How to Fix American Airlines and the AAdvantage Program

For several years American Airlines offered a clear value proposition. It made sense to fly American and earn status in the AAdvantage program because they were more rewarding than Delta or United.

I’ve written for many years that benefits which are significantly more rewarding than average won’t last, and it’s no surprise that American has cut back on its generosity.

Delta earns a revenue premium not because of its SkyMiles program, but in spite of it. Their recent IT meltdown notwithstanding, they offer a better on-time reliable product. American isn’t Delta. You don’t choose American in spite of AAdvantage, the underlying airline isn’t nearly as good.

With the airline operation lagging, cuts to the AAdvantage program, and strong indications of more cuts to come, I’ve been flying American less.

I requalified as a 100,000 mile Executive Platinum flyer in June, but have taken only 2 American Airlines flights since then. Just like at Delta the message from American has clearly been that customers should buy exaclty the flight product they want, so I do that — from whatever airline offers it with the best schedule and price. I’ve flown more United segments since June than American segments, it looks like I’ll earn United status also this year. (And I’ve also flown Southwest and Virgin America.)

I would never have even considered buying tickets from an airline other than American in the past if American offered service to where I was going. When I needed to go somewhere, I would go to the American Airlines website and buy flights. I’d spend more to fly American and I’d take a connection instead of a non-stop. It seems they no longer want me to do that.

Here are 7 things that American could do to get back to great:

  1. Don’t take away elite benefits on the basic economy fares that are coming. I am not my fare. I am either a valuable customer (and remember, I’m not just flying next year I have minimum spend requirements too) or I am not. And if I am that needs to be true every time I step into the airport and onto an American Airlines plane.

  2. Stop making it harder and less convenient to fly. Rescind the ‘no checked bags on separate tickets’ rule, or at least allow an exception for top tier elites.

    The rule allows American to fully capture checked bag fees, despite DOT rules requiring no more than one fee per checkin. But American’s 100,000 mile flyers don’t pay checked bag fees anyway, so why make life harder? Cut out the D0 nonsense that causes agents to board early, not to process upgrades properly, and start updating flight delays before boarding time.

    As it is, I have to leave the club early in case the aircraft starts boarding before published boarding time so I can get overhead bin space. But since American doesn’t update departure delays until the last minute generally I get to the gate to find no aircraft there. I stand around and waste time. The goal should be to help customers fly efficiently rather than creating ways to waste my time.

  3. Offer a consistent product. There shouldn’t be share buybacks until the airline actually invests in its fleet. Legacy US Airways aircraft should all have power ports and Main Cabin Extra additional legroom seating. Don’t reduce first class seating to do the retrofit. Don’t make me try to go out of my way to avoid Legacy US Airways planes, let me be a customer of the entire airline.


    Legacy American Airlines Airbus A319

  4. Stop slow-walking updates to Admirals Clubs. We need more seating in overcrowded clubs and better workspaces, Delta and now even United are ahead here.


    American Airlines Admirals Club Buenos Aires

  5. American went from first to worst in lifetime status, so reverse that. American devalued lifetime Platinum status (2 million miler) by reducing bonus miles given to Platinums from 100% to 60% and by introducing a level between Platinum and Executive Platinum.

    American has the least competitive million miler benefits of the big US airlines. Delta lets you earn lifetime 75,000 mile Platinum status and gives substantive gifts at million mile thresholds. United doesn’t just let you earn lifetime 1K status, they even offer lifetime Global Services, and they extend spouse benefits to lifetime elites.

    First American should rename ‘Platinum Pro’ because the name is stupid (even Platinum 75K would have been fine) and then make 3 million milers Platinum 75K for life and 4 million milers lifetime Executive Platinum and introduce a spouse benefit like United’s.

  6. Actually offer saver awards on American flights. American’s award availability has gone from best domestically to worst, and internationally from middle of the pack to worst. AAdvantage has become worse than SkyPesos for own-flight redemption. We’ve just had a really big devaluation higher prices should come with better award availability.

