American Airlines Bends Laws Of Time And Space To Make Travel Experience Even Worse

Robin flew on American Airlines from Las Vegas to New York over the weekend, and he had the audacity to expect that airlines operate on something resembling normal-person time. If someone told you, a normal person, that they would make a decision in “a little while,” how long would you assume it would be? How about four hours? That’s how long a “little while” was when airline staff were eciding whether to let Robin’s delayed plane go due to weather.

First, at boarding time they tell us there are mechanical problems, stand by. First bad sign. Find out on twitter another plane has this exact same issue. Also that they pushed an 8am Chicago flight until 3pm.

Then, at take off time, they tell us they will be making a decision at 2 pm on whether or not to even fly. They ask everyone to be patient for a LITTLE WHILE LONGER. Um, hi, that’s four hours from now. 4 Hours later, without a WORD from anyone, they still have made no announcement. I literally had to overhear a staff member saying that he “heard the new York flight would be leaving at 6am tomorrow.” he told me to call an 800 number or go to the ticket office to rebook.

I called the number on the way to the office to ask about the flight and our accommodations for the night. She says I can’t help you with accommodations. You can either cancel the flight and get 160 dollars back or go to the ticket desk at the airport. I go to the ticket desk and it’s an absolute disaster. No one could tell me what line to get on, no one seemed to have any idea what they were doing or had any information for the 200 people waiting to hear what to do.

In order to get home today so i could get to work tomorrow, I took the refund and took a different airline, a red eye with a stop in phoenix, for $360.

Honestly, I do not understand how this airline is still in business. They clearly do not respect their customers in any way. All I would have asked for was a clear explanation of what was going on before waiting 4 hours at the airport only to be told it was cancelled. Then, no information at all about accommodations for tonight. Weather I understand, but if it’s mechanical, make the call. Just tell us what’s going on and tell me where to go when you’ve cancelled my flight, honestly. The fact that other flights had similar issues makes me think it’s strike related. Maybe all these mechanicals because your mechanics hate working for you.

Will never fly them again.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Blueskylaw says:

    It seems that in this instance, American Airlines DIDN’T defy the laws of gravity either.

  2. portwineboy says:

    All airlines have weather and mechanical delays. Often times airline employees have zero control and zero information on repair times or a weather front passing. I’d rather they wait 24 hours than fly in weather that is bad or on a plane that has some hard to isolate mechanical issue.

    • sufreak says:

      Weather is nature. Mechanical is the airlines problem. It is their job to make sure they have a working one.
      If the plane has an issue, they must make the proper actions for their customers who have paid for their service. Telling them you get a refund to go book an overpriced last minute trip is not doing right to the customer.

  3. spartan says:

    Time to spare?…

    …Go by air.

  4. jessjj347 says:

    Hate to break it to the OP, but this experience isn’t exclusive to American Airlines. Same thing happened to me on U.S. Airways, and other airlines as well.

    • who? says:

      And the same thing happened to me on United last year. 9 hours of “mechanical” delays.

      It turned out that the mechanical delay was that the pilots had been flying a plane around that was about 2 weeks overdue for maintenance. Until our pilot looked at the maintenance logs and refused to fly the damn thing. So they had to bring in another plane from another airport. Because this took so long, they also had to fly in another crew, because by the time the plane came in, our pilot was on overtime.

      The the first 4 hours this was going on, there was no information, other than “it’s a mechanical delay” and “we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” Five hours after we were supposed to take off, they finally gave a time, and told everyone to go out to dinner.

      The 11:30 am flight finally took off at 8:30 pm.

  5. spartan says:

    I just checked flightaware and the 1030am flight on AA (AA1936) seemed to be very close to ontime Saturday and Sunday, but was cancelled on Monday.

    If he was flying home on Monday and had to rebook on USAirways, AA should reimburse him for the extra expenses. He needs to fie a claim with customer service.

