Why Is American Airlines So Bad At Updating Flight Status?

Why Is American Airlines So Bad At Updating Flight Status?

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Airline operations are admittedly incredibly complex, and that’s something that’s lost on most passengers. I’m pretty forgiving of delays, because I understand what goes into making a flight run on time (though admittedly some airlines are better at that than others). Here’s something I can’t wrap my head around, though…

American’s flight status on rolling delays

Delta and United are both good about providing accurate flight status to the best of their abilities in the event of irregular operations:

  • Delta has long been good about proactively publishing a delay in advance when it’s clear that a flight can’t operate on time (for example, if there’s no available crew, or an inbound aircraft is delayed)
  • United has gotten really good about this lately, and does a better job than any other airline at stating the reasons for delays; like, “flight attendant Becky had a toenail infection and couldn’t make it to work, so we’re finding a replacement,” or something like that

And then you have American Airlines…

I was booked on a flight this morning from Charlotte to Tampa, which had a long, rolling delay (and eventually ended up getting canceled). Hopefully the below pictures of flight status monitors give you a sense of my frustration (the time on the left of the monitor is the scheduled departure time, and the time at the bottom right of the monitor is the time when the picture was taken). Also note that all of these pictures were taken before boarding even started.

That’s right, at 10:40AM the plan was for the flight to leave at 10:30AM, even though boarding hadn’t even started, and for that matter there wasn’t even a full crew assigned to operate the flight.

Is this too much to ask?

Rolling delays happen, and I also understand the reasons airlines sometimes can’t find a crew for a flight. But if you have a plane with 196 passengers and boarding hasn’t started (let alone the fact that a crew hasn’t been assigned to the flight), why is it so hard to at least consistently post a departure time 25+ minutes into the future? I don’t see a single reason a computer shouldn’t be programmed to easily do this.

It shows such a disrespect for passengers’ time. American’s lack of updating the flight status monitor caused a massive number of passengers to crowd the gate for hours on end. Many passengers arrived at the gate at around 8:30AM, and stood there until the flight was canceled around 12:30PM. All because they thought the flight was going to leave in a matter of minutes, because that’s the only information that was being communicated with them.

Now, of course the decision to crowd the gate comes down to passengers not really understanding how airline operations work (that’s very much the crowd flying American through Charlotte nowadays), though it doesn’t change that people were genuinely concerned they’d miss the flight if they left. I overheard one passenger go up to the gate agent and ask if they could use the restroom, which was literally across from the gate, without being at risk of missing the flight.

There weren’t many updates from the gate agents either, other than “we don’t know what’s going on.”

Showing a departure time 25+ minutes in the future seems like it would be in the best interest of the airline and customers. It would allow people to space out a bit, find a quieter place to sit, and not be as frustrated.

Instead the passengers just loudly cheered every time a pilot or flight attendant in uniform walked up to the gate, thinking it was the missing crew (in reality it was just employees looking to get a seat on the flight to get home).

I suppose if there’s any silver lining, it’s that the American Airlines app now has push notifications when boarding starts. That’s useful if you’re in the know, but I’m guessing most people couldn’t make sense of that.

Bottom line

Among the major carriers in the United States, I find that American is by far the worst when it comes to updating flight status to reflect delays. I get that rolling delays happen, and American might not know when a flight will actually leave. However, I think we can all agree that at 10:40AM an airline shouldn’t be telling passengers that the flight is departing at 10:30AM, even though boarding hasn’t started.

Can anyone shed some light on why American is so bad at this? Does the airline simply not care, does the airline not think passengers care, or what? This seems like such an easy fix!

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  1. Mo

    I am still going through a nightmare w this POS airline. On a business trip.
    1- flight from Pitt was delayed. I asked to change my connecting flight. He refused.
    2- got to San Diego. First got a text on the plane the connection was delayed then cancelled. I was put on Standby but the next one I could get on was TWO days done the line.
    3- standby 1 failed. They...

    I am still going through a nightmare w this POS airline. On a business trip.
    1- flight from Pitt was delayed. I asked to change my connecting flight. He refused.
    2- got to San Diego. First got a text on the plane the connection was delayed then cancelled. I was put on Standby but the next one I could get on was TWO days done the line.
    3- standby 1 failed. They cancelled the next flight
    4. Next flight in am. No hotel voucher. No apology. More than hour and half on the customer service line in Dallas.
    5. Next am at 6 barely made it.
    6. Going back. Got a text that flight was delayed for two hours. Called the agent. Guess what, the same agent who put me on the stand by cancelled the rest of my flight back.
    7- after multiple pleas put on another flights. But now two stop over.
    Already delayed by an hour and it will be a miracle if I make it back.
    This is the most putrid airline after Sprit.

  2. Taylor

    No wonder people get on American ready to fight! The rolling delays are infuriating so people are already enraged before even setting foot on the plane.

  3. Kendall

    As a 43 year industry veteran flight attendant with experience working at 3 carriers, I ended up thru mergers at American . More so than the other carriers I worked for, American is driven by metrics. Metrics determines management decisions on every thing .
    Since there are no metrics on passenger inconvenience due to poor delay update status, it doesn’t affect change. No metric no change. Very much a bottom line organization. Things that...

