Were you stuck in Atlanta during the ATL / Delta power meltdown? How do you get reimbursement for your hotel / car / food cost? What about hours stuck on a jet? Here are some solutions..

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Were you stuck in ATL in the dark?

If you were one of the many stuck in the dark in Atlanta last weekend – I really feel for you. What a total mess. Clearly the airport had no plans to deal with something like this. Heck, Delta is so upset over this that they are, per published reports, requesting $50 million in compensation for what happened to them, that is, the airline. But that is them, what about you?

Reader Layla commented this in the “Ask René” section on the blog. It is a great question so I thought I would share:

“Hi René,

I was on the MAD to ATL flight on Sunday and we ended up being held in the plane, on the ground, for over six hours once we landed in ATL. They claimed they didn’t have a stairs large enough to deplane us. However, once the plane developed a mechanical issue that shut down the air flow they decided to get us off the aircraft.

Delta has yet to contact me with any offer of reimbursement for hotel and other expenses, but I am wondering if I should ask them for additional compensation for being held on the aircraft for six hours? What would you do in this situation?

Your advice is much appreciated.” – Layla

Ouch! To fly all the way from Europe then get stuck for 6 more hours is brutal (well past the DOT mandated 3+ hours you must be allowed off in addition to other bits). Then to have to pay for hotel and other costs you should not have had to is no fun either. So what are your options now?

The first simple one is check with your travel card you paid for the ticket with. As I covered in a Rookie post before, many quality travel cards have protections. This is one of the reasons I keep the Citi Prestige card and always pay for my airline tickets with this card. After a 3 hour delay the “protection” starts to kick in. Others it is 6 hours or overnight. Either way that is where you start.

Well what if you do not have any protection from your travel card – what then. Who should you gripe to about hotels etc.? The first simple thing to do is gripe to Delta on Delta.com <-LINK. Reports, so far, are that Delta is stepping up and paying out for the issue. I really commend Delta for this as they are clearly not at fault for THIS issue – the airport and Georgia power are (it is another argument if Delta is kinda at fault since they have worked HARD to block a second Atlanta airport but that is for another post). Start there and see what Delta says. My guess is they will be sending you a check if you have the receipts to turn in. If they do not respond to this, and ONLY after you have done this first, you can try writing to the Delta corporate contacts.

What if they say no (I think this is unlikely btw)? Then you can work on getting restitution from the Atlanta airport or Georgia power. Just keep all your receipts and now, while it is fresh in your mind, document all that happened.

SkyMiles – “A” best rewards program (#2 after Alaska’s program that is)

As to your last question Layla, as to being held on the jet for 2x as long as is legal per the DOT rules – you can gripe to the DOT about this but you will not benefit from this. Yes, doing so may get Delta fined and they may have a better plan in place if something like this ever happens again, but I think they are going to do this anyway so I see little reason for you or anyone to do this. However, I do think Delta should pay you something for not getting you off the jet in a timely manner. So, maybe ask for some SkyMiles for the issue or a travel voucher. Delta has given out both in the past and my guess is if you ask they will again. How much? That is up to you. If I were stuck for that long I would be asking for 20,000 points per person or a $200 voucher.

Clearly this is going to take a long time to sort out but if you are willing to be patient and reach out to all of the above, if necessary one by one, I think you will be made “whole” again as much as possible. – René



  1. There might be EU protection for those stuck on a Delta flight coming from an EU country. During the DL meltdown in Aug 2016, my family was stuck on a plane in Barcelona.

    All four of us received a check from Delta for $660 (€600).

  2. Fortunately I was stuck at home in Atlanta rather than at the airport. I had to shift my trip a day, but that pales in comparison to what many people had to deal with.

    One my flight Monday evening, which was still delayed due to pilot availability issues due to the aftermath, a poor lady on the flight was telling us how she landed just as the power went out and they had to spend 8 hours on plane before they were finally let off of the plane. I can’t imagine having to sit there for 8 hours. Surprisingly, she was very calm and didn’t see very upset at all about the whole situation.

    When there was no ETA for when power will be restored after 2-3 hours one would have thought that someone in charge should have stepped up and said we need to get those trapped people off of the airplanes. I don’t know at what point it that decision was made, but it sure seems like they waited way too long to make that decision. Did they feel it was better for people to be trapped on the planes than being trapped in the terminals with no power? Did they only have a handful of ladders to get people off of the 80-100 planes that were waiting to unload? None of us really knows the real situation so it’s hard to question things when you were not there in the fire. The one thing that is clear though is that the airport was woefully unprepared.

    When I am flying on a KLM plane in Amsterdam or a Virgin Australia plane in Australia, it always amazes me how they can load or unload the entire plane in 15-20 minutes. Here in the US it often takes 45+ minutes. They often use BOTH a front and back door to load and unload the plane. They use the jetbridge and then people also walk outside and up steps to the back door. The entire boarding process takes 1/2 or 1/3 of time that it takes in the US. Perhaps if we had more of a process like that there would be stair readily available to deplane.

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