AAdvantage Or Else: American Airlines’ New Policy Affects Your Next Flight Delay

Facing unexpected delays or cancellations on your next American Airlines flight? Be prepared for their latest policy twist: only AAdvantage members get the green light for alternative rebookings on most partner airlines.

If your American Airlines flight cancels or is substantially delayed, they’ll put passengers on another American flight, another airline partner flight (preferring joint venture partners over mere alliance partners) and even another non-partner airline’s flight if needed. Your class of service, status, and the length of delay you’re looking at determine how flexible they’ll be.

Their obligations are less if the reason for the delay isn’t “controllable” – something that is their fault. They don’t have to go to the same lengths during a weather delay.

And starting January 29th there’s a new factor that will determine how helpful American Airlines will be during irregular operations that aren’t their fault: whether or not you’ve joined the AAdvantage program.

  • Effective January 29th, they will no longer put you on another airline during a weather or air traffic delay (no matter how bad it is, or how long it will take you to reach your destination) if you aren’t an AAdvantage member.

  • But you can sign up for AAdvantage on the spot.

Here’s the internal American Airlines memo on the policy change:

At your worst moment of travel, if you want help getting rebooked onto another airlines, you have to join their marketing database so they can email you about getting their credit card.

You might think this doesn’t matter. American wants people to join the program. Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja regularly says ‘travel is better as an AAdvantage member’. However it’s not that simple.

  • Your AAdvantage number needs to be in the reservation to be flagged as eligible for other airline re-routing.

  • That means if you’re a partner airline elite, for instance a oneworld emerald member with Royal Air Maroc or Cathay Pacific, according to this internal memo you wouldn’t be eligible for re-routing unless you replace that account number with an AAdvantage number.

  • However since you likely received frequent flyer benefits on the booking based on your status (like lounge access, free checked baggage), changing frequent flyer numbers is actually a violation of program rules.

  • So in order to be re-accommodated, you have to break the rules of the program.

I fully expect that if they haven’t thought through this issue yet, they’ll read this post and realize that either the memo is incomplete or the process needs to be fixed – before the policy change gets implemented.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary – get over yourself. You are inventing issues (or escalating trivial ones) to get responses. So Fing sad! So what – join the program like anyone that EVER flies an airline should. Also, no problem with giving priority to their frequent flyers.

    God you would think there is enough to cover without the constant nit picking of AA, germaphobe/hygiene issues, whining about putting wine in a plastic cup or not serving wine you feel you are somehow entitled to (God forbid) or the “National Enquirer” click bait. Hope your regular job pays well since your blog has really gone downhill. I get a lot more useful info from Lucky at OMAAT and even from TPG than from you – so sad to see how your blog has gone downhill.

  2. I agree – while you should be a member, this is silly, and adds an extra step at the wrong time. OW elites do already get priority under the aforementioned other policies, so the scenario you described shouldn’t be necessary. The bigger point is what if someone is a non-elite, but primarily credits to AK, or is on a codeshare booking where that’s the default? Though, (a) as far as I know there’s nothing that’ll stop an agent from rebooking a non-member, and (b) many agents won’t anyway. The system asks for a supervisor name which scares them away, though you don’t actually have to be a supervisor to complete the process. Agents can enroll without needing an email too.

  3. This could affect Washington and Oregon, maybe some California flyers whose main program is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

  4. I’d be surprised if on that exception chart that’s referenced but not shown, there isn’t something similar to also allow members of a Oneworld loyalty programme to be included. Similar was mentioned on the recent changes to same-day-changes that are going to be AAdvantage* members only (*or Oneworld). But you’ll take credit when this policy is clarified huh?

  5. Is my memory faulty or did AA not change their policy a year or two ago to specifically disclaim any responsibility to actually fly you to your destination even on their own metal? All they have to do is refund you.

  6. What an absolutely scummy thing to do. This whole industry needs to die, and take profit driven capitalism with it.

  7. I’m sure BA Executive Club members who fly AA on their BAEC numbers will take this news from BA’s “partner” with good spirits.

  8. @retired gambler

    gary is not inventing controversy

    gsw created the policy

    enforcing the policy violates other policies

    the culture of “make it up as you go along” strikes again

  9. and may i add….

    …. any policy, or any explanation, enforcement or execution of a policy, that requires the use of the UA-invented-word “re-accomodated” does not embiggen, nor is it cromulent, and by that I mean that “re-accomodate” is a word that is not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, whereas both embiggen and cromulent have enjoyed status as official English words for some time, and Munoz invented the fictitious word “re-accomodate” in April 2017.

  10. I have no sympathy for anyone who flies a ULCC. Whether it’s Spirit, Frontier , or American.

  11. This is a desperate move from a company that is failing in the marketplace.

    And while this should be, and probably already is, against regulations for a Common Carrier to discriminate on customers based on them giving away private data, if the orange man returns to power it will stay — and spread — thanks to deregulaion.

  12. Bunch of cry babies in the comments, some falling for the clickbait title

    Find me a website/company in 2024 that doesn’t force you to sign-up/create an account for basic services

    AA’s FF program is based solely on spend in the eco system. Of course they want to entrap you into that. Even if you’re just a 1-2 time per year flyer, having an AAdvantage account means potentially roping folks into all the other possible revenue avenues for AA. Let alone all the marketing email BS…

  13. > Find me a website/company in 2024 that doesn’t force you to sign-up/create an account for basic services.

    (1) Every single company that has a physical store — my hairdresser, coffee shop etc.
    (2) Google.
    (3) Amazon, for browsing
    (4) eBay,.for browsing
    (5) This very website

    Etc. etc. etc.

    You really have a very dystopian view of the world.

  14. Wow. A lot of these comments have no idea what their talking about. I think I need to block this site from my feed. NO AIRLINE IS OBLIGATED OR WILL REBOOK YOU ON ANOTHER AIRLINE AT THEIR EXPENSE FOR A WEATHER DELAY! For American to even be offering this for members is huge. It’s a courtesy and an expensive one for the airline. This site has a serious hard on against AA. Reporting something positive as a negative.

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