citi Prestige card here or the Chase Sapphire Reserve card here if you want to know the fine details.

Clearly this quick post only scratches the surface of just what you can get. There are a number of other factors that come into play like:

  • Are you traveling out of the EU?
  • What if you are forcibly bumped?
  • How about delayed bags?

And on and on and there is no quick “one post” way to address them all. The bottom line is that in each unique case it is up to us to find out:

  • Was it weather (or is the airline claiming weather)?
  • How long was the delay?
  • What will the airline offer you per the COC?
  • Do local / or international rules apply?
  • Can your travel card help you?
  • Is there a better way to get to where you want to go?

With all this in mind you can read up on what “boxes” you can check off in your specific travel circumstances and then make the call. This could mean you either press the airline for what you are due or simply ask them for hotel or meal or other vouchers to help you out. If you, on your own, can find a better way to get from A-B suggest it and see if they are willing to help. If you get nothing but no-no-no from the airline, save all your receipts and after the fact see what you can get back if you paid for the ticket with the “right” travel card.

For me this is why I always pay for any of my Delta tickets with my CSR card. If my issue is less that 6 hours, as a Delta Diamond, they are just going to make my problems go away one way or another or I can go to a Sky Club and or spend some time at an XpresSpa to kill the delay. Longer than that and I have my travel insurance covered for up to $500 per trip. But not everyone can get the CSR due to Chase’s horrid 5/24 rule and thus they hold and pay for all tickets with the Citi Prestige card as a great second choice that kicks in even faster – that is, at the 3 hour mark. Perhaps consider the annual fee your yearly travel insurance cost (at least that is how I look at it).

Any questions or comments about travel delays or cancellations flying Delta? Fire away in the comments section below! – René


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Excellent insight but would like more information in a new post on what Delta may do or has done for delays it’s fault. Using the right credit card is also a good idea for any reason.

    I was caught delayed at ATL on the last flight of the day to LEX during the Delta system-wide computer outage on Jan. 29. I was richly rewarded with FF miles and an apology email from Delta, then again with some more FF miles and a promised $200 voucher (I’ve yet to see – it’s to post by Feb. 15). I did not even complain.

    I speculate one was as a general flyer and the other was don’t as a Silver Medallion.

    Still, landing in LEX after 3:30 am and getting my bag after 4 am then driving home (22 minutes away) – that was so very late! Started to remind me of my college days dragging in to bed after 5 am – then I realized I never did that. That was crazy even then. Ha.

    • @Mark – I think I covered that. Legally, since the USA has not rules like the EU rules for compensation, there only must do what you and they have agreed to in the COC. They are agreeing to sometimes put you up in a hotel and get you to where you need to go but that is all. Giving vouchers or more is up to them if they want to. Thus the almost NEED for credit card travel protection in the USA!

  2. TJK from DTW Reply

    Medallion status definitely makes a difference. I got caught in the August major incident coming back from MCO. Made it to ATL thanks to some reshuffling by Delta gate agents, but then got dumped out of a first class upgrade I had previously been granted on the ATL-DTW leg and actually had to standby for a seat. Ended up making it to DTW at 3:30 AM. Within two days I had a bunch of bonus miles, and within 2-3 weeks I had my $200 voucher as well.

    Friends of mine who aren’t frequent fliers were caught in DEN trying to get home to MSP, and they only got the vouchers.

  3. What would happen if flying DL and crediting miles elsewhere? Would they credit me bonus extra miles for that airline?

    • @Phil – Points are very different from other compensation. First off, when it comes to points, it is a vast majority of the time the time the original route and fare class that you will get credit for. The exception would be if the ticket were re-issued. Then, most times, you get THAT route and your original fare class as credit. That is flying and credit to Delta. Credit to partners most times means the same but under the latter, once in a great while, it can mean more bonus points on the re-issue.

  4. Thanks for the info about the Chase card. I will look into that. I use my Delta AmEx Reserve card for booking on Delta because I thought that, all things being equal, Reserve card holders got preferential treatment.

  5. Mark R. Brengelman Reply

    @Rene – Yes, you are correct your post did answer what Delta owes you if a delay is Delta’s fault and is not truly due to the weather or other third-party event out of Delta’s control. Delta does not owe you much, really simply to get you there to your final destination. If that means cancelling a flight and making you stay overnight, then they apparently owe you a hotel room, and that’s about it. Maybe!

    As to my experience Jan. 29 as I stated, my last Delta flight departed ATL after 2:30 a.m., arrived LEX after 3:30 a.m., and I got my bag off the baggage claim after 4:00 a.m. But Delta did get me there to my final airport LEX, so I was glad!

    I do agree Delta does not owe you any compensation, such as travel vouchers or FF miles as payment for “damages” for “your inconvenience and troubles [of traveling at 3 a.m!]” – when they did for Jan. 29, it was simply a gift of goodwill, This makes me re-think travel insurance as you stated, because there are credit card programs for that compensation and unforeseen expenses.

    Good, new perspective and idea for credit card travel insurance, Rene!

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