  6. JollySith says:

    This is what happens when governments subsidize businesses and manage to sell the public on the too big to fail myth. Since they know that they won’t be allowed to go under, and that they can keep paying their execs 7 figure salaries while their companies bleed money they have zero incentive to actually serve a customer.

  7. dicobalt says:

    Sometimes it takes time to diagnose mechanical problems. It might just be a spark plug or you might need a complete tune up. It doesn’t amaze me something as complicated as a passenger jet takes time to correctly diagnose. Customer service people are always commanded by their management to give the best possible answer, that doesn’t mean you should take it as the only possible answer.

  8. NeverLetMeDown2 says:

    “Will never fly them again…until their fare is $4.37 cheaper.”

    Fixed that for you.

  9. Shorebreak says:

    Regular American Airlines delays at DFW can be expected also. I had a flight delayed for three hours on American Eagle because they couldn’t find a flight attendant. Avoid major airline hubs if at all possible.

  10. beachmouse says:

    The rules for passenger care on most airlines are different if the problem is mechanical (airline’s fault) or weather-related (act of God/not the airline’s fault). I suspect that under AA’s contract of carriage rules, they were supposed to treat it as a mechanical, which is far more expensive for the airline because they’re got responsibility to rebook on alternate carriers, provide food and hotel vouchers, etc.

    But one of the bean counters figured they could probably claim weather and get away with it because, hey it’s Vegas and almost all of their flyers on that flight were occasional flyers rather than their triple elite business flyers who do have the contract of carriage memorized (or at least stored on their cell phone in searchable form) and would call them on the cause of the delay falling under the mechanical rules.

    • beachmouse says:

      Found AA’s contract of carriage:

      “When cancellations and major delays are experienced, you will be rerouted on our next flight with available seats. If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability. ”

      So yeah,sounds like AA should have covered hotel & meal costs because the source of original delay was within AA’s control. After the fact, you can probably call them up and complain enough to get some free frequent flyer miles or maybe a $100 voucher, both of which are only useful if you ever fly the airline again.

    • dangermike says:

      For what it’s worth, there was a pretty significant monsoon condition in the west this past weekend. I don’t know how heavily Vegas was affected but usually when it gets as hot and humid as it was on the coast, we hear reports of hail, thunder, and flash floods in the high desert. I wasn’t really paying much attention to see if that happened this time, though.

  11. IanMoone says:

    OP, there is a reason why AA has filed for BK twice in the last 11 years. And why they aren’t coming out of this one unscathed.

    Although I’m trying to figure out the name of the new airline.

    “US American Airways” “US American Airlines Airways” “US Airlines” “Trans World American Airlines” or just “US Airways”

  12. Banished to the Corner says:

    “If someone told you, a normal person, that they would make a decision in “a little while,” how long would you assume it would be?”

    From my experience with under 30s (niece, her friends, and co-workers) 4-6 hours is about right. I don’t know why, because all the over 40s I know seem to ‘a little while’ as less than 1 hour.

    BTW: ‘after awhile’ seems to be more than 1 day. ‘in a bit’ is 6+ hours.

  13. spartan says:

    It looks like AA is cancelling flights due to staffing shortages. It seems their employees are too disgruntled to come to work.

    DALLAS (AP) – Flight cancellations have spiked at American Airlines, which is fighting with unhappy pilots, and the carrier will reduce flights at least partly because of staffing shortages.

    American canceled more flights on Sunday and Monday than any other airline, according toflight-tracking services.

    Bruce Hicks, aspokesman for American parent AMR Corp., said the company was “constantly evaluating our schedule based on operational and staffing resources” and seasonal patterns. He said the company was making changes to ensure reliable service for passengers.

    The cancellations come a few days after American imposed new cost-cutting terms on its pilots,including outsourcing more flying jobs to other airlines and terminating one ofthe pilots’ retirement programs in November. Pilots rejected more-generous terms in the last contract offer from American, which has been under bankruptcy protection since November.

    Last week, the union sent out ballots for a strike-authorization vote, although federal officials have not cleared the way for a legal strike at the nation’s third-biggest airline.

