AA Oversells AA76, Strands 27 8th Graders at LAX

 
Old Apr 1, 13, 9:07 pm
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AA Oversells AA76, Strands 27 8th Graders at LAX

This doesn't look like a good PR move! The video explains things a bit differently from the article. From the video, it sounds like AA told the group leader he'd have to split off some of his students. The group leader refused, so AA denied the entire group boarding, told them they'd have to purchase new tickets, and there were no seats available until Wednesday to boot.

Airline Mix-Up Strands Students at LAX
by Anthony Kurzweil

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — The principal at a Southern California Catholic school says 27 8th-graders were stranded at LAX after their flight was overbooked.

Frank Loya, principle of St. Benedict’s School in Montebello, said the group of 12-year-olds was supposed to fly to Washington D.C. Monday, but American Airlines overbooked their flight.

“When we got the gate they overbooked the plane and they wanted me to split some of my students,” Loya said.

The group was told by the airline that six students would need to take another flight, and pay full price for six more tickets, according to Loya.

Loya said when they refused to leave some of the kids behind they were told the entire group would have to purchase new tickets on another flight.

American Airlines spokesperson Mary Frances Fagan issued a statement on the ordeal Monday:

“I am aware that we had a situation in Los Angeles this morning where unfortunately we were not able to accommodate all members of the group on our LAX-IAD Flight. We are working with the group leaders to determine how best to transport the group to Northern Virginia.”

ktla.com/2013/04/01/airline-mix-up-strands-students-at-lax-2
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:16 pm
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smells fishy. something is missing. they wouldn't ask them to purcahse new tickets when a flight is overbooked
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:17 pm
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I hate it when I'm IDB'd and they make me buy a new ticket...
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:25 pm
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Here's what I'm guessing happened:

(1) Group didn't have seat assignments
(2) Flight was overbooked
(3) No one volunteered to take a VDB
(4) IDB rules hit the non-status passengers with no seat assignments first
(5) The school group refused to split up. I can't imagine that there wasn't a second adult who could have accompanied the second group of students.
(5) AA decided to hold down the letter of the rule and treat the decision not to split as a voluntary no show and canceled the tickets.
(6) The school leader went ape and all attempts at a reasonable solution (e.g., getting to DC before Wednesday which would be super easy - there is definitely space via connecting cities, etc.) thus became unsuccessful.

Honestly, if it went down as above - and assuming there was a second adult - I'll side with AA.
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:25 pm
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We'll have to wait for the whole report. You don't buy a ticket for an IDB. Tough situation, though. Kids list be bummed.
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:38 pm
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Originally Posted by sts603 View Post
Here's what I'm guessing happened:

(3) No one volunteered to take a VDB

Honestly, if it went down as above - and assuming there was a second adult - I'll side with AA.
Sounds like a likely chain of events, and the group leader doesn't sound too experienced WRT this kind of stuff so I'm sure he got things mangled. I wonder how quickly AA gave up on the VDB, though, and how sweet they made the offer. This was the 9:20 AM flight. Plenty of routings, plenty of time to make it to DC with little or no delay. Surely they could find at least a few VDBs if they made the offer rich enough. But who knows. Whatever happened, and regardless of who was right, whoever processed the flight should have known that anything involving the words "stranded" and "8th graders" is not going to play well on the evening news. Penny-wise, pound foolish I think!
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:44 pm
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Originally Posted by travel.flier View Post
smells fishy. something is missing. they wouldn't ask them to purcahse new tickets when a flight is overbooked
It's All Fools Day, my friend. A little too late in the day, though.
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Old Apr 1, 13, 9:50 pm
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Originally Posted by MeVoy View Post
It's All Fools Day, my friend. A little too late in the day, though.
It's still April Fools on the east coast and this is a LAX "story."
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Old Apr 1, 13, 11:53 pm
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I side with the group on this one. Splitting the group is not exactly easy because it will throw off all plans for the trip. Especially when there are minor children involved away from their parents.

If AA sweetened the pot, I'm sure they would have gotten enough volunteers.
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Old Apr 2, 13, 12:29 am
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Originally Posted by sts603 View Post
Here's what I'm guessing happened:

(5) The school group refused to split up. I can't imagine that there wasn't a second adult who could have accompanied the second group of students.
It's not that simple. First, this throws off logistics at the destination - for example the group needs to get back together again to travel to their lodging. Second, if something happens on one flight and not the other, the group remains split up. But the biggest issue is that a group may not have enough adults to split up - most groups require more than one adult to travel with a group of students, so now you are talking about two additional adults being available to manage the split. Logistics - and liability - are enough of a a headache as it is for any trip with a group of students. Very few leaders, especially those who have managed a group trip before, would ever accept a group of minors being split up for anything other than a dire emergency - and if it were my kid on that trip I would welcome a leader who "went ape" over a request to do so. Airlines need to recognize that splitting up a group of minors must be avoided if at all possible, not just if convenient.

Would AA split up a family just because there were 2 adults?
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Old Apr 2, 13, 12:47 am
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Originally Posted by sts603 View Post
Here's what I'm guessing happened:

(2) Flight was overbooked
(3) No one volunteered to take a VDB
AA generally does a good job getting volunteers, but once in a while they're just impossible to find, so you may very well be right here. I had a flight on Labor Day weekend two years ago at SFO where only two of us volunteered and they needed three. No matter how much they begged, AA could not find a third passenger to take a $500 bump. They IDBd the third person and paid him around $600 in check with a reroute in a few hours.

