They didn’t keep their published schedule – why do we have to pay?


It is perhaps one of the most glaring double standards in the travel industry: An airline is under absolutely no obligation to keep its schedule. But they punish passengers with change fees and fare differentials if their plans change.

Erin Taylor knows. She contacted me recently after she and her husband flew from Los Angeles to Philadelphia on American Airlines. The occasion of their visit to the City of Brotherly Love? A graduation ceremony.

“The connecting flight we had in Columbus was to be on US Airways,” she says, “But they never notified us that the flight had been canceled.”

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The Taylors waited in the terminal until a half hour before the plane was supposed to leave, and finally asked the gate agent. That’s when they found out the flight was canceled and that they’d been scheduled to fly to Philly at 5:30 p.m. the next day. (My eagle-eyed editors have noted that US Airways offers multiple flights a day between those cities and add with some skepticism that this must have been a very busy day for travel.)

“That was unacceptable,” says Taylor. “I had a graduation ceremony to attend the next morning.”

American told her that was the best it could do — take it or leave it.

They left it.

“We ended up forking over $230 each to take a Southwest flight that night from Columbus to Baltimore,” she says. “So we ended up making the graduation after all, but it was a very stressful experience that involved a significant additional outlay of cash on our part to make it work. Not to mention the fact that we lost the night in the hotel in Philly and still had to pay for it.”

Taylor wonders why American didn’t do more, or wasn’t required to do more.

As always, the first step is to ask. Normally, an airline will reveal the reasons for a cancellation and will tell you why it isn’t obligated to do anything, even if you disagree with its reasons.

Here’s what the airline had to say:

On behalf of US Airways and our contract carrier Republic Airlines, I apologize for the difficulties you encountered. Our records show your flight was canceled due to Air Traffic Control (ATC).

Air Traffic delays and cancellations can be the result of weather or congestion at your destination or origin city, or weather en route. These interruptions are similar to freeway congestion where an earlier situation can cause delays long after the initial incident has been cleared.

When these kinds of issues occur, Air Traffic Control will decrease the number of take-offs and landings which they believe can be safely allowed. This can cause backups in flight schedules for the remainder of the day and, ultimately, may lead to cancellations. In these types of situations, ATC determines the flow of traffic.

I realize it was disappointing for you. Since this was not a situation that we could have prevented, I will be unable to offer you compensation or reimbursement of any incurred expenses, but I’m again sorry for the inconvenience it caused you.

In addition, it appears American Airlines has submitted a request for a refund for the unused portion of your tickets issued on American Airlines.

Ms. Taylor, we look forward to providing a more pleasant flying experience in the future. Thank you for choosing US Airways.

The freeway analogy is interesting, since Taylor is from the LA area. Suppose she’d been stuck in freeway traffic on her way to LAX. Would American have allowed her to take the next flight at no extra charge?

Perhaps. But I’ve run into too many passengers who were forced to either pay a change fee and fare differential or to buy a brand new ticket as a result of their traffic problems. Double standard.

If this was an air traffic delay, then American/US Airways (as you know, the two are merging) wouldn’t have paid for the Taylors’ hotel accommodations. It would’ve been: “Come back tomorrow and we’ll see about getting you to Philadelphia.”

The airline could have done more, like contacting the passengers to let them know of the cancellation. It sold her a ticket with a date and time, and it expected her to show up in time. Then, when a little air traffic forces it to cancel, it just tells her she’s outta luck and it’ll get her to her destination whenever it can? Come on.

Why couldn’t American endorse her ticket to another carrier, allowing her to reach her destination in time? Was that asking too much?

It’s is nice of the airline to refund her ticket, but something about the way this turned out doesn’t feel right to her. It doesn’t feel right to me, either.

In a perfect world, American would pay the fare difference between her Southwest flight and the missed Republic leg. It would also cover her missed hotel night. I know, I know — it’s not a perfect world.

Should I mediate Erin Taylor's case with American Airlines?

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291 thoughts on “They didn’t keep their published schedule – why do we have to pay?

  1. So American should be held responsible for ATC? That’s your solution, to pass the buck? It would be one issue of a double standard if this was an airline issue, vs. passenger, but it wasn’t it was ATC.

    Putting the travelers on a different flight or airline isn’t going to solve the issue if this is truly an ATC and traffic issue. This is an imperfect world, but you seem to think that the travel industry should bare every and all responsibility.

    1. I favor a more compassionate approach. Airlines should voluntarily, and as a matter of good customer service, take responsibility to get us to our destination. That’s an implied promise made in their contract of carriage. You would have to be an airline industry insider to think otherwise.

      1. I agree, and had they waited the airline would have gotten them too their destination, not when they planed to, or wanted to but it would have gotten them there. Delays happen and a next day delay is not unheard of.
        The LW’s could just have easily planed better and left an extra day earlier, or they could have purchased insurance.

        1. I get really tired of people saying that the customers are supposed to “leave a day early” for their trip ‘just in case’ the airline can’t get them to their destination on the day they contracted to do so. You know people have jobs, with limited vacation time, and that extra day costs most people a decent amount of extra money in hotel costs, food costs, etc. It should not be required for everyone to “plan an extra day” (on both sides) for their trip because the airlines assume no responsibility to live up to their end of the bargain.

          1. Uncertainty happens. It’s the response and responsibilities of the airline that is in question

          2. But that’s the point. Should we have to? At what point should we start holding them to what we paid for. Getting people places an entire day late is just not reasonable in my opinion. People keep saying “plan better”…. well… at some point that becomes ridiculous. If I plan 10 days in France, should I have to actually plan 12 to make sure I get my full 10? Well… isn’t that really just planning 12? I still need hotel reservations. If I pay $500, say, for a 10 hour total flight, with stopovers and my trip ONE WAY turns into a 24 hour flight, I think I AM entitled to something, I wouldn’t pay the same for a 24 hour trip total. It would be far less. So why should they be allowed to keep the entire amount I paid when they can’t even be bothered to get me somewhere vaguely on time.

            Here’s how I see it… maybe Carver will agree, or maybe not.

            From a legal standpoint, we have a contract, with consideration. They offer me a departure and arrival time, with a type of class. I agree to pay for that. They don’t deliver that. So now in my opinion, there’s a failure of consideration. I didn’t get what I paid for. The way they get around this is by writing a one-sided contract. I’m really starting to think the provisions are being abused.

          3. There are risks associated with travel. And you can minimize them. You can use direct flights instead of connected ones, depart earlier, check the itinerary to look for alternatives…
            It may cost more? Yes. Then it is your call to decide if you will take the risks or not. And to live with.

          4. There are a ton of flight and routing combination options from LAX to PHL. It is your choice. If you pick correctly, the risks for miss connections and ground delays/stops decrease significantly.
            If you want me to agree to a Nanny State, that will never happen. I believe man has a choice to use their brains, so be it.

          5. The point is that if you pay for a 12 hour trip and it turns into a 24 hour trip you didn’t get what you paid for and perhaps should receive some of your money back because you paid for a 12 hour trip and received a 24 hour one.

          6. Alas, different flights from Point A to B cost different amounts so that’s not exactly true. It’s a contractual fiction.

          7. You lawyers cannot seem to get over the Federal preemption of States rights to regulate airlines 🙂

          8. From a basic consumer standpoint, you did. The only reason you DID NOT is because of the adhesion contract. As I said, flights costs different amounts. I picked a particular one for a particular reason. It could be because I wanted the cheapest one, or because I wanted that schedule. Either way, I agreed to the class and particular schedule offered. I deserve to get what I paid for. If I was only paying to get from A to B, they might as well just say “show up at the airport at 6am on October 1 and sit around until 10pm that same day. If you get on a flight, great. If not, come back the next day. We’ll get you sent off at some point.”

          9. Well in the USA, the flight schedules mean nothing contractually. Federal rules give the airlines lots of latitude to take you from point A to point B.

            I see it as take it or leave it. You can ride the train, bus, car or walk. No one forcing you to fly the 48 States.

            Only Fedex has some kind of delivery guarantee.

            My Metro North does not guarantee train scheds between Stamford and Grand Central. Neither does Amtrak. I doubt the Bolt or Megabus have any time guarantees either.

            And the traffic here, hmm forget about it.

            What’s it with you guys expecting perfection from an imperfect world. Didn’t you all take probability theory in college or grad school? Que sera sera.Whatever will be, will be …

          10. Actually I did. I loved advanced statistics. And of course, it has nothing to do with college level statistics. This is high school level. There is a simple probability distribution regarding when a particular mode of transportation will arrive at its destination. Probably a Gaussian distribution.

