American Airline's Weather Delay Excuse Successfully Debunked

You don’t need to hire a forensic meteorologist to dispute an airline’s so-called weather delay and get the compensation or rebooking you’re deserved, sometimes you just need the internets! Here’s how Jasmine did just that with a recent flight on American Airlines:

My last canceled flight was blamed on the weather. I called a friend with the internet, had them look up the weather at my destination and en route (which was fine). I went back to the desk and said, “The weather is fine. You sure there aren’t other problems?” That’s when then he said that it was the weather AND technical problems with the plane…

At that, I mentioned the rule, and suggested he try to re-book me, which he did.

See, they didn’t lie, they just didn’t tell you the whole truth, because that would have cost them money. That Apple commercial with the pilot using his iPhone to question a 3-hour weather delay? That could be you.

Comments

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  1. shan6 says:

    I will definitely use this if I’m ever in the situation. I don’t think I fly enough though.

  2. ncboxer says:

    I would think that the majority of airlines would just blow you off. “Sorry, ma’am, I don’t know what info you have but it is indeed weather problems.” You can argue all you want to, that doesn’t change the fact that they can tell you whatever they want to.

  3. internal says:

    What is ‘the rule’ that the article refers to? Are airlines required to rebook or compensate for mechnical issues?

  4. coan_net says:

    It could have been the weather….. the weather was so nice, that their mechanic decided to head to the beach instead of work – so the flight was canceled because of the weather!

    Even nice weather can mess up a flight!

  5. shan6 says:

    @ncboxer: You may be right. But it doesn’t hurt to try does it?

    That is unless they have you arrested for making the godlike airline employee feel a bit cornered by words.

  6. SarcasticDwarf says:

    @ncboxer: They will blow you off because the weather event does not have to be anywhere near where you are flying. I flew United from O’Hare to LAX to Phoenix last January and ended up stuck overnight at LAX because of a “weather delay.” The weather for the most of US was perfectly fine, but because there was a weather system in Flordia, that had delayed something which delayed something else. In short, I got to sleep at LAX. They were kind enough to offer me a hotel room for something like $75 for the night.

  7. neithernor says:

    I was flying United out of O’Hare once and the gate agent kept telling us, “We don’t know what’s causing the delay, it could be weather,” but when she got off the PA she was telling another agent that there was a problem with the plane’s heating system… something they never told us, just left us to discover when we boarded.

    Is there a reason airline employees can’t inform passengers of a technical problem? Cases like these are the reason no one believes “we are experiencing a weather delay.”

  8. darkened says:

    @neithernor: Because then if they are obligated to refund a portion of your ticket I believe.

  9. ripple says:

    Keep in mind that sometimes when they say a weather delay and you know it is hot and sunny in the place your leaving from and the place where you are going to, there could be a large weather system in the middle of that flight that the plane cant fly through. So this trick wont always work.

  10. cortana says:

    @neithernor: If the delay / cancellation is caused by something that the airline is possibly at fault for, then they are obligated to rebook you on another airline to get you where you are trying to go, at their expense. If it’s weather or something beyond their control, then you are on your own.

  11. inelegy says:

    Not to defend the evil airlines, but oftentimes weather delays will be caused by weather at the inbound aircraft’s origin airport. Simply knowing the weather at your airport and your flight’s destination airport does not always give you the whole picture.

    For example, you’re flying from Chicago to LAX, but the equipment you’re supposed to be flying on is coming in from Boston and Boston is getting slammed by a Nor’easter results in a weather delay for you.

  12. DirkLeisure says:

    Salon.com’s Ask the Pilot discussed this issue, and included this (probably apocryphal) story:

    —–
    On one of the frequent-flier blogs, an airline pilot writes that only moments after informing his passengers of a weather-related ground hold affecting their flight to Memphis, Tenn., he and his captain received a call from one of the flight attendants. Seems an iPhone-wielding customer in the back had a challenge. “Some guy with an iPhone says the weather is good,” the flight attendant says, “and wants to know what the real reason is for the delay. Is something wrong with the plane?”

