How American Airlines Almost Ruined Our Trip & Their Response

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American Airlines Almost Ruined Our Trip

How American Airlines Almost Ruined Our Trip & Their Response

I recently went on a trip to New York City with my son, my sister, and her son.  We called it a siblings & sons trip which we will hopefully make into a tradition.  It was a birthday present for my sister and nephew which I paid for with miles & points. Everything was perfect until American Airlines did their best to sabotage the trip.  We were able to work around their shortcomings but it was a lot more stressful than it should have been. No shocker here, their response left a lot to be desired as well.

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I was flying out of Detroit on Delta and my sister out of Dayton on American.  Both flights were direct and they were supposed to land 30 minutes apart.  We usually fly American Airlines to NYC because they have inexpensive direct flights but Delta came in a little cheaper this time.  I booked my sisters flights at 15,000 Avios a piece roundtrip.

American Airlines Almost Ruined Our Trip


Everything was going smooth, both flights were on time and my sister had already boarded her flight while we were waiting to board in Detroit.  Then I got a cancellation text from American Airlines.

I was pretty surprised and immediately called my sister.  Everyone was boarded and they were ready to taxi when they canceled the flight and gave no reason as to why at first.  Everyone had to deplane.  I figured it must be a mechanical issue and she would just be delayed and that the cancellation text was an error.  Nope they canceled that flight and every other flight that evening because of weather. They also cancelled all flights out of nearby Columbus.

The weather was sunny and there was no wind in either location so that didn’t make sense to me.  I guess there were issues with jet streams that had caused issues for flights to the East Coast.

The strange thing is I checked flight aware and a majority of the cancellations into LGA were American Airlines.  The majority of those were their regional partners Envoy Air or PSA Airlines.  Her particular flight had been canceled 4 of the last 5 days, which is insane.


The AA employees were pretty much indifferent to the situation and calling the 1-800 number was pointless since the cancellation had not hit their system yet so they couldn’t do anything.  I was unable to find anything in nearby airports that worked either.

She went ahead and rebooked a connecting flight in the morning that went through Charlotte.  So they went from a direct flight to a connecting flight the next day landing over 24 hours later than planned.  Not the best of situations but we were going to have at least one day together.  She asked them to move her return flight to 6PM Sunday so they weren’t there for only 18 hours, which they did.

Return Flight

You probably know where this is going but of course the return flight had mechanical issues. I continued to get delayed flight texts throughout the evening. American Airlines loves to bump it 30 minutes at a time even though they know it is going to be longer.  That is a huge pet peeve of mine.  The flight ended up leaving around 11:30 PM, 5 1/2 hours late.  They once again were indifferent and not apologetic in any way. It seems like airlines have decided customer service is not a part of the job any longer, it is a scary trend.

My sister was given food vouchers at around 8:30PM when most people had already grabbed something to eat, so basically useless.  They were not offered any type of compensation at the gate.

American Airlines Almost Ruined Our Trip

Reaching Out

I felt terrible and pretty helpless at this point.  The amazing present I had put together for them had been somewhat tarnished and there was not much I could do about it.  I decided to reach out to American Airlines through the website to file a complaint since I knew she probably wouldn’t.

I received a response a few days later asking for her contact info etc. which I gave them.  The following day they came back with an offer of $100 in vouchers a piece ($200 total).  This seemed pretty low to me considering everything. I told my sister that but I knew she probably wouldn’t ask for anything more.  I think they would have gone to $200 or more if she asked.

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What Caused This?

I am speculating here but the weather issue on the way out perplexes me.  There were reports of delay/cancellation issues on the east coast because of the jet streams but everyone else seemed to be getting into and out of LGA just fine.

Maybe they had to limit traffic and chose which airlines to let through.  But why would American Airlines get the ax when LGA is a hub for them?

My only thought is that the smaller, regional jets couldn’t handle the wind?  But I know Delta flies regional jets into LGA so who knows.

It was a weird situation all around and American Airlines’ complete lack of meaningful communication made it worse.


Flight cancellations and delays are nothing new, these things are going to happen.  What I don’t understand is why airlines are completely indifferent about them with their customers.  How can they care so little when they fail to hold up their end of the bargain?

If you show some sympathy most passengers will be more understanding.  And if you inconvenience them then take care of them.  Don’t make them come begging for a hand out, step forward and take it on the chin.