            And that has nothing to do with this discussion.

            If a party to a contract cannot perform then tough luck. The airlines expect perfection in my ability to pay. If I can only pay 99% of the ticket fare I’m just SOL. They expect perfection in my ability to get the gate in time. If I get their late, so sorry, so sad for you.

            So yeah, I expect some level of perfection.

          11. It has all to do with picking the most reliable route.
            Note I am not even sure the via CMH was cheaper 🙁
            People need to pick routes better.

          12. The FedEx guarantee doesn’t include weather. I have shipped Christmas presents via FedEx but weather advisories voided the delivery time (they were delivered before Christmas but fail to be delivered by the service that I paid for).

          13. You are right they are actually SUSPENDED for the holidays 🙂 Just when you need them the most.

            Consistent with our FedEx Service Guide, the FedEx Money-Back Guarantee for on-time delivery for the following FedEx Express®
            services will be suspended temporarily on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, and
            from Thursday, Dec. 18, through Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, for shipments that reach their destinations within 90 minutes of the scheduled commitment time.

          14. My lovely bride convinced me of two things when we travel that, as you have said, really minimize the risks:

            1. Always have at least one more flight on THAT airline available before your trip at the final destination begins.
            2. If you have a date-specific item on your itinerary, arrive the night before.

            Too many things can go wrong to take more risk than that. Traffic (roads), weather, working late, missed cab, and a bunch of others I can’t think of. Whether or not the airlines should do better, we’ll plan to succeed …

          15. Very good points here! Everyone should read this.

            I missed my parents 50th wedding anniversary because of a family disagreement 🙁 When their 60th wedding anniversary came I made sure my own gang attended. It was on the dead center of summer (so fares were very high). I arrived 3 days before the event because I did not want to miss it and I felt this would be the last because of their age.

            I noticed that so many people want to blame the airline, OTA, their TA but never themselves. There’s a lot more to life than money. This idiocy about blaming others and trying to get some compensation just because one is inconvenienced needs to stop.

            The LW made a poor choice. That’s all there is to this one. LAX-PHL is a popular route. I doubt many did it via CMH. They were simply smarter.

          16. Agreed, and I thought of one more we do: never book a connection with less than a 2 hour stopover. With flight delays we’ve had some tricky connections. And airlines change schedules (United does this nearly every time) so we really cherish the additional margin. Of course, it’s less important for smaller airports.

            Another benefit of this that I did not anticipate is the ability to get some food. Airports have much better restaurants these days …

          17. Your #1 is the simplest rule — take the last flight out from A to B and you risk getting more stuck.

          18. The point is that there are things outside ANYONE’S control (you OR the airline) that can cause a delay. Just like you may not think you should have to pay, why should the airline pay if the cause is not in their control? Most people refuse to assume the responsibility for their own travels.

          19. Sometimes, TonyA_, a traveler can plan as well as he or she can, and he or she will still encounter a problem that all the planning in the world couldn’t have avoided. When that happens, accusing the traveler of “not planning well enough” is counterproductive. And not everyone can take an extra day off from work to go to the airport early.

          20. You are correct…you can’t avoid it (i.e. weather) but you can plan for bad weather (i.e. leaving early; having alternative routesflights with you; etc) so that if that happens you will be ready.

            If you can take extra time off then you need to roll with the punches when uncontrollable stuff happens like weather instead of crying and running to Chris asking for $$$$.

          21. You are correct. But let’s look at this situation. What were the options in flights? Did they pick flights to mitigate the chance of delays or did they pick flight due to price of a ticket? Heading west to east and connecting adds a chance of a delay. Going from jet service to a commuter flight in the east adds a chance of a delay. Connecting in an airport with a carrier with no other flights to your destination is not desirable. These all things I look at for clients and we talk about before they pick the flights. The LW could have flown nonstop to BWI from LAX. So while I sympathize with their delay, they obviously made a choice without planning well.

          22. Jennifer, I don’t think this is the case here.
            There were many direct flights and connecting flights via the larger hubs (DFW and ORD). I have shown that all of them made it to PHL even during an ATC Ground Delay Program. I presented the facts (with pictures) and they speak for themselves. They did not have to take an extra day off. They just needed to pick better flights.
            I cannot see why anyone will fly from Los Angeles to Philly via Columbus, Ohio and expect the same level of service or reliability as those of other more traveled routes.

          23. No that’s not. That’s part of the crap that airlines and their minions spout. I believe in the FREE market. Not a one sided dictatorship. In a free market both sides would negotiate freely and openly. No take it or leave it contracts. Of course airlines won’t do that, they want to pretend to like the free market. Negotiating a contract with each customer should be the cost of their business. Like most entrenched business airlines want all the benefits of a free market with none of the risks. If the domestic airline industry was truly free and open then there would be no rules barring competitors from entering the market. Gates and competition would be not be determined by sweetheart deals. I doubt any rational human being except one with financial ties to the airline industry would claim the current system is fair and free.

          24. Have you actually displayed the number of choices you have to fly from LAX to PHL.
            I stopped counting (my GDS display).

            Instead of ranting, I suggest you take a good look at the data and pick the one best for your needs.
            We cannot guarantee against poor choices.

          25. It actually is free and open. You can choose to buy or not. In most places in this country, you don’t get to haggle when you purchase products and services. The seller sets the price and conditions and you decide whether to purchase or walk out.

          26. I agree with you on that one. This is a graduation ceremony we’re talking about, and they DID leave the day before the ceremony. How many days before the ceremony do they have to leave home to ensure the airlines will get them there on time? Two? Three? I guess the statement “Go by air if you have time to spare” has plenty of truth to it.

          27. When you travel from west to east, you lose time. Then you go from jet service to a commuter plane and things slow down with more chances of delays due to the smaller plane due to weather. It is all part of knowing about air travel and allowing for delays. Just like driving to a major city during commute time. What might take 1 hours in off hours, can take 3 hours during commute. You have to allow for the what ifs.

          28. You need to allot enough time in case you cannot make it on the same day you leave and have to arrive the next day.

          29. I agree to a point, but the loss can be substantially more than a vacation day. When I take a cruise I always leave the day before, with an afternoon arrival, and stay the night in a Miami hotel. It does cost more, especially with the hotel stay, but it’s well worth it. If there is a problem with flight delay, I will most likely still make the cruise. Even with insurance ( which I do purchase after research independent of the joke insurance the cruise lines offer), joining the ship at a later port is just not worth the hassle.

          30. OK, they could had taken the direct flight. If this flight was canceled, they would have more options to arrive at their destination.

          31. If you were traveling by car and a snowstorm was coming, you will probably leave early or stay late to avoid driving in it. A lot of people leave their house early in the morning, in order to beat rush hour traffic.

            If you have an once-in-the-lifetime event such as a wedding, anniversary, retirement, graduation, etc., it makes sense to leave early because an airline can’t control ATCs just as you can’t control the weather.

            It is so naive to expect the airlines to control the air traffic (that is the federal government job to control the air space) and the weather.

          32. How early is early enough? Day before? 2 days before? A week before? I remember a classmate was stuck at the airport for three days once and missed the first day of class. I guess she didn’t leave early enough.

            You can always Monday morning quarterback and say they didn’t leave early enough.

          33. Based upon the article, it seems like they didn’t plan for contingencies. You have to admit that most of the OPs do not plan as well as they should.

            To them, it was an once-in-a-lifetime event, they should have left earlier or took a direct flight or both.

            For me, I am conservative in my planning. When I fly to LAX or SFO to catch an international flight, here is my process:

            1. Purchase a travel insurance policy
            2. Select a flight (PHX to LAXSFO) the day before we take our international flight.
            3. Make sure that there are at least three flights after our flight to LAX and SFO and one flight in the morning; therefore, if something happens to our flight, there are three more flights the same day that we can catch. In the worst case, we can catch a flight in the morning.
            4. If we are unable to catch any flights before our departure then we have travel insurance to cover us regardless if the event is covered by the airline.
            5. If the event is not covered by the airline and/or travel insurance then we are flexible and will roll with the punches.

          34. Carver, I always recommend at least a day prior. I also try to get a connection point (if nonstop isn’t an option) as close to the destination as possible so if there is a delay, they can get a rental car and get to where they need to be. I give a list of later flights so they are prepared at their connecting location. Yes, crap happens, but if you take extra steps, it can help.