If AA was going to IDB part of a group, there could be some significant cash on the line. From the school's viewpoint, which students should get the money if they went along with this? AA might have been able to work around that if the rerouting had them arrive within a short period (is it within 2 hours or original arrival time to avoid compensation for IDB?).
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Old Apr 2, 13, 1:48 am
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
AA generally does a good job getting volunteers, but once in a while they're just impossible to find, so you may very well be right here. I had a flight on Labor Day weekend two years ago at SFO where only two of us volunteered and they needed three. No matter how much they begged, AA could not find a third passenger to take a $500 bump. They IDBd the third person and paid him around $600 in check with a reroute in a few hours.

If AA was going to IDB part of a group, there could be some significant cash on the line. From the school's viewpoint, which students should get the money if they went along with this? AA might have been able to work around that if the rerouting had them arrive within a short period (is it within 2 hours or original arrival time to avoid compensation for IDB?).
it certainly did go out with 20 seats empty in coach, so that would leave 6 short. surely, one adult could have gone with 6 kids on an alternate flight or connections or other air line to wind up at DC that day. a large group split up like this esp kids , could have managed with a little give and take from all concerned esp since we are talking about only 6 or 7 that could not be accomodated. the GA's were working against the clock frantically, i imagine, but could not satisfy the adult group leaders and they elected not to board the flight unless the whole group could board. there must be a protocol in place to handle a situation like this . not a good morning at that gate, and not a good morning for the disappointed kids either.
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Old Apr 2, 13, 2:37 am
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Most school field trip policies will state minimum ratios of 1:20 for middle/high school aged kids with a minimum of 2 for reasons such as backup. If boys and girls are together and going overnight you usually need at least 1 male and 1 female. Being a private school it is quite possible they only had 2 adults, and breaking apart to different flights would have violated their procedures (which probably tie to liability insurance).

Also, most of us here on FT may know that Washington Flyer taxis can take a maximum 6 passengers or about other options like SuperShuttle. But in the moment facing the board decision the leader may not have been confident on how the logistics at IAD would work? Would the 6 have to further split to reach DC? I certainly would not want my 12 year old put in a taxi with other kids and no adults. Insurance again could play in as it might cover contracted bus services but not an event that happens in a taxi.

Bottom line you do not split a group of minors and i would have expected an adult I entrusted with my minor to take a similar stand. AA probably sold these tickets as a group booking. It is reasonable to expect to travel as a group.

I understand in that situation that the gate agents needed to get the flight out. Fine, and if they choose not to IDB 6 other people to protect the group of minors, also fine based on their procedures. But they should have also immediately escalated to management to have someone with authority start working on getting the group to DC vs. the way it was seemingly handled.

In an ideal world AA would have some clue about their operations - see the oversell + large group of minors via some advanced/predictive analytics tool - and alert the station head to get their ... down there and help manage it. Maybe someday after the merger!
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Old Apr 2, 13, 2:53 am
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If this is not April Fools joke, I have to say I can't side with the ones saying the group was supposed to find another adult and just split the kids. If anything, it's much easier to IDB people traveling alone or couples. Why didn't AA look for 6 people to boot and accommodate the entire group?

I'm suspecting that all of the group passengers were on 1 PNR, so they needed permission to split them up. I don't consider this VDB and here's why:

1. The group (whatever the total number of passengers) was obviously ticketed for this flight and they received boarding passes at the airport before going through security and arriving at the gate.

2. Based on the article, they were asked at the gate to split the group up. There is no scenario if I am confirmed on a flight and am at the gate on time that would result in being VDB. AA didn't fulfill their duty, which was to honor the tickets sold for that flight. They were the ones that made an offer that the group leader (the school's principal) chose not to entertain. So, how come the group is at fault for not willing to give up their right to 27 seats on that plane but the rest of the passengers that also chose not to IDB, are not being discussed?

If I was working that flight, I would have found 6 people and IDB them and accommodated the group. It's much easier to accommodate 6 people on other flights than it is to do so for 27 that have to travel together - especially, with how full planes are these days. A group of this size should not be split up. Even if it's simply a family of 2,3,4 or more. If they are all on one reservation, you can't just expect them to split up if necessary just because there are 2 adults.

There was a time I watched a lot of court TV shows and this reminds of cases where there is an accident and the defendant brings up the point - well, if they listened to me and had the car fixed at a friend's shop where I won't be charged for labor, just pay for parts, we wouldn't be here. Instead, the plaintiff usually goes to an authorized service place for their make and model that is always way more expensive. So, my point is: AA was in the wrong here - they sold more tickets than they had seats - they can't say afterwards what's acceptable and what's not to remedy the situation.
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Old Apr 2, 13, 6:23 am
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It seems like AA could have easily avoided a big mess by IDBing six people not in this group. For the reasons other folks have articulated here (and the high probability that all of this travel was probably booked as a group so it's reasonable to expect to fly as a group), splitting up a big group of kids may not have been feasible. Supposedly the GA is all powerful leading up to the departure of the flight; ideally they'd also be capable enough to recognize that IDBing part of the group effectively IDBs the whole group and make better decisions about who to IDB under the circumstances.

If nothing else, the bad PR here was totally predictable, so even if AA was "right", they were definitely not smart.
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