Nearly one in five flight attendants has been in a physical altercation with unruly passengers this year.
In a survey of 5,000 flight attendants by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union, 17% reported experiencing a physical incident in the first half of 2021.
More than 85% of respondents said they had dealt with unruly passengers this year, and 61% of flight attendants said they heard racist, sexist, or homophobic slurs during altercations.
“This survey confirms what we all know, the vitriol, verbal and physical abuse from a small group of passengers is completely out of control, and is putting other passengers and flight crew at risk,” said Sara Nelson, president of AFA-CWA. The union is asking for more support from federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“It is time to make the FAA ‘zero tolerance’ policy permanent, the Department of Justice to utilize existing statute to conduct criminal prosecution, and implement a series of actions proposed by our union to keep problems on the ground and respond effectively in the event of incidents,” Nelson said.
The AFA survey found 71% of flight attendants who filed incident reports received no follow-up and a majority “did not observe efforts to address the rise in unruly passengers by their employers.”
About 75% of reports of aggressive passengers involved disputes over masks, the FAA said. President Joe Biden mandated Americans wear masks while flying soon after taking office.
But Nelson said “this is not just about masks as some have attempted to claim. There is a lot more going on here and the solutions require a series of actions in coordination across aviation.”
Several flight attendants said their mental health has deteriorated due to the increase in passenger aggression. A Harvard psychologist told Insider’s Avery Hartmans the aggression stems from the fear and anxiety COVID-19 placed on Americans the past year and a half.
“This is not a ‘new normal’ we are willing to accept,” said Nelson, the union president. “We will be sharing survey findings with FAA, DOT, TSA, and FBI to help more fully identify the problems and our union’s proposed actions to affect positive change.”
Seat-back television screens, complimentary snacks, and low fares were the airline’s norm, and customers loved it.
Behind the now 21-year-old company was David Neeleman, a serial aviation entrepreneur with successful airline startups in three countries.
Four airlines later, Neeleman’s latest endeavor is Breeze Airways, an ultra-low-cost carrier looking to fill the gaps left by the nation’s largest airlines. Breeze launched its first flights in May and has been steadily expanding up and down the East Coast and inland as far as San Antonio, Texas.
Despite Neeleman at the wheel, Breeze is nothing like JetBlue. You won’t find seat-back screens or the famous Terra Blues chips on Breeze’s shiny blue planes, but that’s not the point of the airline.
I took a flight on Breeze Airways and found out why it’s not supposed to be JetBlue 2.0.
Breeze Airways launched in late May with an opening salvo of 39 initial routes from bases in Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Norfolk, Virginia.
Unlike JetBlue, Breeze’s strategy targets underserved cities and primarily creates new air routes where none currently exist.
The very first Breeze flight flew from Tampa to Charleston, for example, on a route that sees limited service by only one other airline. Flying between these two cities solely on JetBlue would require a stop in New York or Boston.
Breeze’s bread and butter, at the moment, are routes that are less than two hours in duration. Convenience is the name of the game and connecting flights are non-existent.
In terms of pricing, Breeze’s introductory fares start at $39 for a basic fare that only includes a ticket to ride and a personal item to carry onboard the plane. It’s comparable to JetBlue’s basic economy fare.
While not all tickets will be sold for $39, the idea is to keep fares low to stimulate demand.
But Breeze’s low prices come with trade-offs, primarily in the onboard and customer service experience.
Breeze, most notably, doesn’t have a phone number. Customers are encouraged to send a message or email the airline but calling isn’t really an option.
The strategy helps keep costs low by reducing Breeze’s overall infrastructure and staffing, which is typical for an ultra-low-cost airline.
Technology also plays a large role with nearly everything able to be done from the airline’s mobile application. Neeleman initially described Breeze as a “high-tech company that just happens to fly airplanes” and this is one way of scaling back on staff levels.
The tech-focused strategy does help keep costs down, which are passed on to the consumer in low airfares, but experts say it might not jive well with less tech-focused customers.
JetBlue, alternatively, does have a phone number in addition to a messaging feature on its mobile application.
In another ultra-low-cost trade-off, in-flight entertainment on Breeze is currently only available through mobile device streaming, and the service isn’t yet offered on the Embraer E195 fleet.
