Home Airlines American Now Only Warns Cash Customers About Risky Connections

American Now Only Warns Cash Customers About Risky Connections

by joeheg

When we travel, I try to eliminate as many pain points as possible. When booking flights, that means trying to take non-stop flights that leave earlier in the day. The basis of that logic is that a non-stop flight has no chance of a missed connection due to flight delays (from either your flight or the connection.) Flights earlier in the day are less likely to suffer from a cascading delay, and there’s a somewhat lower chance of flight crews timing out during a delay. It also means we miss the daily Florida thunderstorms in the summer.

However, there are times when I can’t find an acceptable non-stop routing and I have to look for connecting flights. For example, I couldn’t find a non-stop on one of our preferred airlines on our upcoming trip to Las Vegas.

I started looking for options and American has several one-stop itineraries connecting through most of its hub cities including Miami, Dallas, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Chicago.

I started looking for trips using our AAdvantage miles and a shorter trip through Chicago caught my eye.

16K miles for a one-way cross-country ticket isn’t a bad price in this market. I looked to see what the cash price was for the same flight.

The ticket costs $215, which gives a CPP value of 1.35 which isn’t bad and about average for a domestic flight with American.

But I noticed something else on the cash booking page that wasn’t there on the award booking—the red hazard signal about the connection time.

Clicking on the flight details shows a connection of 35 minutes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not confident that I will make a 35-minute connection at O’Hare. That assumes many things go right, and if one thing goes wrong, you’re screwed.

That might lead you to ask the minimum amount of time you need to transfer planes at O’Hare, or any airport. It turns out that airlines don’t freely publish that information. You might be able to find it by digging around the airline’s fare system, but for the average traveler, it’s a mystery. The most recent posts with Google say that AA’s MCT (Minimum Connection Time) at O’Hare is 40 minutes.

The average traveler would think the airline wouldn’t sell them a ticket that has a fair chance of resulting in a missed connection. Reservation systems are in place to prevent passengers from booking a ticket that is impossible to complete.

Which brings me to the question, “Why does American Airlines warn cash-paying customers about the short connection time but not those booking with points?” Honestly, I have no answer to that one. Do cash customers have more leverage to complain about a missed connection? Does American feel that people booking with points are more knowledgeable and don’t need to be warned about close connections? It may simply be an oversight on the AA website.

Final Thoughts

In the current environment, I’d never book this ticket. Maybe, pre-COVID, if the price was right, I’d look to see how many flights there were after mine and how difficult it would be to get to my destination if I misconnected. If there were flights every hour and 5 more flights that day, I might take the chance. But today, with airplanes full, reduced schedules and regular cancellations, I’m not going to take that chance.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Brad Clifford May 13, 2022 - 6:42 pm

Oy vey, ANOTHER blog about your “dilemma” on how to get from Orlando to Vegas? They’re only the two most popular tourist destinations in the country … I’m sure you can figure out a way to get between the two, without subjecting the rest of us to 1000+ words about it.

joeheg May 13, 2022 - 8:15 pm

Actually, the post isn’t about that at all. It was only when searching between those cities that I discovered this difference in the booking screens.

Sfwanderer May 16, 2022 - 11:11 am

Actually, the award results came with a highlighted warning, “Please note connection time” in red. Below that the link for “details.” What’s with the hysteronics?

Jennifer Hill May 14, 2022 - 1:09 pm

Thank you Brad, I needed this chuckle. I clicked this article for one reason: wtf is paying cash?? But instead got yet another entitled travel blogger who games the system for points and is made that an airline he clearly says isn’t one of his favorites.
Josh – AA doesn’t care if you have a longer wait at the airport. It’s part of the cost analysis they do to stay in business. Also, it shows flight arrival for your inbound and flight departure for your outbound. Can you not do the math yourself? Why do you need an explicit warning?

