November 30, 2011

Airlines do a better job at filing bankruptcy than delivering luggage

American Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday, is among the last of the major carriers to do so, raising predictable questions for customers about how the changes will affect them.

Based on what can be gleaned from the bankruptcies of other airlines over the past few years, the general answer is that at least for the short term, the experience of flying with American will remain largely the same, though changes are likely down the road.

In the past, airlines have used bankruptcy as a way to cut service to some cities — a move analysts say travelers should watch out for next year. “Airlines generally use bankruptcy as a way to exit unprofitable routes, unprofitable cities and terminal leases on unprofitable aircraft,” Mr. Harteveldt said. “So while it’s too soon to tell and speculation is useless, people who are traveling at least six months or more away from now will definitely want to check their reservations as time gets closer.”

The airline might also consider teaming up with other airlines through code-share agreements to take on certain routes they can’t provide on their own. “That may mean a change in seat assignments as airplanes would be different,” Mr. Harteveldt said. Upgrades for frequent fliers booked on such flights could also be affected. But any possible changes are still many months away, as the company navigates through bankruptcy.

Get the full story at The New York Times (free content)

Read also "American bankruptcy long overdue, travel experts say" at msnbc