One Passenger Shared How Bad American Airlines Service in International First Class Has Become

I recently wrote about poor service in American’s international first class and about catering which hardly seems fitting for a product that’s supposed to be a cut above business class. The reports just keep coming in on American Airlines international first class.

Here the passenger stopped by the American’s Flagship First Dining at LAX and asked their server how he was doing. The man’s response was “this is my Friday night…at least it’s almost over.” American describes their Flagship lounges as an extension of the cabin, and that set the tone for the flight he was about to have.

American Airlines flight AA193 is Los Angeles – Hong Kong, blocked at 14 hours 39 minutes. On boarding the inflight entertainment system wasn’t working, and the first class cabin was told it probably wouldn’t get fixed. Fortunately a reset managed to fix things.

  • The passenger’s “pre-ordered meal was not available because the menu was now different.”

  • The flight attendant taking orders “was encouraging people to opt for a cheese plate then bed and not the full meal service. When he took my order he tried to skip over courses, presumably with the intention of not having to serve them.”

  • The purser “brought out salad with the wrong dressing which he had to replace, brought out wrong side with main, never offered cheese (I would have passed, but still) then brought out the wrong dessert.”

  • No beverages were offered during meal service, something I’ve noted in reports from other passengers as well.

  • Apparently there were “no rolls just sliced white or dark bread. My salt shaker was also broken and the top had to be unscrewed to get salt out.”

  • Midflight “there were no snacks or water or other beverages in the galley” in other words the self-service display hadn’t been set up. So the passenger went scrounging in business class. No drink service had been offered by crew. (“The people in the Row 2 middle have been drinking beverages they brought from LAX.”)

  • Another passenger went foraging through other classes of service for snacks, and got up the nerve to say something to the pursuer who reportedly yelled at the passenger.

  • Passengers were woken “5-6 hours before arrival” to see if they needed landing cards for Hong Kong.

  • An hour and a half prior to landing the passenger wanted breakfast so they went to find a member of the crew. The purser was “slurping congee from the [first class] catering menu.” So about that breakfast,

    As the [flight attendant] is walking out w[ith] my tray, she walks past my seat, the purser claps his hands and whistles at her and tells her she went too far. No jam or anything for the croissant (had to ask) and the “milk tea” is just hot water with a tea bag. …The breakfast was more shorthaul domestic [first class] than [transpacific three-class first class]. ..I asked for water it never came.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class, Credit: American

The discounted first class “A fare” for Los Angeles – Hong Kong is nearly $9800 one way.

American’s seat isn’t close to competitive with Cathay Pacific’s who also offers international first class on the route. American’s food, beverages, and amenities don’t match what’s offered by other airlines to Asia in first class.

When American Airlines CEO Doug Parker famously said his airline would never lose money again, he also said it’s difficult to offer a better product than competitors, because competitors will match the product. As a result it’s the company’s culture and employees that will give them an advantage. It seems like he has work to do.

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. What can I add to further document inexcusably lousy “premium” service? On recent flight was not offered a drink before take off ( all I wanted was cold water). Took almost 45 min after take off to get something to drink. After mediocre meal, had tray removed but kept cheese and after dinner drink. No response to call button to have them removed . Took a nap for 1.5 hr. Upon awakening the call button was still on and dirty dishes had not been picked up. Had to bus them to the plane’s galley myself.
    Service on recent trip in business from Barcelona to JFK was equally dismal. The herringbone seat configuration, where half of the passengers ride backwards, was the pits. Individual passenger space was markedly reduced, claustrophobic and cramped ( I am only 5’3” and was cramped for space.).
    By contrast, business class on Fiji Air last week was wonderful in every way.

