American Airlines updated its rules (‘contract of carriage’) to make clear that it has almost no responsibility to you, the customer, when they delay or cancel flights.
I made clear in covering this that the changes to American’s terms and conditions largely just match what was already American Airlines practice. They stopped being generous putting most customers onto other airlines during delays three years ago, and have largely stopped reimbursing customers for hotels that they book themselves during overnight delays – even when their own system for offering rooms breaks down.
Cranky Flier covers the changes and said, “I’m glad American made this change, because it conflicted with what the airline actually did in practice. This should have been fixed long ago.”
I believe he got this backwards,
- American Airlines policies weren’t fully consistent with their contract of carriage
- They should be called out for that
Instead of taking responsibility for customers getting to their final destination when flights are significantly delayed or cancelled, putting passengers on other airlines – which was practice until recently and largely eliminated recently as a cost-cutting measure – they’re making clear they won’t do this.
And saying the most they’ll do for passengers in the event of a four-plus hour delay is a refund just underscores that the four hour standard itself is a pandemic-era change to lock customers in. American says they’ll keep your money unless they delay you four-plus hours, rather than providing a refund when they’re unable to deliver the promised transportation within a shorter period of time. Sure, other airlines have made moves like this during the pandemic to hold onto your money, but that’s hardly an excuse for doing so.
American may want to limit customers getting their own hotels and sending the airline the bill – but then they need a better system for actually providing rooms to customers during irregular operations. In the past several months they haven’t even been able to provide rooms to their own employees properly with flight attendants sleeping at the airport and a pilot without a room sleeping in a hotel lobby.
I agree with Cranky and noted up front that the changes to the airline’s terms aligned the language with the policies the airline put in place. But these policies, and statements to customers, are a bit of a slap in the face and American should be called out for that – not defended, as Cranky does. Bear in mind that the history of changes to the airline’s rules is a history in anti-consumer language. Remember five years ago when the airline declared in the AAdvantage program terms that they had no duty of good faith or fair dealing towards customers?
The airline cut 30% of management employees during the pandemic (even though they received about $10 billion in subsidies to keep everyone employed). This represents $500 million per year in payroll. Yet they still have lawyers on staff spending time figuring out how not to take care of customers when they fail to deliver transportation as promised.
I guess we should be grateful that American Airlines tells us its rules at all, since it took the Department of Transportation to require American Airlines to actually post its Contract of Carriage online last fall, after the airline had removed it from its website.