          35. In the AZ, UT and other states, it is very typical to have one or two routes via state highways to get to a destination. There can rock slides which can close the road and you are basically SOL or have to drive several hours another way to get there.

            For example, I-17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix is closed from time to time due to accidents. It is not like you can get off at an exit and take local roads because there are no local roads running through the mountains. You have an option of waiting for the accident scene to be cleared or take state highways (if you can reach one) which will add hours to your trip.

            Are you going to ask the Federal DOT or the State DOT for compensation?

          36. That stretch of I-17 is the very one we take as the first step of every journey. That is why we always drive down to Sky Harbor the day before departure and stay at the airport Hampton Inn, having booked out first thing the following morning. The earlier in the day you fly, the more options you have if something goes wrong. The weather is always better in the morning, too, no matter where you are going.

          37. It’s not required, if Im going to a beach for vacation and the unusual scenario happens that my arrival is delayed a day because of well anything, I loose a day on the beach, and its not something I’m willing to plan a contingency for. If its a wedding, or graduation, or catching my cruise, than yeah Im going to schedule an extra day to pad my schedule or I’m going to fly direct. Myself I’d fly direct over an extra day, but that’s me.

      2. Really, everybody who disagrees with you on this point (and is capable of actually reading the contract, which explicitly disclaims responsibility for schedule changes) is now an “airline industry insider”?

        I disagree, and I’ve never worked for a travel company in my life (I’m an engineer for a computer company.)

        Last minute tickets on Southwest aren’t free… in exchange for the leisure fare that was probably booked, US would have had to buy a last-minute fare from Columbus to Philly, for a delay that wasn’t their fault. I have a tough time getting angry at US for refusing to completely take it in the proverbial shorts here…

          1. For the record I am NOT an INDUSTRY INSIDER. I’m a consultant who travels a lot and as a result has learned a lot, mostly of the hard and painful type of lessons.

          2. I thought we weren’t doing snark anymore, it was insensitive to the “real” people who are LW’s, or is this like a double standard?

          3. I wish we could all do away with these unnecessary and backhanded pejorative labels such as insider and apologist. They do nothing to advance the discussion.

          4. Wow strike out for me.

            Strike One: Went to grad school at Rennsaelear (RPI). Definitely an Engineering School.
            Strike Two: Worked for an airline after Grad School.
            Strike Three: Currently works as a Travel Consultant/Agent.

            Never felt so unwanted here 🙁
            Maybe I should step up my bashing of OTAs and Airlines.
            Maybe not since I’m looking to be a part time consultant for the industry.

        1. 1. It is my understanding that Southwest doesn’t take tickets from other airlines.

          2. Southwest doesn’t fly from CMH to PHL
          3. If there was an ATC for US Airways going into the PHL, the other airlines could had have ATCs for themselves going into PHL.

          1. True, which is why she could either take the next day, or a refund. They did give her what she was entitled to, she just didn’t like it.

        2. Not necessarily true regarding US Airways having to buy a last-minute fare from Columbus to Philly for the OP. Airlines reroute people on their competitors’ flights all the time with the understanding that when one airline is in a pinch, they’ll help the other airline out the next time that airline is in a pinch. However, because Southwest doesn’t interline its tickets with any other airline, then yes, US Airways would have to shell out the money to pay them, which I’m sure they’d be unwilling to do.

        3. US would have had to buy a last-minute fare from Columbus to Philly, for a delay that wasn’t their fault.

          The weather is not their fault, but in many cases the decision to cancel is not 100% black & white. Weather causes a sizable delay, and then a lot of other factors go into deciding whether to cancel the flight or operate it with a lengthy delay. When there’s some slack in the load factors, there’s at least the appearance of incentives to do less than everything feasible to operate a flight.

          This is one of many reasons why I think we could use EC261-style protections.

          It wouldn’t have guaranteed a different outcome, but it would reduce any incentives for strategic cancellations. And if every carrier is on the hook for meals and lodging for the length of the delay, then $230 to book 2 passengers on another carrier doesn’t seem so crazy.

          1. I can definitely agree with the Duty to Care.
            I do not agree to compensate merely for delay.
            I agree to compensate if pax is bumped and we already have DOT rules for that.

            So to repeat, the only thing missing today is the Duty to Care portion since some airlines are just too cheap.
            It might drive costs up so it will tend to socialize this right to care but overall so what since all of us will pay for it anyway.

          2. In Europe, Right to Care (EC261 Article 9) includes weather and other delays that are not the airline’s fault. I’m not aware of any carrier (US or elsewhere) which voluntarily offers that.

            Is there any research showing how much fares rose in Europe after EC261 took effect? Is there a European organization that tracks historical average fares, along the lines of what DOT/BTS does?

          3. I am not aware of any research and if it existed I doubt it would be accurate. I am sure it affected the operating costs of carriers especially during the Iceland volcano eruption.

            Anyway I am sure US airlines will pass on that cost to consumers so think of it as a social cost. Travel insurance companies will hate it. If we ever pass anything like this Duty to Care, I have to believe there will be a limit (EU will actually modify theirs if I am not mistaken).

            I, personally, believe that having an organized implementation of Right to Care will be good for everybody. If we can have this one right added, it will be a big deal.

          4. In 2008, Canada passed a law requiring a free second seat for POS (Passengers of Size) or obese passengers.


            I remember reading that fares were increased (I think that it was $ 10) across the board to handle the requirement of a free seat for a POS (there was another part of the law that require a free seat for the caregiver or assistant of a disabled passenger…I don’t know how much the fares went up to cover this portion of the law).

      3. If there was an ATC for US Airways, won’t there be an ATC for the other airlines that are flying into PHL that day? Or only the weather and/or traffic congestion affected the US flights not the flights of the other airlines flying into PHL that day?

        Are you willing to pay higher fares? If you expect airlines to compensate travelers voluntarily for weather delays and traffic congestions (I can’t see how the airlines can control these things), fares need to go up.

        I am not being a smart-butt or snarky or etc…how about you starting your own airline? I have read this blog for over 10 years and you have made hundreds of comments, suggestions, recommendations, etc. on how the airline can improve and etc. Why not start your own airline and see if your ideals will compete in the marketplace? If your ways are right, you will be a billionaire!

        1. I remember when an airline PR person said that to me. She worked for Delta, I think. It was a suggestion made in anger, which I can well understand. If passengers just took a minute to understand how hard it is to run an airline, they would welcome the fees, the restrictive contracts and the bare-bones service, right?

          Well, I’m sorry — I’m the guy who represents the customer. I don’t think a company’s profitability is any of our concern, as passengers. We just want a quality product at a fair price. When we don’t get it, then we don’t understand. We shouldn’t have to.

          1. I am concerned about an airline’s profitability (and I don’t work for any company in the travel industry). There have been too many of them in my lifetime that just simply stopped flying because they were not making money leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various points along their itinerary.

          2. Midwest, for example. Great airline with reliable service and good routes out of Omaha, good customer interactions and (I would put this in all caps but don’t want to incur the wrath of the moderators) chocolate chip cookies. Didn’t make money, now it’s gone.

          3. Twice, I had a ticket on a small carrier than just up and close when I got to the airport. Once was a regional carrier through North West, and once was ATA. I would rather have a weather delay, than show up and see signs that they went our of business.

          4. “I don’t think a company’s profitability is any of our concern, as passengers. We just want a quality product at a fair price. When we don’t get it, then we don’t understand. We shouldn’t have to.”

            Airlines are not charities. While passengers certainly shouldn’t have to lose sleep worrying about airline profitability, they cannot also reasonably expect airlines to ignore it.

            While the US airlines are currently going through a spate of decent margins, by no means are they fleecing their customers. Looks like they are providing pretty fair pricing to me, if their profits are any indication.

          5. If we don’t care about the vendor’s profitability, why should they care about us. Or is that a double standard. Hmmm?

          6. Serving and providing a service are worlds apart. Servants serve and have a subordinate position to the employer. Clearly that is not the situation.

            And you know better. You have written about the various folks who were upset because you did not handle their issues as they desired.

            I believe the most recent example was the “Thanks for nothing“, comment. You were understandable annoyed. He failed to appreciate that you provide a service, but your job was not to serve him.

          7. And I welcome your representation – but you also have to keep in mind that sometimes you just cannot GET what you want. When weather and ATC affects an airport, all the airlines are impacted, so may NOT be able to get you out until the next day. Its not like they have empty planes just sitting around for times like these. Quality product at fair price means you also have to accept that when things like this happen, you paid a fair price (not an inflated one which would potentially allow for instances like this – you know, empty plane sitting around)

          8. I am concerned about an airline’s profitability as well as other company’s profitability because I want them to be in business for the long haul so that we can continue to go back to them.

