American Airlines Widens Divide Between Frequent Flyers and Occasional Passengers

October 9, 2018, 3:31 PM UTC

American Airlines is making it a bit harder for stranded passengers to get to their destinations in a timely manner.

The airline has reportedly enacted a new policy that discourages airport agents from rebooking stranded passengers in economy class on competing airlines when their flight is canceled or subject to a long delay.

Weeks ago, though, agents were told to ensure elite-level members of the carrier’s frequent-flyer program (along with those who booked a business or First Class ticket) made it to their destinations rapidly, even if that meant booking on a competitor, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The new policy, says the Morning News, does not have a limit on how long passengers must wait for a seat on another American flight. That’s likely to upset travelers who don’t travel frequently, but don’t want to be stuck in an airport if there are issues when they do.

American, in a statement to Fortune, took issue with the report, saying agents have the authority to book passengers on other carriers, though it noted those instances are generally reserved for “extenuating circumstances”.

“As has always been the case, every effort should be made to keep customers on American and our joint business partners, followed by our oneworld alliance and codeshare partners,” the carrier said. “Regardless of elite status and/or ticketed cabin, in extenuating circumstances, our team will have the ability to make exceptions.”

American has had a string of public relations disasters this year, forcing some passengers to urinate in plastic bags and bottles after all the onboard lavatories became inoperable and considering a policy change that would bar passengers from changing nonrefundable tickets.

The company’s stock is down 35% year to date.