Scott Mayerowitz wrote a piece for the Associated Press on what to do if you were stranded by American Airlines today.
I’m fortunate that I wasn’t flying today and I’m grateful not to be caught up in the mess, so far about 20% of the schedule cancelled — and even though systems are back up no doubt the final total will be much higher due to out of position aircraft and crew who ultimately time out.
Certainly my thoughts go out to everyone affected by the delays and other inconveniences that in many ways mimic the effects of a big snowstorm — not what you expect in April.
And of course I felt like I had a bit of egg on my face after writing about how important it is that a merged American-US Airways adopt American’s computer systems! Although I’d still strongly maintain that’s the best possible course. But I recognize the irony.
In situations like this my usual approach is to:
- Figure out who else might be able to get me to my destination. Flights are full and expensive, but sometimes there are options and availability changes constantly. Just get on the flight.
- Determine where there are hotel rooms available if I think I’m going to be stranded. I tend to lock in my room early.
- Scrap the trip if I can, if I’m not already enroute.
These things are easier said than done. When you’re on a business trip and billing the expenses to an employer it’s easier than when coming out of pocket. It’s a lot easier in situations like this to solve the problem and solve it quickly rather than relying on someone to solve it for you (they’re overwhelmed, busy, it takes time – while seats disappear and hotels fill up). But that means fronting cash and trying to get reimbursed later.
Scott suggests asking for a hotel discount voucher, and that’s a good idea to get the best possible rate, if lines are long go down to baggage claim and ask there because when planes aren’t moving there’s not a ton of baggage (although aircraft enroute did continue to their destinations, it was takeoffs that were held).
American’s policies under the circumstances have — at least as announced — been very customer friendly:
- They’re rebooking onto other airlines.
- They’re honoring difference in fare to do this.
- They’r providing no charge cancellation with full refund for travel today
They’re suggesting things will be close to normal tomorrow, though I’m skeptical. Word is there will be extra flights running tonight and overnight aircraft repositioning. They need to do this of course, but there will still be crew and planes out of position and those who time out, as well as those arriving at destinations very late and needing minimum rest before turning back around tomorrow and that’ll cause delays too. So I expect that tomorrow will be a messy day as well. And then it’ll be back to normal.
Things happen in travel, one hopes the travel provider responds well, and the best thing to do is take charge as much as possible of your own destiny – resources allowing — rather than waiting for someone else to do it for you.
Best of luck to everyone delayed and displaced today!