Why “Hey Siri, Call American Airlines” Causes This Weird Response

by SharonKurheg

Apple started its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) the other day. The annual event typically spotlights the latest advancements in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and visionOS.

On the first day of WWDC24, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company was going to join the likes of Microsoft, Google, and just about everybody else and begin to bring generative artificial intelligence to the masses through their various electronics. Of particular interest, they described how Siri, Apple’s 13-year-old digital assistant, was going to get an extensive makeover designed to make it more personable and versatile.

And that just made me giggle a little because, on the very same day, I read a story about how Siri has had ongoing problems when asked to call, of all places, American Airlines.

Apparently, according to The Dallas Morning News, if you live in the greater Dallas area and tell your iOS-favored cell phone, “Hey Siri, call American Airlines,” the digital assistance DOESN’T call the commercial aviation company, but rather American Airlines Center, the sports arena that hosts games for the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars.

a large screen on the front of American Airlines Center

American Airlines Center // PC: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

Employees say they get calls every day from someone trying to reach the airline to ask about their flights (instead of, you know, game times or parking access).

Marsha Bradshaw, one of the dispatchers at the arena, told the newspaper, “You answer the phone and you say, ‘Thank you for calling American Airlines Center,’ they don’t hear that last word. They just hear American Airlines.”

So I wondered if Apple’s upcoming makeover to make Siri “more personal and versatile” will also help it stop calling the wrong number. LOLOL!

To be fair, the problem isn’t just an Apple thing. If a Dallas-based Android user tells Alexa to call American Airlines, Alexa will have a tendency to call the American Airlines Center, too.

Is this for real?

Apparently so! I even checked it out by employing some friends of mine.

When Samantha called

First I asked my friend Samantha to lend a hand. She lives in a suburb of Atlanta and uses an iPhone. I texted her to explain what’s been happening and asked her to ask Siri to call American Airlines and see what happens. She did and then wrote, “I said, ‘Hey Siri, call American Airlines.’ She said, ‘Okay, which American Airlines?’ and gave me the American Airlines at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport as the choice.” So she got the airline, not the sports venue.

Then Mary Lee called

Then I employed my friend Mary Lee, who lives in a suburb of Dallas. She has an iPhone and I asked her to do the same thing. Her response was totally different from Samantha’s.  “Yep, you get a human at American Airlines Center!”

So if you live in Dallas, you get the American Airlines Center, but if you’re in Georgia, Siri (and, I assume, Alexa) gives you the correct number. So then I started wondering, what if you’re in Texas, but just not in the Dallas area?

Enter my friend, Sofia.

Finally, Sofia called. And here’s where it got REALLY weird

Sofia is my friend who also lives in Texas but is clear on the other side of the state (Odessa, Texas, is about 353 miles from Dallas). She, coincidentally, also has an iPhone (I know I have lots of friends with Androids too, I promise!). I also asked her to ask Siri to call American Airlines, and she said Siri got the actual airline for her.

And then…PLOT TWIST!

On a whim, Sofia also asked everyone in her office (3 other people – all iPhone users, LOL) to try it, too. And here’s where it gets weird. Sofia and her boss both got the airline. The other 2 people in the office got connected to the American Airlines Center!

In case it was significant, Sofia did say that she and her boss – the ones who got connected to the airline – had called American Airlines in the past. The other 2 people in the office – the ones who got connected to the sports arena – had not.

a cartoon character with glasses and mustacheOr maybe it really was a coincidence…who knows? As a follow-up, I did check with Mary Lee and Samantha – neither of them had ever called American Airlines before. Which didn’t really help, since Mary Lee had gotten the American Airlines Center and Samantha got the airline. So THAT part of the experiment is – and will remain – a mystery.

Why? How?

Apparently, it’s been an issue since long before there were Siri, Alexa, or Apple or Android-flavored phones. American Airlines Center employees say that search engines have been misinforming callers about the number since around 2001.

Bradshaw said they’ve reached out to get the issue fixed on several occasions. They even tried contacting Google to tell them that what they’re giving out isn’t the right number. But as bloggers around the world will tell you after losing upwards of 80-90% of their readers after Google’s infamous October 2023 algorithm update, Google doesn’t listen and Google doesn’t care.

How to find a contact number for American Airlines

Both Bradshaw and her co-worker, Billie Bailey, have American Airlines’ toll-free number memorized (both in English and Spanish), so when people mistakenly call them via Siri/Alexa, they can tell the misguided passenger the number they need to reach the airline.

Oh, and even though the arena has the airline as its name, Bradshaw and Bailey can’t transfer you to the airline – they’re two totally separate companies – the arena just bought the name rights in 1999 (for a cool $195 million, I may add).

With Siri/Alexa

Welp, if you live in the greater Dallas area, don’t bother using Siri or Alexa, LOL! According to Christopher Elliott’s website of How To Call An Airline, Hotel, etc. & Get An Actual Person, the main number is (682) 278-9000. The toll-free number is (800) 433-7300.

If you’re in Texas but outside the Dallas area, you can still ask Siri or Alexa to call American Airlines, and it should work fine. Or maybe not, based on Sofia’s mini-experiment.

With a search engine

If you use a search engine to find American Airlines’ phone number, it seems to work correctly (at least with Bing and Google). It gives the same toll free number as Christopher Elliott’s website of How To Call An Airline, Hotel, etc. & Get An Actual Person: (800) 433-7300.

*** MANY, many thanks to Samantha, Mary Lee and Sofia (and her whole office!) for their help! Y’all ROCK!

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