Would it be a mistake to buy cheap American Airlines tickets right now?
October 10, 2012 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Would it be a mistake to buy American Airlines tickets right now, for the upcoming December holidays?

My fiancee and I are looking to fly from Chicago to Hartford, this Christmas, and American Airlines current fares are crazy low (almost 80 bucks less, per person, per way).

Presumably, this is due to the trouble that AA has been having lately (with money, delayed/cancelled flights, pilot contract disputes, etc), and so I wonder if buying these super-cheap tickets right now would be problematic come December. Nevertheless, the incredibly cheap tickets are pretty alluring, given how much money we'll inevitably spend on the holidays themselves. Any thoughts?
posted by summerteeth to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I would buy them now. Holiday fares do not, as a rule, decrease.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 3:30 PM on October 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Right now flying American is hard but you know, you get there. (They cancel a lot of flights, pilots are reporting all problems and planes are delayed, etc.) You're totally safe (as far as any reasonable expectations!) to buy it. The airline is just going into bankruptcy protection, not like, fleeing the country. Besides, by then maybe it'll be American US Airways! And you'll be the first on your block to have flown the new hybrid company!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:35 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't need to get there in a hurry, and you're willing to deal with the potential of major hassles, including cancelled flights, many hour delays, etc, go for it. A direct flight is way better than a connection, if you can get it.
posted by zug at 3:38 PM on October 10, 2012

In the past two weeks, American's issues have gotten my husband stranded overnight in Dallas and caused my boss to miss a meeting in Washington, DC, because his flight was cancelled and they couldn't get him where he needed to be in time. In both cases, the airline was very accommodating - they gave my husband a hotel room and meal vouchers without him even having to ask, and they fully refunded my boss's fare with no trouble, even though they did have available flights later in the day - those flights just wouldn't work for his needs.

So, the moral of the story is: it's a crapshoot, and everything might get all messed up, but they will get you there eventually one way or the other. If you go into it knowing there might be a few hassles along the way but the savings are significant enough to make up for that, I'd go ahead and buy the tickets.
posted by something something at 3:57 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Only if it's a direct flight and you don't mind potentially hours of delays. I wouldn't do it if you're flying on like, December 23rd or 24th and you absolutely must be there by a certain time on Christmas Eve. If you have a buffer day after each flight to deal with delays and aren't the kind of people to let travel frustration ruin your vacation, sure, it might be worth it.
posted by MadamM at 3:58 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter WHO you fly with on any holiday, it's going to be a nightmare. Flights are intentionally overbooked on all airlines, weather is an issue and cause delays or cancellations, and people are cranky and fussy and ready to throw a hissy fit no matter what happens. I've seen fistfights break out on a flight on Christmas day over a baby crying when we were 35,000 miles above earth.

I just flew on American last night and everything was perfect. On the Dallas to Reno flight, they held the plane so 17 people who were arriving late from a weather-delayed flight could get on board. The 15 minutes we were delayed was made up in the air.

Not so lucky on my way over. My Dallas to Philadelphia flight was cancelled and I had to wait 2 hours until the next one, but I wasn't in a mad rush, so it didn't matter.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:15 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd probably be a bit miffed if someone took a squalling infant on a Christmas trip beyond high orbit, too.

Unless there's an exception I haven't seen for companies in reorganization, travel regulations will still protect you against totally abusive practices (at least by compensating you, which may be too little too late given the holidays).
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2012

Best answer: For what it's worth, my brother had really bad luck on the reverse of that flight (Hartford to Chicago) when he was in college (he graduated in 2010). I don't think he had problems ORD-BDL, but I don't think BDL-ORD a few days before Christmas ever arrived anywhere close to on time (if it arrived at all--it got cancelled and he got sent via RDU at least twice).

However, AA's not likely to fold, so in that sense you're okay. American Eagle pilots have just signed a new contract, so you might even be okay on the labor front (you should be able to tell if it's an American Eagle flight when you book).
posted by hoyland at 5:16 PM on October 10, 2012

Best answer: I've been observing Christmas fares since before Labor Day and this is the lowest I've seen them on American since then. ($130 from Chicago to LA the Thursday before Christmas? I'm on board!

I would buy, because:
(1) Holiday fares don't generally go down, and this is the cheapest by far, barring Sprint et al, that I've seen on any airline in a while.
(2) Who knows what will happen with the labor dispute by December?
(3) I see you're flying out of Chicago as well. Odds are if your flight is delayed, it's because Chicago (or New England) has decided to sleet/snow/storm/blizzard/thundersnow as per usual, and in that situation everyone's fucked, so you might as well have paid $80 less than the guy next to you for the same crappy delayed experience.

I would go for it.
posted by andrewesque at 5:29 PM on October 10, 2012

I would skip it.
posted by curious nu at 5:35 PM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can schedule your flights so that you won't be put out by arriving a day late either way, go for it.
posted by Area Man at 6:03 PM on October 10, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks folks. Turns out that the flights were carried through American Eagle, so chances are a bit better that it'll be a smooth process.

For the rest of you, people are right. American is CHEAP right now. We just saved about $400 by going through them for the holidays.
posted by summerteeth at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seeing this post got me looking at LA-NYC flights for the holidays. I definitely saved a lot of money by booking now.
posted by paperzach at 2:18 AM on October 11, 2012

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