American’s President Wants to Stop Paying Philadelphia Airport Until They Clean Up Filth

At an employee forum in Philadelphia this week American Airlines President Robert Isom was asked when the airline would work with the city to clean up the airport?

She noted that customer service starts from the door,

When they walk in and they see a chair with filth… maggots at the gate.. we have roaches in the break room.. You have ConciergeKeys coming out of a $100,000 Escalade up onto a jet bridge with feces and dirt. The floors are never cleaned… the bathrooms, I’d like to take you on a tour of the lady’s room.. a lot of it is the city cleaners sleeping instead of cleaning.

Philadelphia Airport

Isom said that in 2017 ten jet bridges were replaced, and “there’s a game plan to replace all jet bridges that we use… OTG is opening up new concessions.”

He noted they pay for “75% of the bills around here… at the end of the day it is not right to be paying that for goods and services that are supposed to be delivered.” Isom committed to “talk to Doug Parker this week, and we’ll figure out how we can get the Mayor and the Airport Director aware of the situation.”

American and the airport ‘changed facilities people’ and the cleaning contractor in Philadelphia, and American says they’re working together to improve conditions.

Meanwhile Isom acknowledged that his own travel experience is different than those of customers and his employees. He told a story about his pilot on the way into Philadelphia once telling him to expect that “nothing works, we don’t have ground equipment, the jet bridges don’t work, you name it… when we touch down in Philadelphia you’re going to be in a line that’s 40 minutes long, when we get to the jet bridge there’ll be nobody there.”

Yet when he touched down it’s “as if the seas had parted and we pulled up to a gate and we had a receiving line of a lot of people.” And that’s why he’s out of touch with the customer experience. He said “I know the conditions are tough.”

Oddly though he ended the discussion by saying Philadephia services American Airlines really well. So I guess they’ll be paying their cleaning bills after all.

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. Back in the US Scareways days, I was told directly by a flight attendant that Philadelphia was: “.. their worst station.” I agree. It’s a sh*thole, sorry. I recently did a codeshare to the UK on BA which was OK as a lounge but I am avoiding BA too now if I can. Gets harder with AA’s codeshares. In overall terms I prefer AA’s Flagship First to BA’s First (seats) even if BA has better cabin service and marginally better food.
    The US Scareways lounge in PHL international was OK until the merger then it went downhill fast…
    AA IMO as a frequent *international* flier is really limiting options. I fly out of PHX mostly, and I target either LAX or DFW for international flights with MIA as a fallback.
    ORD and JFK are to be avoided at all costs IMO….
    Not overall good news since AA is refocusing its longer haul international to PHL out of JFK, (they say).

  2. Tons of lazy, overweight employees constantly sitting around doing nothing at PHL every time I fly through there.

  3. Hey Gary, Long time reader, first time commenter. Just curious where you got your quotes from? I live near and frequent PHL, and would love to keep track of any improvements coming in the future.


  4. PHL is a s**t hole and to be avoided at all costs…..It’s a shame AA thinks this is their “crown jewel” for TATL.

  5. top complaint about PHL and other hubs – lack of customer service desks and personnel. post-merger, the hubs have a LOT of flights, and when weather or other IRROPS event occurs there is simply no way that the limited number of customer service agents can assist without huge lines. made worse b/c gate agents seem to have a green light to pack up and walk away once a flight is cancelled.

  6. So I haven’t flown to PHL in about six months but I’ve flown in and out of there 30 times in the last three years. I will note the I think that CS folks (WN, AA, ground crew, basically everyone working there) were generally the most unfriendly of any other airport but I don’t recall it being dirty. Lounge offerings were sad, especially United. I don’t have comp access to the AA intl lounge anymore but it used to be nice. One of the few domestic lounges where I could get full cans of soda/water out of the fridge. Funny how the small things stick out. Aside from one deicing delay I don’t recall jetbridges ever being broken or no one to operate it. PHL remains a strong union area and the majority of my experience was via WN so maybe this is more AA specific?