In-flight WiFi, another JetBlue staple, also isn’t available on Breeze’s Embraer fleet. That will come when the Airbus A220s arrive but it likely won’t be free, as JetBlue’s is.
But again, that’s part and parcel of flying an ultra-low-cost airline. You get what you pay for.
Breeze is offering snacks for the time being but the airline will move to a buy-on-board program where all snacks and drinks will require a purchase. The current offering includes Utz chips and a Kind bar.
One thing that was surprisingly similar between the two airlines was Breeze’s choice of aircraft for its first flights. The Embraer E190/E195 family of aircraft was tapped to initially power Breeze’s fleet, with second-hand models coming from Air Canada and Neeleman’s Azul Brazilian Airlines.
Frequent JetBlue flyers will surely recognize the aircraft as the E190 variant powers JetBlue’s short-haul network. The E195 is near identical, albeit slightly longer.
Breeze will soon fly the Airbus A220-300, an aircraft type that just joined the JetBlue fleet in December.
On the inside of the E195, it was hard to tell the difference from JetBlue’s interiors on the aircraft.
Standard legroom seats had nearly the same look as those found on JetBlue. There was one glaring omission, however, in the form of seat-back entertainment screens.
Legroom varies from aircraft to aircraft on Breeze and standard economy seats on the E195 aircraft do match JetBlue’s 32 inches of pitch in economy. That may soon change, however, as Breeze standardizes its seat product.
E190 aircraft offer 29 inches of pitch in a standard offering for an ultra-low-cost airline.
The seats also had the same feel as a JetBlue Embraer E190 seat. I’ve spent a lot of time flying on that aircraft and if it weren’t for the lack of televisions, I probably couldn’t tell the difference.
But perhaps the most important difference between the two airlines is that Breeze and JetBlue don’t compete on the same routes. Breeze primarily flies to underserved cities and routes such as Oklahoma City-San Antonio; Norfolk-Columbus, Ohio; and Hartford, Connecticut-Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
JetBlue, for its part, primarily operates a hub-and-spoke network with bases in East Coast cities like New York, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Most Breeze customers don’t even have JetBlue as a choice for those routes without connecting somewhere.
So while the offering might be bare-bones, customers in underserved markets are getting cheap access to non-stop flights, something that JetBlue isn’t currently offering at a widespread level.
And for many, trading high-tech planes for convenience is a compromise worth making, especially when the price is right.
A flight crew’s routine trip from Denver to Raleigh, North Carolina and back ended in an overnight stay onboard their plane after diverting to Hayden, Colorado due to “severe weather.”
SkyWest Airlines was operating flight 5332 from Raleigh to Denver on behalf of United Express, the regional brand for United Airlines, on July 17 when the diversion occurred. Flight tracking data from Flightradar 24shows the aircraft making a series of turns and flying in a holding pattern before eventually heading to Hayden by way of Nebraska and Wyoming.
Jessica Taylor, the flight’s captain, described the ordeal on a LinkedIn following the flight.
“This has been a challenging week of flying,” Taylor wrote in a LinkedIn post. “After flying 8+ hours from Den-Rdu-Den (well Hayden after diverting) my crew and had to sleep on the airplane overnight …. Yes that’s right we slept on the floor of the airplane in Hayden.”
SkyWest didn’t confirm Taylor’s account but told Insider that hotel accommodations were not available in Hayden.
“Though we worked to make arrangements to get our customers to their destinations that evening, unfortunately the nearby area did not have hotel accommodations available under the circumstances,” SkyWest said in a statement to Insider. “We, along with our partners at United, apologized and United has reached out to customers to provide compensation for the inconvenience.”
Taylor’s aircraft, an Embraer E170 regional jet registered as N613UX, eventually departed for Denver the next afternoon and landed nearly 24 hours after it left Raleigh, according to Flightradar 24 data. Its next scheduled flight from Denver to Idaho Falls, Idaho was also canceled.
The round-trip journey between Denver and Raleigh is scheduled at just over eight hours from takeoff to landing back in Denver, including the layover in Raleigh. In Taylor’s case, the same crew operated both legs of the trip.
For Taylor, the incident was the first time that she had been forced to spend the night on board an airplane due to a lack of accommodations.
