In September I wrote that American Airlines was in the process of rolling out a new electronic system for giving out hotel, meal and transportation vouchers during delays.
At the time I wrote that the system was in place in 30 cities and that international stations would begin using it in 2019 to provide instant payment to hotels and for meals. Emails go out to customers with links that let them search for hotels with real time inventory.
While there’s a new system for handling vouchers, the policy for what customers should be given doesn’t change and the likelihood of getting a meal voucher doesn’t increase. American rolls out carts of snacks to gates on long delays instead of giving customers money to spend inside the terminal.
‘Refresh and refuel’ carts by delayed flights replaced food vouchers for passengers
Indeed there have been efforts to roll back compensation — after American Airlines empowered flight attendants to compensate customers for inconveniences they had to walk it back somewhat because there were too many inconveniences.
The system has rolled out to domestic airports. It’s touted as helping passengers not have to stay and wait in line, though gate agents need to trigger emails to passengers. It should mean fewer staff necessary at customer service.
Here’s how American describes the feature:
Here’s a screen shot shopping for hotels:
While this is supposed to automate things and make it easier for customers, in reality an agent has to trigger a notification to a customer that they have an offer. The agent is supposed to manually “qualify” the customer to ensure the situation is one where American Airlines is supposed to pay (e.g. a mechanical delay and not weather or air traffic control). In situations where American doesn’t pick up the tab there’s a link to send a distressed passenger rate option (passenger pays).
There does seem to be a huge flaw in this system. If a customer has someone else’s email address in their reservation then they aren’t going to get the hotel booking link. For instance,
- The person works for a small business and their boss or another employee books their travel
- They’re older and a family member books their travel — they may not even have a smartphone
Here’s an example. Two passengers show up looking for help from an agent. They’re on the same reservation, traveling together for work. The system shows that an offer was sent to them, but they didn’t receive it. The email went to the person at work who booked their travel – and who wasn’t answering their phone after hours.
The system saw they were traveling together, by the way, and sent them a link for a single hotel room assuming they’d be staying together. But they work together, they aren’t a couple. And the agent can’t get offers to come up, they just have to point the recipient to the email they can’t open.