Will Delta Eat Crow and Bring Back Interlining with American Airlines?

Delta’s new CEO Ed Bastian has been a very public face of the airline’s efforts this week to recover from a big IT crash Sunday. Only today, Thursday, is Delta proclaiming that operations are returning to normal.

Delta CEO Bastian

Affected passengers have been offered compensation and fee waivers for rebooking. My experience of the past several years is Delta is strongest of the US airlines at accommodating passengers during irregular operations. What was not open to passengers this time was rebooking on American Airlines.

Last year Delta arrogantly ending its interline agreement with American. Delta used the press release to proclaim its wonderfulness:

“Thanks to employees’ stellar operational performance, Delta customers enjoy an industry-leading experience. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach an agreement with American that adequately addressed the number of IROPs customers that American transferred to us,” said Eric Phillips, Senior Vice President  – Revenue Management. “In July, for example, American sent passengers to Delta for reaccommodation at a five-to-one ratio. At that rate the industry agreement was no longer mutually beneficial.”

Cranky Flier picked apart the dispute. What was clear for Delta customers was a valuable option for flexibility was lost along with the many opportunities to win displaced customers from American when they would be especially receptive to a new airline.

Delta management ignored the benefits to high-revenue and elite status customers that it is so eager to court. Not long prior to ending interlining, I arrived New York JFK on paid international business class. My onward flight to Louisville was delayed several hours. I believe it was one of those ‘awaiting inbound aircraft’ reasons that airlines often won’t jump to rebook passengers. I had an event to attend and as a Diamond Medallion, when I called Delta requesting rebooking on the only alternate flight, an American option out of LGA, the agent did not hesitate. I was on the flight before I was in the taxi. This was a disruption without news headlines, only significant to the passengers immediately affected. Delta came through and I was able to attend the event to celebrate a large deal closed by a great local team. By terminating interlining, Delta closed that door.

Yesterday the WSJ highlighted the role of reduced interlining in Delta’s recovery. Scott Mayerowitz of the AP interviewed Mr. Bastian and I immediately scanned for the interline question:

Q: Delta ended an agreement last year with American Airlines where you placed stranded passengers on each other’s flights at a discount following mechanical or weather delays. Did the end of that pact make it harder for you to recover from this week’s computer outage?

A: I’m sure in isolated situations it could have been a bit more difficult but on average no, I wouldn’t say that was the case.

That doesn’t look promising.

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  • Always follow the dollar. Clear AA would not have had the space to put all or many of the affected folks on AA jets (as AA just are just about as full as DL nowadays anyway).

    One has to think Mr. Glen Ham Sandwich has run the numbers and what was lost due to this vs the having to put discounted AA flyers due to their horrid on time and completion rates would have cost Delta more week after week since the change.

  • @Rene – sad to say I agree and even beyond hard-nose numbers, it is clear it is one thing to apologize to customers, another to make peace with a competitor.

  • Dennis

    I’m going to be straightforward: Delta’s meltdown served them right. Too bad Richard Anderson was no longer CEO, though.

  • JJ

    I was very disappointed when they ended the AA agreement and they need to bring it back. Luckily I live in Houston, so United is more important than AA, but there were 2 times in the last 6 months that I could have gotten home earlier on AA but couldn’t

  • ADAm

    When this happened I was not allowed to book a ticket with Delta and AA together. Yesterday I booked a ticket that had Delta and AA flights.. of course they showed up separately… hmm