    Reportedly, the captain responded with a public address announcement that was sharp enough to elicit audible laughter from the cabin.

    “If the passenger with the iPhone would be kind enough,” he began, “to use it to check the weather at our alternate airport, then calculate our revised fuel burn due to being rerouted, then call our dispatcher to arrange our amended release, then make a call to the nearest traffic control center to arrange a new slot time (among all the other aircraft carrying passengers with iPhones), we’ll then be more than happy to depart. Please ring your call button to advise the flight attendant and your fellow passengers when you deem it ready and responsible for this multimillion-dollar aircraft and its 84 passengers to safely leave.”
    [www.salon.com]
    —–

    I don’t like defending the airlines either, but there is more to it than weather at the origin and destination.

  13. absentmindedjwc says:

    @DirkLeisure:

    I have read it before, and this is rather insulting. It is completely within the passengers rights to question why the aircraft is on the ground. I know, personally, I check FAA pages for weather information when I am flying. And if the FAA says it is safe to fly, I will bring it up with the attendant at the desk, or on the plane.

    Since the airlines are so used to lying to customers, the passengers should always question the airlines motives. I rarely have this problem with Southwest though (the airline I use almost every time). I was flying from Sea-Tac airport to Midway a few months back (went to Penny Arcade Expo). We borded the plane, pulled away from the gate, and then a message came over the PA: “We are sorry to inform you that there is a problem with the aircraft, and we will not be able to take off.”

    I was expecting sitting in the plane for 7 hours, like some of the horrer stories that I have read on here. But, they actually pulled the aircraft up to the gate, and alllowed us to de-plane while they fixed the issue. And even offered to rebook for our inconvienence. I would of taken her up on the offer, but I had work in the morning. The plane took off about 4 hours later than expected, but they kept the passangers informed on the situation the whole time.

  14. Funklord says:

    Do airlines really refuse to refund your money when they cancel your flight? I’ve recently had 2 flights canceled out of JFK by JetBlue under claims of “weather”. For one, it was in the middle of a big storm, no problem. For the other, it was on a clear day, a 5 PM flight on a day when it had snowed 1/2 inch before 11 AM (which is why I think airlines use this as an excuse to consolidate half full flights). Regardless, JetBlue offered to book me on different flights or refund my money. I ended up getting a same day flight on Southwest for the same amount as my original flight, booked it myself and took the refund from JetBlue.
    So I’m confused here. Are people having flights canceled and then not being offered refunds? Which airlines do this, let me know so I can avoid them.

  15. csdiego says:

    @inelegy: That sounds to me like a failure to plan on the part of the airlines. Sure, they don’t want to keep planes sitting around on the ground, but if each plane is part of an elaborate stack of Pick-up Stix that makes a flight from New York to Denver vulnerable to bad weather in Phoenix, that’s not a weather delay, that’s the customer getting penalized for the airline’s cheapness. If they want to cut corners by keeping all the planes in the air all the time and not having a backup plane to make the New York-Denver flight, there should be a penalty if that goes wrong.

  16. misteral says:

    @ripple: And it gets more complicated, because you can’t just look between the 2 points. Flights don’t typically fly a straight line between 2 places, and may not always take the same route, which is why when you fly the same route more than once you may not always hear the same “And if you look off the left wing…”

  17. m0unds says:

    @DirkLeisure: I was hoping someone would reference Patrick Smith’s column! :)

  18. ck76 says:

    You could also wind up being this guy:

    [tinyurl.com]

  19. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @csdiego: So are you willing to pay 10% more to ensure a spare plane (and crew, and maintenance) for your flight? what airports get that extra plane. What if its 20%? or 40%, since we would need those extra crews at every airport. And what about traffic delays. If a snow storm in Boston closes the airport for 4 hours (not unheard of), suddenly airports throughout the system moving East get delays, just so there is room for them to fly/land. So your San Diego/Denver flight may get delayed because the Denver/Boston flights earlier in the day got stacked up waiting to leave. So, there are planes available, no weather on your flight path, but you still are delayed by weather.