            If a company isn’t making money, it goes out of business. Unlike the federal government that can print money and raise its debt limits, a private company can’t print money or extend its own credit.

          9. I would consider a competent and quality service would be the best way to enhance profit. Dropping passengers guarantees that you’re putting future profit at risk. Why would these people use AA again? [They dropped the ball]

          10. That’s a little on the side of silly. While you don’t have to be “concerned” about an airline’s profitability, when they aren’t profitable, you wind up with less service. I also don’t believe that ***most*** people are truly willing to pay a fair price. They want to pay the price THEY believe to be fair, which is not the same thing.

          11. I think it’s silly to think we are somehow responsible for an airline’s profitability. Yes, consumers should be concerned about an airline’s viability, but that’s different than keeping the company’s shareholders happy. That is not our concern, and to suggest it is is a distortion of free market principles and good customer service practices, in my opinion. If anyone is worried, it should be the airline worrying about serving its customers.

        2. What about having the capacity to absorb issues? Back when I was in business school we were told that running at 100% capacity was foolish because any interruption would effect customers. It was called overhead. And the cost of doing business. In a free market(which the domestic airline industry is not) if a business does not like the money they can make they can leave the market. Innovation usually comes not from entrenched companies, but new competitors. Look at how Southwest innovated when it was new, now it is just another entrenched airline.

          1. Say what? Since 911 the airlines’ problem was OVER capacity. They just were able to align supply and demand better in the last few years. Hence they became profitable. Forget your MBA nonsense, airlines are one of the hardest businesses to run. Even Warren Buffett says so. (Fastest way to become a millionaire when you are a billionaire.)

        1. You think that was name calling? Really? C’mon.

          Calling you an “insensitive jerk” would be name calling, but what Chris said was just a blanket statement…

          Oh, and not calling you that, just giving an example. 🙂

          1. He called me an “INDUSTRY INSIDER”, whereas I have a soul. That’s such a horrible word it belongs in the category of “he who shall not be named”.

          2. BUT I’ve been offended and Chris should compensate me with two first class tickets anywhere in the world.

          3. Than take your wife somewhere, I’ve read her blog, seriously she deserves them WAY more than anyone on this forum or anyone who write to you.

          1. Chris instead of playing this stupid game, why not teach people how to select flights better?
            I would think this is a better approach since it is based on knowledge and facts.

            For those who want to know what an ATC Ground Stop/Delay Program looks like, click the link below:
            www dot fly dot faa dot gov/adv/adv_list.jsp?WhichAdvisories=ATCSCC&AdvisoryCategory=All&dates=Wednesday%2C+10-22-2014&AirFlow=AirFlow&Ctop=Ctop&Gstop=Gstop&Gdelay=Gdelay&Route=Route

            22OCT was a bad day to fly here in the East Coast.
            Focus on the Control Element PHL/ZNY since that is for Philly.
            Note how early they started the planning (PROPOSED) and how late in the night they lifted the Stop/Delay on the airports concerned.

            Once you get one this Ground Stop/Delay Programs here in the East Coast, you better figure out where you will sleep that night.
            You are NOT the only one who will be affected and really I could care less if your write Chris or if you have a graduation to attend. This is a fact of life here in our area. Get used to it.

          2. 100+

            I have made some comments over the years that Chris should spend his time teaching people how to travel better…in this case, how to teach people to select better flights.

            “I would think this is a better approach since it is based on knowledge and facts.” It is emotions and rhetoric with Chris and a lot of the readers of this blog not knowledge and facts. It is much easier to expect an airline to put a passenger on another flight if that passenger arrived late to the airport on their own accords (see the article yesterday) then to tell a person that they need to take responsibility for their actions (or lack of actions).

          3. Kudos to @Michael_K for researching the possible flight dates.

            But if people are really observant and want to learn, they should compare what happened to the direct flights from LAX to PHL versus the one that connected in CMH.

            You will notice that during Ground Delay(s), the airline will favor or prioritize the major routes first.
            None of the LAX-PHL directss were cancelled for that day 🙂 Another reason to fly nonstop.

          4. You know what, LAX-CMH-PHL is actually a more expensive routing.

            If Michael’s departure date is correct, they would have made it if they traveled direct, via DFW or via ORD; the real AA hubs.

            Via DFW had no cancellations in the PM.
            Those are the flights paired with 6AM+ departures out of LAX.

          5. For Via ORD, similar results. They would have made it. Only one afternoon cancellation and that is easily avoided since the later 4PM flight is the one usually paired with 7-9AM LAX departures.

            If you want to connect, then pick your connection hubs wisely 🙂

          6. Me, I try to avoid ORD as a connection point, because of the delays I’ve experienced in the past. ORD is rather famous for its weather-related delays and cancellations. I’m not crazy about the terminal layout, either.

            So, since my husband has just informed me that we get to visit the City of Brotherly Love in March, which connection hubs do you recommend? My choices for connection points are ATL, MSP, MDW, STL or DTW.

            Or driving, but that’s problematic in mid-March.

          7. If it was me, DL OMA-ATL-PHL economy comfort, on M80 take right row because of 3 x 2 seating. Chosen for reliability.

            Second choice AA OMA-ORD-PHL over UA just because AA has more flights.

            Take the earlier (morning flights) for increased reliability.
            You will also have more choices with connections if you do this.

            Good Luck.

          8. Thank you! Great advice – although I still really, really don’t want to go through Chicago in late winter/early spring. Or summer. Or fall. 🙂

          9. Hey even us here in White Plains NY have to go through Chicago or Atlanta 🙂 That’s why I really do not care to travel domestic anymore. It is no fun.

            I have to head off to SE Asia in a week or so (in coach). I’m making appointments with a chiropractor and an acupuncturist at the same time because when I get there (22 hr + flight and a mess in the airports) I know I’ll be in pain. I can think of worse things than having to connect in ORD.

          10. Let me know if you find out where they’re handing out those checks. I was recently accused of being a well-paid shill. It was all true — except for the “paid” and the “shill” part.

      4. As far as one can tell from the story, US Air did *try* to get them to their destination.

        While current flights may not map to the flights earlier this year, one can see that the latest US Air flight from CMH to PHL is US 3879, departing at 8:30pm. The latest flight to PHL on any other carrier is on United, departing at 7:34pm (which would have left long before they “discovered” their flight was cancelled). They opted to fly to an alternative airport on an alternative airline…why is that US Air’s problem, given that THEY DIDN’T GROUND THEIR OWN PLANE?

        And, BTW, the last Southwest Flight from CMH to BWI departs at 7:50 (#4018). Not sure that even fits with the timeline given in the story.

        1. Did they even look at the FIDs, the Gate Displays, or the website? I already mentioned the law/rule somewhere in this blog. I believe USAir complied. You can lead a horse but you can’t force …

          1. FID= Flight Information Display, the big monitor for Arrivals and Departures featured in many places in an airport, right?

            In the OP’s defense, I’ve found that those are behind the times in posting information and I think that you or another poster mentioned that there is a 30 minute window in which such notifications have to be made. I do find that 3rd party apps on my phone are so much better about telling me what’s going on than the airline itself. You are the one that told me about those in the first place, for which I thank you. Want to put that information out there again for those playing along at home? (I lost the phone with all the apps on it, so am not sure I put the best ones back on the new phone or not).

          2. Yup the law gives airlines and airports 30 minutes.
            But really so what? I don’t think it would have mattered? AA/US had no more re-route options for that night and a robot can be used to efficiently rebook for the next morning.

      1. Isn’t PHL a hub for US Air, and LAX a hub for AA? Why wouldn’t they take a direct flight? Especially if flying the night before an important morning event? And CMH is a pretty small regional airport, if connecting, why not connect at a major airport? The routing they took sounds like its asking for a disaster.

        1. Yeah they got one unfortunately.
          There are so few ways out of CMH especially at night.

          ADDED: Maybe they were meeting another relative there who will be attending the same graduation?

          1. Ive seen people do that, though I recommend they still take the most direct route as they are on separate itineraries and things happen. Although they just bought 2 extra tickets on WN, so it sounds like it was just them.

            I’ve surprised my wife in Chicago a few times and flown home with her. But never if we had to be somewhere the next morning.