“This is a first for me in 15+ years of professionally flying,” Taylor wrote on LinkedIn. “I personally never thought I’d find myself sleeping on the floor of a plane as 38 year old airline captain.”
The Embraer E170 does have a first class cabin with recliner seats but the aircraft isn’t meant for overnight sleeping. United says that first class seats on the aircraft are 24 inches wide with 38 inches of pitch and six inches of recline.
“COVID has returned to the front burner of investor concerns right now,” David Donabedian, CIO of CIBC Private Wealth, said in a note. “Last week we had high inflation readings. Now we have concerns that the rise in COVID cases is dimming the economic outlook. While the second-quarter earnings reports have so far beat expectations, this is old news now.”
Shares of airlines, cruise operators, and other travel companies slumped on concerns that the Delta variant would derail the recovery.
Some argue the plunge on Monday is nothing to fear. The sell-off in stocks is a “healthy pullback” that will likely be short-lived and could present a buying opportunity, said technical analyst Katie Stockton of Fairlead Strategies.
In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin continued its recent slide, falling as much as 3.4% to $30,646.90. All other major cryptocurrencies – ether, cardano, ripple, dogecoin, polkadot, and solana – traded lower on Monday.
Despite the downturn, mining bitcoin has been a lot easier. The asset’s “network difficulty,” which measures how much computing power is needed to mint a new bitcoin, has plummeted.
Oil fell on news over the weekend that OPEC+ reached a deal on supply, overcoming the deadlock between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out against lifting the federal mask mandate that requires travelers to don face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when using transportation modes including air, rail, and bus.
“The truth is that the unvaccinated portion that’s out there is extremely vulnerable,” Marty Cetron, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of global migration and quarantine, told Reuters on Thursday.
President Joe Biden first directed agencies to create mask mandates for transportation in January and CDC soon followed up with an order that codified mask mandates on commercial and public transportation into federal law.
The Transportation Security Administration, tasked with protecting the nation’s transportation networks, complemented CDC’s order with its own mandate that covers airports and commercial aircraft, as well as surface transportation networks. Before then, mask mandates were solely a matter of airline policy, and the first airline to require masks for passengers, JetBlue Airways, didn’t do so until late April.
TSA’s mandate took effect on February 2 and has already been extended past its original expiration date of May 11. September 13 is the new scheduled end date but the order can be extended again if the federal government deems it necessary, and Cetron’s comments hint that it might be.
“I get we’re all just over this emotionally but I do think we will succeed together if we realize the virus is the enemy and it’s not your fellow citizen or the person sitting next to you on a plane or a piece of cloth that you have to wear over your face,” Cetron told Reuters, adding that federal agencies are expected to follow CDC’s lead on this issue.
“It is currently unknown as to whether the mask mandate will be extended or kept in place,” Lisa Farbstein, TSA’s spokesperson, told Insider. “What we do know is that the mandate is currently in place until September 13. That gets us through the traditional summer travel season, just past the Labor Day holiday.”
Defiance to the mask mandate has heightened tensions onboard commercial flights as flight crews have been enforcing the policy. Passengers have hurled verbal abuse at flight attendants and interactions have even turned violent, as Insider’s Allana Akhtar reported.
“I’m sure there are some executives and many employees who personally wish the mask mandate would end today, were it not for the threat of the delta variant of the virus, simply to reduce the tensions that exist on aircraft,” Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider.
In undisclosed locations near airports around the country this month, flight attendants are receiving training in aggressive self defense moves that are specially designed for close-quarters.
Flight attendants learn the double-ear slap, the eye-poke, and the groin-kick. They learn tricks to swiftly disarm passengers with sharp weapons, and how to use items readily available aboard a plane for defense.
The moves are designed to de-escalate and quickly subdue passengers because in the words of former trainer Scott Armstrong, “you don’t want to get into a long, drawn-out fight.”
This is, as they say, not a drill. Just last week, the training was famously put to good use, when a female passenger on an American Airlines flight to North Carolina attacked and bit several flight attendants and tried to open the plane’s door mid-flight.
Resourceful flight attendants grabbed a roll of duct-tape, and the woman arrived at her destination, subdued and bound tightly to her chair. It might not have been standard protocol but it was effective and American Airlines later applauded its crew.
