American Airlines May Now Give Away Your Seat When You Run To Make A Connection

Last month American Airlines fully rolled out a new tool called AURA, the “AUtomated ReAccommodation” tool to rebook passengers when their flights are cancelled or delayed.

But this tool does so predictively. As American describes it in internal documents,

AURA utilizes a concept called discovered inventory, in which it identifies passengers that are certain to misconnect and utilizes that available inventory for protecting other passengers who may need that space.

They take passengers off of flights who haven’t missed them yet, but where the airline is ‘certain’ they will misconnect, in order to give those seats to other passengers. “PRNG Update” in a reservation means that AURA tool has run:

As I wrote in May when revealing the plan, people occasionally have flights where it’s ‘obvious’ they cannot make their connection and then something happens at the last minute so that they do.

  • The connecting flight gets delayed!
  • And they run between flights and make it, just before doors close!

Now they might find themselves without the connection, even though circumstances lined up so that they could have made it if American hadn’t given their seat to someone else instead. American said this wouldn’t happen but it appears to be happening.

A reader shares their experience this past weekend flying from Portland, Maine to Chicago and on to San Diego in first class.

  • Their first segment was delayed half an hour, and they share “it looked like I was gonna misconnect, even though the second leg was also delayed.”

  • They were removed automatically from their connecting flight prior to touchdown at Chicago O’Hare.

  • He “hustled from [gate] L10 to H16 …and made it there while they were still on Group 4. Of course my [boarding pass] no longer worked so I had to speak to the” gate agents.

  • He was told,

    [Y]our seat has been reaccomodated twice so it’s no longer available. We have an exit row or you can fly first tomorrow.

The passenger noted he’d “paid for first” and asked for his seat back from whomever was upgraded into it. That was declined. He asked for downgrade compensation and was told to contact customer service. At that point he was willing to overnight in Chicago to fly up front to San Diego the next day, and the agent was willing to provide a hotel room.

However another first class passenger, who wasn’t automatically removed from the flight by AURA, misconnected. He was given their seat and, he says, flew on the flight he’d originally intended. But this new tool will mean situations like this happen more and more.

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. Just flew AA and it a crap show. First off the customer service is low level at best. Two, we’re suppose to land early in Charlotte from Aruba. Which we did. Then they sat us on the runway for 40 min waiting on a gate. We saw 10 to 15 open gates. Instead of an hour layover where we could eat. They started boating our flight back to Florida while we sat on a plane delayed. They also had the nerve to blame the delay on the Airport. We eventually made it home but I will be cutting up the high hawked AA card and going back to Delta.

  2. It seems that the airlines have all the wrights and we the passengers have very few. What ever happened to good customer service? This must change!!!!!!

  3. Sadly AA is now in the credit card business and not really the airline business. They sold me a flight with a close.comnection. Flight was delayed due to mechanical. Yes they gave away my seat even though our flight with 10.passengers made the connection just in time. LGA AA staff horrible.

  4. And how is this not an IDB situation? I think it would get fixed if they actually faced the IDB penalties.

    And if they would change their procedures standbys could be boarded just before the doors close. Issue them special boarding passes that can only be used in say the last two minutes before the door closes. At that point they’re called up, if their pass works, good, if the proper passenger boarded the pass is rejected.

  5. Ever since US Air was acquired by American ( and yes I know it was the other way around) and they dumped all of there old regional aircraft into the domestic market. I refuse to fly them, but of course our unqualified Transportation Secretary does nothing to protect the flying public!!!!

  6. On this I agree with you Mr. Engelhardt. I would add most, if not all, Dept. of Transportation heads are “unqualified.” It’s just a place to park political friends in a job with a nice paycheck and perks. The DOT as a whole is not really set up to “help” travelers. It is where complaints go to die…..

  7. Never ever fly AA! Every policy they have is pro company & anti customer! Haven’t flown AA since I was in my 20’s & I’m 64

  8. This happened to us on a Air Canada flight a few months back. There was some 20 people that ran to the gate only to be told that they have our seats away. Meanwhile, they were letting additional staff to board the flight that were deadheading. The next possible flight that they offered us was 32 hrs later. . They would not compensate us for the hotel that we have to purchase or the cab fare. I would rather spend an extra $500 than fly air Canada ever again

  9. I have been bumped several times on AA. THEY ARE THE #1 Airline for doing this. They have bumped me so many times I’m done with them. The last time, I was running to get to my 2nd flight to get home late at night, nope we sold your seat, we can get you on a flight 2 hours later. Which is BS. MY flight was delayed due to another aircraft broke down at the gate my first flight was supposed to leave from. AA didn’t give 2 F’s for jacking me over. Customers don’t mean anything to AA, just income at any cost. I would love a Boycott of AA.