    We, the consumer, caused a lot of these problems by demanding rush-hour flights at times we prefer, and flighting new or expanded airports. I dont fly often myself, due to a fear of flying, but when I do I try to book on the least popular flight available and alway make sure I have alternatives if I miss a connection.

  20. Chese says:

    There may have been weather issues as well at the alternate airport for the flight. Weather is far more complicated than just a simple radar image…

  21. JustAGuy2 says:

    @csdiego:

    It’s a tough balance.

    As Herb Kelleher (founder of Southwest) is reputed to have said: “a plane sitting on the ground is doing one thing: depreciating.” Planes are hugely expensive, and when they’re not in the air, they’re not generating any revenue (this was one of Southwest’s huge strengths – very quick “turns” = a very short time between arriving at the gate and departing).

    An airline needs to make some contingency plans (have to have some slack in the system in case a major mechanical problem happens), but you can’t have too much slack in the system. While having every plane make only one flight a day would likely reduce delays (no more “your flight to LA is late because the plane is late coming in from Chicago”), it would be mind-bogglingly expensive, a cost that, eventually, would be borne by customers.

  22. CurbRunner says:

    @DirkLeisure: I don’t like defending the airlines either, but there is more to it than weather at the origin and destination.

    I will respect the pilot’s concerns more than any other airlines’ employees or their $$$$ managers.

  23. BillyShears says:

    I just want to re-post the link Dirkleisure provided, because it bears repeating (and repeating and repeating):

    [www.salon.com]

    I hate that iPhone ad. It encourages already smug people to act like even *bigger* douchebags.

  24. Javert says:

    As many of the posters have noted, a weather delay not necessarily be between your airport and your destination. A weather issue at any major hub in the country can cause a ripple effect throughout the system which, though many paranoid anti-corporate types may not agree with, is totally not within the control of the airlines.

    It seems though that most of the posters today have a realistic view of how flying actually works w/r/t to weather delays. It seems that this posting is pretty weak which seems to be the disappointing trend of late on the consumerist.

    Hopefully, in the next few weeks, the posts will be more useful to the consumer.

  25. Erskine says:

    Javert, as almost ALL of your ramblings make clear – you are not satisfied with the content of ANY website that lets you post.

    For your own good, maybe you should unsubscribe and go away…

  26. jamesdenver says:

    @inelegy:

    I was just about to post that link…

  27. jamesdenver says:

    Re: Patrick Smith – -over t’giving I found all his columns and read every one,.

    He’s a great writer – balanced between airline (employees mostly) and pax, and even as current pilot picks apart the TSA and the U.S. methodologies.

    He’s a bit cocky, but everyone should read his articles for some unique insight.

  28. csdiego says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs:
    @JustAGuy2:

    Yes, I’m willing to pay extra and, more importantly, not count on leaving work and hopping onto a 7 PM flight that will get me where I want to go by 10, in exchange for a better chance of getting there on time, in one piece.

    Sure, it’s a delicate balance, but when more than half the flights I’ve taken over the past couple of years have been held up by a plane that is late arriving from another airport, the airlines are cutting it too close and need to build more slack into the system.

    The new airport congestion fees are a good start.

  29. Sola427 says:

    Aviation weather doesnt solely depend on a single radar image. There could be multiple reasons why a pilot doesnt want to fly. Better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than be flying wishing you were on the ground.

    Not saying they may be using it as an excuse, just saying to digg deeper than the radar image available on weather.com.

  30. DanPVD says:

    @csdiego: The concept of a plane doing Point A > Point B > Point C > Point D is nothing new. Based on your criteria every airline should have a fleet of backup aircraft (and therefore a backup crew) just in case of an issue.

    If you want to start paying at least 100% more on fares, be my guest…

  31. csdiego says:

    @DanPVD: Am I asking every airline to duplicate every plane and crew at every single airport? No. But it’s not unreasonable to ask for backup planes and crew at hubs.

