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TPG confirmed Saturday that American Airlines is launching a new “Hotel, Meal and Transportation” system (HMT) for passengers who experience irregular operations. The program will use digital technology to replace paper vouchers for hotels and meals in cases of delay, allowing customer service agents to distribute vouchers via passenger email address. Agents will also be able to reprint or re-send vouchers that have already been issued in case the customer misplaces the email. When customers activate the digital vouchers, the HMT system interfaces directly with hotel databases to find real-time availability, and will return canceled or unused rooms directly to the hotel’s inventory.

“Let’s say a flight cancels, and is returning to the gate,” an AA spokesperson told TPG. “Our team can automatically send an email – if we have their email address – to passengers on the flights so they can book a room directly for the evening. Passengers can then book a hotel for the evening before they even get off the aircraft. With 6,700 flights a day, irregular operations will occur. But our focus is investing in technology that makes it easier for our customers and team members when that occurs.”

“The new HMT system, which launched in mid-September, is being rolled out in a phased approach across the United States, and international destinations will begin implementation beginning in 2019. The airline is carefully monitoring feedback from employees and passengers.

This new approach should prove to be very convenient and efficient for airline staff members and travelers alike. However, this does decrease the likelihood of travelers receiving discretionary vouchers from sympathetic gate agents. The system is pre-programmed to distribute “the correct number of vouchers per customer,” which most likely will mean a lot less flexibility for individual decision-makers.

This process may also create more complications for large groups traveling together, or for families with small children who may not have individual email accounts associated with the airline booking. In cases like these, it’s a great idea to utilize this handy email trick for managing multiple loyalty accounts.

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