      2. Who says they had to take a straight, non-stop flight to Philly? The airline couldn’t have re-routed them through Cleveland or something and then on to Philly? Sure, they’d have to change planes again and their luggage might not make it at the same time either, but they’d stand a better chance of making the graduation ceremony on time.

        1. I get the impression the Columbus to Philly leg cancelled while they were en route from LAX to Columbus. Had the leg been cancelled prior to departing LAX, I’m pretty confident the airline would have worked on a better solution.

        2. If their luggage didn’t made it, they will be writing to Chris asking AA/US Airways to reimburse them for clothing, etc.

          For the travel agents who read this blog, can confirm this but I did a quick check on Orbitz and there are no direct flights from CMH to CLE.

          Since the flight from LAX to CMH is ~4 hours and the time zone difference is 3 hours…that is 7 hours. When the OP arrives in CMH, it is late afternoon at best.

          Given that there is only one airline which is US Airways that flies direct from CMH to PHL, the rest are connecting flights to ORD, ATL, IAD, etc. It is very likely that the last flight from ORD, ATL, IAD could have already left before the OP could arrive.

          Again, need to be somewhere then arrive earlier like a day to insure that you were on time or take a direct flight if that is possible (it was in this case but at a higher fare).

          1. No directs from CMH to CLE. None for winter, none for summer.

            There is one scheduled only for one day and it is not nonstop. You cannot sell it since it is not in availability…

            27OCT-MO-12M CMHCLE ET ET
            1.3 #UA3533 CMHCLE- 610A 203P * CHG SS1
            EFF 26NOV DIS 26NOV

    2. They should be held responsible for not notifying the passenger. As a system airline, American would also have been bound to put OP on another airline’s flight, and just decided not to.
      And since OP got to his outbound destination with a walkup ticket he bought himself, did American cancel his return flight also? Inquiring minds want to know.

      1. It happened day of travel, and they may not have realized it when they connected through (read the monitors). Also, they are NOT bound to get you on another carrier for acts of ATC – and as there WERE no other options on their ailrine, they gave them the only thing they were required to – a seat on the next available flight (the next day) or a refund for the return. They chose the latter, and went with Southwest.

    3. While airline might not be responsible, they are responsible for notifying travelers if cancelled, and should refund immediately

      1. But they were on a connecting flight, ticketed at start of trip, and probably didn’t bother to check the monitors till too late.

    4. Having never heard of an ATC cancellation before, I did some research. As it turns out, there is no such thing. ATC often imposes delays caused by ‘flow’ – instead of flying to a large destination airport and then circling for an hour as in days of old, the flight is held at departure until it can proceed directly into a pre-prdained slot at the destination. The decision to cancel an ATC-delayed flight is in almost all cases made by the airline for economic reasons, if say a crew goes over hours. But by using the phrase “ATC cancellation” it gets to screw you out of giving you a hotel night or interlining you on another carrier.

      More details on the issue here:

    5. So, flight A is on schedule, and flight B is cancelled. So if I’m supposed to go on flight B, and there’s an available seat on flight A, you’re saying it’s NOT going to solve the problem by putting me on flight A? What kind of logic is that? Airline logic?

      One bright spot for American. I’m sure American will not have to worry about these passengers (or their money), again. They’ve lost a customer, for good.

      I would never fly American after seeing all these horror stories.

      1. There is no flight B. ATC effects all flights, and American doesn’t have a flight agreement with SW. They would have required American to buy a walk up fair for cash on SW, and considering this was a leisure fare that would have cost the airline more than they purchased the ticket for. American’s obligation is to get the PAX there, and had they waited they would have. This is what happens with ATC stops, and it’s included in the CoC.

  2. One of my nieces flies to Philadelphia regularly. In the past two years only one of her flights has operated as scheduled. If I was not so familiar with the constant flight interruptions here I would have said this is an AA/US problem. But my niece does not fly either of those carriers so I am reluctant to blame it on them. ATC along that northeast corridor is notorious for slowdowns. The airline should have done a better notification but ATC issues are not the airline’s responsibility. `

    1. I have read about ATC issues at PHL going back at least five years at this site’s former sister site Consumer Travel.

      I used to catch a flight that originated out of Newark for over seven years, it was probably late 90% of the time. I can’t tell you how times that I missed my connecting flight in IAH.

      1. In the two years my niece has been flying regularly to PHL on business she has had only one set of flights that ran on time–that was her most recent trip. I have come to the conclusion that PHL is a poorly run airport and ATC is part of that.

    2. On the connecting flight? They were no doubt checked through, and didn’t check the monitors when they arrived at their connection.

      1. She flies nonstop from ATL either on Air Tran/Southwest or Delta. No connections ever. Always the flight to or from Philly.

  3. Why couldn’t US have written her ticket over to another carrier? Because they don’t usually do that when the delay was not their fault. Carriers can’t do this for free; they’ll have to buy a last-minute ticket on the other airline, just like you would.

    When ATC cancels a flight, somebody is going to pay, if the airline gets to choose who pays, it ain’t gonna be them, especially on an advance-purchase leisure fare.

    As far as “not getting notified”… did the departure board in Columbus not mention the canceled flight? Did the sign over the gate still have PHL listed on it? I find that hard to believe. The flight was probably canceled after they checked in in LAX, and the gate was re-assigned to a new flight by the time they landed in Columbus.

    1. More questions. Did the OP sign up for flight notifications? Even with a non-smart phone, they could still get text message notifications.

  4. “Why couldn’t American endorse her ticket to another carrier, allowing her to reach her destination in time? Was that asking too much?”

    The only airline that flies direct flights between CMH and PHL is US Airways (source: Orbitz) and that is US Airways Express (regional jets).

    Delta and United has non-direct flights to PHL from CHM…Delta will require a flight to ATL and United’s flights have connections in ORD and IAD. We don’t know the time of the day but MAYBE it was too late to place the OP on the Delta or United flights.

    When America West acquired US Airways, they de-hub CMH which severely impacted the flights at CMH. I used to fly to CMH on a regular basis for several yeas.

    1. …and her solution was to fly Southwest. Southwest has no ticketing agreements in place to accept other airlines tickets or accommodate their passengers on other airlines when THEY run into problems.

  5. American Airlines now the largest carrier with the worst on time record, now they have an attitude problem (well not just now). Yes we need to stand up for passenger rights. If the airlines won’t do it, then I guess we have to get the feds to write another law. This is how we get too many laws out there, because big business thinks they are too big to fail. Where have we heard that before?

    1. They HAVE laws – and when it is due to ATC, they can put you on their next available flight (which was the following day) or refund you. They are NOT required to pay for a new ticket on another carrier, as they are not responsible for the delay. Read a COC.

      1. The CoC is the most one-sided agreement ever. That’s really the crux of this discussion. They get away with this stuff because of the CoC, but maybe they shouldn’t. The schedule and price is an offer, I accept it, and I pay. The consideration is that I paid them and now they are bound by the terms of the agreement. Except they aren’t. So in a way, it’s not a real agreement at all between us. They can change the terms at will. So basically, I might never get what I bargained for. I’m not going to pay the same for a 24 hour one way trip as I will for an 8 hour trip. The 24 hour trip is worth a lot less to me. It’s EXACTLY the CoC’s that are the issue.

  6. When you need to travel by air to get to something special like a wedding, graduation, retirement party, etc., it is my suggestion to eliminate the number of connections.

    There is a direct flight from LAX to PHL. I don’t know why the OP didn’t select this flight. Maybe it was full. Or maybe it was a higher price (I just checked the fare between LAX to PHL on Orbitz it is slightly higher than the non-direct flights).

    1. Therein lies the rub: the direct flight cost a few bucks more. By choosing the less expensive flight over the direct route, this economist interprets it as the consumer placing a higher value on saving a few dollars (at increased risk of missing a flight, missing baggage, etc.) versus the alternative. Your suggestion is common sense, which doesn’t really exist anymore.

    2. I try to pick non-stops where possible (yeah, flying out of Eppley Airfield has so many). But when I do several months in advance, the airline changes the flight or route and I end up with a connection somewhere. And then the airline has the nerve to try to charge me a change fee when I say that the new schedule or route doesn’t meet my needs. Not saying that’s what happened here, but it’s a possibility. I’m going to reserve judgment on this itinerary.

      1. Never had the airlines I fly attempt to charge for a schedule change rebooking when their change doesn’t meet my needs. I have always been able to get a full refund when the schedule changes by more than a couple hours. But maybe that is it, I take the refund and just book something new.

