American Airlines Stranded Students in Oklahoma City, Delta Brought in a Plane to Rescue Them

American Airlines cancelled a flight out of OKlahoma City and offered no options to get a group of 41 fifth graders and their chaperones to Richmond, Virginia the same day. One of the group leaders says, “We were told by American Airlines they were just going to refund us…these 5th graders need to get to Washington, DC we’ve been planning this for over a year.”

Delta agents heard the story and reached out to management in Atlanta — who brought in an aircraft to fly the group to Richmond. Delayed six and a half hours, they had a flight to themselves — and a non-stop instead of a connection.

Flight cancellations happen and are unfortunate. The story here is Delta subtweeting American by taking care of the another airline’s passengers, outside of the interline arrangement that lets one airline put their distressed passengers on the other carrier.

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. Looks like the aa executives who bought a boat load of AAL stocks should have waited a little longer to make the move as aa stock prices will dip even further after this…

    The sad part is that when push comes to shove, parker and his gang will bail out with their golden parachutes and leave the bill for the average stockholder to foot.

  2. Thoughtful and also brilliant PR move by Delta. Question… since the students did not fly the outbound leg on AA, doesn’t that mean the return portion of their AA tickets is void and Delta will have to provide the return flight also for these students? I assume Delta will elect to charge them the same (advance purchase) fares that they had originally paid to (and should now be refunded by) American?

  3. This is very cool. I know America has it’s fans, but I see no redeeming value in ever flying with them.

  4. I am not surprised. I am a free agent but I fly Delta more than any other airline and have since leaving AA as a fully committed EXP in 2017. At the time the differences in nearly every aspect of my traveling experience were immediately apparent and enormously beneficial. And based on everything that I’ve heard about AA in the past 3 years I am sure the differences are even more stark today. I know this website likes to remind everyone that Delta doesn’t have an award chart at almost every opportunity but I am well past the point where the award chart determines where I spend my money…and what’s more, regardless of the dynamic award pricing I am finding it much easier to get reasonable value for my Skymiles than I have for the 400,000+ AAdvantage miles that have remained in my account since my last AA flight in 2017.

  5. As if there couldn’t be any more egg on the faces of Doug Parker, Isom and company. How much lower do they need to get before the board removes Parker and his terrible executive team?

  6. Great story. It’s there any way to figure out what aircraft was used? The flight tracking websites I know of only go back two days. My understanding is that the flight was last Sunday. Curious as to how many people got to sit up front

  7. Not surprised at all. The draagons here at OKC are literally some of the worst human beings on the entire planet. Quite possibly the most unhelpful group of employees anywhere in the world.

  8. Dreadful on AA part, but how amazing of Delta! Way to step in. Doing something great and making their brand look even better.

    Delta is a great airline and my opinion on them is even better now!

  9. I used to be an AA fanboy, but that ended a couple years ago. I am burning my last bit of miles with them this summer and that is it for them.

  10. Once again, Delta proves it’s awesome. Delta had no obligation to transport those students but stepped up to the plate. If Delta would expand it’s presence in AUS I’d give my loyalty to them.

  11. Not only should upper management be removed but the entire worthless board of directors should be thrown out.

  12. Wow, amazing tactical move by Delta. AA should be so red faced over this. But, well, probably not.

  13. As a AA retiree with 40+ years I am embarrassed to tell anyone I worked for AA. Parker and his US Air “guys” brought AA from first to worst. How does Parker keep his job?

  14. If AA can’t find 41+ negative surveys from Oklahoma City, they can quit wasting their time and their customers time requesting that we fill them out. In other words, the surveys don’t represent reality. They will need to actually figure out what makes their customers happy or unhappy, and can start by analyzing Delta’s tweets. Or ask the AA executive that flew Delta and was impressed. Meanwhile, no thanks to AA, a bunch of 5th graders are in DC.

  15. @Austin787, all the Delta a$$-kissing is so annoying. Airline performance goes up and down in cycles, and I can’t wait for Delta’s next downturn. Maybe the air travel shaming movement by environmentalists will help; after all, Delta flies empty planes in order to meet the completion metric. And, no, I’m not an AA fan. I’m a Singapore Airlines fan.

  16. This story makes me sad. I was a charter member of AAdvantage 30 years ago. I was the ultimate AA loyalist. No more. American Airlines has become the worst US airline in the last six years.