  10. I paid for a first class ticket from Houston Hobby to Cedar Rapids Iowa via the required stop in DFW. Due to immense storms, the flight from Houston was delayed first for an hour on the tarmac before we were brought back to the terminal to wait another 2 hours. Of course I missed my connecting DFW flight, but in the end the connecting flight was delayed several hours. In Houston, when we had to deplane to wait out the storm, all passengers were seated in that waiting area. As I am handicapped (which is why I bought the first class ticket), my seat had been given to someone else. I simply couldn’t believe I had been treated that way. I had been there all the time because, needing a wheelchair and being 80 years old, there was no way I could go for a meal or shopping. After 15 minutes of searching, American did find me a seat in economy. They refunded $54. I couldn’t believe that either. I sure paid more than $54 for a difference between first and economy. I think the airline industry is taking too much advantage of passengers and there needs to be an investigation into how much the airline can manipulate a person who has a full fare ticket and a reservation..

  11. It’s just another form of “involuntary” bumping; but without compensation.

  12. American has been a disaster for us. Booked with them for 6, they were late and gave away 1 of 6 seats making our vacation cancel. No one on their end seemed to care. Then lost 2 suitcases. Sad.

  13. We need to mobilize against AA. 33% of my flights have been delayed or canceled. We need to start a Facebook page, call them every day to use up their employees time, and then send a Huge complaint file to the Dept of Transportation. Scream in unison at the airport. Take their credit card forms on the plane and then throw them away. Use up their drinks. Request 2 cans of pop. Harass the Ceo with letters.

  14. That’s why you should never fly American cuz they don’t give a damn about their customers if they would leave a bunch of handicapped individual stranded with no help no flights no hotels no nothing it shouldn’t surprise you about them giving your flight to somebody else this Airline is just crap

  15. @Sha – really? That is nothing. United customers the last 3 weeks are telling AA passengers to “hold my beer”.

  16. @NEVERflyUnited – so you are now adding AA to your list of airlines to “never fly”. Pretty soon you will be walking wherever you want to go. BTW, all airlines do this with connections and usually enforce the “must be on board 15 minutes before scheduled departure or we can give away your seat” rule. Amazes me that people on here are so clueless about airline operation or self centered that they think it revolves around them. Airlines have a business to run and must make decisions for the greater good and to optimize operations, not to accomodate you.

  17. I’m glad there are other airlines to choose from so I won’t be choosing American.

  18. Delta did that to me in 2019. I was on a Delta flight that ran late, when I arrived at JFK for my connecting flight it was already boarded and sitting on the tarmac when I ran to the gate. Knowing that I’m on a Delta flight u would think they would know I’m running late and not give up my seat. It was for my Uncles funeral and the way Delta handled it was atrocious.

  19. @AC The airlines need to wait until 10 minutes prior to real departure time to release seats of passengers on connections, especially if they are giving the seats to non-revs and other standby pax ahead of customers racing to make their ticketed connection. Even if the theory is that passengers aren’t going to make it, making those decisions far in advance doesn’t allow for lots of things that can happen in the meantime…. crew not available, inbound gets a shorter arrival path, mechanical, whatever. Even if that means more scrambling at T-10, that’s what the legitimate connecting pax deserve.

  20. @Carl — and that is what is supposed to happen. It is so unhospitable to do otherwise and just one more reason the general public distrust airlines probably more than any other industry.

  21. On 7/9/23 I was traveling from Bangor, ME to Dallas, TX through DC (Reagan) on American (2386 and 803)
    Due to severe weather on the east coast, my flight from Bangor to DC was delayed. American’s auto system rebooked my connection flight for the following day due to the delay interfering with the connection.
    The only problem was that flight 2386 and flight 803 used the same physical aircraft; it was literally impossible to miss the connection. The stupidity of the situation was mind numbing and very frustrating.
    I was able to get the problem fixed but American’s customer service situation is awful. “Unexpected high call volume” is no longer a valid excuse.

  22. This tool isn’t doing anything new, it’s just automating aspects that make it easier for gate agents to enforce policies and get flights out on time.

    Final boarding call is 15 minutes prior to departure so they can identify what people haven’t shown up and start assigning those seats to standby passengers who missed their connections earlier in the day.

    If you show up 10 minutes before departure and the doors are still open you’re still late.

    The automation identifies your not going to make it in time and frees up those seats immediately so gate agents don’t have to waist time calling peoples names who aren’t there and get on with loading the standby passengers who are there allowing them to get the flight out on time which helps prevent that flight form being delayed causing those passengers to miss their connections.

