American Airlines Cancels Thousands Of Flights, Makes Customers Wait At Airport

Over the course of the last week American Airlines has canceled thousands of flights. The vast majority of these flights have been on smaller regional jets.  Yet, that still probably means roughly 50 passengers per flight that had to find another way to get where they were going.

There are folks covering this story in detail.  But, given how many thousands of passengers are affected I’m surprised there isn’t more national coverage of the outage.  I dug around a bit on some of the major news sites and didn’t find a ton of coverage.  Maybe the public is finally numb to these large outages?  I still can’t believe that companies as big as the airlines haven’t figured out redundancy for critical systems.  But, that’s a topic for another day.

The Problem With Cancellations

It seems American Airlines has been canceling flights many of these flights close to departure (or after departure).  That means customers have a choice.  They can head to the airport and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Or, they can pay a fee to change their ticket with American Airlines to another flight or date.  They can also choose to buy a more expensive ticket on another airline.  I’m guessing they won’t be receiving much in the way of compensation from American when it comes to that last option.

As Gary mentions, American hasn’t issued any travel waivers.  That’s a pain point the airline could have avoided.  It’s an unforced error.  And yet, it may be intentional.  If American Airlines believes that customers will fly them in the future regardless of this incident, they may be making the decision now to be less accommodating to customers in an effort to generate revenue.

To be clear, I have no inside knowledge on their thinking here.  Delta and United have had their share of IT meltdowns over the past few years.  They’re still filling planes and raking in profits.  Could American be looking at that reaction by customers and thinking a more customer-friendly policy for this outage is unwarranted?

The Final Two Pennies

I believe treating customers poorly during disruptions is bad business.  Is it bad for business?  Not when the economy is chugging along nicely, when planes are full.  The airlines are doing a good job matching capacity to demand, which helps keep them profitable.  But, American Airlines is inconveniencing tens of thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of customers this week.  I’m sure it’s infuriating some of them.  How many of them will choose another airline in the future when American wasn’t there to help them out now?

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  1. I could be wrong but I simply cannot picture Delta ever doing something so egregious. Nowhere am I claiming they are perfect, especially after their awful power outage at ATL, but that lasted a day or so. And Delta was quick to waive fees and be proactive. AA is being arrogant. And AA’s(PSA’s) problem is lingering on past a week and still no change in attitude. Unbelievable. I often go thru Charlotte(if I’m dumb enough to book PSA into and out of CLT) and I’ve seen the backups that can occur even during storms. This computer issue is an order of magnitude worse.

    1. Geoff, I almost put in the past that I was very certain Delta would have issued the waiver. I do think they’re more customer focused right now. I love AA, but I really don’t like their response here.

  2. I recently bought rt with Delta to PHL bc of these issues. I can’t count on AA. The DFW/TUL connections are really bad- cancelations, mechanical issues, crew issues (needing more rest time). I will continue to choose Delta, United, or Southwest.

  3. This affected us yesterday trying to get from MCO to SAN. Flight was cancelled after departure time and being told it was being delayed again and again. Rerouted to a flight to CLT and watched the chaos as our next flight time was changed six times. We felt lucky to get seats at all, but my friend says “absolutely no more American” for business or pleasure. Last time (years ago) he travelled on American and had a horrendous experience. He vowed back then “never again” but didn’t book this flight – I did. ugh…

  4. Treating your customers badly when you are at fault is not only stupid, it’s just bad business.

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