American’s New Electronic System for Giving Out Hotels, Meals, and Transportation During Delays

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.

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. my experience (once, LAX) is that for a three hour delay, the cart showed up 30 minutes before flight time, as people were boarding.

  2. I don’t think you will ever be able to reach 100% of the passengers electronically for the reasons you cited. Perhaps they should also send this to your AA app as an option as well.

    Good for AA, this is positive even if it isn’t flawless.

  3. A couple of years ago, I was on a Delta flight YYZ-DTW-LGA (rebooked by AA after a cancelled YYZ-LGA flight) and due to late inbound arrival, missed the connection at DTW.

    Delta had a set of kiosks at DTW explicitly for dealing with irrops. I put in my booking reference and the machine spit out a hotel voucher.

    I personally wouldn’t mind an email either, but agree that this wouldn’t help my mom or in-laws, or half the people at work (if you don’t explicitly change the contact info on the reservation it goes to the travel folks). And there needs to be a way for an agent to fix mistakes like putting two people from the same booking reference into separate rooms when necessary.

  4. My work travel agent does not pass on any email address. When I lookup the PNR on the airline’s website, it will ask me for my email address and phone number.

  5. They tried to do this for a canceled international flight on Dec 1st (ORD to LHR) and it was a total disaster. About 2/3rds received the email 1/3 didn’t. I didn’t although I did receive 15 flight delayed rescheduled texts. Gate agents just said wait then gave up when the line was over 100 deep and starting issuing fake hotel and meal vouchers to passengers. This is at 2:00am. Few of the hotels had rooms, some did not have courtesy shuttles some wouldn’t reimburse cab fares etc etc. I young couple with a baby and a toddler had no milk, no diapers and no luggage as they wasted $65 of their own money getting to their assigned hotel which had no rooms.
    Just because it’s modern and is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near real time or is even accurate. It’s just a way of taming the savages at the door and letting them take it out on someone else. Even McDonalds would not take AA script at ORD.
    I’ll never again check a bag on AA as once it’s on the plane you are held in bondage until you can get it off the plane and onto another carrier. In my case 51 hours from the west coast to ORD to LHR to PRG but they gave me $200 in AA script so I can submit to future torture on AA- NOT ME.

  6. I’ve been to the Hilton at ORD. The picture above isn’t it. The picture is of the Hilton at FRA.

  7. And no one knows where the Super8 is… it is “73 miles away.”
    Hilton has no shuttle service because a short trans-Atlantic flight is required.

    With Hotels in completely different cities/states/continents, AA may as well give you a voucher with your ticket since no one will be able to use it.

  8. If you attach an AAdvantage number to the reservation, AA has your email address. I am not sure if that’s alliance-wide (i.e. any oneworld number) — it should be, but I kind of doubt it.

    They should ask for you to confirm the email address (allowing you to edit it) at check-in. It’s not that difficult.

  9. Who cares about the picture GEZZ, it is a promotional mock up and in marketing we drop in whatever works ( I know we did the same for SPG and AK). The key is that this is a step forward and NO not everyone will be happy or will get the text and email, so they will see an agent, but the vast majority of people with even a personal email or AA Advantage account, this will be slick.

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