American Airlines To The Rescue: Private Jet Experience Saves 71 Stranded School Kids And Chaperones

In an internal American Airlines Jetwire for employees, the company shared what happened to a group of school children visiting Washington, D.C. from Bermuda on June 15th.

Seventy one students and their chaperones had flown non-stop to Washington’s National airport on American. They were ticketed on a connecting flight back through Miami, and their DC to Miami segment was delayed by weather. They were going to miss their connection home.

  • It’s not easy to re-accommodate a group of 71 passengers. There usually aren’t that many open seats on a single flight. And in this case it’s even harder than usual – with children mostly ten, they really couldn’t go splitting everyone up over multiple flights and even days.

  • So American Airlines decided to add a dedicated flight just for this school trip.

As the airline explained in Jetwire,

Because this group was so large, it had been on the radar of the IOC’s system customer service manager (SCSM) team, which made proactive attempts to contact the group when they noticed their original travel plans — a trip to BDA via MIA — would not be possible.

Since National airport is an American Airlines hub, and crew base, they were able to pick up crew that were on reserve to work the trip. They used a 128-seat Airbus A319 dedicated to the group.

American Airlines Airbus A319

The plane has 8 first class seats, and 24 ‘extra legroom’ Main Cabin Extra seats. (Children have to be 15 years or older to sit in the exit row.)

America Airlines Airbus A319 Exit Row

While the group was delayed several hours, they didn’t have to connect.

The SCSM stayed connected with the group leaders and kept them informed of their new travel arrangements. Day of Departure moved everyone to the extra section while System Support Center helped re-ticket the group and get them checked in. DCA made sure airport teams were ready and arranged for catering.

This was a large group, and Bermuda isn’t a station where American has a lot of flights (there also aren’t really alternate airports or ground options!). So they went above and beyond to get everyone home together.

“The group leader was in tears as he was beyond thankful for the efforts of the American team,” said Riley Johnson, duty manager, Customer Service Recovery.

“I had such a sense of relief,” said the group’s leader. “I had 62 10-year-olds. The fact that our group was able to remain together and had a direct flight home — I was grateful.”

Legacy American Airlines Airbus A319 Cabin Interior

This was an even more expensive move that American made for these passengers than it seems at first glance. That’s because they didn’t just have to fly an extra plane to Bermuda – they had to get it back, too. They didn’t need to operate an extra Bermuda departure that day. So American paid to ferry the plane back to National airport, too.

Before the pandemic, American cancelled a flight on a school group of 41 fifth graders and their chaperones out of Oklahoma City and didn’t have options to get them to Richmond the same day – so Delta came in and offered them their own jet. Then a few months later Delta did it again when Frontier cancelled on 79 students headed to a Disney Cross Country race at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Frontier told the group they’d have to wait six days to travel – but with Delta’s help they did not just make the race, but actually won.

It sounds like American learned a lot in the past 5 years – and earned some well-deserved plaudits.

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. Good for them! I hope you can pass this page and the positive comments (there should be many) on to the company. They should know too when something done right is recognized and appreciated.

  2. While it doesn’t always come across, airline employees are parents too, or they have young siblings, etc. They often get the public blame and bad press for many (not all though) things that start with entitled passengers. Considering how many people fly daily, it should not be a surprise that sometimes stuff goes sideways. This time American did the right thing and will have some passengers for life. Of course, I fully suspect some bean counting investor will fault the airline for cutting into his profits.

    Good Job American, and thank you from a parent and grandparent who flys you internationally several times a year.

  3. They did a good job this time. Looks like someone was empowered to find a solution. That’s really a large group.

  4. It seems AA just stepped up and made the decision to do what was right. No one can blame the airline for bad weather resulting in delays and missed connections. AA had no obligation to do this. If only we were all praised daily for doing the right thing.

    But let’s be real about this. This was an optics move. Imagine the headlines had AA not done this:


    It would have been brutal. It would have been an event that changed the entire carrier’s business plan. The NAACP, the ACLU, I’m sure the ADL and every civil rights attorney within 1,000 miles of DCA would have been all over AA. Every last Benjamin Crump amd Gloria Allred would have come crawling out of the woodwork for their few minutes of fame with their newfound victims. This would have likely been the ball & chain on AA leading to its untimely and premature demise.

    This wasn’t just doing the right thing. It was turning what otherwise would have been a neverending civil rights nightmare into hero of the day headlines. And doing this was a LOT less expensive.

  5. Did the passengers clear stringent TSA style security prior to boarding? Asking for a friend.

  6. Good job American!

    Good job Pilot93434 replying to what is obviously sarcasm!

  7. Good. As they should. They need more positive things because everything about them right now is negative.

  8. As it was, it was a good job by American Airlines getting the group to where they were going. I wonder if it would have been cheaper to delay the flight from Miami to Bermuda until the flight arrived from DC. By adding extra fuel, both segments could have flown at the top end of their maximum speed. When considering extra costs, the original flight from Miami to Bermuda probably flew half full unless there were a lot of standby passengers. If you consider revenue for the 71 as accumulating on that airplane, the extra flight from Miami to Bermuda flew revenue free.

  9. Good of AA and, more significantly, good of DL for having set the example / standard.

  10. It’s nice to see them do something With those seat selection and baggage fees other than spend it on upper management bonuses.

  11. This is kinda like John Wayne Gacy throwing a quarter in the Salvation Army bell ringer’s bucket.

  12. Finally…AA did something right. And, as mentioned above, the major carriers are all certified under FAR Part 121 rules. Even charters and extra sections (such as this AA flight) operate under FAR Part 121. Delta’s formerly “Delta Private Jets” (now part of “Wheels UP”) operates under FAR Part 135.

  13. If you have been to Bermuda, it’s not a 3rd world Caribbean country (and of course not even in the Caribbean!) The parents could have have bought the whole plane from AA, lol. It’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world (GDP per capita), only behind Monaco and Luxemburg, and *IS* the most expensive city to live in the world (as of 2023).

    So not only was it good optics by AA, but great ROI as the parents are likely worth more than a billion$$ combined and it’s a good future investment for brand loyalty.


  14. I wonder if since the baby was born in Iceland, the naming would follow Icelandic custom with traditional Christian name, plus a patronymic followed by -sson or – dottir?

    And alphabetized by first name like Apple Music.

    Just .

  15. I was on a 8th grade trip to DC from California in 1999. We had bad weather roll in after boarding and couldn’t leave. I don’t remember the airline but they held the plane in Chicago so we could get home. There were probably 80 of us and it was the last flight of the day heading to San Francisco. We were maybe an hour delayed it was worth the cost to the airline to wait.

  16. Now, why doesn’t AA provide a decent contract to their flight attendants? It’s only been 5 years without a contract or pay raise!!

  17. So how many of them got their privates photographed by AA flight attendants? I hope everything realizes THAT is the reason why American AirPedolines jumped on this opportunity. It’s a PR stunt, NOT a good gesture. Besides, I’m sure someone in AA heard “71 prepubescent vulnerable kids” and got really excited trying to make sure this happened.

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