American’s mobile app now notifies you when your flight begins boarding. That’s great because the airline isn’t very good about updating flight delays. In my experience flights regularly show on time up until departure time, even if there’s no aircraft at the gate.
If you wait until the boarding notification, and don’t need to be one of the first to board (planes with larger overhead bin space should mean not having to board early), you can keep working in the lounge or get food in the airport.
A 90 Minute Delay Without Communication
Thursday night I had a 90 minute delay out of Washington National. Since I don’t fully trust American’s technology I went down to the gate 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure since my flight showed on time. Fifteen minutes was plenty for me since I was traveling my favorite way on this trip. We had no gate. Gate agents had no information until scheduled departure time when we were told,
- Our aircraft was on the ground, and passengers would still need to deplane
- Then instead we’d be getting an aircraft brought over from a hanger “in a couple of minutes”
Our flight then showed with a 10 minute delay. I went back to the club. Shortly thereafter the flight showed departed and ‘awaiting takeoff’. Since I wasn’t sure if the boarding notification would work for a plane that had already departed I went down to the gate to see what was happening. Fortunately I was leaving just two gates over from the lounge elevator. There was still no aircraft. As I’ve said before failing to communicate delays disrespects your customers.
- No delay was ever posted until after scheduled departure time
- There was no aircraft at the gate, yet when American posted a delay after departure time it was only a 10 minute delay
- Passengers were told the plane would arrive in a couple of minutes but it took nearly an hour
- There were no updates after that, even when the flight showed as departed and awaiting takeoff, except being told that “we might be moved to another gate” and the destination listed at the boarding gate changed.
Getting Backed Up On A Later Connection
We ultimately ran about 90 minutes late after a boarding slowed by too many carry on bags, bags in the bins with emergency equipment, and a wait behind several departing aircraft while several more came in to land. It wasn’t looking like I’d make my connection.
Inflight I pulled up availability and saw 5 seats for sale on the connecting flight after mine, and the flight after that – the last flight – zeroed out. I couldn’t call American inflight, but I direct messaged them on twitter asking them to back me up on that next flight. They did so. It’s the first time in a long time that the twitter team was willing to and actually did help me.
Running To Make My Original Flight
Fortunately my connecting flight home was delayed 10 minutes. Still, it began boarding out of gate A11 while we were taxiing into DFW’s gate B6. A flight attendant made an announcement asking all DFW-terminating passengers to remain seated while connecting passengers got off. This was the first time I actually saw passengers listen. I made a dash from row 13 up to the front, passing by Candace Owens in the first class cabin, and ran.
What’s The Difference Between 40 Seconds And 60 Seconds?
I made it to my connecting gate 11 minutes to our rescheduled departure. The door was closing and latched closed as I approached the gate reader. The agent there shrugged. I said, “I have one more minute do you think you might open the door?”
She knew it was true, but didn’t have to help me. Fortunately she was willing to, but not before arguing: “actually, you only have 40 seconds.” Umm, ok. “Well thank you for being so flexible” I said as she opened the door.
I Shouldn’t Still Have Had A First Class Seat, But American
I told the gate agent my seat number and she went to enter it. She didn’t actually scan my boarding pass. She closed the jet bridge door behind me. On the way in I wondered, “will someone be in my first class seat?” My upgrade had cleared and the gate agents should have given away my seat if they were closing the door and sending the plane on its way.
When I made it onto the aircraft my first class seat was still empty. They were going to send the flight out with an empty first class seat, which was great for me, not great for the next person on the upgrade list.
We arrived on time and that makes American’s operational stats appear improved but the little pieces that matter to customers along the way are still a problem.