  7. Cut out making changes without notice. The multiple tiers of awards on premium cross country flights represents a fundamental departure from the way extra miles AAnytime awards supposedly work. American didn’t announce the change in advance and they haven’t even explained what’s changed. New higher levels on South Pacific AAnytime awards are being introduced with next to no notice (I wouldn’t have known about them coming this month if I hadn’t specifically asked). And the change to checked bag policy was made without notice, again I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t seen it on American’s Agency Reference site.

I want to point out things that aren’t on my list.

  • I don’t say anything about reduced redeemable mileage earning for flights as a result of awarding miles based on the cost of a ticket. Fewer miles from flying? That’s fine if they can at least fix availability.

  • Fewer systemwide upgrades for top elites? Again, fine if they can make inventory available to use the ones customers get.


    American Airlines Boeing 777-200 New Business Class (Zodiac Seat)

  • Minimum spend for elite status (“Elite qualifying dollars”)? Let them decide what constitutes a loyal flyer they want to reward but then actually reward those flyers don’t introduce fares that won’t offer benefits.

The clear message out of American and AAdvantage has been — like at Delta and United before — that the airline is focused on the bulk of customers who fly the airline at most once a year, and get treatment equivalent to exactly what they they pay for in hopes they’ll pay more — and that loyalty matters a lot less than before.

If American wants to earn a revenue premium they need to treat their high frequency customers well. There’s been a shift at the top with American’s President going to United and with a new Senior Vice President of Marketing and Loyalty who was impressive when he led the AAdvantage program a decade ago. There’s an opportunity to really focus on Making American Great Again.

What do you think?

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. @Steve it’s unclear that the number of major carriers in the US isn’t highly competitive (Southwest is the biggest domestic carrier, Alaska + Virgin America becomes a stronger competitor). It may be that the airlines are more or less owned in common by the same institutional investors, there’s at least some research on this.

    We don’t need to resolve whether or not the airline is competitive though, we can say we want more competition and the way you increase competition is to make competition legal. Allow foreign ownership of US airlines.

  2. Well written article.

    What’s the chances that the US Air execs (Hello Parker!) actually consider this list, however?

    I’ve regretted qualifying for Platinum prior to the recent changes.

  3. Forget “Platinum Pro”.

    If they want 4 levels (which is not necessary) do silver, gold, plat, and plat exec.

  4. Great post but you left out the elephant in the room. Still no announcement about a credit card spending waiver for next year.

  5. @Marc while I hope there is one, and I hope it allows waiving requirement up to Executive Platinum, my point in this post is let them decide whatever it is they think a valuable customer looks like — but once they do, treat that customer well Every. Single. Time.

  6. I am worried that As you fly United more often, the airline and its program will come back in regular discussions and blog posts

  7. My comment was truncated and part 2 was:
    Me admitting that it’s for selfish reasons only. And I do not begrudge it

  8. But what if the strategy that ends up alienating certain frequent fliers is actually the most profitable strategy for them?

  9. Agreed on all points.

    I’ve been flying JetBlue and Southwest more—they get me where I want to go, period. No hassle from Southwest, free bags. JetBlue shared points, consistent service.

    Recently was at the TPA aiport awaiting an evening flight to ATL on Southwest. Weather, then crew timed-out, creating a 4 hour delay in departure. With no demands from pax, no nasty attitude, Southwest gave every single one of us a $100- voucher (worth more than the $63 I paid for a ticket) and a $7 meal voucher.

    The legacy carriers of today may not be the legacy carriers of tomorrow. Bean counter mentality can only go so far.

  10. #2 is a biggie for me, why bother with a 400 a year AC membership when you have to stand at a gate for a extra hour each week because they can’t post delays ? Last week we stood at the gate for 90 mins while they waited for the plane to get a security check done. They would only post a new departure time after the old one had already went by, and once they posted a new departure time that was 10 mins later than the previous one even though we had not even started boarding.

  11. Airlines consider miles that they issue to elites to be expenses. They consider miles they sell to banks (or elsewhere) revenue.