    As a 43 year industry veteran flight attendant with experience working at 3 carriers, I ended up thru mergers at American . More so than the other carriers I worked for, American is driven by metrics. Metrics determines management decisions on every thing .
    Since there are no metrics on passenger inconvenience due to poor delay update status, it doesn’t affect change. No metric no change. Very much a bottom line organization. Things that need immediate attention do not get addressed unless metrics exist to cover management choices. As an employee and customer I find it very aggravating that this issue has not been addressed in my many years with the carrier.

  4. Jetpi

    As an airline employee tasked with updating flight times I can say that they can be very fluid. While I will not defend some of the examples expressed in the remarks I will say that some of these are very rare. Some of the blame can be on the very technology the airlines have released to their respective apps to keep passengers abreast of changes. When in a hub and a delay is expected, the...

    As an airline employee tasked with updating flight times I can say that they can be very fluid. While I will not defend some of the examples expressed in the remarks I will say that some of these are very rare. Some of the blame can be on the very technology the airlines have released to their respective apps to keep passengers abreast of changes. When in a hub and a delay is expected, the employees charged with the responsibility to update times are conversing with numerous other departments to asses the degree and try and get a legitimate estimate of the delay. Being cognizant of how fast our updates travel to the customers we try not to over extend a delay with the possibility of having to pull it back. By overextending the delays further than necessary can result in a customer or customers not being at the boarding gate ready to board if the delayed flight beats it's original estimate. In the aviation industry, everything can be fluid and changes are the norm. We try to be as accurate as possible with most delays but unfortunately sometimes we do not live up to our internal standards.

  5. Sylvia

    We crew members get jerked around too by this company. They totally disrespect us and our time. They call and leave messages that they flight is delayed - sometimes - and if you call back they say they can’t adjust your sign-in time. So you have to head to the airport, basically unpaid except for per diem, and sit and wait as the hours tick by when they knew all along it wasn’t a simple fix. Think AA is bad for passengers? It’s atrocious to its employees .

  6. roger

    Or when you have already boarded and are in your seat, the phone rings and tells you your flight is now delayed. Seems lightning has been detected within so many miles of the airfield and boarding has been halted. Flight attendants made an announcement for us to remain seated and we would be underway shortly, 30 minutes later and 3 more calls, boarding resumed.

  7. Txrrguy

    I almost have to think they have some sort of optimization model they use. The problem with those things is the goal posts are always moving. If you ‘push the button’ for a solution every 5 minutes you will get a different, new, ‘best solution’.

  8. TM

    I work for them and this is my biggest complaint too! Agents can only convey information that’s given to them. Most time passengers know more than we do because of text messages updates. The company will not let us update times on the computer even after stated departure time. I have sent countless emails to our company about our FLIFO system and all I keep getting back is “it’s under development “ and that was years ago.

  9. Todd

    This is my biggest gripe with AA! It’s like they don’t understand basic physics -if flight 1639 leaves DFW two hours late at 10:30am and travels at 550 mph, what time will it arrive in Seattle, 1640 miles away to pick up the returning passengers?

    Instead we get the standard rolling 15 min delays that any high school student should be able to solve. Once watched AA purpose they could turn an A321 between two...

    This is my biggest gripe with AA! It’s like they don’t understand basic physics -if flight 1639 leaves DFW two hours late at 10:30am and travels at 550 mph, what time will it arrive in Seattle, 1640 miles away to pick up the returning passengers?

    Instead we get the standard rolling 15 min delays that any high school student should be able to solve. Once watched AA purpose they could turn an A321 between two full flights in one minute, the agent was even laughing at that one.

    1. Doug

      This just goes to show you the dishonesty of AA. That’s the root of the problem. Not stupidity. They’d rather make everyone wait at the gate for four hours pushing back the departure time every 15 minutes than post a realistic new departure time and risk the flight being ready and having to wait for somebody. They would much rather inconvenience you than them. And when I say they I don’t mean the gate agents. I mean executive management. Pure evil.

  10. Scott

    Couldn't agree more. It's embarrassing how bad AA is at this, and it feels like a direct insult to me as a customer (ExPlat).

    I've also found the push notification that boarding is beginning doesn't always come. If you can't rely on it 100% of the time, then that means you essentially have to hang out at the gate for fear of missing the flight while in the AC.

    I've also learned that sometimes...

    Couldn't agree more. It's embarrassing how bad AA is at this, and it feels like a direct insult to me as a customer (ExPlat).

    I've also found the push notification that boarding is beginning doesn't always come. If you can't rely on it 100% of the time, then that means you essentially have to hang out at the gate for fear of missing the flight while in the AC.

    I've also learned that sometimes the "boarding has begun" push notification arrives, I get to the gate 2 mins later, and find that they've been boarding for 15 mins already and almost everyone is on the plane. Meaning no overhead space for me! I'm usually in zone 1 or 2 so it's really annoying that I then have to gate check my bag.

