American Airlines Has a New Policy for Delays and Cancellations (Coach Passengers Won’t Like It)

When things go wrong with an airline’s operation most carriers have “interline agreements” that let them put their passengers on another airline’s flights. There are industry standard rates that usually apply. Each airline stands ready to help passengers get where they’re going, and they make a bit of extra money for seats that would have gone out empty in the process.

Back in 2015 Delta demanded more than industry standard rates. United agreed. American didn’t, and Delta and American severed ties completely. Then earlier this year American Airlines CEO Doug Parker dished on Delta coming hat in hand asking for an agreement so that the two airlines could put their distressed passengers on each other’s flights.

That’s pretty basic, and something that sets the ‘full service’ airlines apart from the discounters.

However when American Airlines rolled out ‘basic economy’ fares last year one of the less-publicized restrictions was that if a flight cancelled or was delayed they wouldn’t put these passengers on another airline.

Now at American regular economy fares are the new basic economy because coach passengers without elite status will no longer be placed on other airlines in the event of irregular operations. If American’s operation has problems, you wait, just like if you were flying Spirit. (There are some special exceptions to this).

JonNYC shares bits of American’s new policy change to make coach passengers just wait it out.

Being re-accommodated on another airline is now an elite benefit. 75,000 mile elites and above still get this benefit, along with three-cabin first class passengers. 50,000 mile elites and business class (or domestic first class) passengers will only be re-accommodate on another airline if they’re facing a delay of five hours or more. And everyone else, well, when American can’t get its flights in the air they’re not going to make good on their transportation promise paying for another airline to help out.

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, 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. We just flew AA this past weekend on a flt from LAX-SFO which was cancelled. It was also a free (mileage) first class tic. I immediately called when I got the notification and after some back and forth we were put in first on a UA flight scheduled to depart at the same time as our cancelled AA flt. They also protected us on on AA flight, albeit not in first, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the customer service we received. While we’re both EXP, we’re not Concierge Key, so have not come to expect the additional perks given to that level.

  2. Here we go again. American is NOT a transportation company they are a sales and marketing company. If you get to your destination, ever, that is great but it is not their primary goal. Their primary goal is selling tickets, chips, beer, legroom, overhead bins, credit cards, bathrooms, priority boarding, club entrance, headsets, baggage space and anything else they get can five cents for. If any of those things happen to move from one place to another that is fine…but it ain’t the goal. Ask the last AA CIO which she thinks the airline cares about more: 1) a flight that has 200 people from DFW to Paris that is six hours late due to “crew time” or some scheduling screwup…or 2) the website is down for six hours and they can’t sell 200 people $250,000 worth of tickets to Paris.

  3. I’m one of the ‘common folk’ who just got kicked another notch down the pole. This is an added reason to avoid AA. I seldom use them anymore because of their destinations out of SJC. San Jose used to be a hub and AA offered great service, flights and connections. No more!

  4. This is the most riddance thing I ever heard. So if you are rich can can get on board but if your are a average person you get booted off. This sounds like a discrimination of the rich against the average and poor people. How would you feel if this was you?

  5. I. Am Exec Plat with AA and generally have no significant issues with them especially compared to the others. Refuse to ever fly United due to past issues. One complaint is how they manipulate their priority levels frequently. Rarely would this new rule have come into play in the past because I can’t recall the last time it would have applied. Generally I find the ticket agent can and will solve any issue I have had. We will have to see if that changes in the future.

  6. Just another reason why I left AA 2 years ago and have not missed this POS of an airline.
    They have continued to go down hill .

  7. We will regret the over the hill total de-regulation of the airline industry that has replaced operations experienced CEOs with IT and sales wiz folks who could care less about passenger comfort, safety, customer experience, including salvaging flight delays or cancellations.

    Seeing the perpetual one-way direction off the precipice of AA has been headed under Herr Parker, we will certainly long for the old CAB Rule 240 that protected ALL travelers from extraordinary delays/cancellations by merely sending them on a competitive carrier. Did we really need to totally tank flying for the sake of a few elite flyers..?

  8. I have been totally embarrassed and harassed by a gate agent in Charlotte about a carry on bag that would fix in the over head and under the seat. She pulled me out of line and said I could only have a carry on and a small purse . I had a Vera Bradley 11″ quilted tote that easily fit under the seat and a 18″ suitcase. She allowed other passengers to board ahead of me and they were pulling large suitcases that did not fit in the carrier case that they measure carry ons in. I asked for a supervisor and never got one. I was finally allowed to board after everyone else and there was no room for my bag in overhead. I wrote twice to AA customer service and the gentleman just repeated the party line answer and said that he hoped that I would fly with them again. I am cancelling my credit cards and membership. I feel that I was profiled as a black woman because those who had larger bags were not black.

  9. Worst company in the planet. My wife with type one and 11 year old child were booted off flights and left in Philadelphia airport for 3 days, running out of insulin, one screw up bun AA after another. I have filed a complaint with every agency I can and I will be in touch with my hometown senator Susan Collins

  10. I totally agree airlines are after profits to the detriment to customer service. In the past there seemed to be a balance of both so there should be now. I have stopped using my AA credit card because it’s near impossible to redeem my points so there’s no incentive to use it. Instead I use a fly on any airline with no restrictions credit card. Years ago AA put me on another flight on Delta headed for Hawaii. But recently, my AA flight from DFW to Paris was more than three hours delayed in departing due to some ill explained problem. To add insult they kept on announcing it would depart in 30 minutes throughout the 3 hours of waiting. Not only did this delay interfere with my appointment in Paris, AA’s communication and compensation was lacking. I don’t work for a big company nor am I wealthy, but I still spend a fair amount of money flying the major carriers. Good for the former group to get some customer service and tough luck for the rest of the flying public. As Main Cabin customers we still fill up the majority of the plane and generate revenue. Also, I notice an increase in AA’s late departures compared to the past.

  11. they cancel a flight and leave you stranded. Just happened making the boys stay for 2 days so they can sell their seats at 1000.00

  12. Ha, not exactly. I was treated better as a non-revenue traveler than I am now as a “Lifetime Platinum”. I was treated better in the 1990s as a mere Platinum (or Gold Medallion on the D Team). My lifetime loyalty and custom means nothing. Yours, either, apparently. Just buy the experience you want, and push back if you don’t get what you paid for, which will be frequently.

  13. My wife has just been on AA Flight to Dallas last Wednesday the first flight which I had to have her at the airport at 4 am (with a 2 hr drive to airport) to find they cancelled her flight and then they got her on a flight at 8 am to Dallas but at Dallas AA Flight to Hong Kong cancelled then scheduled to another Flight to get to boarding time and they cancel because of no running water on the plane, after hours of waiting to get another plane all passengers finally overnited in Dallas hotel, then next day Flight to LA to get flight to Hong Kong but miss connecting flight to Bangkok so have to be overnited again in Hong Kong just a mess because of AA and there cancelling flights.

  14. Does the reason for delay impact CK/EP/PP ability to interline? That is, if AA claims a weather delay, will that work against an interline request?

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