The Customer Last: What American Airlines Management Is Doing Wrong

Amazon makes it so easy to buy things. I’m walking around the house and I realize I’ve just used the last of something, I don’t need to put it on a list and buy it later. I have my phone in my pocket. I pull it out, the item is right there usually at a pretty good price, and a click buys it. I don’t have to worry for the most part whether I’ve purchased enough items for free shipping. So I click order, and it shows up, usually pretty quickly.

There are a lot of reasonable criticisms of Amazon, but they’ve got the scale (either through their own items or letting sellers list through them) to have pretty much anything I’d want to buy (A->Z). It is the most frictionless buying process out there. And so they get an outsized share of e-commerce even where I may be giving up a little bit on price or rewards.

Jeff Bezos for years has preached a simple mantra: that the biggest mistake companies can make is focusing on what their competitors do, rather than what their customers want – and working backwards from satisfying the customer to figuring out the product.

I’m reminded of this thinking about the latest American Airlines policy change to no longer allow most customers to run up to the gate and get on an earlier flight. They’ll even be turning away lifetime Platinum two million mile members. For what?

Of course, this isn’t the only policy that works backward from what’s easiest for the airline or benefits its employees rather than the customer. In fact, former Chairman and CEO Doug Parker once remarked “we work really hard to match our service to our competitors” – precisely what Bezos makes clear is the wrong approach.

  • American Airlines has the biggest domestic network and most hubs, yet when US Airways management took over they imposed a rule that said customers could no longer make same day changes that alter their routing. Want to confirm an earlier flight home? You have to connect in the same city, and that may mean there are no other flights available.

    They’re presumably worried that some consumer somewhere might buy a cheaper ticket and improve their itinerary on the day of travel, while taking away the entire benefit to the customer of the network and their hubs.

  • American Airlines will stop awarding miles on tickets purchased through some travel agencies but they haven’t told customers which ones, and the list will change every six months.

  • My other pet peeve: They’ll no longer through-check bags on separate tickets. That’s true even when you’re booking award travel. So if you use AAdvantage miles to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi on their partner Etihad, and there’s no award space on American’s flight to get to New York, you’re going to give American extra money buying that flight.

    In exchange for spending even more, American will refuse to through check your bags onto the Etihad flight. You’ll have to exit security, go schlepp your bags yourself and re-check them in with the other airline, possibly missing your flight.

  • Someone thought that $1 shelf-stable pasta was a domestic first class meal, while the airline decided it was no longer necessary to set the table for customers in Flagship first class since that would mean less work for flight attendants.

  • Deadheading pilots now have priority over the airline’s best customers for upgrades at the airport. (United does this, too.) Don’t think the inmates are running the asylum? A couple of weeks ago on arrival in Austin, a flight attendant made an announcement welcoming passengers on behalf of their union.

When American Airlines came up with their new standard domestic product – that squeezed more seats in, removed seat padding, and ripped out seatback TVs – they didn’t build a cabin mockup first to see how the thing would work in practice. They squeezed first class too much and eliminated underseat storage. The bathroom doors opened into each other. The sinks sprayed back onto customers. It’s a product that gave customer experience so little thought that their CEO never even tried it until it was in the marketplace for over six months.

American Airlines has become far more reliable. Their thesis has been that if they improved reliability, they’d generate profits. They failed to realize that reliability was mere table stakes. Their 2023 net margin was a mere 1.5%, and all of that profit was accounted for by selling miles to banks.

The airline’s Chief Commercial Officer describes their network as their product, failing to understand that the product is just as much the experience as the schedule. The network is table stakes.

American Airlines is a high cost airline. When they raised checked bag fees to $40 and I wrote that they were leading the industry in doing so, they pushed back pointing to potentially higher bags fees on ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit. And this made my point.

When Robert Isom took over the reins as American Airlines Chief Executive two years ago, his message to employees was not to spend a dollar they don’t have to rather than figure out how to invest profitably in their customers.

This is an airline that cannot make money transporting passengers without earning a revenue premium because they will never be the low cost leader. And they cannot earn a revenue premium until they start by thinking relentlessly about the customer: (1) who is their customer and (2) what does that customer need?

To be sure, American Airlines is not the only airline whose policies go out of their way to make their customers’ lives more difficult. United Airlines bans customers on their cheapest tickets from bringing full sized carry-on bags on board, and basic economy passengers who aren’t checking bags are not allowed to check in online or through their mobile app – instead they’re required to stand in the check-in line at the airport.

And the Spirit and Frontier business model if precisely to make passengers shift their behavior to lower airline costs. Not uncoincidentally, United sees its basic economy fares as meant for Spirit and Frontier passengers, not as a way of introducing the most price sensitive customers to the airline and upselling them over their lifecycle. Scott Kirby, who came from American (and US Airways and America West) has described their product strategy as “keeping up with the Joneses” (competitors), again rather than focusing on the customer.

