After problems with AAdvantage award, man files DOT claim against American Airlines

American canceled a flight and foiled two award tickets purchased by Darren Martin. So Martin filed a complaint with the U.S. DOT. Photo: American.

American canceled a flight and foiled two award tickets purchased by Darren Martin. So Martin filed a complaint with the U.S. DOT. Photo: American.

In February, Darren Martin booked two American Airlines award tickets for his parents between Boston and London Heathrow with a brief stop in Chicago. But two weeks after Martin booked, he learned that American had decided not to operate the first flight of the journey. And that was a problem.

Martin’s parents would miss their connecting flight to London and thus would not be able to reach London on schedule. Martin wanted American to make it right, to get his parents to London on that day without charging more fees or taxes. But American would not, and Martin was left with few good options for his parents outside of canceling the tickets.

So what did Martin do? He filed a 19-page complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“This complaint arises out of American Airlines cancelling its early-morning nonstop service BOS-ORD on which I had redeemed and ticketed two AAdvantage awards as part of a BOS-ORD-LHR itinerary,” Martin wrote. “AA then refused to provide alternative comparable transport unless I paid additional fees (repeatedly mischaracterized as “tax”), in violation of AA’s prior commitments to passengers and to the Department of Transportation.”

After a substantial discussion of the problem in which he goes as far as to cite Twitter direct messages with American, Martin asks the DOT to take action. Here’s just the first three things he wants DOT to do:

1. Exercise its authority under 49 USC 41712 to open an investigation of American Airlines for having engaged in, and continuing to engage in, the unfair or deceptive practices described above;
2. Order American Airlines to provide to the DOT and to me all notes, PNR annotations, call recordings, and other records prepared by its systems and its staff in the course of the discussions herein.
3. Pursuant to such investigation, order American Airlines to refund to ticket purchasers all monies represented to ticket purchasers as “taxes” or government-imposed fees, but not actually remitted to governments.

What do you think of Martin’s move? A futile waste of time? Or genius?

Here’s the complaint:

Complaint of Darren Martin – American Airlines

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

American Airlines drops Santa Barbara-Los Angeles route

American will no longer fly to Santa Barbara. Handout photo by Lawrence Anderson.

American will no longer fly to Santa Barbara. Handout photo by Lawrence Anderson.

American Airlines will cease flying between Los Angeles International Airport and Santa Barbara, effective April 1, the airline said Thursday.

I had read rumors this was happening and in December contacted Santa Barbara Airport. At the time, airport spokeswoman Lynn Houston told me that the rumor was not true. But unfortunately for the airport, it was.

“We continually evaluate our network to ensure we’re maximizing our fleet and profitability while matching customer demand. As part of this ongoing process, beginning April 1, American will no longer offer service between Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX),” American spokesman Matt Miller said in an email. “US Airways will continue to offer customers access to SBA from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).”

As most travelers know, American and US Airways are now both operated by American Airlines Group. Eventually, probably mid-2015, they’ll have a single operating certificate and be run as one airline.

This move makes a lot of sense. American was never in this market to fly passengers between L.A. and Santa Barbara. It was about making sure travelers in Santa Barbara had access to the airline’s network — that they could get to New York or Hawaii or London with one stop. Phoenix, which has been a US Airways hub, mostly serves the same purpose, though with one major drawback. For now, US Airways does not offer any long-haul international flights from Phoenix. So until that changes, Santa Barbara customers flying American/US Airways will have limited international connection options. The same problem goes with American’s OneWorld partners. There are a few OneWorld international flights from Phoenix, but not many. LAX has a lot more — flights to Asia, South America and Europe on American’s partners.

Of course, loyal American customers always have the opportunity to drive to LAX.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

How do airlines decide which flights to cancel? Time magazine tells us

Time Magazine cover

Time Magazine got a look at American Airlines operations center for a cover story appearing in its March 3 issue. The website requires a subscription, but if you have one, it’s worth a read.

Writer Bill Saporito did a nice job of explaining how airlines choose which flights to cancel when poor weather hits.

Some highlights, according to a summary of the story I viewed:

  • Airlines are less likely to cancel international flights than domestic ones.
  • Airlines try to give preferential treatment to planes with many connecting passengers
  • Hub-to-hub flights are more likely to be canceled. For American, this would include flights between Dallas and Chicago, or Dallas and New York-Kennedy.
  • Airlines are more likely to cancel a flight filled with leisure travelers. A flight with high-fare paying business travelers would be less likely to be canceled.
  • Flights to big events — like the Super Bowl — are less likely to be canceled.
Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

Read the settlement: American Airlines and LAX reach agreement over airport charges

American LAX Settlement

American Airlines and the city of Los Angeles apparently got creative in settling their lawsuit over fees the carrier was assessed but did not pay at Los Angeles International Airport, according to a settlement agreement filed in federal court.

As we reported last month, Los Angeles claimed that American had underpaid its rental invoices by $21,556,915.70 since 2011. The money was charged for something called “maintenance and operations,” or M&O, which are fees for services that the airport says are not covered by rental payments.

Every other airline at LAX has been paying these bills, the city noted in court filings. So it always seemed likely that American would pay them too. The question was how the issue would be settled.

I took at a look at the settlement, and below is what I learned. (Of course, I’m no lawyer, so if you see something I have missed, please let me know in the comments section.)

  • American is paying Los Angeles $8 million right away. But the city will also reimburse American for a bunch of improvements the carrier made at LAX in recent years.
  • LAX will credit American with $2 million in exchange for “apron pavement improvements” the carrier paid for between 2010 and 2012.
  • The city will reimburse American almost $4 million for costs related to employee parking. It seems that, at the request of the airport, American switched to an inconvenient parking lot for its employees. The employees must now be bused to American’s operation, and that bus is expensive.
  • American claims it has spent a considerable sum on “design plans” for a building that will connect its Terminal 4 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. American can get up to $375,000 for this project.
  • American expanded its security checkpoints at Terminal 4 in 2005 and 2011. The city will reimburse the airline for many of these costs.
  • For  those unpaid M&O charges from 2011 through 2013, American will pay Los Angeles $14 million.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2014, American will pay LAX $42,000 per month for M&O charges. These will pay for: “fire, life and safety systems, heating, conditioning, ventilation systems,” documents show.
Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email

LAX: to make connections easier, American and US Airways will operate shuttle bus inside security

US Airways is expecting to move to Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport next week, leaving Terminal 1, which it has shared with Southwest Airlines.

I’m being told that Feb. 12 is the targeted move date. I’ll update if that changes.

American Airlines, which is merging with US Airways, has printed up posters in an attempt to make things easier for travelers. Here’s the good news: American and US Airways will run shuttle buses inside the secure area of the airport to facilitate connections between the two airlines. This means passengers won’t have to re-clear security to switch airlines. The buses will leave every 20 minutes.

That’s a big deal, because American’s Terminal 4 and US Airways’ Terminal 3 are not particularly close to one another, despite the numbering scheme. There’s also no way to walk from one terminal to the other without re-clearing security.

Here are posters you’ll see soon at Terminal 3 and Terminal 4.

American-US Airways 2

American-US Airways 1

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Tumblr Email