FAA Software That Closed Airports Won’t Be Updated For 6 Years — Find Out When You’re Entitled to Hotel and Meal Vouchers for Delayed Flights

New York, March 16, 2017: An American Airlines jet late in the day at gate 14 Terminal 8 at JFK.
400tmax / Getty Images

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, thousands of Americans were affected by a massive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) software failure which resulted in widespread flight delays and cancellations. A combination of antiquated systems (a corrupt database file) and “personnel who failed to follow procedures” were to blame, CNN reported, with the FAA having to issue the first nationwide halt of air traffic in over two decades.

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“The agency determined that a data file was damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures,” the FAA detailed in a Jan. 12 statement. “The system was functioning properly and cancellations today were below one percent.”

In response, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has “made it very clear” that the FAA’s initial projected timeline of 6 years to update the existing infrastructure must be expedited.

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Previous Summer Travel Woes Prompted Service Changes at Major Airlines

More broadly, at prompting from the Department of Transportation, four major carriers updated their customer service policies in the last week of August 2022.

While flight delays and cancellations have continued since that time (albeit at a less frequent pace), at least you’re likely to receive some compensation for your loss of time if you do happen to get stranded, CNN reported. Last summer, the Department of Transportation released an Airline Customer Service Dashboard, clearly outlining what travelers can expect during flight delays or cancellations.

What can you expect if you experience a delay or cancellation on one of the following carriers?

American Airlines

If a delay or cancellation is the fault of the airline, American will offer a voucher for an approved hotel, transportation to the hotel and back to the airport, and meal vouchers if the delay is more than three hours. If the airline can’t provide you with a hotel or transportation, they will reimburse “reasonable costs” for both.

However, if the delays are related to weather or other events beyond the airline’s control, there will be no reimbursement of expenses.

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Delta Airlines

Delta also promises complimentary ground transportation and hotel accommodations if a delay or cancellation is the airline’s fault. Like American, they will reimburse “reasonable costs” if a partner hotel or transportation is not available. Also, they will provide a meal or meal vouchers for delays longer than three hours.

United Airlines

United Airlines has the same policies as Delta and American, except the airline places a limit of $200 on hotel reimbursement if a partner hotel is not available. However, if you can show that a reasonable cost for a hotel is greater than $200, United may provide greater reimbursement. Similarly, if an airport shuttle is not provided by the hotel, the airline provides transportation vouchers to and from the hotel to cover “reasonable costs.”

In all cases of cancellations, significant delays, or delays that may cause you to miss a connecting flight, these airlines promise to rebook travelers on the next flight with available seats. If there are no flights available that day, the airline will rebook you on one of their partner airlines.


JetBlue will also put delayed travelers up in a partner hotel free of cost — or reimburse costs for a hotel and ground transportation to and from the hotel. JetBlue specifies that travelers must show valid receipts to be reimbursed “reasonable and appropriate expenses.”

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JetBlue provides meal vouchers of $12 for delays longer than three hours. If concessions are not available in the airport, JetBlue will reimburse customers for food and beverages up to $12. The customer must show receipts for the purchases.


Southwest Airlines policies mirror those of Delta and American, providing hotel accommodations and ground transportation to and from the hotel or reimbursing “reasonable costs” for lodging and transportation. Southwest also provides meal vouchers for delays longer than three hours. The airline’s customer service policy also says they provide food and beverages to passengers whose flights are delayed.

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What You Should Know If Your Flight Is Delayed or Cancelled

While the airlines may automatically provide accommodations, it’s a good idea to let them know your needs and expectations. In cases where the delay is out of the airline’s control, most will not provide complimentary accommodations — but they may be able to arrange discounted hotel rates.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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