It’s not just your imagination; there really has been an extraordinary amount of mayhem in the skies recently.
A video of a woman attacking a Southwest flight attendant and knocking out two of her teeth before another passenger stepped in to help recently went viral.
The annual flight attendant training, which the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) started in 2004 and paused due to Covid19, resumes at a time of record-breaking reports of delays due to passenger misbehavior on commercial flights.
During a year when many travelers stayed home due to Covid-19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has received 3,420 reports of “unruly passenger” incidents on planes as of July 13. More than three quarters of those incidents have been related to passengers refusing to abide by the federal mask mandate.
With five months left in the year, the average number of reports has already been surpassed roughly threefold, and the FAA has set up a new special task force to investigate.
There are also more firearms being discovered during routine x-ray screenings of carry-on luggage, according to the TSA. As of mid-July, roughly 3,000 weapons have been intercepted so far in 2021, and 85% of them were loaded, the TSA told Insider in an email.
Over the 4th of July weekend, 70 guns were discovered at airport checkpoints. This month, six firearms were seized at airports in Oregon over a single 10-day period, an “astounding” number, according to the TSA. Nationally, the TSA says we are on-trend to double the yearly average for weapons seizures.
Flight attendants are on the front lines, and say the self-defense training is sorely needed.
Sarah Nelson, the president of the International Association for Flight Attendants (AFA), believes the training should be made mandatory. In a town hall posted on YouTube, she said that flight attendants have become “literal punching bags” for the public and that many had left their jobs.
“This should send a message to the public that these events are serious and flight attendants are there to ensure the safety and security of everyone in the plane,” Nelson told the press.
Nelson’s group says it received over 5,000 responses to its fact-finding survey on unruly passengers. According to an AFA spokesperson, more flight attendants than ever have been requesting support and advice from the union.
What can be done?
And yet, in the face of all of this, the options that are available to airlines are limited.
There are not necessarily enough federal air marshals – officials who dress in civilian clothes and are tasked with protecting against the most extreme in-flight scenarios – to be aboard every flight, and their responsibilities have never covered keeping the peace for fellow travelers. For security reasons, the TSA does not disclose the number of federal air marshals or discuss their specific duties or routes.
Regulations say that cabin safety is the responsibility of flight attendants.
Meanwhile, unruly behavior in the skies has traditionally been met with warnings and relatively small federal fines, as well as bans imposed by individual airlines. When an arrest is made, it is generally by state law enforcement.
Looking for new ways to shame travelers into exhibiting better behavior, the FAA has broken with its usual protocol and began publishing details about the incidents. The FAA has previously kept this information private but, a spokesperson explained, figured the details might make people think twice before acting out on a plane.
Also, the FAA has chosen to get creative.
The agency has tweeted jocular memes, including one featuring Brad Pitt as part of a public awareness campaign.
In another campaign launched in early July, adorable kids starred in a public service announcement that lampooned poorly-behaved adults. A wise, winsome toddler cautions that grown-ups can go to jail if they keep “doing that stuff.”
“They should know better if they’re, like, adults,” another child says – quite reasonably – while swaying past the screen perched in a swing.
Since January, the FAA has had in place a zero-tolerance policy, which did away with warnings and made it possible for fines – which accused passengers can contest in court – to be larger than ever.
When FAA’s chief administrator Steve Dickson announced the policy in January he cited the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, but more recently incidents have been tied to the mask mandate. Passengers deciding to bring alcohol aboard flights was another common thread to the incidents.
That policy will be reviewed in September, when the mask mandate is set to expire, and there is some discussion of making it permanent.
As a result, in-flight misbehavior has become increasingly expensive. Under zero-tolerance, the FAA has handed down a whopping $682,000 in fines year-to-date against 84 passengers, many over $10,000.
The steepest fine proposed so far this year was $52,500 for a Delta Airlines passenger who, last December, tried to open the cockpit door, assaulted a flight attendant, and was subdued and cuffed with the help of passengers. The woman, who was flying from Honolulu to Seattle, then freed herself of the cuffs to assault the flight attendant a second time, and was met by law enforcement upon arrival.
Another fine of $21,500 went to a Frontier Airlines passenger who argued about the mask policy, drank alcohol not served by the airline, and argued with a nearby passenger before striking the passenger in the head.
