Best and Worst Travel Industry Responses to Hurricane Irene

by  Liz Webber | Aug 31, 2011
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As Hurricane Irene raged up from the Caribbean to the Northeast last week, many displaced travelers were left in its wake. Some airlines and hotels really stepped up to accommodate their storm-battered clients – others, not so much. Here, we present the best and worst responses to the storm.


As the storm headed north, a number of airlines waived change fees for flyers headed into or out of the hurricane’s path. However, trying to get a hold of a customer service agent last weekend was a different story.

On Friday, STELLAService conducted a survey of airline response times to requests via phone and Twitter. Again, some clear winners and losers here. While U.S. Airways averaged just 2 minutes 38 seconds of hold time, American Airlines callers waited an average of 1 hour 32 minutes to talk to someone – almost a full hour longer than Delta customers, the next worst airline.

However, Delta was the timeliest in responding to flyers’ Twitter messages, averaging a response time of just 14 seconds and answering all tweets directed at the airline. On the other side of things, AirTran did not respond to any of the tweets STELLAService sent their way.

Bear in mind that the results of this survey were based on random samples of an average 8 phone calls and 12 tweets to each airline, so may not tell the whole story. For its part, American Airlines released a statement refuting the findings: "We handled more than 100,000 calls on Friday, and during the period in question our customers waited an average of 21 minutes – far less than alleged and in line with most of our peers."


We were hard pressed to find hotels that left guests in the lurch as a result of the storm, but some of our favorite NYC properties went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure travelers felt comfortable while they waited out Irene. (Thanks to Hotel Chatter for pointing out a couple of these.)

Post-storm and a bit farther north, Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain is offering free stays (plus a requested $10/night service fee) to guests booked at other Vermont hotels that are closed or inaccessible as a result of Irene’s wrath.

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