After Series Of Delta Operational Fiascos, American And Delta Finally Agree To Interline Once Again

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One major advantage to flying on a major network carrier is their interline agreements. Yes, in normal situations an airline like Spirit or Frontier is fine, but when things go wrong, they don’t have the airplanes or the agreements with other airlines to get you where you need to go. Or as happened to a friend of mine, sometimes Spirit will just stick you on a bus. Or make you wait a week for a flight.

Major carriers have spare airplanes or they can rebook you on other airlines when a flight gets cancelled. It’s always easier to get an airport agent to do that than a phone agent, but with some HUCA even phone agents can rebook you on another airline.

Delta executives realized that their operational performance was much better than American’s and United’s performance. Delta had several years head start in the merger wars by swallowing Northwest earlier than United merged with Continental and American merged with USAirways. American and United were experiencing merger pains and were increasingly reliant on Delta to accommodate their customers during irregular operations.

In September 2015 Delta gave American and United an ultimatum. Pay significantly more to rebook passengers on Delta or they would drop their interline agreement that allows airlines to accommodate their passengers on other airlines. At that point in time Delta was operating flawlessly and American and United were having operational issues.

United agreed to pay Delta’s king’s ransom, but they instructed their agents, “Delta should only be considered when all other options have been exhausted as our settlement rate with Delta is significantly higher than with most carriers.”

American refused to play ball. Since then American and Delta will generally not accommodate passengers for each other. And with only 3 major network carriers left in the US, that is bad news when American or Delta have operational issues.

That wound up haunting me personally. American refused to rebook our failed trip to London on Delta in November 2015 due to their lack of an interline agreement. Instead they had us spend the night with our kids in an airport.

That’s one of the reasons I wrote in this trip report that if you want to avoid getting stuck in an airport you’re better off booking United as they have the ability to rebook you on more airlines than American or Delta do.

After a string of bad luck on 4 consecutive Transoceanic trips I referenced that policy again.

I also referenced American’s lack of an interline agreement with Delta in the post about “What Exactly Is American’s AAdvantage?” over a year before other bloggers started asking that same question.

While this hurt American, ironically it wound up hurting Delta even more.

They have had numerous IT meltdowns since they ended their interline agreement with American. There’s only so much capacity that United has, so that meant it was difficult for Delta to accommodate their passengers in a timely fashion.

In August 2016 Delta’s IT equipment failed. They tried to blame it on Georgia Power, but Georgia Power called Delta out on Twitter by saying it wasn’t their problem.

In January 2017 an IT outage hurt Delta again.

In April 2017, bad weather combined with IT issues and it took weeks for Delta to get passengers where they needed to go. As I put it then, “Delta’s Nightmare Week Has Been Made Worse By Their Own Greed.” That story was only pushed out of the news by United’s Dr. Dao incident.

In December 2017, Atlanta airport lost power and once again wreaked havoc on Delta in their largest hub. Delta’s CEO said he was going to ask for $50MM in compensation for the outage which inspired this tweet:


Even when you’re running a tight ship, unexpected events still come up. Delta finally realized that their ultimatum was a foolish one, and they asked American to interline once again at the lower rates. American agreed and in the end of the day, American won this battle.

Passengers won this battle as well.

American will still prioritize their own flights or OneWorld flights when possible, but they will book on other airlines when needed. It helps to ask to speak to a supervisor if an agent refuses and you may have to actually go to the airport even if a flight is cancelled to get rebooked on another airline.

My only question is how long it will take for United to renegotiate their agreement with Delta?

Have you been able to take advantage of interline rebooking between airlines?

HT: Yaalili, via DDF and Skift.

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20 Comments On "After Series Of Delta Operational Fiascos, American And Delta Finally Agree To Interline Once Again"

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Only interline I got was when Swiss cancelled the second segment of my TLV-ZRH-JFK flight, they rebooked me on TLV-MUC-JFK on LH. I lobbied to get on the direct TLV-EWR UA flight, but they refuse. All was well in the end, as they also gave me 600 Euro ($670 at the time) for the inconvenience/delay (even though it ended up being only ~2h delay into NYC). Entire RT flight (NYCZRHTLV) was only $800, so I effectively got a RT flight to Israel for $130!


Can we use Interline on award tickets as well ?


BA put me on united direct TLV-EWR when they had a system failure in May.


ba goes to israel?


Via LHR (London).

Ed Travel

Last year I had to fly from SMF to EWR with Delta. My first flight was 2 hour delayed meaning that there was no way that I was going to get to EWR on time to catch an international flight (with United). I called Delta a couple of times until an agent was willing to put me on a United SMF DEN to EWR to get to my flight on time.


If you buy your ElAl ticket by an agent (they usually sell Elal for the same price then all websites), the agent can put you on a Delta or United flight, in a case where your ElAl flight is delayed or cancelled! (another reason to buy by an Agent)


how can one buy by an agent? at the airport?


Travel Agent.


Was stuck in Houston a few years ago due to storms with a united flight – ended up booking me a trip on Delta home and got miles from both!


could not get rebooked on another flight after ab went bankrupt the day before succos on the way back from israel and had to book a last minute flight for the way back which cost more even after i disputed the full fare and got it all back. filed a claim with air berlin afterwards and sent an email a month and half ago that there back office will review each claim and follow up. do you think theres a chance they will follow up and offer compensation? had to stay 2 extra days then planned and had expenses when i wanted to leave already. and had to pay 155 dollars more for a one way even after getting the entire fare back?


I had AA refuse to put me on DL for an award ticket booked through BA. Manager at LGA said that Delta wont accept award passengers. Sure….


This past Dec I had a flight on UA from EWR to EZE which was canceled due to a strike at EZE, UA rebooked me on AA from JFK to EZE leaving the same time. (Which happened to be more convenient for me). But it didn’t come easy… was on the phone for a nice amount of time.