Still Needs Work: My Experience With AA's 'Dynamic Reaccommodation' System
Delays and cancellations in air travel are pretty much inevitable, but it's how an airline deals with the situation that can have a huge impact on traveler satisfaction. Standing in a 200+ passenger line waiting for two gate agents to manually rebook a Dreamliner full of passengers — as I experienced myself on American Airlines years ago — doesn't leave a warm and fuzzy feeling about the airline.
That's why I was really excited to learn that American Airlines rolled out a new dynamic reaccommodation system in September 2017. The app- and website-based system lets flyers decide which new flight they want without any interactions with gate, check-in, lounge or phone agents.
Ever since its introduction, I've been "looking forward" to testing it for myself. However, I've recently experienced an incredible streak of luck with my AA flights. In my 67 American flights in the last 13 months, I've yet to have a cancellation or significant delay. (Remarkable, I know.)
But that streak ended on Monday with my short hop from Boston (BOS) to New York's LaGuardia (LGA). For undisclosed reasons (at least undisclosed to me), my 12:00pm flight was cancelled. I was alerted at 9:58am by AA app push notification, email and text message — a good reminder of why it's important to give the airline your day of departure contact information.
Top-tier Executive Platinum elites are supposed to get top priority in rebooking, and indeed, American Airlines automatically saved me a seat on the next BOS-LGA AA Shuttle flight at 1:00pm. Score one for American Airlines protecting its frequent fliers.
Although I'd be upgraded to first class on the 12:00pm, the 1:00pm rebooking was in economy. That's not a big deal for such a short flight. After all, with free alcoholic drinks in economy on American Airlines Shuttle flights, the only benefit of sitting up front is a bigger seat for the 1 hour, 21 minute flight, and being able to get off the plane one or two minutes faster.
However, with all of the news breaking that morning, I wanted to instead grab a later flight to give me a chance to catch up beforehand. And that's where the system broke down.
In the app, I was given the option of confirming in first class on the 2:00pm or the 3:00pm. I selected the 2:00pm flight, but no dice — the app merely returned to the homepage. Figuring that there was just a temporary issue, I tried again. This time the app crashed. After opening the app again, I went through the process again and it crashed again. And again.
So, I opened the rebooking email I received and clicked on the link marked "Confirm or change flight." This loaded AA's website and displayed the trip I originally booked — without any option to confirm or change my flight. It didn't even note that the flight was cancelled.
As a third attempt, I called the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk. The automated system told me that my flight was cancelled and that the fastest way to rebook would be through the app or the website. I agreed with the automated system that that's how it's supposed to work, but when I asked for an agent, she told me that the 2:00pm flight was unavailable.
Next, I typed in American Airlines' rebooking website: www.aa.com/flightchange. There I was offered the same 19 rebooking options as I saw in the app, with a mixture of first class and economy.
So, I tried selecting the 2:00pm flight, expecting an error. Instead, I was excited to get a confirmation page:
I clicked Confirm and...
I returned to the app to try it just one more time, and found that the all 19 options were now gone and I was stuck on the 1:00pm:
I reached out to my AA corporate communication contacts about this issue. They confirmed that this is indeed not how the process is supposed to work, and are checking on the back end about what went wrong. As with the recent ticketing issue that we raised with AA, hopefully this will lead to improvements in the dynamic reaccommodation system that will make things smoother for all travelers.
I'm still excited about this dynamic reaccommodation system, and I'm sure that it works much better than this for most passengers. However, it's concerning to experience so many errors and issues in the system over 13 months after it was rolled out. Hopefully after some more work, it'll be ready to shine.