  7. I don’t know everything about ATCs since I don’t work in the industry. If there was an ATC for US Airways going into the PHL, is it likely for the other airlines flying into PHL would have had an ATC for themselves? Or are ATCs only for specific airlines? Maybe it was impossible or extremely difficult to fly into PHL that day due to the ATC.

    1. ATCs can effect all traffic or they can effect a specific airline. For instance Weather can effect all traffic, but an airline with only a single gate slot that has a problem with conditions at that slot could effect only a single airline. This wouldn’t be the case though in this situation, this was very likely a system wide ATC issue.

  8. I go to my doctor and dentist and it is very rare that my appointment starts on time. When we take our son to his doctor, I can’t recall an appointment that started on time even if we had an early morning appointment. The reality is that stuff happens which cause doctors and dentists to be late. Do we ask doctors and dentists to pay us for our time?

    You can’t expect an airline to be responsible for weather and etc. There is a strong possibility that several flights to PHL on that day could have been affected by the ATC that affected the OP’s flight.

    1. I actually thought of writing to Chris about a refund from a doctor that kept me waiting nearly 3 hours. When i tried to reschedule the appointment I could not get a new one for over a month which is not a good option in my case.. My time is valuable too–not just the doctor’s. I know the doctor had an emergency at the hospital that put his schedule way behind, but should he not have done something to see that he kept to an appointment I made six months ago? Why should the doctor inconvenience me because of something outside of his control?

        1. “Irony: the discrepancy between what is said and what is meant, what is said and what is done, what is expected or intended and what happens, what is meant or said and what others understand, or two or more incongruous objects, actions, persons juxtaposed.”

        2. I really don’t know if doctors always have an emergency when they are running late or they only use it as an excuse because nobody will confront it.

          There is a sense of self importance when you make someone wait for you.

          1. I was waiting for a dentist who was an hour late already. I always do the 7am appointments. The receptionist said there was an emergency and he had to go to at the hospital and woudl be late. When the dentist finally came in he was wearing golf clothes, and told me about his great game this morning. I found a new dentist.

          2. He also told me I needed 3 fillings and an overlay at my prior checkup. This appointment was for 2 of the fillings and the rest were scheduled later. After the fillings, he billed me for an amount far above what the insurance company said he was allowed to bill me for. The new dentist said I didn’t need the additional filling or an overlay. So I wonder if I ever even needed the first two fillings. He was a very evil Dentist.

          3. The only time a dentist met me in golf clothes was when he left his golf game to treat me in an emergency.

          4. Running late? From what? Golf? Nope. Unless the appointment is first thing in the morning or right after lunch, the doctor was likely either at the hospital tending to a patient or at the office meeting other patients.

            Scheduling is a PITA. IF a doctor’s office is anything like an attorneys, clients run over time, show up late, etc. The best guess is made, but it’s very dynamic.

          5. I almost can accept latency if mine isn’t the first appointment of the shift. Almost, because I believe you must be able to adjust your schedule. Emergencies happen, but I had a doctor who always run late because she likes to talk, and she usually spent half of the time with small talk. With me and with everybody else. While it was nice when it was my time, she was always “eating” 15 minutes from the next patience. She should schedule every 45 minutes instead of 30.

        3. Orthopedist setting a broken arm for the son of a friend. Not a life/death emergency in actuality. Been seeing this doc for years—was very honest as to nature of the emergency.

          1. Setting a fracture is pretty horrible. It’s not life or death, but if an arm requires manipulation by an orthopedist instead of an ER doc, that should really be done immediately before the swelling increases.

    2. Once my doctor waived my co-pay for having to wait. He is usually very much on time but that time he obviously thought I had waited too long.

  9. Something is wrong with the story. “The Taylors waited in the terminal until a half hour before the plane was supposed to leave, and finally asked the gate agent.”. When a flight gets cancelled, it shows up on the ” big board” and at the gate (if one was ever assigned). AA/US Air also send emails, texts, or will robo-call you if the schedule for your flight changes – even if the flight is a code share or regional “dba”.

    Maybe the response by US Air might have been better if the Taylors had been even a little attentive to their surroundings and looked for help sooner. Options dwindle as time moves on.

    1. They way the story reads (“[they] finally asked the gate agent”) it suggests that they did check either the departure board, or their boarding passes, or both, and waited at the appointed gate.

      You’re right that it’s always a good idea to double and triple check the departure board.

      It would be nice if there is also a clear indication at the gate itself about the cancellation.

      1. You are reading too much from a second hand story.
        The notification rule gives the carrier some time …
        within 30 minutes after the carrier becomes aware of the status change.
        Notification can be done at boarding area display, Airport FIDs, Flight Status page on website, etc.

        1. I wasn’t referring to the notification rule. I just think it would be nice, even if it isn’t required by force of law, to display a clear indication of the cancellation at the originally assigned gate.

          1. Me, I look at the flight crew for tips.
            If they walk back and out the aircraft you know you have a serious problem.
            The problem with Ground Stops is like all of a sudden your destination airport becomes like a “slotted” airport.
            Someone has to decide who can land in PHL much later (whenever that might be). So typical decision is simply cancel the flight due to uncertainty or uselessness.

      2. There’s nothing about the story that suggests the Taylors did anything but sit in an airport restaurant and then saunter over to to the gate 1/2 hour before (as that’s when boarding tends to commence) departure. If they were at the gate (and weren’t tuned out on some iDevice), they would have:

        a) seen the cancellation on the gate display
        b) heard the gate agent announce the cancellation

        There’s even free Wi-Fi at CMH. It costs nothing to type “US ” into google search on your smartphone and know exactly what’s going on with your flight.


  10. What we need isn’t a piecemeal solution, we need a passenger bill of rights — similar to the European passengers.

      1. I have serious doubts anything that resembles the compensation for delays will make it here in USA. Even that was an afterthought in EU.

    1. THIS is already covered – the government does NOT hold the airlines responsible for weather or ATC, as it is out of their control. Read the COC.

      1. But it’s not right to shove all the risk onto the passenger, either. And that’s what the CoC does. If you want to get somewhere quick, you HAVE to agree with it. They are classic adhesion agreements.

        1. How else should an airline with 200-300 passengers on a flight do it? Do they have to negotiate on a per pax basis. How to do that online? With a vending machine? I guess this adhesion thing is fine for common carriers. After all they have tariffs.

  11. Big companies love to rub it in to the consumer. Then they cry when (fill in the blank) — government regulation/taxes/fuel/unions etc — hurt them. Boo hoo hoo. Multi-billion dollar companies take months to pay me amounts that are less than their CEO’s golf club membership…but then hound me relentlessly for a $100 late payment. Screw them all.

  12. If you choose to do that then expect 2000 emails in your inbox tomorrow. This way or another Erin is right – but they had to check in advance the status of their flight. it sounds peculiar to me that they didn’t notice or hear a thing even upon arrival to the terminal.
    It’s not a perfect world, we know, but at least we want it to be right.

  13. Regardless of the particulars of this case (the story seems to be a bit “off” regarding the lack of notification), this glaring double standard is my least favorite. The airline can change the schedule, reroute, or cancel a leg entirely, and the response is “take it or leave it.” But if the passenger wants to change/alter flights due to scheduling issues (oftentimes out of their control) and hasn’t booked the more expensive refundable fare, they get slapped with a hefty change fee.

    Some airlines and airline employees still have some discretion, and politeness still goes a long way in getting an accommodation; but I won’t advocate for the government to step in and mandate “free” changes and other accommodations because the airlines will just pass the increased built-in cost on to the consumer.

    1. But this is NOT an instance that the flight is under their control – so NOT a double standard at all. Believe me, they want that flight on schedule as much as you do — they may need it even MORE at the next city!

      1. It IS a double standard, as I said above. They may not have control over the weather, but neither do the passengers, and yet they have all the risk. If I leave my house 8 hours early for a flight, and it normally takes me 3 hours to get somewhere, that gives me a 5 hour buffer. But if I run into a hail storm or something that closes the road, and it takes me 7 hours this time (and I’m sure that could happen somewhere, sometime), and I’m there an hour early, but I miss check in my 2 minutes, they won’t feel sorry for me. Even if I gave myself plenty of time, they don’t care at all. And yet, if I’m there in plenty of time, and suddenly the storm causes them the delay, they can tell me I have to come back in 2 days. So yes, there IS a double standard, even with things outside of their control.

        1. Do you have have to invest millions (if not hundreds of millions) to buy airplanes and create a huge operations? You don’t seem to understand the risks the airlines are also taking.