    This explains much of the last 10 years or so of the industry; we’re awash in credit card bonuses and the elite programs are “enhanced”.

  12. “For several years American Airlines offered a clear value proposition. It made sense to fly American and earn status in the AAdvantage program because they were more rewarding than Delta or United.”

    That’s funny because some us felt precisely the same way about the “old” MileagePlus, which we thought was hands more rewarding than AAdvantage or Skymiles… 😉

    In fact, even while UA, the company, sucked under $mi$sek, MileagePlus remained the company’s only shining spot. Now that Munoz is at the helm and on a mission, I like the chances of UA, the company, and MileagePlus becoming leading forces and leaders…

  13. We used to view United (pre-CO merger) as the poster child for “Best to Worst” but it sounds like AA has taken that title now. That being said, there were several periods over the last year where AA offered excellent saver award inventory for business class seats to Europe. But consumers (like everyone) value predictability, which this does not provide.

    I do think the takeaway of elite benefits will come back to bite all the legacy carriers but I suspect they will simply respond with bonus miles when they reach the point in the business cycle where demand plummets (as inevitably happens) rather than restore the benefits.

  14. I also said goodbye to American after 40 years of flying them almost monthly.

    I would hide their flights like UA and DA in my searches except that they sometimes have a value proposition that overcomes the absolute sense of betrayal when they gutted the reward system they’d provided for years and expected loyal customers to accept scraps instead.

    For example there are now some 777 flights that reposition themselves between hubs in the US that offer business class seats for economy fare. This caused me to book my first AA flight since they booted me out of the program with their insult. So I’ll get to fly in a Business Class seat but still be stinging over the insulting miles.

    UA offered me Econ Plus for a year to return and I’ve booked exactly one of their flights so far to take advantage of that bribe. A bribe is not rewarding loyalty. It’s a bribe.

    Thank you Gary for continuiing to advocate for us mileage orphans. I honestly think that if they decide to smarten up, you’ll show them the way.

    This is for the airlines that paid back lifetime customers with pennies tossed in a dish:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogAqgkkTV5U

  15. vote your wallet. Since you’re AUS-based, put 99% of your flying onto the biggest AUS carrier, which is WN, and another airline with an equally close-by superhub, which is UA.

    As long as you continuously re-qualify EXP year-after-year, AA would really care less how you think, despite your blog posts.

    Just look at the other BoardingArea blog, Rene’s Points. He continues to re-qualify for DL Diamond no matter how much DL devalues everything around him, so in return, DL ignores all of his complaints.

  16. What’s happened at AA is what has happened at so many other companies in the US: Greedy high level managers pursuing VERY short term profit improvements to build up their huge bonuses and puff up their resume for their next big money making opportunity – all at the expense of employees and customers. These executives couldn’t care less about the consequences to anyone else, all in the name of pursuing their personal bonus. This will sadly continue in all industries.
    Some people justify it by saying that the executives are responsible to the shareholders and not the employees or customers – I totally disagree. For a shareholder, the long term well being of the company (its survivability) is far more important than short term profits.

  17. Spend requirement waiver via credit card is more important to me then even availability. I’m already lifetime plat, and most of my flight are transcons where not all the Ex Plats are. upgraded. So why bother with Platinum Pro? Don’t think I’d get even a 10% upgrade rate.

    At wont point does no announcement on credit card spend and status requirements means no waiver? Aren’t the credit card negotiations done?

  18. You are all missing the point. They don’t want the cost of loyal customers anymore- too muck work to try and keep them happy. They know they can can get away with it because Delta did and became more profitable and few folks quit flying them. They know we will complain but will not boycott them. Stupid consumers are born every minute and there seems to an endless supply.
    Bend over

  19. @Gary,
    1. I support your second and third points wholeheartedly.