  2. Well…through other shit ever one…That doesn’t bad enough…If you want to try most outstanding bad ever one in your life, then strongly recommend OZ(LAX-ICN-HKG or any other riute to Asian airport through OZ)to you…You will find AA is qualified one on US……Many of things you can do experienced with…Fixing your seat remote controller by yourself, Fixing your seat control pannel by yourself, Take xare your next seat passengers baby during night flight(If you don’t want to do it then you can find your at least seat on ‘small ever economy class seat’ with poor economy class meal. Even you did paid ‘Business or 1st class seat charge’ to OZ), You cannot make any choice on your meal, due to your flight doesn’t loaded it…Quite challengeable, right?

  3. I hate American airlines. I had the unfortunate experience to fly with them from Chicago to Amsterdam. The worst experience I’ve ever had. The stewardess acted like she was doing me a favor. I usually fly Delta, it’s much better!

  4. The fact that this is the premium experience on a premium route for a once-proud airline is really a shame.

  5. AA business class flight BCN to ORD 787 window shades were on “automatic” and darkened after takeoff. Asked the purser to release my window shade And Jaime responded that after the service he may have time to take a look at it. We remained in the dark for the entire flight until mandatory opening for Chicago landing.

  6. @John….your humble “opinion”, in fact. Not every crew is qualified to take purser, fyi. If you hold a purser line, no one can take that away from you. Some new hires may even trade into the position because they are allowed to be a line holder as a new hire, these days. Most carriers would never replace their senior flight attendants with inexperienced flight crew on any route. Your slam on senior flight attendants is baseless, and makes everyone believe you’re one of the new hires, who feel entitled and have lack of experience in how to treat their fellow coworkers, let alone the paying passengers. Great customer service comes from years of airline training and being around seasoned professionals. Like I said, these days, the old way of how “American Airlines has always done things” , is to be blamed for allowing new hires, and those with lack of customer service and training (both come with years of experience), to be allowed to take on “once” senior routes by allowing rotating reserve, which allows such inexperienced crews to be on board, these routes, in the first place. Your comments on professional flight attendants who have 30+ years of customer service and flying experience, is called ageism.

  7. Many years ago I took an international American flight. Coach was full with only me and another man in first class. Before takeoff I was offered coffee that was served in a plastic mug that seemed to have had better days. Service was horrible. American has surely seen it’s glory days of the 60s and 70s

  8. I recently flew PHL-AMS in business and it was one of the worst experiences ever. The flight attendant simply skipped our entire row for dinner. It was as if she just couldn’t see us. When reminded of our presence she said they had run out of meals, even though two of us had pre-ordered. About an hour later following some extensive debate these meals were “found”, but it was as if this was a favor.
    At $10,800 round trip I would expect something far superior. AA is just a sad airline now

  9. I have been an EP for nearly 20 years and never heard of this one before:
    I boarded my flight from DFW to LAX, and was seated at a bulkhead. I stowed my two bags overhead, and took my laptop out and placed it in the seat back pocket. I went to use the restroom in the back and waited for boarding passengers to clear the isle. I then returned to my seat, sat down and started reading my newspaper. When we got to wi fi altitude, I went to retrieve my laptop and it was not there. Long story short the gentleman sitting next to me, not seeing any bags thought it was from the in-bound flight and took it out of the pocket and handed it to a flight attendant. I tracked down the flight attendant, who told me that he had taken it off the plane and handed it to the gate agent. SO probably not a big deal since we knew where the laptop was and who had it. I’ve logged reports with lost and found, AA customer service, tracked down the station manager upon my return and two week later no one can find it. Seems like a simple fix, however AA can’t be bothered to get a real person involved and call me or track down the flight attendant or gate agent. I received the do not reply responses from lost and found, however even those have stopped. Also received and email from Customer Relations but not a call, just being treated like I left it on the plane – when AA took it off the plane.