  23. It’s a new feature which causes sticky situations. Some passengers still make their flights and others don’t. It comes down to the availability of seats. The passenger has to be checked back in and then they get a seating assignment. If they were 1st class and could not be accommodated, then they are given a number to call to reimburse them for that unused segment. That said, there are a lot of comments on here which may accurately convey frustrations, but abysmally lack knowledge on systems that they are not familiar with but speak s though they do. Tsk, tsk.

  24. @MediaAssassin AA should be required to give IDB compensation if you arrive before the boarding door is closed if you are (were) checked into the flight, they should not have the right to remove you prematurely without a consequence if it was wrongful. Further the notion that you can call for downgrade compensation is useless. The airlines always come up with some totally de minimus amount that is based on the difference to a last minute full coach fare. When you buy your ticket, it’s $500 more than coach, but on the day of the flight, it’s only $50 refund.

  25. @Earl It’s absurd to blame connecting passengers for being late to the boarding gate if it’s due to a late AA inbound flight. If they are not running the tool until 15 minutes prior to departure and it’s based on real time information, that’s reasonable. But if they are runnning it predictively 30 minutes or more before departure and off-loading people at that time, then if the facts change and they show up at the gate before boarding is completed, those passengers should have the right to their seats ahead of cleared standbys.

  26. This happened to me over the weekend flying boston to tampa on 7/23 with a connection in Reagan. I had 2 first class tickets and the weather was fine. The flight from BOS to DCA was delayed due to the plane arriving in boston late followed by a ~45 min mechanical issue. We eventually got on our way and upon arrival to DCA the connecting gate was less than a 1 minute walk. I immediately went to the gate; the connecting flight had just arrived (also late) and was deplaning. I talked to the desk crew and was informed that our 2 first class seats had been reassigned and that they could only fly use home to TPA the following day. Keep in mind – I was bumped out of my seats BEFORE THEY EVEN STARTED BOARDING THE FLIGHT. Customer service has been abysmal (as expected). From an email I got this morning (they have told me the only way to deal with this stuff is via email) they had put ‘miles’ into my account for the inconvenience. Based on my account, it appears that they credited me 2500 miles (or about $25-30). And, this doesn’t take into account that we had 2 seats taken from us. I will keep working at this – and documenting things along the way – but we are extremely frustrated by this. We don’t travel much and usually spend the extra on first class tickets to ensure problems like this do not arise. At this point we will never fly American Airlines again and will be sure to encourage others to do so as well.

  27. Good non-story brú. If you were the person getting the seat you would be happy. If the flight is delayed due to something other than weather or air traffic control (something an airline had control over) you’re still given a hotel voucher. Does it suck sometimes? Yes. Does everyone do it? Also yes.

  28. This happened to me on 8/17/2023 at MIA. I had given myself 2.5 hours of layover time, the incoming flight was a bit delayed, but the connecting flight ended up being delayed by more than 3 hours so there was plenty of time to make the connection — no running through the terminals. The system rebooked me anyway to a flight two days later. I received no notification on the AA app, I found out while I was trying to board.

    What’s so frustrating is that it is very easy to program a computer (whether using AI or not) to say “if the connecting flight is also delayed, don’t rebook the passenger”. The existing algorithm is probably capable of making that determination, but the AA app was saying the connecting flight was on-time despite the fact that there was no aircraft at the gate and no flight crew. It just kept saying “0 minutes to board” for hours. So the algorithm was probably being fed incorrect information that the connecting flight was on-time; despite the fact that a quick google search of the flight number showed that the plane wasn’t going to be at the gate anytime soon.

  29. It sucks that this is happening to so many people. I was trying to go see my family on the other side of the country for the holidays. My first flight was delayed and I knew that I would have to run to make the connecting flight once we landed, but I get to the second airport and turns out my second flight had been delayed as well, so I held onto the associated ticket and ignored the rebooked email I got while I was on my first flight. I manage to get on the second plane because they sped up the boarding process by just asking for seat numbers. I go to use the restroom in the plane and when I go back to my assigned seat, I see someone else in it. I ended up having to talk to the agent on the plane about the situation and he gives me another seat on the plane (thank goodness). I was so confused and was trying to figure out why this had happened to me and then I find this article and learn that it’s not just me.

    I understand life is not fair, but it was not right to give me a new booking that gets me to my destination two days later when I booked the flight a week in advance and had already paid for it. I want to see my family for the holidays as much as (maybe more) the passenger they gave my seat to might.

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