American Airlines has canceled more than 900 flights today. It's the latest carrier to fail technical compliance with FAA rules for its MD-80 jets. (Inspectors are checking the wiring in the wheel wells.)
This comes on the heels of grounding 460 flights on Tuesday, followed by the canceling of more than 1,000 flights yesterday [Wednesday April 9]. That’s the equivalent of yanking its 300 MD-80 jets, or about one third of its fleet, out of service."A quarter-million people have been inconvenienced this week," says USA Today. Passengers stranded overnight were offered vouchers worth $500 in future travel.
Frustratingly, many passengers whose first flights were canceled have just discovered—after going through the effort of rebooking a flight—that their new flight is canceled, too!
Need to rebook a flight?
You’ll likely be put on hold if you call reservations (800/433-7300). On one call this morning, a reader of this blog reported a wait time of 42 minutes. A follow-up call didn't even go through, as the caller heard a recorded message saying the airline's phone lines were overloaded.
I talked to an American Airlines spokesperson for tips on re-booking:
For passengers scheduled to travel on an MD-80 through Friday [April 11], American is waiving its change fee and will rebook you to start traveling up until Thursday, April 17—as long as you bought the ticket before April 8. [UPDATE: Apr. 11 at 3:10 p.m. ET: American has extended the deadline since this posting. See the latest rules on American's website.] American has also set up a Website form to help reimburse stranded passengers for overnight accommodations.
Have your record locator number handy before you call the reservations line.
The spokesperson recommended that you use your time waiting on hold to check flight availability at aa.com. It’s helpful if you can tell the reservations agent which flight you want to get on. If nothing turns up, ask if you can rebook on a partner airline. (While the spokesperson didn't say this, it should be noted that you may be rebooked on a flight that is not at an ideal time, or may have more than a desirable number of layovers. Your alternative is to pay a change fee, which is typically $100 per ticket.)
If your flight has already been canceled, there’s no need to go to the airport unless you want to talk to someone in person.
If you must speak to someone face to face, there are alternatives to the airport gridlock. In New York City, for example, American’s Travel Centers at 360 Lexington Avenue and 1843 Broadway in Columbus Circle will probably have shorter lines.
If you’re flying next week, check aa.com over the weekend for updates. I know I will. Next Thursday, I’m set to fly out of LaGuardia with a layover in Dallas/Fort Worth, two of the airports that have been hit the hardest, according to the New York Times. Wish me luck.
Have you been stranded by the recent spate of flight cancellations?