And a woman in Indianapolis was fined $18,500 because she argued with the captain of the plane, and punched a nearby passenger in the back of the head, while the passenger was holding an infant.
Because of the enormous caseload, the task force has not yet processed fines for the incident involving the flight attendant who lost teeth.
Khan said the flight attendant yelled at her. She asked him whether he wanted her to fish out the used diaper and he said yes, she told NBC News.
She then asked another flight attendant for a garbage bag to put the diaper in, and this second attendant told her she hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place, she said.
Khan told NBC News that she filed a customer-service incident report when the plane landed, but that a few hours later the flight attendant called her on her cellphone – she said she recognized his voice.
“He said, ‘Due to a biohazard incident on the plane today, we’ve placed you on the no-fly list,'” Khan told NBC News.
“This made me very angry, because I suffered the humiliating experience,” she said. She had fished the diaper out and threw it away outside of the plane after it landed, she said.
The attendant used profanities in the phone call, she said. He also called her daughter obnoxious, she said.
“The details as described by our customer do not meet the high standards that Mesa sets for our flight attendants and we are reviewing the matter,” a Mesa spokesperson told NBC News.
Khan told NBC News that she doesn’t think she was actually placed on a no-fly list. She said that as of Monday afternoon, no one else from Mesa had contacted her, but that she got two calls from United Airlines, which contracts Mesa for some regional flights.
United wouldn’t tell her the flight attendant’s identity, how he got her cellphone number, or whether he has been disciplined over the incident, she said. United hadn’t apologized, she said.
Insider asked Mesa Airlines for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The next-generation and “long-range” version of Airbus’ largest single-aisle jet offers JetBlue a 4,000-nautical mile range while also burning less fuel on the overseas journey.
Passengers accustomed to flying the New York-London route will note that it’s the smallest aircraft to service the busy transatlantic corridor that’s generated billions in revenue for some airlines. But JetBlue is giving the plane a fresh new look compared to its other jets to help bring more travelers across the pond.
Take a look inside the jet that will take JetBlue passengers to London starting in August.
From the outside, JetBlue’s newest plane looks like any other in the leisure carrier’s fleet. On the inside, however, is a technological marvel jam-packed with passenger-friendly amenities.
Only 138 seats are offered on an aircraft that can normally seat around 200.
Mint business class is also making its transatlantic debut with brand-new seats to boot.
A total of 24 business class seats are angled towards the aisle in what’s known as a herringbone pattern.
There’s one seat on each side of the aisle in a 1-1 configuration, as opposed to the alternating 2-2, 1-1 configuration on JetBlue’s first-generation Mint planes.
The arrangement is ideal for solo travelers as they offer complete privacy from the rest of the aircraft. JetBlue told Insider that privacy was the greatest request that it received from Mint flyers.
And to that effect, each seat will have fully closeable doors that block passengers off from the rest of the plane.
JetBlue is traditionally a leisure airline but is enticing premium customers the most business class seats it has ever offered on a single plane. And it shows, the cabin is so deep that it stretches all the way to the aircraft’s wings.
Each seat offers an abundance of privacy since flyers don’t have to share the row and high walls create a feeling of exclusivity. This seat is referred to as the “Mint Suite.”
Wireless charging pads are also available in yet another unique touch.
Lighting in the suites is offered through a personal reading lamp and a larger lamp with customizable mood lighting.
A pillow and comforter kit is left on each seat before boarding. JetBlue tasked Tuft & Needle with designing a new comforter complete with a “foot nook” to keep feet warm during the flight.
Vegan leather material was used to create the seat, which is actually a mattress also crafted by Tuft & Needle. Flyers seeking maximum sleeping time can also flick on the “do not disturb” light and flight attendants will know not to bother them or serve them meals.
Standard at each business class seat is a 17-inch entertainment system. One of the features unique to JetBlue is that the screens can be extended during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
The in-flight entertainment system can be controlled by touch or by using one of the tethered remotes that also act as game controllers. Device-pairing is also an option so flyers can use their phones as a remote.
In-seat power is offered with 110V AC power outlets and USB charging ports, as well as a hook on which to wrap cords.