  11. Anonymous

    United really tells you the FA who is causing the delay? That is a set up for the FA upon arrival working that flight to be berated whether "Becky" comes in or not. Gate Agents have shared "Becky has a toenail infection and we are looking for her replacement" in the past and caused the delay to only have pax on the flight incite anger at those FA who do show up in the end....

    United really tells you the FA who is causing the delay? That is a set up for the FA upon arrival working that flight to be berated whether "Becky" comes in or not. Gate Agents have shared "Becky has a toenail infection and we are looking for her replacement" in the past and caused the delay to only have pax on the flight incite anger at those FA who do show up in the end. It also causes more strife at the gate with Angry passengers taking their pound of flesh off the gate agents about how long and "why don't they".......etc. Its bad enough we are assaulted, spit on, have luggage thrown at us for hot headed or drunk or anti-maskers, this is one more level of reasons to beat up a gate agent, thank you very much. (Saying this, I was recently assaulted for HELPING a pax who was on a cancelled flight and IRATE when I was rebooking him and giving him a hotel, which turned out to be a jail cell that night for the assault, and let me remind you this is a FELONY with a fine up to $250k for assaulting an airline employee).

    AA prefers Gate agents don't announce exact reason like this, only say Crew Availablity. And looking at those monitors, i know it says departure time but that is really the next "decision" time of whether they will depart or extend delay, or in some cases cancel.

    Actually, the Passengers must sign up for texts for each flight they travel to be informed. Even Status and regular fliers (but they know this). The casual traveler doesn't, so hear me now, SIGN UP FOR THE TEXT UPDATES EVERY TIME YOU TRAVEL.
    Your perspective on this will change 180 degrees as Passengers get texts before the gate gets the phone call from the Tower advising of what is the status. This is the norm for now, until they give GA the ability to get text updates - as every time its our passengers getting texts who find out first TRULY.

    So there you have your answers, I hope you have better experience next time if you follow my advice

  12. Morgan

    Again American is so inferior to just about every other airline!

  13. Nicolas

    I only flied AA once. I was at MCO waiting for a flight to DFW (onwards to EZE). I didn't even think of using the lounge because I got to MCO right before departure and the layover at DFW was long, so better to use it there. The flight ended up being delayed over 6 hours without even updating the status screen, until I got a push notification telling I was going to miss my...

    I only flied AA once. I was at MCO waiting for a flight to DFW (onwards to EZE). I didn't even think of using the lounge because I got to MCO right before departure and the layover at DFW was long, so better to use it there. The flight ended up being delayed over 6 hours without even updating the status screen, until I got a push notification telling I was going to miss my DFW-EZE flight... As if it was up to me. I ended up being rerouted via MIA, with barely enough time to run from gate to gate. AFAIK by the time I was in MIA there were still no news about the other flight.

  14. Lifetime Platinum

    I have observed this for years with American Airlines and have complained vocally to supervisors and written customer service about it. Their problem is that it isn't to their advantage to be accurate and honest about this with their customers. If we really knew they were going to be delaying the flight for hours because the inbound flight hasn't even taken off yet or that they would eventually cancel, we might switch to another flight/airline....

    I have observed this for years with American Airlines and have complained vocally to supervisors and written customer service about it. Their problem is that it isn't to their advantage to be accurate and honest about this with their customers. If we really knew they were going to be delaying the flight for hours because the inbound flight hasn't even taken off yet or that they would eventually cancel, we might switch to another flight/airline. As a lifetime platinum member and multi-million miler flier on American, I have had this conversation with gate agents and flight attendants more than once and they all admit they could do better, but that doing better would negatively impact the airline because customers would exercise their choice to fly on another flight if they had advance notice of the airline's rolling delay or eventual cancellation.

    Another related point, is that unlike Delta, United, and especially Southwest, that seem to often be able to find solutions to problems like this by finding another plane or another crew, American seldom seems to recover from this sort of rolling delay. Inevitably they end up timing out with the crew or something else happens that causes them to eventually cancel. If they were transparent and honest up front the passengers that must get to their destination might find other ways to get there. If they wait hours thinking that they will be leaving shortly and then after the last alternative flights have departed their flight is cancelled, they are left with no options.

  15. Earl B.

    I can be very cynical, but when I see airlines do these non-sensical rolling delays, I assume it is their attempt to deter passengers from re-booking to a flight that really is leaving in 20 minutes, perhaps on another airline. Most passengers can't, or won't, pursue such an option. But some can, and will, and they are probably the highest revenue passengers on the plane.

  16. Widerightv

    One week ago tonight on a flight from Portland to Charlotte, the flight was delayed 35 minutes. We had a connecting flight to Norfolk that was a scheduled 45 minute layover.
    Wouldn't you know that the sonnuvabitc' connecting flight was on time and we busted our butts to get to the gate on the other side of the airport. Another flight was scheduled for an hour and 15 minutes later.
    It took whatever...

    One week ago tonight on a flight from Portland to Charlotte, the flight was delayed 35 minutes. We had a connecting flight to Norfolk that was a scheduled 45 minute layover.
    Wouldn't you know that the sonnuvabitc' connecting flight was on time and we busted our butts to get to the gate on the other side of the airport. Another flight was scheduled for an hour and 15 minutes later.
    It took whatever I had to NOT be that guy in the YouTube video that Lucky always links to this website.