    2. I also agree with Mark that a credit card waiver for the spend requirement is a must. Without it I will switch.

    3. There can be no question that the industry lacks a sufficient number of airlines with nationwide coverage and proprietary international route systems or through alliances to maintain a competitive environment that benefits consumers. Sure airlines have not abandoned all competition. On the other hand the small number of relevant airlines gives them the ability to control the market in a way that is detrimental to consumers. Exhibit A is the extraordinary profit that the airlines keep cranking out. That profit is not because the economy is going gangbusters. Airlines are able to get more from consumers while giving them less and extracting record profits even in this tepid recovery. That alone seems to be a sure sign of an unhealthy amount of market concentration and an insufficient amount of competition.

    4. The premium economy product stands to be a huge devaluation for frequent flyers. Delta has gone even farther by insisting DMs are getting an upgrade by getting a middle seat in the coach C+ section. American needs to minimize the negative effects of premium economy.

    5. Along the lines of your seventh point, the AAdvantage program (and indeed all ff programs) would be greatly improved if it was managed as if there was a requirement of good faith and fair dealing. Is it really a big deal to treat your best customers fairly? Airlines should not abuse the unfettered rights that the terms and conditions of their ff programs grant. Not to be overly dramatic but right now the airlines are the lords and customers are the vassals. We need a frequent flyer magna carta.

  20. I qualified EXP this year in less than 4 months of travel.

    I made AA my airline of choice and have been literally all over the world now on AA or OW birds. I’ve been pretty happy with my travels with them so far, but I can clearly see the writing on the wall going forward.

    I fear that this is just the beginning with AA, and that some bean counter is going to convince top brass that spinning off AAdvantage like Air Canada did with Aeroplan is going to be ‘best’.

    Aeroplan is absolute garbage now, and even though I live in Canada, I avoid AC like the plague unless absolutely necessary.

    I’ll end up flying well over 200k this year, some of it super cheap, some of it not. If AA wants that business next year, they need to think long and hard about how they’re eviscerating their program.

    1. Well-heeled travelers don’t give a rat’s ass about priority benefits. Well, not enough to stay loyal to one program over another.

    2. When times get tough for the airlines again… and they will… they’re going to regret chasing away customers like us who always put our butts in an AA seat because they felt loyal to AA… even if that meant an extra connection. I can’t get direct to NYC from YVR via AA. I have to connect through LAX or DFW. And I do that willingly because of my status. Why bother going forward?

    3. AA has still not announced any exemption on dollar spend for people living outside the USA, which is common for many other loyalty programs, and not just in the US. All they’re going to make me do is make sure I fly QF to Oz or CX to Asia going forward instead of an AA bird through LAX in order to game the EQD spend. Good work!

    I’m incredibly nonplussed about all these changes, and I’m the customer they want – one who will fly the miles and very well would hit the 12K spend in 2017.

    Loyalty’s a two-way street, AA. As of now, you’ve lost mine. Similar to Gary, since hitting EXP, I’ve not flown AA once. I flew KLM/Jet/Jet/AC (in paid J) on a 22,000 mile haul to Delhi last week. I’ll do BA from YVR to LHR/CDG (again in paid J) and back 2 weeks from now.

    All trips I would have happily flown on AA. But why give them the cash going forward? They don’t care about me.

    So I’ll stop caring about them.

  21. @Paul, I think an important factor in the airlines getting away with their shenanigans is that the vast majority of their best customers are flying for free. Employers are the ones shelling out the big bucks. If the vast majority of high-value customers were spending their own money, the backlash would be much stronger.

  22. I will be paying VERY close attention to the basic economy fare and what they take away from me as an EXP customer. If the implementation of basic economy fares means they want me to spend more money for status when they have slashed benefits of having status and earning miles, I will probably be taking my business else where. Its almost as if they don’t care about their customers who have earned status and they want to get more money for the same or less service than they provide now. Not acceptable.

  23. While can get behind this article and comments from the perspective of a flyer and as a consumer – who by definition wants the most that he can get for his money – at the end of the day the only thing that matters is what the market can bear, and the rest is just foot-stomping by people (myself included!) longing for the “good old days”.

    There is nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide unless you love coach-only WN or the govt lets foreign entities operate 5th-freedom in the US. Otherwise, it’s all just zero-sum: hub-captives and angry people will shift around to best align but the market is captive. Unless there are major structural or cyclical externalities, what is going to push this market?

  24. I requalified on AA for next year but won’t fly them anymore. I just hit 1MM on delta and their product is leaps above AA.

  25. As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again; GET READY WHEN PREMIUM ECONOMY comes online in the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2017. YOU WILL SEE ANOTHER DEVALUATION.

    For those that think those SWUs will be able to do a Y to J upgrade on a four class plane….dream on.

  26. To top it all off, they shouldn’t have started pulling out the rug until the merger is done. They need loyalty until everything is sorted out. Stupid management decision IMHO.

  27. I’ve come to terms with the fact that you aren’t interested in professional-level writing on this blog. Usually that’s fine, because your thought process is still clear. But the run-on construction in this parenthesis is not just ungrammatical, it doesn’t make sense: “I am either a valuable customer (and remember, I’m not just flying next year I have minimum spend requirements too) or I am not.”

    I wouldn’t bother posting just to correct your grammar . . . but I sense there is actually an interesting and important insight there. I just can’t figure out what it is! Can you try again?

  28. Shockingly – I’ve switched back to UA. UA melted down in 2012-2013 and its operations were terrible during and after their merger. Thankfully, I think that UA has a new life and their operational nonsense days are over (at least with my recent flights – I’ve been impressed).

    However, AA needs to get this $#!* together. I’ve waited anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for gate assignments on at least 50% of my recent flights. I’ve had “premium service” on transatlantic and transpacific that makes UA’s business look like Cathay Pacific. These are basic things. If your planes sit on the ground because your operations’ department is stupid, if you have extremely lazy flight attendants, and if you have rude ground staff I won’t fly you. I don’t care about their FF program if their operations and service is terrible.

    Now to burn those AA and TY points. Hello United – I’ve missed you!!

  29. The combination of an inferior product and inability to use miles without paying ridiculous surcharges is pushing me to Delta. I wonder how often AA execs fly Delta. My guess is not often, but if I were at AA, it would be imperative to me to do what I needed to ensure that AA flyers didn’t stray over there. Because they simply cannot compete in terms of experience and product. It’s night and day. After flying one of the old US planes the other day I asked myself, what the heck am I doing here? There are lots of ways to get from BOS to LAX and flying in one of those crap planes only to be greeted on a layover in one of the crap old lounges in the A gates in PHX is a pretty easy way to convince someone to try Delta. And then good luck getting them back. Maybe back in the day when I could actually find a couple of seats to Europe on AA metal, it was a reason to prefer AA miles, but not anymore. (Unless you’re willing to wait for the one day a year that AA seems to release a ton of space at once and join the feeding frenzy for it.) I’m on the verge of 2 million miles with AA, some of them going all the way back to TWA butt in seat miles, but I frankly don’t even care if I get there. Watching American destroy itself is sad to see, but also strangely liberating.

  30. By the end of this Aug I have logged in >150,000 EQM with AA including ca. 50,000 EQM in the two last months alone. All those were business miles with one vacation trip back in May. I do not like the changes in AAdvantage and this is the only reason why I do not have a single future reservation with AA.

  31. Gary,

    I find the airlines attitude of moving to a system where “customers should buy exactly the flight product they want” to be surprising. This means that, except for hub travelers, the airlines have to compete on price – there is no other differentiation (at least not one that most travelers would comprehend). Most businesses do anything and everything that they can to avoid competing on price, but the airlines seem to be deliberately and giddily moving in this direction.

    In the short term, it may look good as they cut costs and people don’t change their behavior immediately, but in the long term, most customers will do what you are doing – once there is no significant value to remaining loyal to one specific airline, you fly whoever’s cheapest for a schedule that’s acceptable so AA only gets your business if they are cheapest. Even a once a year traveler used to be able to get value out of their frequent flyer program so there was a reason to stick with them, but definitely not any more.

    Do you have any understanding of why they are doing this? What do they believe is going to balance out the lower fares that they must provide once they devalue their frequent flyer programs to the point of irrelevance?

  32. “I would never have even considered buying tickets from an airline other than American in the past if American offered service to where I was going. When I needed to go somewhere, I would go to the American Airlines website and buy flights. I’d spend more to fly American and I’d take a connection instead of a non-stop. It seems they no longer want me to do that.”

    How much more? Might be interesting doing some comparisons.

    “Exhibit A is the extraordinary profit that the airlines keep cranking out. ”

    Er.

    No.

    http://csimarket.com/Industry/industry_Profitability_Ratios.php?ind=1102

    It’s only extraordinary because the airline industry spent thirty or so years spending their time doing the financial equivalent of soaking bales of hundred dollar bills in Jet-A and lighting them on fire.

    US-based airlines have finally figured out a sustainable financial model. Which is sort of important, unless you think it’s a great idea to have workers, taxpayers and suppliers stiffed by airlines in regular rounds of bankruptcy.

    Now that they’ve done that, they can stumble toward better service models (see: Jet Blue Mint, adoption of premium economy). What’s likely to happen though, is that instead of the model of “we’ll sell this glass of lemonade for a million dollars, but we only need to sell one!” that allows bloggers and their readers to sit in premium class for pennies, we’ll see airlines go towards more of a model where premium class services are priced closer to market-clearing prices, as airlines figure out what those prices are. This is Delta’s FCM, and so on.

  33. See the problem with a list like this is that it is completely subjective what benefits each flyer values. For this EXP:

    * the blogger/FT community is up in arms about the no interlining on separate itineraries, I couldn’t care less about that. All my travel is for work, and i would almost never need to book travel involving self-connections on separate tickets. And if I did – that’s why we have a corporate TA, to get complicated bookings on a single ticket.

    * I’m batting 100% on SWUs – the cut from 8 to 4 (and almost certainly Y to PE instead of J devaluation) is HUGEly painful.

    * RDMs have nothing to do with why or who I fly – nothing. And I’ve found plenty of sAAver space.

    * And if you are are a mixed/domestic international traveler like me airlines like VA, WN, B6, and to a certain extent AS are irrelevant. I need an airline that can get me to LHR and NRT as well as LGA and OMA. Lack of competition is a problem.

    AA needs to fix it’s operations – that’s the problem, not AAdvantage. The point about the D0 obsession is spot on.

  34. Are we likely to see similar FF program downgrades at UA now that Kirby, who decimated AAdvantage is now over there?

  35. I said earlier this year, no mAAs. The few times I’ve flown AA (and DL for that matter), I’ve credited to AS. When they devalue, I will be lost… Not that it matters much to AA, but I’ve been EXP or Plat since 2003 and I exclusively buy discount J or F tickets (my dimes).

    Lately UA has been significantly lower on some of my usual routes. As much as I loathe UA (since the Summer from Hell), a few hundred bucks is a few hundred bucks.

    @GaryLeff — where are you crediting your UA flights?

  36. @DavidB — I think not, considering the CEO’s focus. The changes that Munoz is instituting are palpable. FAs are more engaging and smiling, going out of their way to thank every passenger personally (at least in BF) for choosing United. Just little things that are making a difference in perception, and, of course, there are big things that he’s also done, like reaching agreements with various unions, that have boosted morale.

    I believe that Kirby’s tenure as president will be short-lived if he attempts to subvert the direction that Munoz clearly has in mind for the airline…

  37. I couldn’t disagree more about Delta’s reliability and Delta vs. AA in general. Every single time I fly Delta, there’s an issue that could be avoided. From my experience, Delta is:

    – most likely to change your itinerary. At least half the time I fly Delta, I get an email a week or two before my flight like “Hi, your direct redeye flight was canceled, and now you have a 2 hour layover at 4:30am in Atlanta!” or “Hi, we changed the times of your flights, and now instead of a comfortable 1 hour and 15 minute layover, you now have a 35 minute layover – good luck!”

