Scenes from the American Airlines operational meltdown have been getting ugly. As the airline cancelled over 1000 flights on Sunday alone – the weekend of CEO Doug Parker’s 60th birthday – customer service lines stretched the length of airports and tensions rose. Here one group of passengers starts raising their voice to be heard about what’s (not) going on after their flights are cancelled and they’re given no options to get where they’re going. And an American Airlines agent responds by threatening to call the police.
— Lisa Woods (@lisanwoods) November 1, 2021
Meanwhile other passengers are stranded after the crew-shortage driven set of mass cancellations, without American Airlines staff – let alone hotel vouchers. And American just updated its terms and conditions to make clear that they won’t reimburse hotel costs passengers incur when the airline fails to hand out vouchers.
@AmericanAir me and a full flight of passengers were left stranded at DFW with no luggage, and one crew member. police said all the rest of the crew had gone home for the night. there are no more hotels in the area, and no vouchers were given out… pic.twitter.com/6uJ1EGTUyw
— cate ferraro (@cateeferraro) November 1, 2021
Elsewhere, in Miami, customers might as well have been left alone because there’s an endless supply of passengers needing assistance and virtually no one to help them.
— Javier Mota (@javiermota) November 1, 2021
Already 250 flights have been cancelled for Monday as I write this at 6 a.m. Eastern time, amidst similar scenes of customers unable to get help in places like Los Angeles.
— Aaron (@AaronMKrouse) October 31, 2021
Threatening to call the police on customers may be the most American Airlines thing ever, but they haven’t yet instructed employees to remove their uniforms and sneak out of the airport the way that Spirit Airlines did during their meltdown in August.
American Airlines took over $10 billion in taxpayer money during the pandemic, most of which was designed to keep everyone working at the airline so they’d be ready to fly when travel returned. They shed over $500 million in staff anyway, and even though travel remains down about 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels their schedules are on a knife’s edge. Weather in Dallas, at the end of the month caused the carrier to crater due to lack of available crew. And they likely lost management skill that would help them recover quickly, too.
Facing hours-long call center times, remember to see help from everywhere you can. That includes twitter direct message, foreign call centers via an internet calling service like Skype (UK and Australia reservations for American), even buying a day pass for a club to get help (or use this trick to bring a group into Ameican’s club cheaper). Search flights that are available for sale and know the itinerary you want to ask for. And check whether the credit card you used to book your flights has trip delay coverage.