Why You Could Lose Your Seat The Next Time You Connect On American Airlines

American Airlines has a new system for automatically rebooking passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled. It’s more powerful than what they’ve used before, but there’s also the potential to cause problems for passengers who would have made their flights – passengers who may come in off of a delayed flight, run through the airport hoping to make their connection, and find that even though the door is still open for their next flight their seat has been given away.

The airline has made a number of processes automated, like clearing standbys and upgrades earlier, to make the boarding gate less chaotic – so they can staff it with just one agent rather than two on flights that are less than 80% full.

There’s a full-court push to automate, and that often that means doing this earlier. They’re rolling out a new automated re-accommodation tool tool to rebook passengers when their flights are cancelled or delayed.

  • It’s called AURA for “AUtomated ReAccommodation”

  • The system will fully roll out by June

  • The goal is to process more rebookings automatically, which means fewer passengers calling and fewer itineraries being reconstructed manually. That saves agent resources.

Here’s what’s different:

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.

Because of this, occasionally the flight may temporarily appear to be slightly
overbooked. Please remember to check the BX list to identify misconnects if you encounter a flight
that appears over booked.

The notice that Auto Reaccom has run for a flight will no longer appear in FLIFO. You can identify if a PNR was processed by AURA as it will show the term “PRNG Update” in the received from field as shown in the example below:

What this means is American is going to take people off of flights before they actually misconnect in order to give their seats to someone else. And we know that people do – occasionally, but all the time – have flights where it’s ‘obvious’ they cannot make their connection and then something happens at the last minute so that they do. 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.

Most of the time this is going to work out well, and more people will get where they’re going more smoothly. Occasionally some people will have something taken from them that shouldn’t have been, in order to accomplish that. American clearly suggests this will not happen but it seems clear that it almost certainly will.

Indeed, in the aforementioned memo to all customer care agents last month reviewed by View From The Wing, the airline asked employees to “report any automated rebooking that appears to be irregular” so the possibility of problems is certainly being contemplated.

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. Hypothetically, it’s a great concept. In reality, it doesn’t account for irregular operations, which are consistent in this industry. Imagine, being delayed on your first outbound, the system recognizes a missed connection, rebooks automatically and then your connection goes on delay due to weather, ATC, maintenance or crew availability so instead of a missed connection, one is able to make their flight. Once at the gate, the passenger finds out their reservation on the original flight is no longer honored and the seats reassigned to new passengers. Yea, I’d be justifiably irate and pissed off, too! The AI system is a tragic folly and the future with be filled with many DOT complaints and possibly class action lawsuits.

  2. @Black Cloud Aura – AI works better for everyone as a group. Sure some people will be displaced or inconvenienced but the overall impact will be more efficient operations and revenue recognition. You can complain all you want to the DOT – it doesn’t matter. As for “class action lawsuits” – get real. Why do people think a lawsuit is the magic bullet for any perceived grievance? In this case the Contract of Carriage (which passengers agree to when they book a ticket whether they know that or not) allows airlines broad discretion and if they use software that doesn’t have any biases toward protected classes then there shouldn’t be grounds for any such suit. You do realize that if a connection is delayed for whatever reason the airline can release seats 15 minutes before the ORIGINAL departure time and is under no obligation to accommodate late arriving passengers.

  3. I don’t think the problem here is the AI system per se, but rather the attempt to deal with it too soon, before it’s become certain that the passenger won’t make it. The reality is that when one flight is delayed often other flights are delayed, a passenger who won’t make it to the gate before 15 minutes from scheduled departure very often will actually make the flight. It’s “efficient” only if you use a flawed metric and assign no cost to bumping a passenger who will miss the 15 minute before scheduled window but will make the actual flight.

  4. Expensive indeed. The Cost is in passengers that will now fly AA only when there is no other choice.

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