American & Delta Restore Their Interline Agreement

Filed Under: American, Delta

In September 2015, American and Delta discontinued their interline agreement. An interline agreement is one of the lowest levels of cooperation between airlines, as it’s less involved than a joint venture, an alliance, a partnership, or a codeshare agreement.

An interline agreement simply allows tickets to be sold on multiple airlines, and allows an airline to rebook you on another airline in the event of irregular operations.

Interline agreements are standard industry agreements, and the reason that American and Delta cut their interline agreement was because Delta was unwilling to agree to the standard terms. Per a memo sent to American employees at the time:

One tool that we use to help get customers back on their way during irregular operations are the interline agreements we have with various carriers that allow us to reaccommodate passengers on other airlines at a negotiated rate. These agreements also allow airlines to book, sell, ticket, and check baggage on one another. Interline agreements are common across the industry and they generally include a standard, discounted rate for calculating how much is owed by one carrier to another to use their seats during irregular operations.

In April of this year, participating airlines across the industry agreed to new rates for moving customers between carriers during irregular operations. Delta recently decided to go outside of that joint agreement and negotiate an individual agreement with American. We have been unable to come to terms on an agreement with Delta and, as a result, have mutually agreed to end our interline agreement effective September 15. From that date, neither airline will offer interline services to each other, including the ability to rebook passengers at discounted rates on the other carrier when flight disruptions occur. (Note that we will continue to honor valid tickets already purchased on or before September 14 through the existing interline agreement, so there will be no changes there.)

Delta considers themselves to be the “on-time machine,” so since they had better operational performance than other US carriers, they decided they didn’t need to help other airlines when things go wrong. The irony is that in the past couple of years Delta has had some of the biggest operational meltdowns of any US airline, and they really screwed their customers with the lack of an interline agreement, since they couldn’t rebook people on other airlines.

Well, there’s some good news on this front. As noted by the always knowledgable @xJonNYC, American and Delta are restoring their interline agreement as of today, Wednesday, January 24, 2018. Per a memo:

The reinstatement of the Delta agreement adds another tool to help us reaccommodate customers impacted by disruptions; however, we should continue to work to keep American customers on American.

In the event this is not possible, every effort should be made to reroute using a Joint Business carrier or oneworld partner first.

Please use the existing protection order below as guidelines:

  • American
  • Joint Business carrier
  • oneworld partner or non-oneworld partner
  • Other airlines (including Delta)

No phone call is required to Delta to confirm availability.

Presumably this is reciprocal, meaning that Delta will be able to rebook passengers on American in the event of irregular operations as well.

This is fantastic news. While the priority is always to rebook passengers on American or partner airlines first, keep in mind that American doesn’t have any major partners within the US, with the exception of Alaska. So if there are irregular operations on American and they can’t get you there on American or Alaska, they should be able to rebook you on Delta.

This is fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, though is a step in the right direction.

I’d be curious to know what prompted this policy change. I’m not sure if Delta’s hubris has been put into check after all of their operational issues, or what.

  1. DL Plat here. In the last three months of 2017 I had two unscheduled overnights due to Delta irregular ops. In both cases American had flights available that would’ve gotten me to my destination the same day. the second time I paid for the ticket on American on my own and called Delta the next day and got them to reimburse me. In both cases, I made sure to let everyone I spoke with know that it was a disgrace that they did not have any interline agreement with American.

    Bottom line, Delta reinstated only because they heard the complaints from many ffs with their seemingly quarterly meltdowns throughout 2017. The inter linen should’ve never been terminated, but props for reinstating.

  2. North American Airlines are very low qwality. I fly 80% First Class and 20% business so I know what I talk about.

  3. Interesting no phone call required

    Is this interlining purely for the sake of irrops as nowadays it’s almost impossible to purchase a ticket involving a competitor ie DL/SkyTeam & AA on one ticket

    Most fares are ticketing carrier and partner airlines only

    It’s also possible that DL doesn’t accept AA however AA accepts DL That’s how agreements sometimes work

    In case of irrops when protecting on another carrier , airlines are required to confirm that carrier has seats.

    The fact they sell one doesn’t mean it’s not oversold and the reservtion system would not show that. Delta doesn’t have access to AA’s full inventory and vice versa

    Pleanty of cases when a passenger is apparently rebooked and then sent back to the ticketing carrier as they could not be accepted

    At a hub such as Atlanta or DFW the options are very limited for transferring on other carriers

  4. “This is strictly an irregular operations ticketing and baggage re-accommodation agreement,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant said. “A true interline means things like fare combinability for travel agency and third party sales. That’s not what this is. At any rate, it’s a tool that will give our employees more options to re-accommodate customers whose flights are cancelled during weather and other uncommon scenarios when Delta flights are canceled.”

  5. @Icarus – Calling to confirm reprotection was only needed in the days of PNL/ADL driven DCS where NOREC and GOSHO pax were handled at DCS rather than CRS level and only reconciled after departure with PFN. With e-tickets being standard now and DCS integration also widespread, CRS should reflect actual real time availability in virtually all cases.

  6. @FinnSailor – E-tickets make it easier to just rebook people on other airlines rather than having to call to confirm space in the case of irregular operations, as had to be done years ago.

  7. @ Ben — It will be interesting to see what DL does when reaccomodating passengers who buy-up to F. For all other DL purposes, these are treated as paid discounted F tickets, so I wonder if reaccomodation to AA F will be avaialable.

  8. @Lucky – one thing I’ve wondered about interline agreements is whether there are any time parameters on using a partner. In other words, if I’m booked on an American flight and get massively delayed because of IRROPS, and (1) they tell me they can’t get me out until the next day on an AA flight and (2) there’s same-day space on a DL flight, what obligation do they have to put me on the DL flight? Can I demand that they do so?

  9. @flightwonk – AA isn’t required to rebook you on another carrier in most cases. Like most things in air travel, it’s really more about how much they like you (status/revenue), or how much additional you will cost them (vouchers/lost business).

    Most airlines will not rebook you in situations outside their control (ie. weather), unless of course, you are very valuable to them.

  10. @ah

    As a general rule, you need to request “original routing credit” from the carrier you bought the ticket from, and they’ll issue you the miles/segments/etc as originally purchased.

    I’ve not had luck with this happening automatically, and usually have needed to call/email/tweet to request it

  11. The past year was nice to see DL knocked down a peg and finally realizing that (GASP) they are susceptible to IROPs just like everyone else.

  12. Lucky,
    Is there any way to find out what airlines have interline agreements with other (and which) airlines. I have been told by some agents that airline X can’t rebook me on airline Y because they don’t have an agreement only to be rebooked on Y after speaking with a different agent! Sure would be nice to be armed with the interline info pro-avtively.

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