I love many things about American Airlines. First and foremost is the AAdvantage program, and especially that I’m well taken care of as an Executive Platinum member (100,000 mile flyer).
Their lounge agents have been exceptionally good to me during irregular operations. I even like their revenue management, which doesn’t release all first class seats into upgrade a day before departure. When a flight irregularity happens, and I get put onto another flight, it’s even still possible to get an upgrade (and more frequently happens than not).
If there were two things I would change about the operation, I would actually bundle them together and call them American’s Goldilocks Problem: they start boarding too early, before scheduled time, and they notify passengers of delays.. in creeping fashion.. usually only after a boarding or departure time has passed (in other words, ‘too late’).
Instead, American really needs to get this ‘just right’.
American Regularly Starts Boarding Flights Prior to Scheduled Time
It seems they’ve imported this from US Airways. I believe pushing for an on-time departure is good. If they’re going to start boarding earlier, though, they should simply change scheduling and posted boarding times to reflect this.
In order to ensure overhead space I used to turn up at the gate 30 minutes prior to departure for the start of boarding. Now when I do that half the plane or more is already onboard.
Do I need to turn up 35 or 40 minutes more in advance? I don’t really know.
I still tend to show up half an hour prior to departure. The next problem, though, is that American rarely seems to update flight times with irregular operations until scheduled boarding time. In other words, when I leave the lounge and get to the gate I learn I could have just stayed in the lounge.
Stick to your posted boarding times. If you want those to be earlier, publish them as starting earlier.
American Doesn’t Update Delays Until the Last Minute, Even When They’re Obvious
It seems that delays which are obvious to anyone tracking a flight do not become obvious at American Airlines until a specific time elapses. When published boarding time comes and goes, and there’s no aircraft at the gate, we’ll get an update. Of course we couldn’t possibly start boarding 10 minutes before that given the location of the aircraft, and that it still needs to land and taxi and offload passengers. Posting that information earlier would help passengers.
Last night my Dallas – Austin flight was delayed. The inbound aircraft was diverted to Austin. They posted a 20 minute delay 50 minutes prior to boarding when the plane was still on the ground in Austin.
Leave aside for a month that over an hour later that aircraft still would not have taken off from Austin.
- At the point the inbound aircraft diverted, there was a thunderstorm over the area, and airport operations had ceased it was plainly obvious based on simple deductive reasoning that there was no theoretical way we’d depart on time unless of course they decided to prioritize an Austin flight (which they never do) and give us someone else’s aircraft (remember, the whole schedule was in disarray as flights weren’t able to land).
- So unless there was a new tail number assigned to the flight, it just wasn’t gonna happen.
- Not only didn’t they post the obvious delay earlier, they posted only a 20 minute delay. Again, simply not possible because even if the aircraft took off from Austin at that moment (which they had no reason to believe it would), they would only be wrapping up deplaning of the previous international flight by the time our new scheduled departure time came around.
I experience this with nearly every American Airlines delay. Just this past Tuesday I had the same creeping delay with a flight, as maintenance had to fix the cockpit door. When the scheduled boarding time passes, or scheduled departure time passes, that’s when estimated times will get updated — and usually in 10 or 15 minute increments, no matter how unreasonable. My tweets to @AmericanAir on this issue are legion.
American could improve its operation with a simple page from a children’s story — not too early, not too late, but just right.