  7. Yes, PHL truly has to be one of the rudest, most unfriendly places. So much for Franklin’s ‘City of Brotherly Love’. Hence the new name: KillPhil. Sad. I avoid that airport. Pittsburgh is better, at least when USAir had international flights out of there. Sad.

  8. It’s their crown jewel because they can charge whatever they want there. But this is what you get when you give essentially a blank check to the government to spend your money. No one should be surprised.

  9. The problem with planes not being parked and agents not at their gate is a lack of discipline when it happens,,,the middle managers get no support from upper management to discipline these employees,,,,the rule used to be you had to be at your gate 15 mins prior to arrival time,,,,make sure you had all the necessary equipment,,,,beltloaders,,,tugs,,,,carts,,ect,,,,seems like now they come running out when the plane has been sitting for 5 mins like they weren’t expecting it,,,, friggin joke!!

  10. In my experience, the condition of PHL’s terminals has improved greatly over the last 6 years or so. The main problem in PHL is the surly staff – of course, I might be surly too if I had to deal with rude Philadelphians all day.

  11. Well, I read blogs like this quite often, and the things that concern some people and that some people find important baffle me.

    I don’t need fancy transfers, first class in flight amenities, over-water bungalows … you get my drift. I could even fly in a coach seat in Spirit if I had to … and survive.

    Yet, I do expect to get an airline to take all reasonable steps to get me from point A to point B safely. I expect that the aircraft and airport facilities will be clean, and I expect the same from my hotel, even if it is budget lodging. It’s mandatory. Otherwise, I direct my travel dollars elsewhere.

    Personally, I don’t frequently fly to/through PHL and have not experienced the conditions referenced in this post. If I did, I’d connect elsewhere when possible and I sure wouldn’t spend any money in the airport.

    @Michael, above, makes an excellent point, re: customer service desks in hubs.

  12. Too bad passengers can’t obtain a refund on their tickets when American fails to provide service as promised on its flights.

  13. Well…in my experience US hubs like PHX, CLT, and PHL reflect the management of the airline, the flight attendants, ground staff, aircraft, and of course the clientele…total trash. Happy travels!

  14. Whenever a major manager is coming to your station we know he or she is coming so of course everything is 100%..

  15. Maybe I have a lower set of expectations for an airport, but I never thought that PHL was that bad. I have had some shitty experience in NYC, in LA, in ATL, etc. but that was because it was a product of a late layover or things going wrong as I was headed out or home to Philly. So I think the problem is like everything else. If you don’t live there, the only time things stick out is when things go wrong… otherwise there wouldn’t be an extreme opinion of PHL either way.

    It’s an ok airport at best.

    It’s fairly clean, I wouldn’t say top notch. They are improving the bathrooms, and overall I rarely get delayed, and I used to fly out of there every week.

    Philly gets a reputation that honestly is pretty much the same shit every major city has with no benefit of the doubt. I am always able to fly in and out with relative ease, but like I said I have never had high expectations of any airline or airport. It’s basically public transportation with a different logo.

  16. “Meanwhile Isom acknowledged that his own travel experience is different than those of customers and his employees.”

    Perhaps Isom & Parker should take a page from Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly — he uses his own airline for transportation, not private jets, not first class seats, not even business class, not even priority boarding. He’ll be standing in line, often with one of the higher (later) boarding #s and takes a seat towards the rear of the aircraft.

    The Sears CEO, Eddie Lampert, fully admits that he hasn’t set foot in an actual store in over a decade, and we all know where Sears is heading. Pan Am, TWA, Eastern… all were great in their day… but CEOs out of touch with what was happening on the ground sunk every single one of them, even the mighty Pan Am.

  17. PHL airport has had problems for a long long time. Many years ago I remember flight and baggage delays and the promises US Airways made to clean up the situation. I’ve seen ramp workers asleep on the job and others who purposefully displayed hatred for their work. Those same problems continue today. Staff and management at the airport are directly to blame.That these problems persist makes me wonder how American prioritizes customer experience.

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