  17. Fact is PARKER came from AA to begin with. It’s him and his boys, leave US Airways out of it.

  18. To be fair, thanks to the 737MAX debacle AA does not have spare planes to add extra sections like DL does.

    Good on DL, that is a wonderful thing to do but I’m not going to bash AA under the circumstances…

  19. My mom says that AA must be the bravest airline in the world, for daring to leave 41 children stranded.

  20. Future loyal Delta flyers. Some will
    Become corporate executives and recommend if not mandate flying delta to their employees

  21. How low AA would go? My observation is that since the “merge” AA is steadily goes to the bottom and the decline is unstoppable. Can one tell one positive thing Dough Parker and Co have done? What are their major and minor achievements? Perhaps the current stock price? May be alienated customers? Or “stellar” on-time performance? Increased markelt share? Seriously, just give me one example when the new management excels. If not, the time had come for Dough to go.

  22. Not surprised at all. We are AAdvantage members (thousands of credit card miles) who live in OKC. Recently, my 87 yo mother flew AA OKC to Tampa. She is post-stroke and is overwhelmed by crowds. Gate agent in OKC allowed me to go to gate and assist her to ramp. Brother in Tampa was allowed to do same. We had arranged wheelchair assistance at connecting airport (DFW). When she returned to OKC, ticket agent in Tampa allowed my brother to assist her to plane. But agent in OKC refused to give me gate pass to meet her at gate, stating “Wheelchair will meet her there.” There was no wheelchair – and she had to get herself from very farthest gate to baggage claim alone. She was confused and exhausted. When I complained to AA, they refused to place any blame on ticket agent and said that she was “new”. They said that it was my mother’s responsibility to “self-identify” and request wheelchair. Had she fallen and been injured trying to walk from gate to baggage claim, it would have been AA’s legal responsibility. But we received a $100 credit as compensation for their mistake. (Which we did not accept)
    AA in OKC appears to need serious overhaul.

  23. Upper management does not care one bit. It shows every single day how employees are forced to treat passenger. The employees are not given the tools needed. Starting with Parirr. Instead of building the largest has built the worst. DFW is the worst run airport. Period. And month after month things just get worse. Upper management does not care. How much money do they really need.? They are certainly not putting it back into makng a Great Airline. Just a barely functioning one. So sad.

  24. I would not give any opinion until I do some research and find out what exactly happened. It is very easy to give an opinion with out knowing exactly what was that really happened.

  25. Ok fact check people. They would never charter an empty plane to get a bus load of fifth graders to DC. Lol. Who writes this stuff?

  26. I have never had a good experience on an airline run by Mr. Parker. This includes America West, US Air and AA

  27. For every bummer story, you can find one praiseworthy, no matter if it’s airlines, police, military or medicine.

  28. Have only flown AA for one round trip – to Maui and back. Worst experience of my flying life.
    Delayed due to mechanical problem, boarded and delayed another 1.5 hours while they located the flight log so we sat for 1.5 hours before a 8 hour flight. Return trip delayed in LA, missed connection in Chicago so another 2 hour delay. The trip was arranged by a client so I had no choice but will NEVER fly AA again.

  29. American Airlines should be totally embarrassed by this event. What a generous gesture on the part of Delta, even if it was to rub it in the face of a competitor. Glad that the fifth graders were able to make the trip.

  30. not arguing if Parker and his Executives should go but lets not forget Parker and his team brought AA out of BANKRUPTCY and combining AA/US created the WORLD largest airline. Parker and Isom need to sit down with the Unions and work out a fair contract

  31. @joel w – the airline was exiting bankruptcy regardless, parker overpaid but lucked out with the drop in price of oil and with costco dropping amex sending the price of co-brand credit card deals skyrocketing

  32. I am a frequent flier on American, and when I say that all they care about is dollars and sense – take it from me. Parker and his robots have ruined a great airline, with a great culture. It is now simply a flying bus. I wish delta flew to the cities I travelled most, I would switch in a heart beat

  33. Are you able to get a statement from AA? I imagine besides offering an INVOL refund, they offered to rebook them on the next AA flight, but it may have been the next day, or two, or three. And it sounds like they didn’t offer hotel accommodations as an exception. What a great move by DL, and that the front line employees in OKC could start something and get ATLHDQ to respond so quickly!

  34. Have ya’ll bothered to even see what the flight was actually canceled and what day it was canceled? Hmmm, weather? Not sure about any of you but if there is really bad weather like what that part of the region has been having I wouldn’t want to be flying. But again, trolls behind a computer screen will continue to jump on whatever band wagon is happening at the time. There are always two sides to every story, but again the media trolls will only comment on what they think they know. All airlines have issues, all airlines have disruptions due to weather, please show one airline that has absolutely no issues, never has had a disrupted flight, that has never had a negative story in the media? Either way two sides to the story that goes for American Airlines and even Delta airlines.. I’m sure there is a lot more to what happened then what ya’ll are making comments on. Shameful

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