New “Star System” Holds American Airlines Gate Agents Responsible For Mechanical Delays, Lack Of Crew

American Airlines has a new rating system for gate agents, ranking each one on a five star scale. Based on details from multiple agents, this rating system includes everything related to the flight – including things they have no control over whatsoever. If they touch a flight that delays, that’s on them, even when it’s a maintenance delay.

  • Their interactions using ConnectMe to contact flight attendants over things like overhead bin capacity and crew meals can earn them (negative) points.

  • The system measures what time boarding begins and ends, and penalizes gate agents for late boarding even when the delay is due to weather or lack of crew or a late arriving inbound aircraft. If maintenance keeps them from closing the door on time too, that gets reflected.

American Airlines management is obsessed with ‘D0’ – exact on-time departures – as the metric they can control to influence on-time arrivals. They’re similarly focused on ‘T0’, turning around an aircraft in the exact allotted time. They generally draw no distinction between a two minute delay and a ninety minute delay.

As a result the stories of supervisors yelling at flight attendants from the jet bridge when doors are closing late, or crew getting called in because they took a catering delay because Flagship first class didn’t have service items, are myriad.

Gate agents play a role in on-time departures. It makes sense to hold management accountable for broad issues that are both in and outside of their direct control. They move the pieces and have to be prepared for and responsive to things that include both good and bad luck. But if you run into gate agents who are more stressed than usual this is a piece of it.

And this comes even after reducing the number of gate agents working flights so that only one is now assigned when an aircraft is less than 80% full. It’s not an enjoyable time to be a gate agent at American Airlines.

The alternative of course is to publish reasonable flight schedules, staff at a level needed to board planes, move bags and address maintenance issues promptly, and ensure that all vendors (such as caterers) are doing their job right every time. Putting metrics on gate agents for things outside of their control might move the needle a little bit? But it hardly seems likely to move it very much.

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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  1. As a crew chief for AA, working below the wing, we, and by we I mean all of us , Gate, Inflight, and Ground Ops, all have M.G.T….use it!
    If your flight is late use your Minimum Ground Time…from block in to block off..all aircraft type have a M.G.T…You can even ask the PIC to “Pop” the breaks for OTD….as long as the aircraft is chocked…it ain’t movin till I push it off…we all need to work together. If mgmt as why the delay…. your response should be I used my Minimum Ground Time as prescribed by the company for the aircraft type on this flight. The time is made up in flight, I’ve seen 10 minute delays arrive 6
    minutes early.
    D0&A0 are DOT statistics for rankings. Work safe…Stay safe!

  2. I’ve worked for american for years and honestly it has to be one of the worst airlines to work for. They play the blame game constantly. Blaming agents for whatever they can. Yet the upper management is completely out of touch and clearly has no idea what goes on on the front lines. I can’t wait to get out of here.

    Not to mention the horrible management decisions they make that only makes things worse for employees and customers. They’re as bad to work for as an employee as they are to fly for a customer.

  3. The Federal Government owns 50 million Shares (Options).
    AA management got rid of all the experienced management and employees.
    The Airport Towers are using 1980s programs and managers with no experience.
    Passengers connections are too close ( 30 minutes and Tower Changes to boot.)
    Is AA still $54 Billion in Debt?

  4. To OZ, All due respect sir, you are not supposed to request “brake release” ie: ( pop the brakes ) It is illegal, because of the DOT ( reporting of on time departures ) plus not to mention the apron must be secured ie: All doors shut and equipment out of the way. Asking for Brake Release really undermines staffing as well, because it tells MGMT nothing is wrong, when clearly it’s understaffed. I do agree with M.G.T, and if you can turn your plane in half the M.G.T more power to you. When I was C/C we turned quickly as possible, but never popping the brakes, especially if MGMT requested, that would result in a grievance/BOI.

  5. I worked as a ramp agent the delays were put on the following
    Maintenance
    Pilot
    Fueler
    Ramp agent

  6. Nothing amazes me about this. AA’s new ways of running the ground and GA’s job is to set us up for failure and then blame us when something goes wrong. We continue to allow them to get away with it.

  7. I had an aweful experience with an American Airline “gate agent “. I’ve never flown American since.

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