Passengers Forced To Cross Atlantic Twice To Get Home After American Airlines Oversold Their Flight

American Airlines passengers report being sent to London instead of New York on Sunday when their flight from Antigua was oversold. They wound up having to cross the Atlantic twice, flying Antigua to London Gatwick overnight and then were booked to fly London Gatwick to New York JFK all on British Airways.

American was able to solicit several volunteers to take another flight, but that wasn’t enough, and the flight was still oversold.

The Antigua to Miami flight was also oversold on Sunday. Both Miami and New York JFK were sold out on Monday (in fact Miami is oversold).

  • Antigua to New York is scheduled at 4 hours and 28 minutes.
  • Antigua to London is 7 hours 55 minutes. There’s a five hour layover at Gatwick airport, followed by London to New York JFK at 8 hours 15 minutes.
  • That’s nearly five times as much travel time at over 21 hours.
  • In total, that’s 7,551 miles of flying – instead of 1,770.

Now, flights generally are sold out for a couple of days. I see a couple of seats back to New York JFK via Saint Martin on Tuesday. Perhaps that really was the best option for getting back to New York on Monday!

However these are leisure flights that can’t have very high no show rates. There seems to be something off with American’s revenue management if they’re overselling so many flights (and perhaps selling out too early, not earning a high enough price for their last seats).

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. Some rebooking algorithm wasn’t very inventive. Defaulting to OW/BA metal in this case is ridiculous. There had to have been a lot of ways to get off the island that didn’t involve two Atlantic crossings.

  2. @Luke LHR has “real” international transit which is to say you don’t have to enter the UK to connect.

  3. I’m not surprised. This is peak season for US-Caribbean flying, and flights out of the markets catering to more affluent tourists can be overbooked for weeks at a time. To make matters worse, many hotels and resorts are often fully.booked, too.

    Truth be told, I actually give kudos to AA for working out a creative (albeit) lengthy solution to keep the impacted pax moving instead of stranded for days with potentially nowhere to stay.

  4. You mean to tell me that they couldn’t fly them out through SJU, SDQ or AUA on a different airline? Something doesn’t sound right.

  5. The airlines are the new mafia AA knows the demand not just to Antigua but the Caribbean on a whole but refuses to service these particular region but these were the same regions that bailed them out during COVID -19 and to have these people traveling all day this is a disgrace.

  6. Transatlantic miles aren’t worth what they used to be; nonetheless, transatlantic service provides better food and beverage, larger mote comfortable aircraft, and lounge access for OW Sapphire status.

    I’d take it over Caribbean-NY, most any day.

  7. @Doug, luckily both flights were Gatwick, but no idea if Gatwick has an all airside/international transit area.

    What a pain overall though. I thought airlines were supposed to put you on any flight, was there really no other option here? Can you imagine if you had kids and had to deal with this?

  8. @lara
    Personally I would refuse to take those flights, voluntarily or not
    I just would not board those flights

  9. This is not surprising – AmEx travel offered us Washington-Caribbean routings via London before. Capacity is very limited to places like SVD, and interisland connectivity is less than poor, e.g., you must go through MIA from two islands 40 kms apart.

  10. Reminds me of a friend who couldn’t get from CLT to PHL on US Airways due to cancelations and convinced the US Airways Club agent to reroute him via LGW. She said sure, and he even cleared an upgrade to Envoy Class.

    I think some mileage collectors here would be thrilled… provided the seats were ideal.

  11. America West probably charged him for food on TATL legs because he didn’t buy those tickets.

    They probably didn’t make him pay the fare difference but hey, I wouldn’t put it past America West.

  12. during a snow storm several years ago my MIA-JFK was canceled. i asked to be placed on MIA-LHR-JFK. everything worked out. we landed in JFK got to mid-town and closed a massive deal

  13. It needs to be made illegal to oversell flights, period. Whatever downstream effects have to happen to facilitate it are worth the outcome.

    The airlines would adjust just fine.

  14. @richard
    I disagree, because if the airlines can’t over book they will have to raise prices to compensate for the empty seats
    As long as we limit airlines to voluntary bumping and compensation then I am fine with the practice

  15. A lot of extra pollution for no extra benefit. Maybe laws limiting overselling would be beneficial.

  16. We were in London when superstorm sandy hit, making a scheduled NYC stopover on our way home to Maui impossible. American called me and suggested they could reroute via Hong Kong and LA. Seemed as reasonable as anything but It was a long day…

  17. This actually looks like a lot of fun but I like being on planes and in airports. I am not the typical passenger.

  18. Are the rules different if flying within the US versus out of Antigua concerning overbooking, bumping, and compensation?? Different algorithms for different airports based on country of origin. Airlines will use every angle possible to enhance margins. Also, Antigua was once part of the British empire. Therefore, ease of restrictions concerning egress and exit via Gatwick .

    As part of some possible compensation, hope they were part of a frequent flier program .

  19. I hope they didn’t have to listen to the credit card spiel twice! 🙂
    Also, were they eligible for compensation under the European flight rules?

  20. @objektiw inter-island travel isn’t nearly as bad as you make out, it’s just not designed for connections – e.g. Islands like Saint Lucia which have 2 separate airports, the main international in the south and then a much shorter runway just outside the capital for inter-island. The challenge is getting transport between them, and capacity on inter-island flights is limited compared to US/UK/EU flights

  21. @Exit Row Seat country of origin doesn’t make much difference for arriving at Gatwick. It’s all the same passport control based on nationality, whether you’ve arrived from Antigua or Afghanistan.

  22. Inter-Caribbean travel is very limited and difficult not to talk about expensive. I’m very sure it was impossible to connect to St. Martin and even harder to SJU as someone suggested. Flights from STX for example are sold out everyday and AA is the only deal. It’s a good thing Antigua has the BA flights because besides BGI, SXM Maybe SKB and UVF no other Eastern Caribbean islands have EU direct flights. Definitely none at STX or STT and SJU sometimes have a MAD via Iberia. Long and short Caribbean interconnectivity is extremely limited. So definitely was the best option versus having to pay $600+ for some dingy hole in the wall room. Hotel prices are outrageous in these Caribbean islands as well. By the way, the planes are flying whether or not they were rerouted so don’t get the pollution comment.

  23. A friend of mine works for American. It can be surprising which flights can be oversold. One would think it would be heavy business routes, like JFK-LAX or ORD-LGA.

    Yet, I have been on a lot of flights to and from Vegas that needed volunteers, and Vegas traffic is a mix of leisure and convention traffic.

    On a spring break trip to Tampa, both the ORD departure and the Tampa departure were oversold and needed volunteers.

    What surprises me is that AA didn’t try to put people on other airlines, either to Miami, or to other islands to connect with AA.

    Once I was flying Seattle to ORD. AA unilaterally put everyone flying to Miami on an Alaska non-stop, because of an oversold situation. That was in 2003, long before Alaska joined Oneworld.

    I was at LAS, when an ORD departure was oversold. Because the rest of the ORD and DFW departures were oversold, they put volunteers on America West to Orange County, connecting to AA for ORD.

  24. I have done a similar trip with Air Canada, partly of my own doing saying I couldn’t change routes thru YVR, so I ended with 2 extra legs, arrived 6 hours late. Almost doubled my miles.. Flights are my free time, loved every second of it.

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