Each business class flyer will receive an amenity kit from Wanderfuel with the essentials to survive a long flight.
The other type of seat in Mint is the “Mint Studio,” located in the first row of the cabin.
There are only two of these seats, both in row one, and JetBlue is selling them at a premium because of the extra space they offer.
The Mint Studio is ideal for those wanting more space or traveling with a companion. There’s more living space and even a cushioned bench for a companion to use.
JetBlue ran with this idea and even installed another tray table so flyers can work side by side or share a meal.
There’s even an additional power outlet in the seat.
Other perks of the Mint Studio include a larger 22-inch in-flight entertainment screen.
There’s also more storage space in the Mint Studio with additional compartments throughout.
A personal storage closet, ideal for a handbag or other small items, is yet another perk of booking the Mint Studio.
The remaining 114 seats house the economy section in a standard 3-3 configuration.
Seats are split between 24 extra-legroom “even more space” seats and 90 “core” seats with standard legroom.
Even more space seats, denoted by their orange headrests, offer 35 inches of legroom.
Seat width in the section is the standard 18.4 for inches that every economy seat has.
These seats are also among the closest to the front so flyers can get off of the plane sooner than most, while also enjoying early boarding privileges compared to the rest of economy.
Beyond extra legroom and being closer to the front, there’s not much more that these seats offer.
Even more space seats are nearly identical to standard core seats, with both offering adjustable headrests, in-seat power, and seat-back entertainment screens.
But the extra legroom may make a bigger difference to some on the longer eastbound transatlantic crossings.
The first row in economy is actually an exit row seat that isn’t listed as part of JetBlue’s “even more space” product because it doesn’t recline. The legroom, however, is quite generous.
And with only four rows of seats for the entire plane, there are not many to be had.
The remaining 90 seats are the domain of JetBlue’s core product.
Each seat in this cabin offers 32 inches of pitch and the standard 18.4 inches of width.
Each seat in economy will offer 10.1-inch seat-back screens with JetBlue’s latest entertainment product.
A selection of movies, television shows, games, and a moving map will be available during the flight.
Armrest remotes aren’t being offered by the screens can be controlled by touch or by pairing a device.
In-seat power in economy is available both through 110v AC power outlets and USB charging ports underneath the screens.
Complimentary in-flight WiFi will also be available for all passengers throughout the entire flight, with JetBlue the only carrier on the route to offer it.
Hot meals will be offered in economy, with JetBlue tapping Dig to provide the service. Examples of some main courses are charred chicken and brown rice, meatballs and tomato farro, and spiced eggplant and quinoa.
In the back of the plane, available for economy flyers, is the “pantry.” The self-serve station will have drinks and snacks for passengers to take at their leisure.
All flyers in economy will receive a blanket but no pillow as part of the initial launch offering.
All the armrests go up in economy rows so flyers can use the row as a bed if one is entirely free.
There are some economy seats to be avoided, however, and those are the ones in rows 22 and 23 as the windows are misaligned.
London’s Heathrow Airport is famous for its approaches that fly right over iconic sites as Canary Warf, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster. But flyers in those rows won’t get to see them.
Otherwise, there are no truly bad seats in the cabin. One of the last rows in economy is also reserved for the flight crew to rest so fewer flyers will be relegated to what is often regarded as the worst place to sit in economy.
One Mint seat is also blocked for flight attendants to rest.
Above the cabin, mood lighting will help shape the ambiance in the cabin with a variety of settings depending on the phase of flight.
At night, for example, relaxing colors will ease flyers to sleep and then gently wake them up.
At first, I was faced with an eight-hour delay that quickly turned into an overnight stay. American was going to pay for a hotel but I’d be largely on my own for meals, plus any other expenses I might incur thanks to the extended trip.
In total, I incurred $127.39 extra expenses incurred from the delay but because of the credit card I used to book the trip, I was reimbursed for all of it. Here’s how my credit card ended up saving my bank account.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a premium travel credit card that costs $550 per year but comes with perks like a free $300 in travel credits, complimentary Lyft Pink membership for a year, and built-in travel insurance.
While many credit cards offer some form of travel insurance, not all are equal and some only kick in if the cardholder dies in a plane crash. But the Sapphire Reserve offers three types: trip cancellation/interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, and travel delay reimbursement.
