American’s CEO Frustrated With Abusive Customers, “I Don’t Have The Answer”

American Airlines CEO knows that the federal mask mandate – which he lobbied for – is causing most of the problems on airplanes today. American won’t service alcohol in coach until September 13th when the mask mandate expires. But he’s frustrated. He doesn’t know what else to know. So the airline is trying to stop ‘to go’ sales of alcohol in airports and trying to get more abusive customers prosecuted.

Parker said that they’ll do whatever they have to do to stop the increase in bad passenger behavior.
It’s still rare compared to the total number of passengers carried, but it’s up to ‘5, 10’ incidents per day. That’s why, according to comments made to employees (a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing, he said:

We’ll divert airplanes. We’ll do anything we can, we have to get this to stop. It is not acceptable. I get done with all of this and I don’t have the answer which is what’s so frustrating to me.

Nate Gatten, American’s Senior Vice President, Global Government Affairs, added that “we’re trying to partner where we can with airports to take a look at alcohol and alcohol to go sales.”

Parker added his strong opposition to airport alcohol to go sales,

It’s really hard to enforce because those ae businesses that have taken that position and there’s no real federal mandate that says you can’t sell alcohol to go somewhere in the airport.

It’s insane. You can’t bring liquids through security but you can go get alcohol and take it to go, and where in the world are you going? You’re going and getting on an airplane.

Austin Airport

American is also trying to get more customers prosecuted for their bad behavior, which isn’t just inflight (the stories that go most viral) but also at the gate. Gatten said they’re talking to “attorneys general in areas to make sure they’re willing to bring cases where we have evidence.”

Gatten then lauded the American Airlines agent who fired a customer last week, telling them to fly Spirit.

Parker referenced that agent as well,

I spoke to [the agent] last night because I’m proud of him. He was apologetic for maybe not being as professional as he used to. I thought he was fantastic.

…All of us need to do that and follow Austin’s example. What he did was exactly what we want people to do. The customer isn’t always right. And when they’re not they’re not going to fly American Airlines.

Parker also noted that American is “one of only two airlines that has chosen not to put alcohol back on the airplane until September 13 which is when the mask mandate is set to expire. These aren’t all about masks, but the mask mandate is the source of most of the issues.”

Of course American Airlines does serve alcohol in first class, and United and Delta don’t seem to have as many viral conflicts as American. Southwest now announces a warning not to drink your own alcohol.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m done flying for the foreseeable future. Flew on AA last month & it wasn’t worth the headaches – from being bumped to long delays to being barked at because my mask wasn’t a 2-ply?? to lost luggage. I’ve decided against being crammed into an overcrowded cabin while muzzled like an animal for a virus that I’ve already tested positive for and recovered from – on top of the aforementioned crap. Take your money elsewhere, it’s the only language these ass clowns are going to understand.

  2. @Md Parise: Frequent flyer tip: The American Airlines aircraft lavatories toilet paper is “two-ply.” On some flights, due to prior use, the toilet paper roll is empty.

  3. American is hot garbage. Abusive CUSTOMERS? Since this shit started, American has removed any trace of dignity or respect from their customer interactions. They are, by far, the biggest offenders when it comes to the fall off of customer service in the airline industry today. I’ll fly ANYONE before I fly American. Garbage company, garbage people.

  4. as is obvious, clearly some garbage customers like Bobby Stacks. The staff of AA are dealing with a difficult situation and clientele as well. Maybe if customers conveyed a little more respect, patience and understanding they would get served the same. Needless to say no one will miss this person whose initials seem quite appropriate. I think most would agree the vast majority of customers and the majority of employees do not treat people poorly and are respectful. This person clearly belongs on Spirit. They will not be missed.

  5. And another thought: Why doesn’t AA CEO turn to customers for suggestions on how to handle the problem. HIre some people to be on board “police” and arrest those who can’t behave in flight

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