But this just points to the nature of the heavily regulated airline industry that lacks sufficient competition and operates more as a utility than a business, to the detriment of customers.

How do you think that turning away customers who rush to the gate in time to get on an earlier flight and make it home for dinner is a good thing for convincing people you take care of them (‘on life’s journey‘) and so they want to be loyal customers willing to spend more with you in the future?

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. chopsticks,
    product quality is subjective but objective measures including metrics the US DOT tracks show that Delta does run a higher quality operation.
    How much they charge for a seat – whether with miles or cash – is pricing and not a measure of quality.
    and, notably, people pay more for Delta’s service than they do for those of any other US airline which is how Delta generates much higher profits.

    It honestly doesn’t matter what you or any single person thinks when all of the big 4 serve over 100 million customers. There is hard data and finances that prove what works and what does not.

  2. For much of my life, I bought the cheapest air ticket I could. I did that because I needed to do so. At this point in my life, I will often buy things at a higher price point if the benefits are worth the cost. I can afford more, but I still insist on value. I’ve largely stopped staying at cheap hotel properties because I know the extra $ has value in a good night of sleep and some basic comfort. But I’m still pretty price sensitive, and at a certain point, the extra money stops providing reasonable comforts and amenities relative to cost.

    Perhaps Tim Dunn is right: AA is playing the commodity game because they think it works. Right now, I could not tell you that I’m willing to pay much more for Delta or United over AA, as all of them are pretty indistinguishable re: service (I take United regularly the least because of the BE bag restrictions). The only quality in-flight experiences I’ve had in the last 18 months were on JetBlue. I would go out of my way to fly them, but even then, it is not a big premium that I’m willing to pay (maybe an extra $50-$75 RT). And only when I don’t have to be anywhere in a hurry.

    Unlike hotels, the carriers have decided that the things it would take to get a regular person (I.e. someone with above average income but not wealthy) to pay for a domestic first class seat, or even economy plus, aren’t worth doing. Most people that really value those things look for ways to get them for free as part of a loyalty program. Not many are willing to shell out for it. Maybe that is the fault of the loyalty programs, creating the expectation of being able to buy economy, but get just a bit more. But honestly, as much as 30 inches of pitch is painful, I’m unwilling to pay a bunch more to get 4 more inches (and no more width). I wish there were more variations in the product, and that those variations were commensurate in price with what they offer (like hotels). But paying double for 4 more inches and a free beer isn’t my idea of value.

    Right now anyone value minded can’t rationalize an upgrade under 4-5 hours, because you don’t get enough back. So, the LCD customers set the rules for 75% of the plane (often at a loss), then those that both can pay and don’t care they are being fleeced are given something a little more special (maybe even a free glass of bottom-shelf bubbly before takeoff) for a much larger lightening of their bank account.

  3. @Tim Dunn, I certainly agree that bloggers (Gary as well as others) are not financial analysts and are asking for things that airlines have no reason to do if their goal is to run a more profitable business. That doesn’t stop them from continuing to clamor for these things under the guise of more supposed profitability for the airline when we all know what the bloggers are looking for are lots of easy and low cost saver award tickets in premium cabins (extra expensive ones too, as denser J cabins are always reviewed poorly by bloggers) and extra luxurious service, which would only result in less profitability because there aren’t enough cash paying customers that pay enough of a fare premium to justify those products. Passengers prove that out time and time again, and airline management teams know that, even if bloggers refuse to admit it

  4. I would be interested to understand the dynamics of the rise of forced travel planning rules by a huge number of large companies on their traveling employees over the last 15 years, and the impact to the major airlines. Most major corporations don’t give two sh!ts about their employees and their travel preferences. Many use a terrible system like Concur to force their traveling employees to fly as cheaply as possible. My preference over the last 10 years was to fly United, then Delta, as AA as a last resort. I would take great pains to game the Concur system to try to eliminate AA flights from my list of choices, and it was often hard because AA was often cheaper. How many Fortune 500 employees today are flying AA, not as a choice, but their cheap-ass companies force them to?

    And regarding Gary’s thoughts on AA eliminating same day flight changes, I am certainly glad I am retired now. My last job before retiring had me flying once a month to CLT. For those trips, I would fly AA because it was nonstop. However,. I usually booked the last flight of the day, and almost always was able to change last minute to fly on an earlier flight. I am glad I don’t have to deal with AA’s new stupid policy and worry about booking an earlier flight, then have my meetings run over and miss my flight.

  5. @Jeff Why should companies pay for more than the cheapest flight for employees for the vast majority of corporate travel? Similar to the question of what return on additional investment in product are airlines getting, what return on spend are companies getting for the extra airfare?

  6. again, dominic, not every consumer, whether of aspirin or air travel, buys at different price points even when there is a perception of a commodity which should equalize what people pay.

