WSVN — You are flying home to South Florida on the last flight of the night. It’s canceled, and you can’t return home until the next day. It’s probably happened to you, so the question is, who has to pay for your hotel room that night? You or the airline? The answer comes from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Russ Dehlinger likes to head out to Las Vegas for the same reason many people go there.

Russ Dehlinger: "Put some sports bets, I go out every year. Every sport there is hockey, basketball, college football."

This year, he went out with a friend. Went to the casinos to collect what are called "futures sheets," which give the odds on teams winning games and a championship. Then he made his bets.

Russ Dehlinger: I got some good lines, college basketball, some good NBA basketball."

Then it was back to the airport to get the last Spirit Airlines flight of the night to Fort Lauderdale. His luck ran out.

Russ Dehlinger: "The exact words were, ‘The Fort Lauderdale flight 954 has been canceled.’ 

The Spirit employee told the passengers they did not have a crew to fly the plane to Fort Lauderdale. Russ was then booked on the next available Spirit flight at 4 p.m. the following day, 17 hours later, leaving Russ to ask the obvious question.

Russ Dehlinger: "Do you people have a hotel or something we can try to get to? ‘No we don’t.’" 

Russ and his friend then headed out to find a room for the night. The cheapest was a Motel 6 for $106. The next day, he again tried to get Spirit to pay for their room.

Russ Dehlinger: "Are they going to reimburse them for their room and their cab fare? And she says, ‘I can’t answer that.’"

No luck getting reimbursed for a motel room after the flight was canceled, so Russ flew home fuming.

Russ Dehlinger: "What I would like to battle for is, I would like, well, obviously, cab fare and our room taken care of."

Well, Howard, the last flight of the night was canceled, and Russ was put on a flight 17 hours later. Does an airline have to pay for a room for the night?

Howard Finkelstein: "It depends. When you buy a ticket, you get what the law calls a contract for carriage. In other words, your rights if you fly. The bottom line, if it’s not the airline’s fault and beyond their control — in other words, something like weather — they are not required to pay for a room. However, if it is the airline’s fault, the contract for carriage will let you know if you can get a hotel room. And most discount airlines, like Spirit, are not required to provide a room."

I spoke to Paul Berry with Spirit. He said, if the cancellation is Spirit’s fault, they may offer overnight accommodations. When he checked the records, the canceled flight Russ was planning to take was listed as crew time out.

He said, if the reason for the crew time out had been beyond Spirit’s control, they were not responsible to pay for the room.

Berry said, for Flight 954 that Russ was taking that day, there was no reason for the crew time out. Therefore, he said, "Tell Russ to send him his motel receipt and Spirit would pay for his room."

Howard Finkelstein: "That was nice of Spirit to do. Now, if you buy a ticket, go online to find the contract of carriage. It will tell you what your rights are if your flight is canceled."

Russ Dehlinger: "Just happened to get a check in the mail for the reimbursement for the hotel."

Russ got his reimbursement. Now he hopes he will be lucky with the bets he placed in Vegas.

Russ Dehlinger: "I am very happy I called Help Me Howard."

If you want to know what the details of an airline carriage contract, just Google that airline and the words "carriage contract." All the information will be there. And if you are bumped from a flight because it’s full, the rules are much different and in favor of the passenger. For example, the airline could have to pay you four times the cost of the ticket.

Frustrations soaring as problems left you grounded? Ready to see your headache go wheels up? Then contact us. We aren’t a sure bet, but we’ve got the spirit to tilt the odds in your favor. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Passenger’s rights or to file a complaint:

Recent expanded rights (including being bumped):

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox