Chief Operating Officer Of American Airlines: Why We’re Last In Customer Satisfaction

At a recent employee ‘Crew News’ meeting, a pilot asked Chief Operating Officer David Seymour what the airline is doing to improve customer satisfaction citing bottom performance in J.D. Power’s airline satisfaction survey. American Airlines is bookended at the bottom of the survey by Spirit Airlines and Frontier.

While it’s never a good idea to put too much stake in a J.D. Power survey, my skepticism is mostly about the top of the survey. American Airlines is at the bottom, beating only Frontier among U.S. airlines.

Seymour offered “I think we’re on a good path to get there.” Seymour’s response to what they’re doing for customer experience is entirely focused on the operation:

Ultimately customers want to get to their destination, then they want to get their on time, then they want to get their bag and they want to be treated with respect.

Delta has been able to get by in the past with its reliable operation, with somewhat friendlier service and with seat back entertainment.

American has gotten operationally closer Delta, but that’s with Delta having numerous recent operational meltdowns. American has removed seat back screens from planes that actually had them.

American Airlines used to call thinner seats with less space per passenger and ‘bring your own device’ entertainment “the living room experience.” Because when you have guests over to your living room,

  • The kitchen (coach galley) doesn’t have an oven to serve hot food
  • Your living room chairs offer very little padding
  • You don’t provide the screen, just internet your guests have to pay to use

The operation of course matters most – the rest won’t help an airline if they’re perpetually late or cancelling flights. David Seymour (and Robert Isom) seem to think that’s the entire ball game when in reality – for an airline that needs to earn a revenue premium, rather than being the low-cost leader – those things are merely table stakes.

Finally David Seymour says don’t look at the JD Power survey – American isn’t as bad as what that survey suggests – because “Wall Street Journal is another on that came out, we weren’t last we were sixth.” Avis used to say “We’re number two. We try harder.” Seymour says he isn’t satisfied with sixth.

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. Hey they are almost up to Spit Airlines within 2 points
    Impressive for a premium legacy carrier lol

  2. Geez “Finally David Seymour says don’t look at the JD Power survey – American isn’t as bad as what that survey suggests – because “Wall Street Journal is another on that came out, we weren’t last we were sixth.” Avis used to say “We’re number two. We try harder.” Seymour says he isn’t satisfied with sixth.”

    This guy could run Marriott. And this is the airline that Alaska’s current management team jumped into bed with, no wonder there are increased drum beats of poor to lack of service, X flights at AS, much like American, Hmm might be something there!

  3. It’s the union mentality of that particular airline! NEVER do a task to get the job done when another union worker is supposed to do that job! The customer?? They are here to pay MY salary. Do only what is necessary to get from point A to B with the least amount of work. Extra service…not in my contract. Then the management’s philosophy is…YOU do what we say and we’ll make money! So, how’s that workin’ out for ya?

  4. Amazing how AA consistently makes a pathetic excuse like a little boy caught painting on the walls, as if the customer is an ignoramus and doesn’t understand the meaning of repetitive compulsion. Shrugging off the concept of competition that provides the customer a choice, AA obviously could care less–and it shows everyday they fly.

    To the traveler, business or leisure, it appears that AA was mentored by Amtrak in every aspect of the customer experience, including hit-or-miss service in the diner, cafe/lounge and sleeper; padded, inconvenient schedules; just an overall negative experience. Both AA and Amtrak misled and shook down Congress for bailouts during the pandemic; both firms mis-directed those funds from retaining employees to other priorities of management.

  5. I am just flying whoever I can find that has legacy seats – fortunately some Embraer 175s on AA do and are relatively comfortable and Southwest 737-700s. With everyone including Delta, Southwest and American going to the slimline seats it’s a race to the bottom.

  6. So AA Execs charge their friends to use the internet whenever they come over to visit? What a loser.

  7. Give me a break, Win Whitmeyer. Not everything is the union’s fault. Part of management’s job is dealing with union employees. If there are problems, look there first.

    I worked for a certain large Express regional a while back that had a Zulu Whiskey airline code. We were solid IAMAW. We had contract work to turn and RON 727s for a certain, shall we say, untied carrier at a large line city.

    The untied right and cabin crews loved us and said we did the best job ever, better than their own people. The untied employees in a certain hub city got mad at us because we were making them look bad. Tsk, tsk. We told them to up their game. I mean, it a bunch of the Express yahoos you liked to paint as losers could outperform you…

  8. Well David Seymour is the COO so he is going to approach this question with a focus on operations which have improved a lot since last summer. In fact I suspect they will end the year in the top 3 possibly beating Delta and easily beating United. As for product enhancement announcements he was not in a position to make that in this forum. We know they are studying streaming in seat IFE. But what becomes of that I don’t know and when we he something it will not come from the COO

  9. Virtually no one would fly domestic commercial if they didn’t have to. I don’t understand the mass negativity towards it however. What are travelers expecting? Your on an Lyft for 1-3 hours in the air where you get a drink if you want or just close your eyes and wow you’re there. What is the problem people?

  10. @Thing 1- umm everyone charges for wifi except Jetblue. and well Jetblue has a had a bunch of meltdowns and schedule cancellations this year alone, so makes me question the validity of that survey.

  11. Trying for a month now to get a refund or credit for downgrades they forced on us. Frustrating dealing with them is the nicest I can say at the moment.

  12. AA’s biggest Issues are with the Executives at the wheel….clearly out of touch with the Operation and nothing is ever their fault. As one of their Employees told Me “Clown Show most days and a Royal Cluster on the Weekends when the so called Management is off duty”. This former AWA Team should be running a Ultra Low Cost/Thift Airline, not a Legacy.

  13. I just made a trip from Indianapolis to Los Angeles over the past week. I flew to Los Angeles on Delta and back to Indianapolis on American. The experience showed that Delta is much better than American. Basically, Delta had a great in- flight entertainment experience that was free, and American had the back of a seat to look at it. The seats on Delta were comfortable, the seats on American were physically painful.

    I would never fly American if Delta was available.

  14. American is only interested in money. Stuffing in as many seats as possible. Making bathrooms like outhouses. Lousy customer service and piss poor management

  15. And not only are we paying out the nose this Summer on airfares…it’s after we the taxpayers were forced to bail them out and subsidize their mediocrity at running an airline [into the ground] through the pandemic! The disconnect with reality at the exec level of ALL the US carriers is incredible.

  16. Remember, that up to very recently AA was painting near the aircraft door a sign that they are #1 based on some kind of rating? I simply forgot what it was. I suggest they paint a new sign that AA is #9 according the J.D. Power’s airline satisfaction survey.

  17. How about not unilaterally canceling vouchers with no info on the website to say when they expire….

    I lost 500 dollars due to not getting any feedback on on expiring vouchers.

  18. Proofread your writing, dude. I don’t read stuff written at a fourth grade level. Spellcheck is free.

  19. The first time that I flew from Houston to New York (and I paid for it) was on New York Air. The food was, OK but the service was excellent..
    I paid $275 back. in 1986

    It all boils down to price and service. The airline industry has been devouring itself for decades. They can barely offer:
    Dirty planes
    No frills, no food
    Hard seat
    Rowdy passengers
    Crowded planes
    Bad manners.
    Prison planet, I mean planes.

    Business class and lounges are not an escape from the madness pass anymore. Have you been to an Admiral or Amex lounge?
    They are packed and loud. Food is wrapped everywhere. Please , No “Otis Spunkmeyer” old muffins, or “Granola” bars, no thank you.

    Am I trying to be a snob?. Not at all.
    What we pay is what we get.
    I just dont expect anything. …

  20. I know this post is about AA, but WestJet finishing dead last is very interesting. My experiences with them as always been as the Southwest of Canada – not a super refined product (except on the 787), but extremely great service that compensates for it.

  21. While it’s true that ultimately customers want to get (I might add safely) to their destination, on time, get their bags and be treated with respect, does it have to be in that order and if one of those desires gets lost, we should be grateful we got the others?
    Is it costly or time consuming to be treated nicely?

  22. Getting rid of Parker was the best thing to get AA out of the basement of customer service. Parker did nothing well and created a culture of mediocrity that many AA employees have accepted.

    It’s also worth noting that Delta scores further above the industry average than Delta scores below it. As much as a few United people want to believe they are doing so well, they scored just 2 points above Spirit and 4 points above American. In other words, AA and UA are, for all practical purposes, similar perceptions in the marketplace.

    Given that UA has supposedly had fewer operational “meltdowns” they don’t run as good of an operation on a day in and day out basis as Delta and they also do a much worse job of resolving problems w/ their customers, just like American.

    Southwest is the airline that can do just about anything to its customers and they still keep coming back and loving it. Winning in customer service is far more about treating customers well – esp. when you mess up their plans – that it is about running a flawless operation.

    According to just about every tracking site, Delta is much closer to Southwest in customer service than American or United.

  23. correction
    “It’s also worth noting that Delta scores further above the industry average than United scores below it”

  24. The service is terrible I had a ba/aa code share and aa was horrible, flying home to dfw on ba on june 1st. Fly aa to barcelona in feb same terrible service but the madrid to dfw return was better. Only reason I’m fly aa is because of my BA vouchers I have to use.

  25. AA lost our bags and after 6 days, we drove to 2 different airports to track them down and recover them. The people in the baggage claim at CLT acted annoyed that we were bothering them. The number they gave us to contact them went to voice mail and had a message that the mail box was full and could not leave a message. CLT shipped one bag to Asheville and never let us know. That bag was damaged but the people in Asheville were good and replaced it with a new one.

  26. American is way behind alaska, delta, and united in terms of in flight meal service, even united economy meals are light years ahead of only pringles chips being served on American

    Before the US Air merger, American was tolerable. Since then they are circling the drain

  27. Recently flew to Texas from East coast with American Airlines . The plane was disgusting with black mold up and down the compartments that hold your luggage . I’ve been sick ever since .