As its name suggests, trip cancellation/interruption insurance covers expenses when a trip is “cut short or canceled” due to instances like sickness, severe weather, injury, loss of life, terrorist action, hijacking, and unpostponable jury duty or court subpoena. Chase will cover up to $10,000 per trip, if eligible.
Baggage delay insurance covers “essential purchases” in the event luggage is lost by an airline, bus company, cruise ship operator, or train company for more than six hours.
And finally, trip delay insurance covers travelers if a trip is delayed for more than six hours or requires an overnight stay. This is the insurance for which I qualified when American canceled my flight and rescheduled me for a later flight to New York.
This insurance is pretty comprehensive and will cover meals, lodging, transportation, and additional unreimbursed expenses up to $500. Coverage only applies if the flight was booked using the Sapphire Reserve and I make sure I book every trip using the card for that reason.
The perk will also apply to mileage award tickets, even if only the taxes are paid using the card. If travelers are booking flights with a travel credit, they can also get the coverage by paying as little as $.01 using the card.
I called up Chase while stranded in Colombia to confirm I could use the credit and they gave me the green light. I didn’t need to call Chase but this was my first time using the perk so I wanted to be sure I was using it correctly.
I was ecstatic to have $500 at my disposal because that goes really far in Colombia. But I wasn’t trying to extend my vacation, I wanted out.
My first plan was to take the 12:15 a.m. flight to New York and so I began my long wait in the airport. I took a walk and started plotting how I could spend $500.
American, for its part, gave all the passengers on my first canceled flight a meal voucher for around $12. I decided to use that for my first meal and save Chase’s travel insurer some money.
But beyond that, I was hesitant to spend any money because I didn’t want to get into a situation where something wasn’t covered. Again, this was my first time using the perk.
So, I left Colombia using exactly $0 of the $500 and didn’t spend anything until landing back in the US. After my second flight to New York was canceled, I was routed to Phoenix via Dallas leaving the same night because I was starting a trip to Phoenix and American couldn’t get me home in time for my flight to get there.
After I landed in Dallas, American had given me a hotel voucher, at my request, so I could have a shower during my four-hour layover. I took a hotel shuttle to the hotel, around five miles from the airport itself, and only planned to shower in the room, then head back to the airport.
The shuttle, however, was hourly, and I only had 20 minutes from the time I got to the hotel to the time it was leaving again. That didn’t include checking in and getting to the room.
So, I figured, what better time to use the $500. I took my time in the shower and then ordered a Lyft for $19.27, including tip, to get me back to the airport.
Transportation, after all, is covered under the rules of the perk. Of course, I wouldn’t know for sure until I submitted the claim.
I got to the airport and American, once more, had given me another $12 meal voucher. But it was too early to eat so I only used around $6 of it to buy two water bottles for the flight to Phoenix.
I landed in Phoenix after a nightmare of a travel experience and asked American if they’d arrange a taxi for me to get to my family’s home. I thought it was a reasonable request being as I arrived a day early and my family members couldn’t pick me up.
But the airline didn’t think so and I was on my own to arrange an Uber, at peak time, for a total of $107.65 with a tip. Time to file my claim.
First, I needed proof of the delay being greater than six hours. That was easy as American sent an email telling me that I was rebooked on a later flight after the first flight cancellation.
Next, I needed my expenses. All of my Uber and Lyft receipts were digital, so getting them was just a matter of taking screenshots from their mobile applications.
Then, I needed a verification letter from American confirming that my flight was delayed due to a covered reason. In my case, a mechanical delay.
Even that was surprisingly easy. American has a request form just for “delay verification requests.”
That letter came three days later and I was then able to submit the claim.
To my surprise, it was approved with no questions asked three days later.
The check did take a while to arrive but I took it straight to the bank.
And with that, my escape from Colombia was complete. I even got credit card points from the two purchases.
One viewer wrote: “Saving this for the next time I fly!”
The hack comes amid a surge in travel as pandemic restrictions ease. Over the weekend of March 12, US airports saw the highest number of travelers since before the pandemic began, the The Financial Times reported. In May, Americans saw the cost of international flights shoot up by 17% compared with April 1, and domestic flight prices rise by 9%.