I routinely have issues with American Airlines when flying into and out of LGA.  Hopefully the upcoming renovations alleviate that in the future.  I think a lot of it falls at the feet of American Airlines and their regional partners.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. i think you have motivated me to contact United. My husband and I had booked a round trip flight to Sydney, Australia to visit our daughter who is studying abroad there for the semester. Due to work restrictions, we only had a week there as it was. We fly out of St. Louis, we had a connection flight in Houston last Friday. Our flight to Houston got cancelled because of crew issues we were told, but we weren’t told until we were there to go through check-in (at least before getting on board like your sister).

    The people at the baggage check that had to tell everyone that the flight was cancelled just kept saying that notification had been sent out that morning about the cancellation. The only thing we received was a notification at 10:30 that morning that our flight was delayed by 20 minutes.

    Since it was already around 4:30 in the afternoon, there was no way for us to get to Houston from St Louis in order for us to catch our flight out that night. That meant that we missed a whole day of our Australia trip and had to pay for a hotel in St Louis that evening. Like you said above, they really didn’t seem to care. They offered nothing – said they didn’t have to pay for our hotel because we didn’t live over 100 miles away (or some distance like that). I will admit, that we could have driven back home (around an hour), but we already had everything set up for our other kids, had our car in long term parking, etc. Just disappointing all the way around.

    Anyway, after reading this, I am going to contact United again and see if they will offer anything. We just got back tonight and had a great trip, but it still makes me sad that we lost out on that day in Australia with our daughter.

    • I would absolutely contact them. And since it was their fault (crew issues) you should get something for sure. I would put in there what you want – they tend to go higher if you start off the negotiation. Which is weird since that is the first rule of negotiating – don’t make the first offer lol.

    • Don’t expect much from United. I paid for non-stop from LAX to Singapore for the day after Black Friday. They cancel the route this October since they are not doing well. We have to book a flight from LAX to SFO and wait 4 hours then will take a flight to Singapore. Only offer we got from them full refund if we are willing to cancel!!! It seems their answer already written by someone in corporate and he or she just cut and paste. No sympathy or care at all.

  2. This is why I ONLY fly Southwest. They’re compassionate, caring, and total customer driven. Most carriers will require you stay in your seat if the flight is delayed. Coming out of Phoenix last week, we were delayed 8 hours. The Pilot told the Flight Attendants to let us off the plane so we could get something to eat, stretch our legs etc. No security problems getting back on. Security was gracious in Phoenix knowing what had happened. There was horrendous rains in Orlando, my destination, so I felt the choice the Pilot made was right on point. Plus, bonus…..Southwest doesn’t charge for 2 bags and you can carry on one. Plus, no charge to change your flight. If the new flight cost more, you pay the difference…if less, you get a credit. Why would anybody fly anything else than Southwest. Oh, and I was on miles free flight!

    • I agree Southwest is probably the most compassionate and forthcoming out there with information. They have so few direct flights from my airport that they are usually a secondary option for me.

      • Southwest is very good with compensation however they have the issue being late a lot of time in couple years. Most the time we did not see airplane at the gate around the time for boarding. For the last 4-5 times my son flights were delay every time and more than an hour. We used to have a decent number of flights to California (SNA & LAX) from PHL but look like they cut back. We did took some flights from other airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines non-stop from LAX to PHL & Red-eye which Southwest does not have either one. We have the companion pass but Southwest prices is a little higher therefore sometimes it is not worth it to save $100 for 2 of us due to time constraint or schedule unless we check in more than 2 luggage. Anyway, we still love Southwest since the flight attendant are nice and no fees for change or cancel.

  3. I’m a retired Air Force aviator with 7000 flying hours, I can assure you domestic flights ARE NOT cancelled due to “jet streams”. They’re not. If that was the airline’s official explanation it was pure BS.

    • All they said was weather. I got that from a news article trying to explain all of the east coast cancellations. It sounded strange to me as well.

  4. My girlfriend flew AA CLE-DFW-ICN and was hit both ways. On the outbound the DFW-ICN leg was delayed 7 hours and on the inbound her ICN-DFW leg was delayed 3.5 hours; she misconnected and was put on the first available DFW-CLE flight 24 hours later. The response from AA was lackluster; she was not offered any compensation and only after pursuing the matter she was given 5,000 AA miles. Not the best experience.

  5. “The lack of respect airlines show their customers is insane.”
    This is a reflection of the human beings working for them. They are disgusting, selfish people with no regard for the people paying good money for their service.

    • A lot has got to do with the corporate culture that these human beings work under as well. I mean if you gave them leeway to manage customer expectations the David Dao incident wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

      • I have to agree with GL this is because of the culture that the higher ups at the airlines create. They probably show the same indifference to their employees.

