American Airlines reduces options for travelers with delayed, canceled flights

American Airlines has a new policy for handling passengers with delayed or canceled flights, and it spells out extremely reduced options for coach passengers or passengers without status in American's frequent flyer program.

In most circumstances, agents will now try to find people flights only on American and not on other airlines which may have better options.

American Airlines said they didn't previously have a policy for agents on how they should handle rebooking stranded passengers. They do now, and some may find it frustrating.

It's one of those policies that most passengers may not find appealing. Fort Worth-based American Airlines says ticket agents have been instructed not to immediately rebook stranded customers on other airlines to get them where they're going.

“I mean we've all got someplace to go. We've all spent money to get there,” said passenger Candie Glass. “If you cancel my flight, it should be your obligation to put me on the next one closest fastest instead of making me wait."

There are exceptions. If you're Elite or Business class, you should be fine. But non-Elites in the main cabin during irregular operations will have to wait for the next available American Airlines flight with no limits on how long you can wait. Other exceptions that may push up your priority is if you're on military orders or flying for a funeral, wedding, surgery, or starting a cruise.

Karen Dawson has been a travel agent for 25 years. She says booking stranded passengers on other airlines has been a practice for years among the big airlines. But in recent years, she says some of the basic expectations customers have are disappearing.

"And I feel very badly for those customers who only travel a couple times a year,” she said. Their once a year vacation that they've been looking forward to, and now something's come up and, and now they’re sitting with five kids in the airport, and they're stuck and usually have to stay overnight."

Nykesha Scales knows all about being stranded.

“Two weeks ago, they kept saying it was delayed several times like four delays,” she said. “And then after that, it was just totally canceled. So it's just frustrating."

Frequent flyer Mike McKinnon feels like it's all about the dollar signs.

"Now you have to pay for bags. Now you have for Wi-Fi. You have to pay for meals,” he said. “Just more and more is being added on, and the service is just getting more constricting."

Dawson suggests not picking the last flight of the day if you can help it. And if you get on the earlier flight, know what other flights there are so at least you're prepared with a plan B.

American says even with the policy, travel agents are allowed some flexibility to make exceptions.               

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