American and Delta to end interline agreement

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Some bad news, travelers: effective September 15th, American and Delta will end their “interline” agreement, meaning that neither carrier will be able to book you on the other. Why would an airline book you on one of its (non-partner) competitors?

Irregular Operations

Irregular Operations is the airline industry phrase for travel delays, cancellations, mechanical problems, etc. Though the opposite might appear to be true, airlines do not want to delay or strand passengers. During large scale disruptions their priority is to move people however possible – preferably on their own planes, but if that’s not possible then on any planes that are flying. This practice mitigates the volume of people stranded when things go wrong.

Interline agreements are contracts between airlines than allow them to book passengers on a competitor, and also allow airlines to check bags from one to another despite a traveler having multiple tickets. This is the type of agreement that American and Delta were not able to agree on moving forward.

What’s the real world effect of this? Let’s say you’re traveling from Atlanta to Dallas on Delta, and Delta’s computer systems have a glitch that leads to cancelled flights. American also has nonstop flights from Atlanta to Dallas, and is operating normally. Beginning September 15th, Delta will no longer be able to book you on that American flight to Dallas. You’ll either have to wait until Delta resolves its computer issues, or take a different carrier – one that Delta still has an active interline agreement with.

Just one more wrench to throw into an already challenging travel process…


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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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