The frequent travelers like myself already know the quick layover times at hub airports (35 ORD, 40 DFW, 25 PHX) and we decide every trip if we feel like going through that (I’ve stopped doing it at DFW, not worth the sprints). We also know how to calculate that time without a warning.

It’s really getting annoying how travel blogs have become a place where pissy travel bloggers can be paid by the word to air their complaints about the trips they game the system for. The pandemic is over, flights are now fuller with *paying* (not cash) customers, so you are going to have to find your place back at the end of the line for people who grift to fly places and then complain that they don’t have time to make a layover when I can guarantee AA has multiple other flights to LAS for you to chose from.

Please YMMV, find bloggers who actually help the normal travelers and stop being a forum for point travelers to complain. It’s totally useless to your readers.

Joann Smith May 15, 2022 - 8:27 am

I am stuck on how a one way ticket (or r/t anywhere in the u.s. ) could possibly be 16k miles??????

swoopest May 13, 2022 - 7:30 pm

I encountered the same issue with AA award ticket recently. The connection time at ORD (domestic to international) was less than the MCT I found on the internet. Cancelled and re-booked, and plan to spend the extra hour+ in an Admiral’s lounge.

xyeahtony May 13, 2022 - 11:58 pm

The flight times for O’hare flights automatically have the inevitable delays built into the flight schedule. its expensive for an airline to rebook passengers, they’re not going to purposely screw your connections. Go ahead and check flightaware for the flight time history of a lot of o’hare flights. they take way less than what the airline blocks them out for.

Kevin May 14, 2022 - 1:32 am

MCT is indeed 35 minutes here, not 40 minutes. They won’t ticket a flight violating MCT, regardless of award or cash.

N1120A May 14, 2022 - 6:23 am

AA’s domestic to domestic MCT online is 35 minutes. It is 29 if you are doing Eagle to Eagle. They cannot sell you less than the MCT

John D May 14, 2022 - 8:08 am

I’ve learned just never to fly American anymore with their iffy policies, last time was 2018 flying for work to Minnesota and back from Florida neither going to or back was fun, delays and cancellations both…nuff said

Megan Kasten May 14, 2022 - 8:36 am

We had the same experience booking an award ticket from Charlotte to Lisbon. Our original flight via PHL was canceled and we were rebooted through LHR with a 50 minute connection. 50 minutes in a 3rd party country during Covid? And Heathrow?? I called AA to change it, but there was no other availability, and if not for them ushering us through Heathrow with about a dozen others making the same connection there’s zero chance we would have made it.

Alex May 14, 2022 - 8:36 am

The warning is a new feature. Obviously it was rolled out to cash tickets before awards. As for MCT it’s literally impossible to book one under. I had a rep put together one once and she submitted it but it never ticketed. The system just simply won’t allow it

John May 14, 2022 - 8:50 am

I always check connection times. My rule of thumb: if there isn’t enough time to go to the lounge to enjoy a drink, there isn’t enough connection time.

Henry C May 14, 2022 - 10:14 am

It’s called common sense. 35 min is stupid. AA shouldn’t have to remind people to be smart.

Michael May 14, 2022 - 11:28 am

Kind of interesting to read comments advising travelers to use common sense and not to fault the airline.

When I book a flight for a specific arrival time, I would expect the airline to actually provide the service I purchased. Regardless if there is an intermediate connection.

I would not expect them to sell me an itinerary that looks great on paper but is not practical from an execution perspective.

Seems borderline bait n’ switch to me.

Bruce Johnson May 14, 2022 - 2:39 pm

Just went from Long Beach to Las Vegas (missed connection) to Burbank to San Francisco on an advertised Southwest Low Fare Get Away. Plus, they gladly took my money for Early Bird check in. No Apologies. I’ll never ever ever use them again unless they have lowest fare. It shows me they are riddled with avaricious corporate contempt for the users of their product…i.e. no f ing soul of a company.

S May 14, 2022 - 2:48 pm

I want to think that they arent giving the same warning to those who book their travels with points is becaused you guys are seasoned travelers. These passengers typically pack light, know the airports they are flying through and to. I want to also think that these people have some kind of status where even if they misconnect they would could be rebooked easily.

