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.
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!