  6. The same thing happened to my brother and his wife on July 27th, too. I was treating them to a weekend on Nantucket with my family. Their LGA flight to Nantucket taxied to the runway and then inexplicably turned around and was cancelled due to “weather.” AA didn’t even try to rebook and just gave everyone refunds. Unfortunately there were no other flights available until Sunday on any airline so a whole plane load of folks were out of luck. Very strange, annoying and disappointing.

  7. Delta did the same last night so it is not just American bumping flights and trying to get you to take a later flight. Not sure our flight from Clt to Dtw ever flew but after it pushed out to leaving after 11 pm (almost 4 hours late) we opted to fly out the next day. The flight pushed at least twice more after we took the alternative flight. Thankfully we never left our home but I could see it being horrible if we had arrived or were returning home. By the way, the airline never said why the flights pushed and never will unless I ask. We were fortunate to get our first night of hotel reimbursed on a prepaid rate. Our car rental actual rose due to more demand so we had to change the rental to another provider to keep the cost the same per day. Thankfully 1/2 day did not alter our plans a lot but if we only had a weekend, such a delay would really kill the trip. Disappointing to say the least.

  8. I’m sitting here in a lounge because my flight was cancelled due to “weather”, even though it’s gorgeous at both the origin and destination. A gate agent spilled the truth: Because of the delay of an incoming flight, the pilots exceeded their flying limits and no replacements were available. Not a big surprise, but “weather” is often a lie that airlines use to avoid compensation, not have their on-time records impacted, and generally avoid responsibility for their errors. I’d love to see the FAA start fining airlines for all of the rampant lying, including the causes for the delay as well as for the bogus delay times that get announced.

    • I do think that they should be forced to properly report delays and cancellations. I would also like to see clear compensation laws for cancellations but I doubt that will ever happen.

      • If only there was an EU 261 type of regulation here in the US, I think the airlines would be more proactive in getting their passenger to where they need to be on time. Why can’t airlines have a few planes on standby at each hub airport to cater to the inevitable one or two mechanical issues they know they’d face over the course of normal operations? It’s not rocket science. It costs money for sure, but if there were punitive measures like EU 261 then I’m sure it would cost them less to do so.

  9. AA is terrible out of LGA… My son’s flight was recently cancelled from LGA to CLT “weather related” though nothing was amiss. They just cancel probably for bottom line reasons.

  10. Just curious when your sister’s canceled flight occurred. I had an AA commuter “weather” cancelation Tuesday 8/7 night from DCA to BUF, and the airport agents were extremely unhelpful and inflexible. Luckily I got a phone agent to help me salvage my trip.

    • It was the last Friday in July. The 27th I think. The gate agents were worthless in both instances for her…inexcusable

  11. Hi Mark,

    Your article make me worry about my son flight from San Diego to Boston and stop at Philadelphia on Sunday after Thanksgiving. My friend told me last week his wife had a very bad experience last month with AA on both ways from LAX to Europe.

    I hope by the time we fly from PHL to Prague and return from Budapest is OK since they are non-stop.

    I just had a bad experience with United. We booked with them to fly from LAX to Singapore non-stop and return from Hong Kong to LAX stop at San Francisco. We got an email from United stated that due to market condition they pull out the route from LAX to Singapore non-stop so we have to call them to make the arrangement and the flight back is going to change too.

    I called and end up we have to flight from LA to SFO and wait more than 4 hours for next flight and we will get to Singapore ~2 hours later and we have to get to LAX airport 4 hours earlier on the Saturday after Black Friday.

    I wrote to customer service and asking for some kind of compensate since due to the change we waste more than 6 hours during holiday and vacation. They replied if don’t want it we can cancel and get the refund !!!

      • Mark,

        They don’t care and FAA or Congress work in their favor. I wrote back and told them how could we just cancel and get a refund since the whole trip already book including 13 days cruise !!! What would you do if you were in our situation? Of course no answer.

    • If your soon lands in Philadelphia and then experiences this type of problem, he should consider (depending upon what he is told) to immediately take the train (right at the airport) to 30th St. Station and then get on Amtrak.

      The total travel time (not on Acela) is a few minutes less than 6 hours. Better than waiting at the airport. People who live on the East Coast always keep this in mind when the airlines pull stunts like this. For Philadelphia it is very easy, as the train from the airport to 30th St. (main Amtrak station) takes only about 15 minutes.

  12. AA is horrible. I’ve been an EXP due to biz travel and this is my last year with them.

    I have absolutely had it. Your issues are not uncommon unfortunately. They have really devAAlued their program and quality of service to death.

    They are about as efficient as the company I work for.

    • I mainly fly Delta, Southwest, and American and I always cringe when AA is the best option since I have an issue around 40% of the time with them.


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