  17. Sel, D.

    Currently being impacted by this. I made my connection at DFW but my bag didn’t (the one time I check a bag grrr). So the bag is on a flight experiencing rolling delays and I have an early meeting tomorrow. Hard to judge whether to wait to get the bag tonight or go to sleep and wake up early as satan to grab it.

  18. jetset

    They may not think it matters but early in my consulting days I was actually splitting flying between AA and UA out of Chicago because of project locations.

    While AA has some advantages - this specific issue (which has been reaffirmed over the years as still being an issue the few times I fly AA) - was a HUGE reason I chose United.

    It used to be the fact that United made it much easier...

    They may not think it matters but early in my consulting days I was actually splitting flying between AA and UA out of Chicago because of project locations.

    While AA has some advantages - this specific issue (which has been reaffirmed over the years as still being an issue the few times I fly AA) - was a HUGE reason I chose United.

    It used to be the fact that United made it much easier to see inbound flight information to determine your own judgement on whether a flight would be on time. More recently it was the fact that UA is much better than AA at notifying you of flight delays and reasons for the delay.

    UA is also much better at enabling self-service (including same-day confirmed flight changes) than AA.

    For domestic flying - this has completely trumped the fact that AA has a superior hard product in many cases (in first class at least) because the actual hard product is not that critical domestically.

  19. Txrrguy

    …And as well, all of the “sanitizing for your protection” is all bogus. Every line-haul American plane I got on was filthy.

  20. Txrrguy

    American is the Worst!

    I live in FTW. Since I retired and don’t have to fly them corporately anymore my biz will go to Delta so that this noise goes away and I, the passenger, am not treated so deferentially and without any regard. An extra connection is SO worth it!

  21. Bubba

    AA's rolling delays are the worst, but yes, the situation is common, since once they give a later departure time, it's hard to go back. I use FlightStats for the messaging (some airlines will give a realistic runway time and leave the gate times as scheduled. That way, their personnel can know what to expect while keeping what they require fairly clear), FlightAware for the tail number tracking (what equipment is currently assigned to the...

    AA's rolling delays are the worst, but yes, the situation is common, since once they give a later departure time, it's hard to go back. I use FlightStats for the messaging (some airlines will give a realistic runway time and leave the gate times as scheduled. That way, their personnel can know what to expect while keeping what they require fairly clear), FlightAware for the tail number tracking (what equipment is currently assigned to the flight), and FR24 for the tracking. If they're telling you boarding it's in ten minutes in Charlotte, and the hardware is FL 0360 over Paducah, it probably ain't gonna happen soon.

    Maybe an AMR exec was traumatized by a press shot of a screen full of delays and decided the solution was to hide them?

  22. HoKo

    Hey Ben, how do we opt in to the boarding notification push alerts? I looked around in the AA app but I didn’t see this setting.

    1. Ben Schlappig

      @ HoKo -- It should be automatic if you have push notifications from the app in general.

  23. Dan

    This really needs to be addressed by the FAA. US Airways was actually proactive about cancelling flights and rebooking passengers. As frustrating as this was for you, the passengers and gate agents waiting on that flight had their whole day ruined with missed connections. If a flight is delayed more than 3 hours, it should just be labeled as “canceled” by the FAA so AA and others can’t claim they have few cancellations but insane...

    This really needs to be addressed by the FAA. US Airways was actually proactive about cancelling flights and rebooking passengers. As frustrating as this was for you, the passengers and gate agents waiting on that flight had their whole day ruined with missed connections. If a flight is delayed more than 3 hours, it should just be labeled as “canceled” by the FAA so AA and others can’t claim they have few cancellations but insane delays. It’s misleading to customers and regulatory action needs to be taken.

  24. Donna

    I’ve held status with AA, DL, UA, US Air and Continental in the past 25 years and I really haven’t noticed any airline that stood out as being better at managing irregular operations. What I have found is that certain airports are really bad for delays which leads to the situation Ben describes. But more to the point, I can’t imagine why it is hard to provide accurate status. It’s a horrendous mess every time...

    I’ve held status with AA, DL, UA, US Air and Continental in the past 25 years and I really haven’t noticed any airline that stood out as being better at managing irregular operations. What I have found is that certain airports are really bad for delays which leads to the situation Ben describes. But more to the point, I can’t imagine why it is hard to provide accurate status. It’s a horrendous mess every time and never seems to improve with the passage of time and advancements in technology.

  25. Jawn

    Flightaware and the “where’s my plane now” function has always served me well...although there’s a good chance they’ll swap planes on longer delays.

    1. Donna

      Me too, always use it in good and bad situations. Many times in the past connecting in PHL in the evening to SAN the incoming flight, from BOS was annoyingly late, sometimes having not even left BOS when we were scheduled to depart PHL! Often though they would substitute the plane arriving from Aruba so I had a pretty good idea based on past experience when the SAN flight would actually depart tracking the Aruba flight.

  26. waynekao

    My cynical corporate take based on how blindly they try to hit D0 is that they have a company goal/KPI for how delayed they are and they have bonuses riding on that, so everyone has an incentive to stretch the truth to help hit the goal. The consequences, wasting all their passengers' time, isn't measured or goaled, so no one cares about that.