Jim May 16, 2022 - 6:26 pm

You are wrong to assume that anyone flying with miles is a seasoned traveler.

JohnB May 14, 2022 - 6:24 pm

I have a problem with calling these “cash” bookings. The proper terminology is “revenue” bookings. All airlines treat award bookings the same as “revenue” bookings. Paying for airline ticket in cash is an absolute no-no. Should not ever be done!

As far as the short connecting time not being notated on the revenue ticket, that could have just been a fluke for the flights you searched. Almost all the airlines make notations on connections that are less than an hour. As others have pointed out, airlines res systems will not allow bookings with less than MCT. My personal preference is for 2 hours between flights because I fly on very unreliable commuter jet flights from a small midwestern city. All the airlines cancel these flights very routinely. Winds go over 20mph, and the flights will be canceled from my airport.

joeheg May 14, 2022 - 6:55 pm

Point noted about using the term cash. However for most people there are award bookings and ones you pay for. Calling it a revenue booking might be confusing to people not familiar with the term.

Shane May 14, 2022 - 11:28 pm

Man! All these grumpy replies. I never have heard of MCT before so at least I learned something new. Thanks!

Elizabeth May 15, 2022 - 1:50 am

I would never book any flight without a 60 min connection time. Sprinting for a plane is not something I’m in to after years of travel. Book smart. The working does not care of you miss your flight, so we need to look out for ourselves.

David M Hoffman May 15, 2022 - 2:45 am

Interesting. I ended up sprinting through ATL for a Delta flight to ORD because my Delta Connection connecting flight from MCN sat at the gate for 30 minutes waiting for ramp escorts to allow passengers walk across the parking ramp to climb the stairs to the terminal. I was a last minute gate arrival for the flight to ORD. Luckily I had an assigned seat that hadn’t been given away. Lesson learned. Pad the heck out of connection times. I now seek at least 3 hours between scheduled arrival and scheduled departure for connecting flights. Allows for inevitable arrival weather delays, bathroom breaks before boarding, snack times, old age, and airline foul ups.

BobbyG May 15, 2022 - 6:00 pm

I wish the author really was a true investigative reporter and called around to find out WHY it’s reported in the revenue fares but not the points/miles fares. Then we’d all have learned something instead of the obvious. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I booked a web saver fare on AA, One way BUR to EYW for 6,000 points back in Feb for travel in May. Of course, flights changed and AA pushed my departure to later in the day with a quick 45 minute connect at DFW. No way, Jose. I called AA and requested my original 8:39AM departure which gave me about 4 1/2 hours at DFW. I got a 2 hour minute suite and slept, and then went to the Centurion Lounge for a bite to eat and drink and sauntered (yes, sauntered) over to my gate and got into Key West half an hour early, refreshed and ready to meet friends for some music and drinks. After too many experiences of gates not being ready for a plane’s arrival, waiting for a ramp agent, slow pokes deplaning from first class, yada yada yada, a larger window works for connections, especially when weather is tossed into the mix.

MO May 15, 2022 - 6:45 pm

Don’t worry…it says 35 minutes, but you will get more time than that! Airlines usually show longer time than it usually take, for this same reason. Your first leg will arrive 20-25 minutes earlier than the poster time.

Jim May 16, 2022 - 6:30 pm

Will it? Are you sure of that? Quite the generalization. It is not common at all for a flight to arrive that early.

R May 15, 2022 - 11:28 pm

Decades ago, when we frequent Travelers used the pocket OAG, it was easy enough to look up the minimum connection time between any two terminals or any two airlines in any airport. Now, not so easy, and with short-staff problems and other issues, it makes little sense to take a chance.

Vic May 16, 2022 - 4:27 pm

Schedules change all the time. I’ve booked iffy connections for low miles well in advance where the net result is a much better schedule for the bargain basement price.


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