AA’s apology for delays and cancellations — how about returning the favor

by Janice Hough on September 28, 2012

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American Airlines has been making plenty of news lately, but for all the wrong reasons.

Officially, nothing is wrong. Unofficially, a labor dispute has resulted in an increase in delays and cancellations. Crews are filing additional maintenance requests and a far greater number of pilots are calling in sick.

USA Today reported that at one point last week over half of American’s flights were late and 310 flights last week were canceled.

To make it up to travelers, American is offering to book passengers on other airlines, or allowing travelers to cancel delayed flights and get a refund.

Allowing a refund for major delays is somewhat standard procedure, but now a flight only needs an hour’s delay to be refundable. (Curiously enough, however, American is not trumpeting this temporary new flexibility on their website, but has been emailing their frequent fliers.)

While I always appreciate it when an airline makes an effort, I have a different suggestion for American. Since all these delays are supposedly out of their control with their employees, why not give passengers a single free change on a future ticket when a situation is out of their control.

American, after all, is asking travelers to be understanding. But, understanding with AA doesn’t go both ways. When a problem comes up at work, a child gets sick or any one of thousands of things that mean passengers need to change plans on a discount ticket, AA sanctimoniously claims its minimum $150 change fee to make any changes. Why not cut the public some slack?

The airline could give delayed passengers a voucher with a promotional code — one free change (plus any fare difference) on a future American ticket in the next year for any reason or problem of the passenger’s choosing.

Again, I’m not suggesting this as a permanent change, although Southwest seems to manage to stay profitable without change fees. But, it would be a nice touch and a good way to keep passenger goodwill. I personally don’t know enough on the labor issues to take sides, but stuff happens. Maybe it’s time for a major airline to admit stuff happens to their customers as well.

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