  27. Bob May

    “The decision to crowd the gate comes down to passengers not really understanding how airline operations work (that’s very much the crowd flying American through Charlotte nowadays)”
    A pretty insulting comment
    I only fly about 4 times a year and I do not understand how airlines operate
    Whenever you have time, I will take you to a motor fuel retailer and explain all about fueling your rental car

  28. PDT

    This has been going on for years since US management took over. It's one of the many reasons I realized that I had to divorce AA. All airlines and organizations have their issues, but AA never wants to admit their issues and improve. The customer is always second (at the highest). The Board knows nothing about an airline (they are financial engineers). Management is really not equipped for 21st century environment. I've had too many...

    This has been going on for years since US management took over. It's one of the many reasons I realized that I had to divorce AA. All airlines and organizations have their issues, but AA never wants to admit their issues and improve. The customer is always second (at the highest). The Board knows nothing about an airline (they are financial engineers). Management is really not equipped for 21st century environment. I've had too many hub misconnects due to overlay aggressive banking and inferior operations. But, then, this is not new news. People, move on!

  29. Gary D Leff

    Definitely not a new issue! I wrote about it back in 2015:
    https://viewfromthewing.com/my-two-biggest-frustrations-with-american-airlines/

  30. 305

    You should see the two screenshots full of notifications from my AA flight two weeks ago. Rolling delays from 4:30pm until 10:30pm.

    First aircraft went mechanical. Replacement was late inbound. AA knew this, but scheduled only 40 mins to deplane, clean/cater/fuel/load, and board a 777. Literally impossible to do.

    Then the fun began. Police boarded an empty aircraft for 10 mins. Boarding delayed again. Finally, aircraft door shuts, waiting on a few bags...

    You should see the two screenshots full of notifications from my AA flight two weeks ago. Rolling delays from 4:30pm until 10:30pm.

    First aircraft went mechanical. Replacement was late inbound. AA knew this, but scheduled only 40 mins to deplane, clean/cater/fuel/load, and board a 777. Literally impossible to do.

    Then the fun began. Police boarded an empty aircraft for 10 mins. Boarding delayed again. Finally, aircraft door shuts, waiting on a few bags to be loaded, and then lightning. Ramp closure.

    Outside of my phone notifications, not one update from the FA’s. They sat on their phones until we were airborne. No pre-departure safety check or anything either. I was in J, fell asleep in bed-mode at the gate, and woke up as we were halfway down the runway, shocked

  31. Chris

    The same thing happened on AA 119 today, but it wasn't just the passengers being kept in the dark. The crew was too.

    * Gate agents were late to arrive to let the crew on board.
    * Fiasco of a gate as dozens of passengers (including us) got told to get our Hawaii preclearance wrist bracelets at the gate but the gate agent blames us for not getting them earlier (and that he has...

    The same thing happened on AA 119 today, but it wasn't just the passengers being kept in the dark. The crew was too.

    * Gate agents were late to arrive to let the crew on board.
    * Fiasco of a gate as dozens of passengers (including us) got told to get our Hawaii preclearance wrist bracelets at the gate but the gate agent blames us for not getting them earlier (and that he has none)
    * We finally boarded the plane, crickets.
    * Captain comes on to say we're waiting for a new first officer, previous one got a kidney stone.
    * Captain comes on to say maintenance is working on starting some paperwork, since there were some "scratches" on the aircraft that required inspection.
    * We continue getting 10-15 minute delays on our phones, no updates from the PA.
    * Captain eventually comes on to say "we're ready to go, we don't have a gate agent to close up the door and remove the jet bridge, though... and our own departure board just got pushed back."

    We ended up leaving about 1.5 hours late. If we had been told any of this upfront (no Hawaii preclearance, hour late departure), we would have just relaxed at a lounge.

  32. Sean

    As a member of the handling team at an European out station I totally feel your frustration. We experience the same things as a 3rd party vendor not being able to give accurate information. Waiting for the US to give us an accurate time of departure. Nothing we as an minor out station can do.

  33. Kuloko

    Because this is how USAir used to operate. Now AA=USAir.

  34. Gregory

    As I wasn’t involved with this flight, I can’t really comment on the specifics of it. It’s like you said, it is more complicated than just posting times. Sometimes if we post too much time, then passengers may wander off away from the gate out of the general vicinity. If suddenly the aircraft is able to operate, then we don’t want to have to be looking for the passengers. Sometimes we are unable to post...

