woman with caption 'I had absolutely no intention of sleeping on an airport floor' (l) American Airlines planes on tarmac (c) woman holding creamer with caption 'American Airlines absolutely use weather as an excuse to get out of their legal obligation' (r)

Wenjie Zheng/Shutterstock @courtney_partyof5/TikTok (Licensed)

‘They changed it’: Customer says American Airlines used this trick to avoid giving out hotel vouchers after canceled flight

‘I fly with American a lot and they just pulled this on one of my flights.’

 

Braden Bjella

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A lot can go wrong when traveling. One can have items stolen out of their bags, face issues trying to bring luggage on a flight, or arrive at their destination only to be greeted by a dirty hotel room.

However, chief among travel complaints are flight cancellations and delays. While flight cancellations are relatively rare—only 1.2% of flights were canceled last year, per CNN—delays are exceedingly common. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “1,386,699 flights were delayed nationwide in 2023, out of more than 6.8 million. That’s about 20.2% of all scheduled domestic flights in the country,” writes Christopher Adams for KXAN.

While many travelers say that their delays are due to weather, this isn’t always the case, as recently noted by TikTok user Courtney (@courtney_partyof5).

Did American Airlines lie about a delay?

In a video with over 173,000 views as of Friday, Courtney recounts an experience she had flying with American Airlines in August of last year. Her original flight path took her from Sacramento to Austin with a layover in Dallas.

Problems began before her journey even started.

“My flight leaving Sacramento was delayed by a couple hours, and at first they were saying that it was like a staffing issue—and then they changed it to tell everybody waiting there that it was weather,” she recalls. “But, they kept reassuring everybody that we were definitely going to be making our connecting flight because they could make up time in the air.”

After a little while, passengers managed to board the plane. Over the course of three hours from when her flight was supposed to take off, Courtney says she observed maintenance people coming on board to fix various items, including the oxygen tank under her seat, as she was in the back row.

“Yeah, that definitely sounds ‘weather related,’” Courtney sarcastically notes.

Despite this, Courtney was assured she would still be making her connecting flight—that is, until she asked a flight attendant about it.

“I asked the flight attendant, ‘Are we still going to be making our connecting flight?’” Courtney says. “And she was like, ‘Oh gosh, no’—almost like, ‘Where would you even get that idea?’”

Eventually, the plane set off for Dallas. During the flight, an announcement was made that there would be no more flights out of Dallas and that the last flight had left for the night, so all passengers would be getting hotel vouchers. Courtney says she was told that employees would be waiting to hand out these vouchers as soon as people got off the flight.

“We all get off the plane, and we’re looking around and there’s, there’s just nobody,” Courtney states. “So, you get to the customer service desk, and the line is hours long. So they had been doing this obviously to multiple flights, because there were way more people than just our flight in that line.”

After about an hour of waiting in line, Courtney saw people begin to exit the line. When she asked why, she says she was told, “‘Oh, well, they’ve changed it to weather-related, so now they’re not giving vouchers out.’”

“So the people that got there in the very front of the line, they got vouchers, but the rest of us, now it’s ‘weather’—and so they’re saying that they’re not obligated to give vouchers,” Courtney says.

In response, Courtney found someone else who was going to Austin and split an Uber to their final destination. She also says that she was able to get refunded for the flight from her credit card, though she still had to pay the full cost of the Uber.

“Moral of the story is that this airline in particular will absolutely use weather as an excuse to get out of their legal obligation to reimburse you and to provide you with accommodations if they’re having mechanical issues or staffing shortages or whatever,” Courtney summarizes.

She concludes, “I personally will never fly with American again. And I’m very sure that if it wasn’t for our credit card company, we would have been on the hook for the whole thing.”

When can you get reimbursed for a missed flight?

According to USA Today, “U.S. airlines are not required to offer compensation for delays outside their control, like severe weather or air traffic control issues.”

That said, airlines often have their own policies in place for delays caused by maintenance issues or problems within the airline’s control.

In American Airlines’ case, the airline writes on its website: “When your flight is canceled or a delay could cause you to miss your connection, we’ll rebook you on the next American Airlines flight with available seats at no additional cost. If no American flights are available until the next day, and the disruption is caused by us, we’ll rebook you on one of our partner airlines with available seats at no additional cost.”

“If the disruption is our fault or you’re diverted to another city, and we don’t board before 11:59 p.m. local time on your scheduled arrival day, we’ll arrange an overnight stay or cover the cost of an approved hotel, if available,” it adds.

Weather issues are not considered the fault of the airline—and so, if one is delayed or has their flight canceled due to weather, they are often on their own to resolve the problem.

However, weather delays do not appear to be as common as airlines claim. While almost all travelers have a story about their flight being delayed due to weather, data from the Federal Aviation Administration shows that only around 0.65 percent of flight delays can be attributed directly to weather—and flight attendants have confirmed that some airline delays are “fake.”

@courtney_partyof5 #americanairlines ♬ original sound – Courtney

Commenters share their thoughts

In the comments section, users revealed their thoughts on how issues like these can be fixed, both personally and legally.

“There should be a law where these airlines have to be able to prove weather issues,” a user wrote. “They say it because if it’s weather they don’t have to give you anything.”

“If your flight is being delayed and you can obviously see maintenance working on the plane record it for later,” advised another. “You never know what you might need.”

“Start recording any announcements from the flight attendants so you have proof of what they tell you,” echoed a third.

The Daily Dot reached out to American Airlines via email and Courtney via website contact form.

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