    Allied Pilots Association spokesman Tom Hoban said Monday that the union neither sanctioned nor supported a sickout.

    “That being said, you’ve got 8,000 pilots that are witnessing a handful of senior executives at American Airlines that have chosen in a very deliberate manner to dismantle and destroy their profession,” Hoban said. “To say that the pilots at AA are not happy would be the understatement of a lifetime.”

    American canceled 57 flights as of late afternoon Monday, more than the next nine airlines combined, according to, a flight-tracking service.Another company, FlightStats, said American canceled 95 flights, or about 5% of its schedule.

    In July, themost recent month for which government figures are available, American canceled1.2 percent of its flights, slightly below the industry average.

    American also topped all airlines with 90 cancellations out of 318 industrywide on Sunday, and had already scrubbed 22 flights scheduled for Tuesday, according to FlightAware, which noticed an increase in American cancelations in early September.

  14. Abradax says:

    My birthday is next week. I am registered with the vending machine on the second floor.

  15. golddog says:

    Didn’t the rules for when various penalties kick in for the airlines change last year? I’m guessing that there isn’t a penalty for “Mechanical Problems” in those rules b/c there seems to be no other reason a flight gets cancelled these days.

  16. jp7570-1 says:

    Flying out of DFW, American is usually my only choice (not always, but often). So, as a frequent American flyer, I’ve expeirenced their tendency for delays quite frequently. On average, 66% of the American flights I take are delayed. Some by weather (which no airline can control) and many by mechanical problems.

    Given AA’s bankruptcy proceedings and its tenuous relationship with its unions, one has to wonder if this isn’t a “perfect storm” of airline frugality (when it comes to maintenance) coupled with unions that have been pushed to the edge. It just seems that mechanical problems have been happening a lot more than they ever have at AA.

    If you are a member of an airline’s frequent flyer program, you might be able to get around the horrible lines when people are trying to re-book. If you’ve reached an “elite level”, there’s usually a special toll-free number you can use. Of course, that doesn’t help the casual flyer, and it is NO guarantee for an elite flyer either.

    Sometimes, American’s Admirals Club is a good alternative if you need in-person assistance, although you have to be a member just to get in the door (and in big airports like Chicago or Dallas, that doesn’t guarantee a short line).

    The bottom line is always be prepared for something like this. If possible, do not book connections with short lay-over times (when the schedule permits, if I have to connect I try to leave at least 90 minutes between flights just in case of delays). Try to not take the last flight scheduled, because there are no alternatives when there is a delay or cancellation. And if you are flying from an airp[oprt you’re sort of familiar with, try to see if there is at least a hotel connected to the terminal (like the Hilton at O’Hare). These are not the greatest alternatives, but you might be able to snag a room before it is sold out for other stranded flyers.

  17. balderdashed says:

    “A little while,” “shortly,” “soon,” and “as soon as possible” are phrases appropriate for the polite exchange of social pleasantries (“Let’s get together soon…”) but meaningless in a business context. In fact, they should never be used, as they are only apt to result in misunderstandings and resentment. I assume anybody who tells me they’ll be doing something for me soon either doesn’t really have a clue when that will be, or doesn’t plan to provide the service I’ve requested, at all. Strangely, I’ve noticed that when I promise to pay my bill “soon,” my creditors typically want more specific information.

  18. toadboy65 says:

    American, and all other airlines, can do whatever they want and there is nothing you can do about it. We are never going to be able to organize a successful boycott, And the airline reps who make the decisions will always hide behind bureaucratic anonymity. These Airlines have nothing but contempt for the customer.

  19. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I suppose I’ll get flamed if I say that DFW AA people helped me out when I stupidly left my wallet in the seat pocket? That they found it, held it for me, and booked me on another flight leaving an hour later when I missed my connection due to running back and forth to get it? That’s what I get for being all superior about people who leave stuff on the plane :P I sent them a nice email; I hope those people get a pat on the back.

    I’ve had more cancelled flight trouble with US Airways / United lately. They can’t seem to get their shit together at all anymore.