Reader Question: American Airlines 19 Hour Delay On Domestic TrIp – What Are My Compensation Rights?

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Last week we received a Reader Question about a travel disruption where American Airlines had a mechanical issue out of Los Angeles that ended up delaying him roughly 19 hours en route to Chicago.

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While just a simple connection, American appears to have stalled the customer service and rebooking for the affected customers, eventually stranding at least some of them (including our reader) overnight in Los Angeles.

Here Is the email we received:

… Thursday 5/25/17 I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines Flight 2576 from LAX to ORD. Scheduled departure was 5:05, arriving 11:20 PM. Aircraft was 787-800.

I was in the gate area prior to boarding. The agent announced that the plane was here, having arrived from Shanghai. Then they announced a delay due to a mechanical issue.

Over the course of the entire day I received several notifications:

5:45 pm: Delay Notification to 11:40 pm
1:00 am: Delay Notification to 6:55 am
5:00 am: Delay Notification to 10:55 am
7:00 am: Delay Notification to 12:55 pm

I spoke to the gate agent who provided me with a breakfast ($7), lunch ($12) and dinner ($12) meal vouchers, confirming my seat on the flight the next day, validating that my Main Cabin Extra purchase would be rolled over.

Rather than stand in line, I confirmed with the gate agent if I booked my own hotel, that I would receive some level of compensation via the AA website. I booked the Westin LAX based on my familiarity with the property. Base rate $171, total with taxes/fees $197.97.

Once Friday morning came there was another delay notification until 2:55pm. eventually however it turned out that flight was cancelled and even though I wasn’t notified AA rebooked me via MSP with a 3.5 hour layover there, ultimately arriving at 9pm.

I incurred expenses of the hotel (which I don’t expect to get fully reimbursed because I picked a nice property) meals beyond the value of my vouchers ~ $30 plus a Gogo Wifi Pass $31.95. On top of that all the delays (19h total) and delaying our memorial day travel.

What is adequate compensation?

PS: I’m AAdvantage Gold and 6000 miles short of my 1 Million Miler status.

Before even coming to the part of compensation here are a couple things here that made me scratch my head. This is a simple connection from Los Angeles to Chicago where our reader arrived 19 hours late. I can’t help but wonder if both parties (the reader and American Airlines) somehow dropped the ball here to deal with the situation efficiently.

There are four more connections from LAX to ORD directly (2 on American, 2 on United) which he could have gotten rebooked on in case of availability.

And here is the problem: Talking to the regular gate or counter agent will not get you anywhere in most cases. Here it really pays off to have access to the Admirals Club to get proper assistance there – even if it’s through paying for a day pass which would have been a small investment to skip the lines in the concourse and either get a proper nonstop rebooking few hours later or a hotel voucher. One might also be much better off to call reservations. Talking to gate agents and standing in line at ticket desks is the absolutely last resort.

Compensation Request

What can the reader expect as compensation? I doubt he’ll get any cash money back for the hotel. American would have likely given him a voucher for one of the 3/3.5 Star properties around LAX but certainly not the Westin as an Economy Class passenger without higher tier status.

All factors considered I think they will offer him 10,000 Miles or a $250 Voucher when contacting customer relations. Of course you never know and it’s always your first choice to contact them.

There aren’t passenger rights involving fixed money amounts related to flight delays like it’s available in the EU. It all depends on how generous the airline feels to compensate you.

Conclusion

If the final offer from customer relations isn’t to the passengers liking then there are other ways to escalate the matter for example through a Department of Transportation complaint or to write a letter to an executive of the airline such as Vice President Customer Affairs or the like. Such letters usually receive a bit better consideration but I’d only escalate it when you have a legitimate request.

I can’t help myself but wonder if there wasn’t a more efficient method to handle this delay at the club or through the phone. Unfortunately the airlines use this salami procedure, slice by slice of announcing delays hour by hour and in the end all rebooking options are gone. I got caught up in a similar situation last year out of LAX (see here) and got 14,000 Miles for a 5 hour delay to Las Vegas which messed up my Friday night and invalidated an expensive show ticket. Same situation: Announcing delays every 30 minutes.

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