      2. External factors outside my control that necessitate a schedule change and re-booking will cost me money unless I either booked a fully refundable fare or the airline shows a little compassion (Superstorm Sandy, AA waived the change fee for example). The argument seems to me that it should cut both ways – apply the same standard to yourself the airline as you would to a customer.

  14. So if they drove instead of flying and were delayed several hours due to road construction would the car manufacturer be liable for them arriving late? This seems to be the logic here. In a perfect world, nothing ever goes wrong. But we all know the world is not perfect.

    The ATC may have been in effect all day resulting in many passengers needing to be reaccomodated. If the flights are normally relatively full between the two cities then 5 pm the next day seems reasonable (and the planes are the small regional ones anyway meaning not a lot of seats in the first place).

    Why did the LW choose that particular flight? Must have been price. There are several non-stop flights from LAX to PHL daily. Just picking some random dates a month or so out shows the non stops on AA to be about $300 more per passenger than the ones that connect. Once again trying to save a few dollars might have cost them more.

      1. Who were grounded by ATC – so they COULD not operate. So no further compensation is available as this is not a circumstance under their control.

    1. The analogy is not applicable. There is a fundamental difference between purchasing a good, one in which the manufacturer cannot anticipate the specific use (e.g. driving from Point A to Point B) and a service which is not provided.

      1. That’s basically what I just said. In his analogy, there’s no agreement at all. In airline agreements, they aren’t obligated to give you what you paid for (a schedule for a certain price) because of their adhesion contract. I’m sick of people saying “it’s in the CoC, read it!” That’s the point. The CoC’s are bad for passengers. They shove all the risk onto the person buying the ticket and assume none for themselves, especially because of weather delays.

        1. I’m not a fan of all of the terms of the CoC. I think they are incredibly one sided. But in fairness, passengers and airlines are not similarly situated. You cannot apply the same criteria to them and thus comments such as “double standards” are poorly chosen.

    2. The real problem with your analogy is that in airline contracts, they offered a schedule and price and the passenger accepted. And then the airline can wiggle out of that agreement by writing a one-sided adhesion contract. In your analogy, no one made an agreement with the car manufacturer or the road work people or the entity that controls the road (the state, the city, the county, etc).

  15. US Airways handled it incorrectly from the start. I would bet that American would have handled it better. The US Airways folks are NOT part of a World Class airline. AA is. Hey, PsyGuy: US Airways could have offered to get the couple to EWR or BWI and really worked with their customer. Yes, ATC in PHL is pretty bad – city runs/manages airport – but it does not mean to not help their customers! (I like Elliott’s comment.)

    1. They could of, but we don’t know how this went down. Imagine your the counter agent you’ve been changing, and rebooking a whole planes worth of flights. This couple comes up, asks whats wrong and you say the flights been cancelled, they ask for the next flight you apologize and say it’s not until tomorrow, and before you can even say “BUT” they yell at you that thats not acceptable, and they have important blah, blah, blah, because after getting yelled at for something way outside that agents control, I wouldn’t bend over backwards to “help” another couple that thinks they are “entitled”.

    2. Really? You must not be looking at airline schedules when you wrote your comment. How would AA take these paxs to PHL/EWR or wherever close to get there from CMH that night?

  16. I’d like to know (and these should be public records) if other airlines in the area had flights cancelled. Why, you might ask, am I so suspicious? Here’s a story:

    My wife and I were scheduled to fly from Miami to Philadelphia on a 7:30 AM flight on a Monday morning. I got there early, checked in, and heard an
    announcement that the flight had been canceled because of a mechanical problem with the aircraft. It instructed passengers to go to a nearby gate where the next flight would depart in 2 hours to make reservations for that flight.

    I happened to be standing at the counter of the gate and immediately asked the gate agent if she could help me get on the next flight. She did and gave me a new boarding card for the next flight.

    Moments later the pilots and cabin crew were leaving the ramp from the cancelled flight and as they passed I asked one of them what the
    mechanical problem was. The pilot told me there was no mechanical problem; they needed the plane for another, full flight for which they did not have another scheduled flight for a long time.

    I went back to the counter and asked them to call the supervisor. He came and I confronted him with the story. He made a phone call out of my hearing and returned to confirm the story I received was correct. After some heated words from me, he offered us 20,000 miles to each to our accounts. In
    those days, that was equal to two, round-trip domestic flights.

    Ever since, I’ve been skeptical of excuses such as mechanical problems, late arrival of incoming aircraft, weather, delays to take on additional fuel, etc. My skepticism is further enhanced by thoughts of an FAA which accepts these excuses with no further inquiry.

    1. Similar experience with American from Dulles. A colleague and I drove like crazy to make a flight. Went through all the process and ride to the remote terminal to find that the flight was just cancelled due to “mechanical problems.” No other carriers were going where we needed to go so American would not/could not put us on a different flight. Later from the same gate, the same aircraft was ready to our destination. As I got onboard, I asked the pilot about the mechanical problem. He said he had just arrived and would look at the aircraft log. He reported to me that no mechanical problem was recorded. American cancelled the flight because it was lightly loaded and lied about it.

    2. If the plane that was to be on the full higher priority flight had a mechanical problem, and your plane was substituted, then per reporting requirements it would have been considered a mechanical delay as that was the root of the equipment swap. In a mechanical delay, the airline is responsible for hotels, meals etc. as well.

    3. Looking at FlightStats, my guess is that the OP was scheduled to fly on Friday May 16th. [It fits the story since that would be during graduation season; the last 2 of 7 daily flights from CMH->PHL that day were Cancelled; and the 5:30pm flight operates on Saturdays).

      On that evening, it appears that the weather issue was on the NE coast and most flights to PHL were delayed about 2 hours and a good number were Cancelled.

      So in fairness to US Airways, there was a genuine weather issue that evening.

      On the other hand, by midnight, arrivals to PHL appear to have been back to near schedule. If a crew was available (not maxed out on their hours) then perhaps they could have waited it out and salvaged the flight.

      1. You just said it. I wonder where this crew is based (domiciled)?
        Also interesting why no dates mentioned in the article.
        Makes it difficult to pin down some facts.

      2. But the connection city was the sticky point here. Bad choice for a limited airport such as this when this was so important to them. A larger airport would have had more options.

        1. Yet they found another option and made it, just not on US Airways.

          US Airways had 5 direct flights to PHL prior to 5:30pm the next day, in addition to pre-6:30am flights to CLT, DCA, ORD, and LGA. But the OP apparently couldn’t get on any of those.

          1. the graduation was in the morning according to the OP: “I had a graduation ceremony to attend the next morning.”

            …therefore, arriving before 5:30 PM on the following morning wasn’t the best option for them…they had to arrive before 10:00 AM or sooner.

    4. Mechanical problems are that aircraft — ATC groundings affect the airport, and the airline can’t just decide to fly anyway. And no, the FAA gets reports from ATC on weather and ATC problems.

    5. I don’t think it matters and there is no reason to argue.
      The only thing you need to argue about is whether the airline has control over the delay. Since they have control over mechanical delays they cannot blame the weather or ATC. They will have to put you up or feed you.

      Take a look at how the Gov’t. classifies delays. What you complained about still falls as a delay caused by the carrier.

  17. In my experience, when there is an ATC delay, the airlines typically cancel the regional flights first, followed by the mainlines. The theory being that it impacts fewer people. Which is why SW probably had some planes going in.

    Still sucks if you are on that canceled flight.

  18. Here’s the thing. Would you rather not have this discussion and let the airline industry write whatever contract it sees fit in order to protect its revenues? I’m happy to offer my apologies to the “insiders” and “apologists” I’ve offended, but still, the debate is worth having.

    And I’m sorry for the snark — I blame the coffee. I had regular instead of espresso. My mistake.

      1. Airline contracts are no different than other contracts. All contracts are designed to protect the revenues of the company and minimize the liabilities.

        I have been in the software industry for nearly 20 years and I have worked for three companies…the sales contracts are one-sided. We have made changes to the terms which some has taken up to six months to settle on the terms. It is very rare for the EULA (End User License Agreement) to be changed.

        The contracts for health clubs, mortgages, loans, pest control, house painting, weed control, etc. are one-sided.

        1. I don’t see mortgages or loans as being all that one sided. I get a mortgage for a interest rate and I pay the bank and they pay the seller. How is that one-sided? They can’t arbitrarily raise my interest rate. What are you considering one-sided on loans?

