American’s response to the “operational issues”

Faced with continuing operational issues American Airlines has stepped up on the customer service side of their game, aiming to keep customers happy despite flight delay and cancelation rates which are rather painful for passengers. Cancelations are still running around 5% of the carrier’s scheduled flights and significant delays – 45+ minutes – are in the 15% range. Yesterday (20 September) wasn’t pretty:


That means a lot of affected passengers and a lot of potential problems. The carrier responded by implementing a new accommodation effort for affected passengers:


For elites in their AAdvantage program the threshold for accommodation is one hour, not two, which is a nice bonus.

Most significant is the free refunds or accommodation on alternate carriers if there is a flight which has seats and which will beat the AA-operated flight to the final destination. Finding an alternate flight with seats might be tough given the high load factors on most airlines these days but it is a nice offering. And there’s a pretty good chance you can call in and claim original routing credit after the fact, double dipping on points earning if rebooked.

I’m not sure what having more food on board does to help the issues unless they’re giving it away. Maybe to deal with folks who suddenly have tighter connections than originally expected meaning they didn’t get to buy a meal in the airport? Or because they’re stuck on the planes longer than expected?

The free standby on earlier flights is also nice, getting passengers moving as quickly as possible. That’s the way airlines used to work and it makes sense. Then they realized they could make money on it and they started to do that. Giving up that incremental revenue to avoid passengers stuck somewhere is probably a smart move.

American is doing what they can to mitigate the impact to customers. That’s good, but the cost to the company has to be enormous. That’s not good at all. It will be interesting to see how much longer the operations suffer and what the impact to the bottom line is.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.