    I’m not a logistics expert, but I don’t think this is an all-or-nothing problem, because airline performance has degraded gradually over the years. Congestion plays a part too, and I hope the new congestion fees will alleviate that. But I’m also willing to pay 10-20% more on each ticket if that allows airlines to build a little more slack into the system so that a thunderstorm in Florida or some snow in Chicago doesn’t throw the entire country off.

  32. Mary says:

    The Ask a Pilot article is a perfect example of why this is complete bunk. Thanks to whoever linked to it. I can’t believe people actually think flying one of these planes is actually so simple you could plan it with weather.com.

  33. Mr. Gunn says:

    Hey guys? That’s a stupid link to a dumb story. No one was being re-routed anywhere, so the whole thing falls apart.

    Believable enough to the “OMG it can chekc teh weather?? I’ll spend $600 right now!” crowd, though.

    I’d also like point out that if you try that, you’ll be waiting quite a while unless you’re within range of wifi.

  34. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    Delta once canceled my flight and rebooked me on a 6am b/c of a technical malfunction, which is what they told me when I first called. I was already on my way to the airport, so when I got there I went to the counter to ask to be rebooked on another airline. They then refused and told me that it was related to weather–even though none of the other flights going to that destination from that airport were canceled. I ended up talking to a manager who would not admit that it was a technical malfunction and eventually told me “that could be related to weather.” I hate Delta.

    Is there anything you can do when they lie to your face like that? Don’t they have to rebook you if it’s their fault?

  35. JustAGuy2 says:

    @csdiego:

    You’re willing to pay extra for that ticket – most people aren’t. There doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between ticket prices and on-time performance.

  36. Quaoar says:

    @Javert:

    Well said!

    Q

  37. Michael Belisle says:

    @meiran, Javert, JustAGuy2, BillyShears, DirkLeisure, et al.: Do not question Papa Airline lest you make him angry. After all, it’s a multi-million dollar aircraft, operated by highly-trained professionals and you are obviously unqualified to ask any questions. Such highly-trained professionals never, ever mislead laymen or overlook anything. They are beyond perfection, skilled in all ways.

  38. Parting says:

    Heard from a friend of mine.

    Plane was delayed. Once passengers finally got inside, captain announced : ”Welcome aboard. Sorry for the delay. Airport employees Fucked Up… Eeeh, there was a weather delay.”

  39. csdiego says:

    @JustAGuy2: If the FAA starts enforcing rules penalizing airlines for bogus weather delays and requiring them to compensate passengers, it will be worth the airlines’ while not to screw up. If passengers see that they have some recourse and flights are arriving on time, they’ll be willing to pay more.

    It’s not good enough to say that airlines will compete to provide a quality service to those willing to pay more, and the bottomfeeders are providing a service to passengers who want to pay less. When the main, if not only yardstick is price, the airlines end up in a race to the bottom when it comes to quality. Or have you seen any kind of star rating next to airlines’ names on Orbitz? Plus, the bottomfeeders impose costs on everyone else when their delays throw all the other schedules out of whack.

    I have no problem with the FAA enforcing a quality minimum for airline flights. It already does it for safety anyway (supposedly).

  40. JustAGuy2 says:

    @belisle:

    Yup, because the airlines just looooove sitting on the tarmac, with their customers getting angry, the engines burning expensive fuel, the flight attendants and pilots getting paid, and the airplane depreciating and being late for its next trip.

  41. Mary says:

    @belisle: I never said they never mislead people.

    I said that believing that it’s so simple as to check the weather on the internet is small-minded, and makes you look foolish. If you want the airlines to be honest and actually do what they say, shouldn’t you be educated and actually ask for things that are possible? Shouldn’t you rail against the things that are actually wrong?

    Putting your time and energy into the right place works wonders. It changes the world, in fact. Checking the weather on your iPhone to raise a stink at the airport? Not the right place.