          1. Ask them to change the terms (I am not talking about the interest rate or the length of the loan or mortgage) in the agreement.

          2. I take all of the risk in my mortgage. If there is a natural disaster, I am responsible and the bank isn’t. I have to provide insurance or the bank can charge me 3X the average rate of insurance. If I don’t like the terms I can’t do anything about it. If I don’t meet my obligation, the bank will be more than happy to sell the house and kick me out of it. I think mortgages are more one-sided that airlines.

    1. Actually, the government does have a say on these COC – especially the difference between the airlines’ responsibilities and when weather/ATC relieves them of full responsibility.

      1. The just forced the Customer Service Plans with mandatory requirements down the throats of the airlines, didn’t they? It was called – Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections.

  19. “Delays happen and a next day delay is not unheard of”.

    So do we all now need to add an extra couple of days to every trip we take? It is not practical whether we are flying for business or personal reasons. If we buy a ticket to get from A to B and provided the reasons for the delay are not weather related, the airline should be obligated to get us there within a reasonable time frame and be obliged to take the necessary steps to do so.

    1. Sure you can fly a tight schedule from A too B, but that means a direct flight, early in the morning. If you want to do connections at small airports late in the day with a busy traffic corridor, on an arrival critical schedule, than yeah you need an extra day.

  20. So I found quite a few LAX-PHL non-stop flights. Instead, the OP connected. However, rather than connecting at a major hub for an airline, they connected at a smaller airport where they would take a regional flight. To make matters worse, the OP flew out the night before an important morning event leaving no wiggle room. I am not blaming the OP, but it does sound like the times and flights chose were a perfect storm for a delay and/or stranding.

    As this was an ATC cancellation, I really don’t think the airline can or should do anything. The airlines waive change fees and fare difference or offer a refund ion the event of an ATC delay. The OP got the refund, and booked a flight on another carrier to another airport. I think the OP made the best chose they could have under the circumstances, i woudl have done the same thing is I were in the OPs shoes.

    So back to the traffic analogy. Say the OP was driving and they were on the only road over a mountain pass and it was closed due to weather. The OP could wait out the storm and arrive a day late, or the OP could go to a nearby airport and buy a flight out of pocket and get there eon time, but stressed out. In that case, who would be responsible for paying for the airline ticket? I personally see these two situations as one and the same. Call me an airline apologist all you want, but I know in my heart I am not. I am a realist and a planner.

    1. 2 of out 7 cancelled last week (22OCT) both due to ATC Ground Delay Program. Other flights were very late, too.
      Solutions talked about here are very unrealistic, IMO.
      Passenger must choose to fly wisely.

        1. Typical LAX-CMH-PHL route will use the last flight out of CMH. If ATC does ground stop late then too late to reroute this pax.

        2. Expecting the airline to be able to get you out that night. They may only have an option of the following day (especially as ATC is out of their control, and they do NOT have to pay for a ticket on another carrier.)

      1. Thanks, I was looking to more on the whys.
        I try to not sell any commuter flights. They are far more susceptible to delays and cancellations. In some areas it is getting harder to not find these flights. I may flight into EWR (ugh) instead of ALB as getting jet to jet service is almost impossible from my locale.

  21. Perhaps the questions should not be “Why doesn’t American…” but rather still why don’t Americans do something about this? If enough of us haunted our elected representatives with complaints, perhaps something would change for the better.
    Maybe it is wishful thinking on my part. Full disclosure: I live in Europe where the EU has a much better handle on these issues.

    1. You also have healthcare, education, etc. socialized in some fashion.
      We nada. Why expect something trivial like flight delays when we don’t even get the basic stuff?

      1. I don’t know about excellent healthcare. I got life threateningly ill in Europe. The hotel had a relationship with a doctor who came to my hotel room, ordered tests,etc.

        At the conclusion the doctor told me I needed emergency care and that I had to “opt out” of the French medical system because it would not be able to handle my medical situation in a timely manner.

        He strongly recommended that I either head back to the US immediately, or go to a private French hospital. Otherwise, I could expect severe and life changing consequences

        1. Ha ha ha. That’s the treatment the French reserve for Americans. I do have friends and family (some with American citizenship) who reside (or lived) in Europe and they have the opposite opinion. They don’t want to give up their stay there.

  22. I’ve twice missed a flight due to traffic getting to the airport. Both times the airline put me on the next available flight for no charge.

    1. Why bother?. They all suck according to your articles 🙂
      Or maybe you can say Virgin and Southwest are a bit better than others. Maybe you can throw Jet Blue a few points, too.

  23. I’m turning into a horrible cynic, I fear, but I’m VERY skeptical that they were not somehow notified of the cancelled flight. Did they sign up for text/call notifications? Did they check their email pretty regularly or are they those “we check it once a month” kinda people? My experience flying is that I actually get TOO many notifications! Flying back from San Francisco last week, I got flight delayed notice. Ok. Then another one, now delayed by 3 more MINUTES. Hmm ok, the another 10 minutes…then wait, it went BACKWARDS, now delayed only 8 minutes… But I’d rather be OVER-informed than under-informed, I guess!

  24. i’m at a loss for why Chris feels US should pay to put them on another airline when it was out of the airlines’ control that the flight wasn’t operating.

    furthermore, why did they wait until 30 minutes before scheduled departure to make any inquiries? didn’t they notice no gate activity? weren’t there signs on the monitors in the terminal and at the gate showing the flight was cancelled? you’d have to imagine there would be an indication that something wasn’t right.
    did they sign up for flight notifications from the airline? too many people put down their home phone numbers or emails as the contact point, when text messages are ideal.

    in any case, this was not due to any failure on USAirways’ part, nor on AA’s part. they should not have to foot the bill, period.

    EDITED TO ADD: nearly every airline will allow you to try standby on the next flight if you miss yours due to traffic, aka “flat tire rule”. many ask that you call in prior to scheduled departure time so your funds don’t get pulled as a true no-show.

  25. I’ve been flying so long that I do remember when an airline routinely walked you over to another airline if your flight was cancelled. Do we just have too many people flying for this would to happen anymore? There is truly nothing more irritating than to get to the airport and learn, or not learn as was the case with this letter, that the flight has been cancelled. My daughters flight for a 3 day convention was cancelled and us airways wasn’t going to be able to get her there until the day she was scheduled to fly home. And, then she had to fight to get both her airfare refunded and the extra she was charged for buying a better seat. It is just too stressful to fly nowadays.

  26. this story doesn’t have all the facts & sounds very fishy.

    They must have been on separate tickets.

    You can’t tag your bags onto a cancelled flight ??????

    1. Sadly, those who have traveled before you have made the fees. I just bought something, just can’t remember what it was and on the receipt was noted a $200 fee if I returned it.

  27. As you briefly mentioned, Chris, my biggest issue is that they didn’t let the passengers know it was canceled. I understand that the cancellation was out of their control, and that they contracted another airline to operate the flight, but that is something that should be planned for by a such a large corporation. Compensation is a bit much but certainly the airline needs to admit their oversight and assure the passenger that they’ll remedy the systemic problem for the future.

  28. I recently had a flight to San Diego from DCA with a connection. When Delta saw that my first flight was running late and that I might miss the connection, they offered to put me on a United flight instead, without my even asking (this was before I knew the flight was running late). This is just one of many examples recently where I have found Delta to go out of their way where other airlines wouldn’t. So it just shows that some legacy airlines still do the right thing by their customers.

    1. In LW case, only WN was their option and their carrier does not endorse over to WN nor does WN endorse to another carrier. Know your backup plans and what you can and can’t do.

  29. American should have endorsed their tickets over to another airline whose flight was operating. And, it doesn’t sound as if they requested an endorsement from the agent which might have been granted if requested.

    1. I haven’t looked into history of that day, but in current scheduling, only WN has jet service out of CMH to BWI in the evening. Their carrier does not endorse over to WN. Know when you are looking at air travel, what your options are for that just in case situation and what you might be able to do. The LW made a huge mistake by not flying nonstop.

  30. Why is it always the consumers fault? The airlines have way to much leeway and are not often held accountable. I’d like to see this change. When they’re forced to do the right thing by their customers, I think we’ll see less what feels like thievery.

  31. The airline is responsible for flying you to your destination so you arrive at a reasonable time. If the flight is cancelled for any reason, they have the same responsibility. The airline has a hundred ways to solve the problem. This airline just did nothing. They should make a generous offer to compensate these people. With Chris’ involvement, I suspect they will.

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