  28. Until AA management’s prioritizes empowering employees ( and treating them decently ) so they can provide a better customer experience, the mediocrity will continue. There is so much bitterness in the employee groups ( across the board) towards management’s inability to execute good business plans and long term strategies. The fails from weak execution and weak planning focus customer discontent directly on the employees . The bottom line cannot be the main focus. There has to be management focus on the customer and the employees to achieve success. Until this happens , AA will continue to provide a sun standard product.

  29. So far, everyone on this post knows the reason American Airlines is so bad. There are many reasons as people have stated. I have the same feeling about AA as I do about the Dallas/Ft.Worth ” metroplex”. I Don’t fly them & I don’t go to DFW metro. Ever.

  30. I bolted to UA five years ago after decade+ as ExPlat 3MM. 1K experience has been better.

  31. That’s funny! I have actually had much better experiences on Frontier than on American. With Frontier, they’re honest about what the price includes, and how much extra you’ll have to pay for any options. ALL of my flights on American had one problem or another: missed connections, lost luggage, surly FAs, the worst customer service agents of any airline.

  32. AA will continue to be at the bottom until they have a decent CEO in charge that is striving to be number 1 in the industry. Isom has no plan and should return seats and IFE’s like before with decent meal service. AA board of directors should be replaced as well and Parker not on it.

  33. Since AA went to 10 across on their 777s vs 9 and cheapened the frequent flyer program, I quit. I look for Premium economy on international flights and don’t have any loyalty to a particular airline. Recently AA put me up twice in Dallas due to missed.connections. I am getting close to 500,000 miles, but I don’t think Zi will make it.

  34. AA doesn’t care about people. Not customers, not employees. They care about on time departures. They have lost the plot. I’m embarrassed to say I work there…

  35. Agree w/others not seeing a lot of change in forseeable future.

    It’s going to take a sea change to turn the culture back to one that will bring business travelers vs. driving them away, and that’s most certainly not going to happen w/the recent CEO change.

  36. Being a retired airline management employee for 22 of my 34 years. I can tell you the industry as well as the customers have changed over the last couple of decades. Employees don’t come to work due to government mandated sick and FMLA. “Wokeness” of airlines to the point you rarely can take corrective action on poor performing employees. Outsourcing of various functions of the airline. Lack of human decency from both employees and customers. And the list goes on.
    I retired 8 years earlier than I anticipated, but I was done. I felt I was more of a “babysitter” and law enforcement at times. Most people just want to get away with whatever they can, both employees and customers. Don’t get me wrong, many people still hold themselves to a higher standard, but seems to be more unusual than the “norm” any longer.

  37. Still surprised at all the anti-union junk I read on here. Unions are not the problem. Yes, they protect some employees who should be fired, but managers protect other managers some of whom should be fired and executive boards protect ceo’s and other board members some of whom should be fired.

    I can tell you that without the frontline workers at the airlines, union and non-union, you would be lucky to get anywhere.

    The frontline workers and their managers, the ones you can speak to when you ask for a manager, are the ONLY things keeping airlines running right now.

    Most of the managers above the ones you can talk to are the worst I have ever seen in a long long time. I seriously cannot believe how they keep their jobs. Don’t get upset about union wages. They could lower fares if they cut all the dead weight middle to upper management.

    You really could not believe how bad most of them are.

    Do leave feedback when you have a bad experience with a frontline worker, but when you get good service, please tell the worker directly. Most of us are beyond burned out. Airline execs do not care about us, they just care about taking your money, and we are only a tool for them to do that. There is no more pride from the c-suite, and airline execs are trying to beat out the last bit of pride most of us have left. Please have some pity. Most of us got into these jobs because we loved aviation, not for the pay. Airline execs are only in it for the money. It’s pretty sick. I really have never worked for worse execs then I am doing right now.

    They are out of touch with employees and out of touch with passengers.

    Gary, I know you are already worried about getting your Aadvantage account revoked, but you really should consider interviewing a lot of low-level AA employees from all workgroups, including headquarters. I do not know anyone outside of headquarters who is happy…Anyone!

    It would have to be confidential due to company rules on talking to the media. If you do decide to do it, please post a thread here looking people to interview. I might do it.

  38. LOL Good idea, indirectly, Gary. I have some annoying house guests I want to get rid of and this is PERFECT!

    “American Airlines used to call thinner seats with less space per passenger and ‘bring your own device’ entertainment “the living room experience.” Because when you have guests over to your living room,

    * The kitchen (coach galley) doesn’t have an oven to serve hot food
    * Your living room chairs offer very little padding
    * You don’t provide the screen, just internet your guests have to pay to use”

  39. Maybe it’s just me. Have been flying AA for many years. Am Advantage Gold after all these years. Have yet to have a problem. Of course, I fly Business. And I have yet to have a problem with connecting in DFW. Will be flying to BOS in September via DFW. Don’t expect any problems either.

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