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Ada couple drives from Atlanta after canceled flight: What you need to know if it happens to you

Ada couple drives from Atlanta after cancelled flight; What you need to know if it happens to you
Posted at 9:20 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 09:53:51-05

ADA, Mich. — A recent flight cancellation forced an Ada couple to drive through the night.

“To some degree, the whole thing traumatized us, especially me,” said Janie Begeman. “Phil got on a plane on Monday and flew happily and I thought, ‘I don't know if I ever want to get on an airplane again.’”

Frustrated by the experience, they contacted the FOX17 Problem Solvers and asked about flyer rights.

“We need to be able to trust that the airlines tell us the truth,” said Begeman.

On January 4, Begeman and her husband were returning from a trip to San Jose, California when they found themselves stuck in Atlanta because Delta cancelled their flight home.

“Everything to Detroit the next day was sold out, everything to Chicago was sold out,” said Begeman.

The couple tried to rebook, even through other cities, but nothing worked with their schedule, so they decided to drive.

“I basically said to Phil I think our only option if we want to get home, and he had a doctor's appointment on Friday that we really wanted to be here for, is we'll rent a car,” said Begeman.

According to Begeman, they only stopped for a short nap. It took approximately 13 hours. The rental car, gas, and drinks cost them $294.

“We literally were so exhausted,” said Begeman. “I think we had reached the point where we weren't even hungry. I mean we didn't stop in a restaurant, we did nothing.”

The day after they returned, Begeman submitted a compensation claim, but the airline quickly rejected it.

According to Delta, they did not need to cover the expenses since the weather caused the cancellation.

Begeman disputes the explanation, saying gate attendants hinted at crew issues while they were waiting to board. She added they did not encounter any weather on their drive either.

An email provided to FOX17 by another passenger on the same flight suggested a combination of crew availability, air traffic control challenges, and weather.

He spent just over $300 on hotel accommodations and meals.

In a statement to FOX17, Delta doubled down on weather being the reason for the flight’s cancellation.

"Delta flight 2603 from Atlanta to Grand Rapids on January 4 was canceled due to weather,” said a spokesperson. “We apologize for the experience of these customers, as well as others impacted by tough operations resulting from weather conditions. As an airline with a vast, connected network, significant weather in one part of the country can have downline impact for aircraft that were set to operate flights later elsewhere."

Begeman did receive a refund after FOX17 contacted Delta.

The other passenger has not.

When asked why Begeman got her money back over other passengers, Delta said it evaluates refunds on a case-by-case basis, but did not specify.

“American travelers deserve so much more,” said Greg Staley, a spokesperson with the U.S. Travel Association. “They deserve a system that is efficient from end to end and they deserve a best-in-class travel system.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation rules, airlines must refund people the unused portion of their ticket for canceled or significantly delayed flights, even if it was nonrefundable.

Baggage fees apply too.

When it comes to things like meal and hotel reimbursements, airlines do not need to offer anything.

However, many do if it’s caused by something in their control such as maintenance problems or fueling.

For example, Delta offers five different types of compensation when the problem lies with them.

To learn more about commitments for controllable cancellations and delays, click here.

“It creates a domino effect across the whole travel ecosystem really,” said Staley.

Staley says regardless, bad experiences like the ones millions of people across the country went through over the past month impact consumer confidence and it’s up to those in power to change that.

“It is time to get an FAA administrator, increase the staffing for air traffic control, invest in technology, make some of these decisions and make some of these actions now that will help us get out of these situations,” said Staley.

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