    – most likely to stretch the flight time, so they can be late but still on time. One time they claimed a JFK-SLC flight was going to take 6.5 hours. Predictably, it took off an hour and a half late, but miraculously still landed on time. Of course you have to be at the airport on time, because if you’re not, you’ll be bumped.

    – And of course I don’t even have to talk about their worthless frequent flier program. I’m sure nobody reading this needs any explanation there.

    – And finally there are the one-off things, like losing my luggage on 3 consecutive trips, or the time that the flight was delayed 4 hours because they “couldn’t find the pilot.”

    To be fair, I don’t fault them too much for the last things, because those can happen to any airline. But their scheduling practices are inexcusable, and mainly because of that, I will go out of my way to fly nearly any airline other than Delta.

  38. I was Executive Platinum for years but when AA stopped making any regular awards available on the routes I fly from New York (literally, there isn’t a single business “saver” award available SFO-NYC in the next year, and this is AA’s regular practice), I quit AA. I now fly United, which has reasonable award inventory. AA’s advertising its regular awards but not making any available is false advertising, pure and simple. There should be a class action suit.

  39. My oh my … I’ve found it to be much easier to book economy domestic awards with Delta and United than on American. They’ve become awful! A radical change from even 1 year ago.

    Of course, that hasn’t stopped bloggers from pushing credit cards tied to the AAdvantage program and the relatively mediocre Admirals Clubs. If things don’t meaningfully improve, I plan to cancel my Citi and Barclays cards and to let them know that I see no benefit to collecting AA miles compared to those of their competitors.

  40. First time I’ve agreed 100% with you in several years. Lifetime Plat for several years. Continued to fly their dirty equipment staffed by demoralized personel in the pre-bankruptcy dark period largely because they privleged ex-plats and had the most generous FF program. Those days are gone. Like others, I’ve given United another chance this year, and have been pleasantly surprised. United has also been leading the pack with outstanding cut-rate fares, particularly to Europe.

  41. Personal experiences obviously vary, but clearly most flyers are unhappy about the US legacy 3. I’m not even 10 years into the game but after a nice stretch with AA including a few years as ExP, I’m out. The changes to the FF program insult loyal customers. Delta gets away with it because on the whole their flights are less unpleasant. AA has basically raised the price for an inferior product, so the incentive to fly them is gone–and so am I. “It’s just business, Jake.”

  42. Thank you for writing this so I don’t have to. My feelings are exactly the same. I’m at 98,700 EQMs for 2016 and I stopped flying AA last month because I’m so fed up with them. Not sure if I will even bother to give them any more business as they’ve gone from first to worst (domestically) in so many categories.

  43. As a Seattle area AAdvantage member, I feel cheated now that most Alaska Air flights only earn 50% EQM credit. I think the AA-AS partnership is beneficial to both airlines, and it offers Seattle and Portland area AAdvantage members better flight options than having to rely solely on AA connections to most destinations. I can sometimes compensate for the reduced AAdvantage credit for AS flights buy purchasing a code-share ticket from American. However there are AS routes that don’t have AA code-share options, and some code-share flights have a big price differential.

    EQM parity for AA and AS flights would make me a much happier customer.

  44. Here’s what AA needs to do…forget what every other airline in the world is trying to invent, reinvent, make into a new gimmick, etc. and be the “original” AA of years past when flying was a pleasure… Bring back service with a smile…from Reservations agents who actually want to help you, to a user-friendly online booking tool…bring back friendly gate agents, bring back friendly ticket counter agents, bring back friendly onboard crew (who really enjoy doing their jobs) bring back “more leg room throughout coach”, bring back complementary meals in ALL classes, bring back free checked bags…If AA does all of the above, they’ll soar to the top! Are you listening Mr. Parker?

  45. I couldn’t agree more! Years of working for AA/Sabre and now years of being a loyal EXP has come to and end for me as they don’t value me as a loyal customer. They take, take, take impacting their most loyal clients
    What comes around goes around and when people switch to someone like UA and oil prices move up they will be begging for loyal clients

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