  10. It is so sad to read how my former job has been so downgraded to where I don’t even wish to fly my old airline. Part of my retirement includes flying free (but on standby) any where and any class but I am choosing to pay full fare and fly another airline in the future. Sad

  11. Ever since the merger, the US Air/AmWest/Northwest management have destroyed what ever was left of American Airline after the bankruptcy. This “management team” doesn’t have any clue how to run an airline this size, as is shown by the dismal performance compared to DL, and UAL. There is a reason why DL and UAL rejected Parker and his team of airline misfits. The in flight service or lack there of will get no better with Dimestore Doug in charge. He talks a good game, but he’s lying through his teeth that he cares about the operation, or he wants to fix whats broken. When the wheels finally fall off, and they will, I think he will take his multi-million pay and benefits, golden parachute, and retire early to the lap of luxury. Leaving the beleaguered “Team Members” holding the bag….again. Just like he did at AWA and US Air. Parker could have had the employees on board with him, but he squandered any good will soon after he came in. Now there is none.

  12. This is why the US3 want you to think the ME3 are playing unfairly. US3 just wants to suck as much as possible while still charging a premium.

  13. OMG I recently had a HORRIBLE FLIGHT with American Airlines 9/3/19. Still waiting for a RESPONSE !!! 1st I’m going to Vanessa in Customer Service is a straight up RUDE B%#&H !!!! On Vacation my Son got Married Sunday 9/1/19. Mind you my tickets were purchased Months in Advance. On the 2nd of September my Future Mr and I planned a whole day, since we were taking a straight flight # 556 3:15pm – 11:30 PM est. Picked up our Rental Car …Drove down the Coast Pacific Highway. Had a late check out FOR A REASON … IM ON VACATION WHY WOULD I BE CHECKING MY F N EMAILS. Here’s where my whole VACATION GOES TO SHIT. My flight is Canceled with no EXPLANATION??? Vanessa is Rude and told me IF I WANTED A STRAIGHT FLIGHT I SHOULD HAVE RESPONDED TO THE EMAIL. I TRIED TO EXPLAIN TO HER THAT I NEEDED EXACTLY WHAT I BOOKED and her reply was YOU SHOULD BE LUCKY U R BEING REBOOKED FOR FREE ??? THEN SHE BOOKS US AN EARLY ASS FLIGHT @ 6:05 am flight # 2347 with a 3 hour layover in Dallas Fort worth flight # 808. While in FW I see my original flight # 556 AA going somewhere ELSE. I INQUIRED NO ONE GAVE ME AN ANSWER. OUR PLANS FOR THE DAY WERE CHANGED. I LOST MY MONEY ON THE RENTAL & HOTEL BECAUSE THEY SAID I HAD TO GIVE A 24 hrs Notice to change anything SO MY QUESTION IS I SENT AN EMAIL ABOUT MY Incident and NO ONE FROM THE AIRLINE HAS CONTACTED ME YET ????? AA SUCKS NOT HAPPY WITH THEM AT ALL ?????

  14. August 23rd. My ticket was resold, my luggage was lost and I was told by stewardess coffee was not being offered tonight. What a nightmare.

  15. @Sheri, you are an AA Flight attendant. It is in fact true, that Senior Flight attendants are lazy, inapt, and incapable of great customer service. Most of you have been there way past your expectation date. The best service I’ve ever had was with a crew all under 6 years. I truly believe AA will continue to lose customers on premium routes because AA can’t seem to get rid of the old, tired, and ratchet Senior Flight attendants. You all worry more about getting to your “crew rest” than focusing on your job.

  16. ajh, you say Northwest management of AA? Northwest has NOTHING to do with AA. On the other hand, Nortwest management has done a superb job at making Delta what it is today…

  17. Hey Gary,
    So you are now posting 2nd hand reviews of airlines? You are posting flights you were not on and situations you were not in? If that’s the case, I’ve got some reviews for you.
    I know–as do others–that you actually despise AA–and we all know they are struggling, but to post supposed ‘experiences’ of others really says a lot about your credibility and your agenda.
    “my brothers wife’s friend said….” Is that where you are now?

  18. WOW! In August 2019, I booked roundtrip Madrid-PHL business class. It was the best flight I ever had. The service was friendly and professional. The food was excellent.

  19. Ariel. The NW mgmt reference in a previous post was referring to Robert Isom
    He is from NW..probably the blacksheep..the best went to DL.

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