    As I wasn’t involved with this flight, I can’t really comment on the specifics of it. It’s like you said, it is more complicated than just posting times. Sometimes if we post too much time, then passengers may wander off away from the gate out of the general vicinity. If suddenly the aircraft is able to operate, then we don’t want to have to be looking for the passengers. Sometimes we are unable to post additional time on the flight, because of crew legalities. For example, A pilot must be in the air by 1850, so we can’t post a 1850 departure time, even though the current time may be 1810; so we kind of have to nickel and dime it all the way. A lot of us who work for the airlines are passengers too. We get annoyed at the same things everyone else is upset that; so we’re not purposely trying to piss people off. Sometimes there may be a maintenance issue with the aircraft. Even if the aircraft is perfectly capable of operating, actually finding the ground personnel to bring that aircraft from the hanger/remote parking pad to the terminal is quite a task. This doesn’t even take into account that FAA ground controllers always give priority to active flights, over aircraft repositions. Some aircraft call operations for their gate and have to wait 45 min or more for clearance to proceed. There actually is a program that updates ETD’s; it only adds 10 minutes at a time, and doesn’t give a specific reason. When we request a new time for departure, the request can often be denied by another authority. We also do our best not to add overly egregious times, even if we know it’s the likely result, if there remain viable alternatives to get the flight out in a reasonable amount of time. Not trying to excuse or step away from any of the blame, but we’re not just sitting here twiddling our thumbs.

  35. MJ

    Completely willing to be wrong here, but I think DL and UA have automation in place that is better at predicting revised departure times and posting them automatically. I think AA would still require human intervention to update anything beyond that rolling 10 minute delay adjustment. Unfortunately, the person in ops who could do that is usually doing 150 other things. Again, willing to be wrong.

  36. Fed UP

    solution ? dont fly American
    horrible airline

  37. Alanvarah

    This just happened to me yesterday at DFW going to Austin via American got an alert leaving Reno that the flight was delayed, which was good since my flight got diverted to PHX to gas up since apparently there wasn't enough fuel in Reno.

    Got to DFW and got to the gate and was actually on the plane and sat there for roughly an hour until they said due to damage to the plane...

    This just happened to me yesterday at DFW going to Austin via American got an alert leaving Reno that the flight was delayed, which was good since my flight got diverted to PHX to gas up since apparently there wasn't enough fuel in Reno.

    Got to DFW and got to the gate and was actually on the plane and sat there for roughly an hour until they said due to damage to the plane (flight from Charlotte ironically) we'll have to deplane and wait for maintenence to "fix" the problem.

    Of course, people were trying to rebook during the 3 hour delay, when we were told by a supervisor that flights were filling up and that they were working on fixing the plane and that we should basically wait for the plane to get fixed because she verified that they were working on the problem. It should be another hour then you can board.

    Fast forward to an hour later, I saw the fight attendants get off (not a good sign) and 30 minutes after that the pilots got off. Then we were all told flight got cancelled. As per usual, everyone bum rushes the desk to rebook. My luck, I'm at the front of the line when one of the agents says "We are off the clock so the rest of you have to go to gate D24" (I was at D1) so after the initial shock I got going to the gate with all the other refugees from that flight. When I finally got to the front I found out that I was already put on standby for an earlier flight and luckily (surprised) it was delayed so i had time to book it to that gate. The lovely lady at the desk also made sure I got booked on the lster flight in case my standby fell through. Thank goodness I was ablemto board the 8pm flight and am now in Austin.

    Much like you Ben, I am very understanding of delays but the whole process I just experienced makes me really want to give my business to United or Delta

  38. Charles

    American has been a rush to the bottom with Mr. Parker at the helm.
    And unlike in Japan when a CEO is clearly to blame they have the dignity to step down. It doesn't seem to matter in this Country. Just look around.
    Perhaps he's going after the ULCC carriers passengers. They are used to next to nothing in the cabin rather it's the seats, service or lack there of,
    or he's...

    American has been a rush to the bottom with Mr. Parker at the helm.
    And unlike in Japan when a CEO is clearly to blame they have the dignity to step down. It doesn't seem to matter in this Country. Just look around.
    Perhaps he's going after the ULCC carriers passengers. They are used to next to nothing in the cabin rather it's the seats, service or lack there of,
    or he's just not getting it.
    I'm not waiting around for improvement and have gladly forgone my Platinum status with AA and moved on. They've gone from 1st to worst of the big three.
    Life is too short to wait for come-backs!

  39. Bryan S

    Totallly agree with the post. Worse are the days from inbound flights that have not landed. Our children know the basics of this word lroblem: Susie's plane is landing at 11:30am, and takes off again at 12:30pm. If Susie's plane is delayed 30 minutes, and it takes 20 minutes to offoad the plane, 20 minutes to board a plane, 15 minutes to clean/prep the plane between flights and passengers have to board at least 10/15...

    Totallly agree with the post. Worse are the days from inbound flights that have not landed. Our children know the basics of this word lroblem: Susie's plane is landing at 11:30am, and takes off again at 12:30pm. If Susie's plane is delayed 30 minutes, and it takes 20 minutes to offoad the plane, 20 minutes to board a plane, 15 minutes to clean/prep the plane between flights and passengers have to board at least 10/15 minutes before rhe door closes, when will the next flight take off?

    How is it that AA computers can fly a plane, but can't figure out when a plane will be departing? Or they know but refuse to share with passengers?

    We are not stupid - if the plane hasn't landed yet , it's not taking off in 30 minutes. Period.

  40. Andrew

    AA has never cared about my or anyone else's time. It's one of the reasons I gave up EP with them. I got tired of sprinting from the AC or a connection, only to find the flight to be delayed with no info.

