Does an airline owe you anything for a five-day delay? William Danylchuk was held up in Syracuse for the better part of the week, while trying to get home to Des Moines for Christmas. American Airlines offered him nothing for the inconvenience. Can it do that?
Here’s Danylchuk’s story:
I had been canceled and rebooked by American Airlines on every flight for five days. I called American every day an average of 25 times using the automated system to monitor flight departures and arrivals. I also checked with its live reservationists.
I understand weather was not good at times in Chicago or Syracuse, but there was never a time that the Syracuse airport was even closed, there were plenty of flights that made the trip. But any time I found one online with seats for sale, I was told it was booked.
I expected to be in Syracuse for a brief meeting and home by Christmas. I missed Christmas and spent the week alone in a hotel that cost nearly $600. I am not one to complain, but anyone I talked to thought five days was insane to be in a place that still had tons of flights leaving every day. I would have been willing to take any other route at any time, but was never offered anything but just to sit and wait.
I have never heard of anything like this and wondered what you think?
I think five days is way too long. But what I think doesn’t matter as much as what American’s conditions of carriage — the legal agreement between you and the airline — says.
American will endeavor to carry you and your baggage with reasonable dispatch, but times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. American may, without notice, substitute alternate carriers or aircraft and, if necessary, may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket.
Schedules are subject to change without notice. American is not responsible for or liable for failure to make connections, or to operate any flight according to schedule, or for a change to the schedule of any flight. Under no circumstances shall American be liable for any special, incidental or consequential damages arising from the foregoing.
In other words, don’t hold us to our schedules. Don’t expect anything if we’re late.
And regarding compensation, it would depend on the reason for your cancellation or delay. If it’s caused by mechanical problems, then you would be entitled to a hotel and meal voucher, under the contract. But if it’s weather-related — a so-called “Act of God” — you’re essentially on your own.
Airlines have some flexibility in how they can interpret their own contract, and I believe if you had mentioned your problem to a ticket agent, American might have offered to cover your hotel. I think it should have.
I asked American about your ordeal. Here’s what a spokeswoman told me:
Well, unfortunately a combination of bad weather and full planes looks like what happened. And, of course there are fewer flights as well. One other thing that contributed is that in inclement weather, the regional airlines have to cancel more than the mainline.
As you are probably aware, the automated system rebooks the AAdvantage premium status first, and with full planes the AAdvantage status customers get what few seats are left first.
I am sorry that anyone gets stuck, it is absolutely no fun. It’s happened to me several times, especially when I used to travel for a living. I have forwarded your email on to our Customer Relations team so they are aware of this situation.
Danylchuk is not happy with that answer.
I have traveled all over the country to little backwoods areas more times than I can remember in the past two years on business. But In the past I have picked the airline with the best schedule for myself and have not been as concerned about the level of my advantage membership. If I were a premium advantage member this would not have happened, I guess?
Sounds like a lost cause.
Maybe getting compensation from American is a lost cause at this point. But the lessons learned from Danylchuk’s five-day ordeal are, as they say, priceless.