Delays or cancellations can happen due to weather, mechanical issues, crew time outs and other various reasons. This post will cover various scenarios and options for domestic flights within the US.
Being empowered with tools and knowledge of options can save you potential headaches and frustrations. Before beginning, familiarize yourself with terms used throughout this article:
|ATC||Air Traffic Control|
At least two days before your travels, begin to monitor the forecasts for your departing and arriving cities. While some storm systems may develop sooner than that, it’s good to anticipate any potential WX delays.
At 24 hours before departure, periodically check the incoming flight status. American’s Flight Status page and phone app will display incoming flight information for a particular flight, however the Depart time is misleading as it shows the gate departure time; not necessarily the actual time the plane took off.
A better resource would be a site such as FlightAware, which displays the time the aircraft departed from the gate, took off, landed and arrived at the gate. This is a better indicator as frequently an aircraft can be waiting on the tarmac due to WX or ATC delays. You can also request notifications directly through FlightAware.
FlightAware also provides an interactive MiseryMap which show major airports and their delays and cancellations, as well as how they impact incoming and departing flights to other airports. FlightAware’s Airport Delay page outlines a list of all airports which are encountering delays as well as the reason for the delays if available.
Lastly, having an EF subscription will allow you to set up alerts such as equipment change, schedule changes and inventory availability. The inventory availability will come into play later in this post.
Delays & Cancellations
The most common delay or cancellation is due to WX. WX systems can not only disrupt flights en route, but also disrupt ramp activities. Airports actively monitor WX systems to ensure that ramp operations are not impacted. WX systems with lightning are more closely monitored as operations such as fueling must stop when lightning is detected within 5 miles of the airport. If there is lightning within 3 miles of the airport, all ramp operations stop and can only resume after 6 minutes from the last lightning strike.
Compensation & Refunds
As mother nature decides our WX, airlines are not responsible for meals, expenses, or accommodations such as hotels. However, an agent may be able to help you find a nearby hotel if you’re unfamiliar with the area. ATC delays are also out of the control of the airlines, and similarly airlines are not responsible for any incidental expenses.
Mechanical, diversions, crew and other delays or cancellations which are within the control of the airline are subject to reasonable accommodations. You should also make yourself aware of the actual reason for the delay or cancellation; especially if you are not getting a clear answer. An EF subscription allows you to view comments for the flight, such as DELAY DUE TO CREW AVAILABILITY, DELAY DUE TO A/C MAINTENANCE or CXLD DUE TO PREVIOUS MAINTENANCE CXLD. A complete list of flight status comments can be found here.
You can always request additional compensation in the form of miles. However, when submitting the request, make sure to highlight only facts and the impact that it had on your plans.
Lastly, be aware that if you’ve checked baggage, it will be difficult to retrieve it. Any necessities should be packed in your carry-on. Regardless of voluntary or involuntary delays or cancellations, you can decide not to fly and you will be refunded the remaining ticket value as well as any optional fees (e.g. Main Cabin Extra).
If you happen to have pushed back and are sitting on the tarmac, be aware of consumer protections on opportunities to leave the plane as well as be provided food or water. Full information on the Department of Transportation’s Tarmac Delay rules are available here.
In the event that your flight (or connection) is canceled or significantly delayed, know your options for rebooking. The American Airlines mobile app will notify you that a flight has been canceled and provide rebooking options. However, these options may not be the most favorable and do not provide other options as outlined below.
The most common way to communicate with the airline regarding a delay or cancellation is through their customer service line. If you are not an elite flyer, you should initiate communication with all channels immediately to improve your response and possible resolution:
- Spanish Customer Service Line 800-633-3711 (they speak English too, but faster pick up times)
- Twitter Tweet @AmericanAir (see instructions under Protection)
- Customer Service agent at the airport
If you are an elite flyer, you can call the AAdvantage Desk at 800-882-8880. Depending on your status level, the estimated wait time may not accurately reflect how long it will actually take to reach an agent; therefore do not opt to receive a call back. Additionally, if you have access to the Admirals Club, the agents there are also a valuable resource. If you do not have access to the Admirals Club, a Day Pass can be purchased for $59.
Some major cities have multiple airports which can provide additional flexibility for rebooking. This means if your flight arrives into an airport in one of the following airports, a nearby airport may be available. For example, if a flight to Newark (EWR) is delayed, look at Co-Terminal Airports for New York such as LaGuardia (LGA) or John F. Kennedy (JFK).
|Bay Area (CA)||SFO, SJC|
|Los Angeles, CA||LAX, ONT, BUR, SNA|
|Miami, FL||FLL, MIA|
|New York, NY||EWR, JFK, LGA|
|Washington, D.C.||BWI, DCA, IAD|
Another option will be to find a flight on Delta or United Airlines to be rebooked on. American Airlines has a commercial agreement between Delta or United which allow for passengers to be rebooked on each other’s flights.
For example, a STL-ORD flight is canceled and American Airlines may propose to be rebooked on a connecting flight. EF provides flight availability to be searched for a particular route on three airlines at once. For STL-ORD, below would be options on American and United Airlines. And since the United flight has lots of inventory available, you could request to be moved to that flight instead of a connection.
Lastly, you will need to request original routing credit (ORC) through American to earn miles flown on the other carrier.
Elite flyers can ask to be protected on the next flight if they are at risk of missing a connection. For example, if you have a connection that you may miss, you can Tweet @AmericanAir. Do not post record locators, frequent flyer numbers on any social media channel. Instead, send an initial tweet such as:
@AmericanAir I need help with a connection due to a delay
The American Airlines Twitter Team will then follow you, allowing you to direct message your flight information to them. Keep it as short as possible with a clear request, such as:
Hi, I am on AA123, record locator ABCDEF with a connection from DFW-AUS. My current leg is delayed and I would like to be protected on AA456.
If you happen to have purchased a higher fare, e.g. J and are downgraded to Y, make sure to request compensation for the fare difference.
When speaking to an agent, elite flyers can in some cases ask if inventory can be opened. During this process, an agent must put a request in with Revenue Management to do so. In addition, you can ask for Y inventory to earn more EQM if you were in a lower inventory class.
Same Day Flight Change
Elite flyers also have the option to request a SDFC (Same Day Flight Change). Depending on the status level, there may not be a fee associated with the change. However, there must be E inventory available for this change to happen. Read about the recent changes to SDFC here.
Finally, you can always ask to standby for an earlier flight while still being confirmed for your original flight.
Be proactive, know options on communication, look for other flights through tools such as Expert Flyer and know if compensation is available. If you do need last minute accommodations, sites such as Hotel Tonight can provide excellent deals. Lastly, there can be other trip delay protections available through credit cards.
Passionate aviation enthusiast.