  41. JB

    I had family flying from Dallas to Atlanta before the July 4th weekend (around the same time that the effect of AA's staff shortages started) and their flight was originally supposed to departure at 8:30pm. It then showed a delayed departure time of 9pm at 8:30, but the inbound flight was arriving at 9:30pm. Flightradar24 was more proactive and accurate than the airline and stated the estimated departure time as 10:20pm (the flight actually left...

    I had family flying from Dallas to Atlanta before the July 4th weekend (around the same time that the effect of AA's staff shortages started) and their flight was originally supposed to departure at 8:30pm. It then showed a delayed departure time of 9pm at 8:30, but the inbound flight was arriving at 9:30pm. Flightradar24 was more proactive and accurate than the airline and stated the estimated departure time as 10:20pm (the flight actually left at 1am due to DFW not having enough people to load bags onto the plane).

    Recently I've been trusting flightradar24 more than AA.

  42. Tim Dunn

    Getting all of the components that are necessary to operate a flight in the same place at the same time and informing the public of that information go hand in hand.
    American, like Southwest and JetBlue, has been pushing their schedule beyond their resources all summer long with delays and cancellations far worse than at Delta and United.
    American is now back to 2% or more of their system cancelled every day with...

    Getting all of the components that are necessary to operate a flight in the same place at the same time and informing the public of that information go hand in hand.
    American, like Southwest and JetBlue, has been pushing their schedule beyond their resources all summer long with delays and cancellations far worse than at Delta and United.
    American is now back to 2% or more of their system cancelled every day with delays far higher than Delta or United, even on days where there are minimal ATC delays such as today. Maybe it is running out of crew at the end of the month or maybe they really didn't remove enough flights to get their schedule back to a level of reliability
    The sad reality is that, now that all of the airlines have reported their 2nd quarter financial performance, none of the airlines that pushed their schedules and made their operations much worse did better than those that took a more conservative approach and in some cases the opposite was true.

  43. prathetkrungthep

    Sorry to read that you also got to experience the mess that is CLT ops yesterday PM and today AM. Last night I had what was a 35min layover turn into a 10 hour stay in CLT and was glad I managed to get out because I knew ops would still be a complete mess.

    Wonder if the rolling delays have anything to do with the unreliability of AA crews to show up and not...

    Sorry to read that you also got to experience the mess that is CLT ops yesterday PM and today AM. Last night I had what was a 35min layover turn into a 10 hour stay in CLT and was glad I managed to get out because I knew ops would still be a complete mess.

    Wonder if the rolling delays have anything to do with the unreliability of AA crews to show up and not time out. Last night on one of the flights I boarded that ended up getting cancelled, it was pretty clear from overhearing FAs and gate agents that the pilots deliberately took their sweet time walking to make sure they timed out.

  44. William

    If it’s a mechanical delay at a hub, there’s the possibility they’ll find a replacement plane, which is great - except a flight can go from delayed three hours to on-time in a matter of seconds, and if you’re not in the gate area (or if you don’t receive updates, which is not always a reliable system) you won’t know this…

    I’ve volunteered at a USO lounge at an AA hub, and at least...

    If it’s a mechanical delay at a hub, there’s the possibility they’ll find a replacement plane, which is great - except a flight can go from delayed three hours to on-time in a matter of seconds, and if you’re not in the gate area (or if you don’t receive updates, which is not always a reliable system) you won’t know this…

    I’ve volunteered at a USO lounge at an AA hub, and at least twice over the years I have alerted guests to the fact that their delayed flight is suddenly on-time, since I’m a plane geek and make a habit of checking guests’ flight status if I know where they’re headed - once this nice older couple had about 20 minutes to get to their gate at the other end of the airport (they had been told the flight was delayed three hours, which was the status as I began checking it for them - the main reason I checked is because I was expecting it to be canceled since it was an RJ - they made it, fortunately).

    Not sure if this is a thing with other hub-and-spoke airlines…

  45. Jim Baround

    Had the following discussion with a gate agent at DFW at scheduled departure time for a flight with a posted 30 minute delay:

    Me: So does the updated departure time seem accurate?
    Agent: It should be. We're just waiting for the flight attendants to get here.
    Me: Get here as in to come from another gate? Or as in they're in New York about to fly here.
    Agent: Hopefully it will be...

    Had the following discussion with a gate agent at DFW at scheduled departure time for a flight with a posted 30 minute delay:

    Me: So does the updated departure time seem accurate?
    Agent: It should be. We're just waiting for the flight attendants to get here.
    Me: Get here as in to come from another gate? Or as in they're in New York about to fly here.
    Agent: Hopefully it will be soon
    Me: So you have no idea where they are
    Agent: No not really

    Most honesty I've ever gotten from AA

  46. ExecPlat

    This has been an AA Achilles heel for decades. By far, AA is the worst US carrier (as noted here). I have 25 experiences of this exact nature. The "best" part (meaning the "worst") part is that AA inhibits traveler's ability to use their club membership by keeping the customer from leaving the gate with any level of certainty that the customer will not miss the flight. That HAS to cause a revenue impact over time.

