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 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:
@delta We are unable to honor your request for $50,000,000 in reimbursement compensation for the ATL power outage, but we have deposited 4,000 bonus miles into your Delta SkyMiles® account as a goodwill gesture.
We hope that @ATLairport will be in your future travel plans.
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) December 20, 2017
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?