    1. Jake212

      Oh stop being such a crybaby. Nobody is keeping you from leaving the gate and going to the admirals club during a delay. If you honestly have 25 years experience with AA like you claim then you no have excuse for not having figured out AA’s process by now. Is there a risk if you go back to the club? Sure. But every day you wake up your day is filled with risks. So why is this one so difficult to manage after 25-years?

  47. PhillyRob

    Two years ago is flying from Philadelphia to San Diego and American Airlines in the space of 45 minutes texted me gate and terminal changes six times for my flight. Every time I got to one gate I then got a text that the flight was being moved to a gate in a different terminal. Long story short I ended up back at the original gate. The monitor at that gate still showing the original departure time for the flight. I think American Airlines excels being mediocre

  48. Abey

    While I am usually no fan of Unnecessary regulation, this something that should be illegal. In many cases the airlines are processing rolling delays in order to avoid canceling the flight and offering replacement options or expenses reimbursed to passengers. If there’s no logical way for the airily to operate the flight in an expected time frame it should be forced to cancel. Or we need delay compensation like Europe

  49. Shaun

    I 100% agree. I recently had a 12:30pm LAS-ORD flight that had the rolling 10 minute delays. The gate agent made one announcement listing it as a maintaince issue but nothing else. We finally boarded at 130pm and sat there for an hour. 3pm we were deplaned due to heat...and the fact it wasn't fixed. 10 minute rolling delays until I got a text update the flight had been moved to 6pm....followed by a text...

    I 100% agree. I recently had a 12:30pm LAS-ORD flight that had the rolling 10 minute delays. The gate agent made one announcement listing it as a maintaince issue but nothing else. We finally boarded at 130pm and sat there for an hour. 3pm we were deplaned due to heat...and the fact it wasn't fixed. 10 minute rolling delays until I got a text update the flight had been moved to 6pm....followed by a text 5 seconds later saying it was delayed until 1030pm. Our flight took off at 1130pm. Luckily it was a 787 and I was in first...but it was a rough next day at work. I get mechanical delays happen....but I think rolling 20-30 minute delays w/ the GA making an update announcement at each period ending.

  50. SR

    Surprised you don’t know the answer to this ! For the last 10 years they have been having this delusional idea that they can find a crew in few secs and they don’t want anyone to leave the gate so they can get everyone aboard quickly
    It’s just that it has never happened in over 400 delays I have experienced ! :D

  51. TravelerMSY

    Optimism, and the inability by policy to undelay a flight and depart. IMO, it’s worse for the latter. For instance, Southwest will post a one hour delay, then if it’s fixed early, they will revise it and depart immediately, with or without you.

  52. Boardingareaflukie

    I'm so glad that you're writing an article about this.

    It's probably my biggest pet peeve with airline operations (outside of long arrival/departure tarmac delays). Multiple occasions have I rushed from the Admiral's Club to my gate, check the status monitor displaying the flight is departing in about 20 minutes, briskly go to the jetway door only to be perplexed that is it shut and then have a gate agent say, "Excuse me sir,...

    I'm so glad that you're writing an article about this.

    It's probably my biggest pet peeve with airline operations (outside of long arrival/departure tarmac delays). Multiple occasions have I rushed from the Admiral's Club to my gate, check the status monitor displaying the flight is departing in about 20 minutes, briskly go to the jetway door only to be perplexed that is it shut and then have a gate agent say, "Excuse me sir, we're not boarding. The inbound aircraft hasn't arrived," as if I was some kind of idiot for not being psychic to know that both the gate flight status display and the app were grossly inaccurate.

    With the inbound aircraft still in the sky, obviously the flight wasn't going to depart in 20 minutes. WHY IS IT DISPLAYED AS ON TIME?

  53. SubwayNut

    How was the re-booking process, how did you finally get to Tampa?

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Abey

While I am usually no fan of Unnecessary regulation, this something that should be illegal. In many cases the airlines are processing rolling delays in order to avoid canceling the flight and offering replacement options or expenses reimbursed to passengers. If there’s no logical way for the airily to operate the flight in an expected time frame it should be forced to cancel. Or we need delay compensation like Europe

Boardingareaflukie

I'm so glad that you're writing an article about this. It's probably my biggest pet peeve with airline operations (outside of long arrival/departure tarmac delays). Multiple occasions have I rushed from the Admiral's Club to my gate, check the status monitor displaying the flight is departing in about 20 minutes, briskly go to the jetway door only to be perplexed that is it shut and then have a gate agent say, "Excuse me sir, we're not boarding. The inbound aircraft hasn't arrived," as if I was some kind of idiot for not being psychic to know that both the gate flight status display and the app were grossly inaccurate. With the inbound aircraft still in the sky, obviously the flight wasn't going to depart in 20 minutes. WHY IS IT DISPLAYED AS ON TIME?

PhillyRob

Two years ago is flying from Philadelphia to San Diego and American Airlines in the space of 45 minutes texted me gate and terminal changes six times for my flight. Every time I got to one gate I then got a text that the flight was being moved to a gate in a different terminal. Long story short I ended up back at the original gate. The monitor at that gate still showing the original departure time for the flight. I think American Airlines excels being mediocre

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