    Everyone agrees that air travel in the US could be better – and that is true in many places around the world.
    That doesn’t mean that articles about poor service quality mean that there isn’t a differentiation in service at airlines or that people don’t perceive each element of air service as well as the totality of all of it differently than someone else.

  7. Dominic,

    Because at some point employees, especially those 35 and older, won’t travel.

    There are 50 year-olds out there who will fly SFO-SIN in economy. But not very many. And certainly not multiple times a year.

  8. @Tim, you should reread my statement, I didn’t say “every” consumer or passenger, just the vast majority of them. Airlines can certainly try to differentiate on service and product, but it is a small minority of passengers that care enough about those to pay more. They may or may not all fly Delta as you constantly want to tell everyone, and whether they do or do not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that to cater to the vast majority of the customer base, airlines should and are doing exactly what Gary and other bloggers don’t want them to, which is to cut the product and service quality down and offer those savings to passengers (and keeping some of it for themselves in the form of profit). That is the direction that Delta has gone over time as well (with the demise of long-haul F, less legroom in economy, basic economy, checked bag fees, FF devaluation, and worse F&B catering) as I pointed out previously, even if they are potentially just a bit better than the very low bar of American Airlines. Do you really think Delta’s service and product meets the level of quality that bloggers clamor for? You might view it as better, but it’s still quite pared back against what the bloggers demand, and for the very good reason of it being way more profitable

  9. @Dominic Using your logic, maybe corporations should start making their employees fly Spirit, or even take Greyhound buses then? How many employees would quit rather than fly Spirit? You must be one of those corporate bean counters that view their employees as a disposable asset. It is all indicative of the shifting relationship between corporations and their employees.

  10. @Jeff, taking a Greyhound bus for most destinations would require significantly more time, so that’s not really comparable. As for flying Spirit, if the route and timing works and the cost is lower, I have nothing against flying Spirit, although their tight legroom does make it a difficult sell to employees and many likely would quit. However, I think that’s a negotiation and discussion between the company and the employees who need to travel. There’s a spectrum between not traveling at all and just using Zoom, flying Spirit, flying the cheapest available legacy / full-service carrier in economy, flying a preferred but more expensive legacy / full-service carrier in economy, flying commercial domestic first class (for short haul, ignoring premium economy / business / first for long haul), and flying private. Each company will need to decide with each employee or category of employee where the cost / benefit ratio is the best. For the C-suite execs, it may well be that flying private all the time is the best cost / benefit ratio because the company doesn’t want them wasting. For a regular employee, it may be flying Spirit, it may be flying the cheapest legacy carrier, it may be not flying at all. For a mid-level executive, it may be domestic first class. Just because you don’t like one airline doesn’t mean a whole company will or should cater to that

  11. Why does AA use the smaller planes from Dfw-Fra-Dfw? Then all the pilots stand there bragging that they have business while executive platinums are sitting in coach. AA flies a bigger plane Clt-Fra-Clt.

  12. Regarding the Amazon comparison, it should be noted that Amazon lost about $10 billion on its e-commerce businesses last year. The only reason they’re profitable overall is because of AWS, which provides data center services to other businesses.

  13. SDS is still run up to counter for Key and Executive Platinum up to closing flight at D-15.
    What triggered this was masses buying cheapest ticket of the day and changing to their preferred flight standby without charge.
    If you all hate AA I suggest you all stop moaning about it and stop flying them. Life is too short. Get on with your lives on other carriers. Something brings you to buy AA tickets so that’s a personal issue you have, perhaps you all love to be a victim.

    AA management is going to do what they want and force their employees to do it so stop blaming them. No one at AA wakes up every morning thinking “hey, how can I make my passengers miserable today”.
    Put up or shut up.

  14. @Jake-1, I think you are wrong on this post: “Regarding the Amazon comparison, it should be noted that Amazon lost about $10 billion on its e-commerce businesses last year. The only reason they’re profitable overall is because of AWS, which provides data center services to other businesses.” Please state your source.

    Search on: “Think Amazon Rakes In Most of Its Profit Through E-Commerce? Nope — 74% of Its Operating Income Instead Comes From This.” which indicates that e-commerce at Amazon was still profitable in 2023.

  15. dominic,
    you clearly have no understanding of large elements of the US airline industry and draw inaccurate conclusions because of it.
    Delta Business Elite – which was its first lie flat product was far better than its international first class product. And Delta followed Continental and Northwest in eliminating first class and creating a better product in business class than they had in first class.
    Economy basic – which I believe Delta was the first to offer among the legacy carriers – was a competitive tool AMONG OTHER FARE OPTIONS – to compete with ultralow cost carriers.
    You are free to NOT by it and the product you get w/ economy basic is still better than what you can get on Spirit etc.
    and, in case you missed it, Spirit is on the ropes along w/ Frontier while Delta is leading the industry in profitability because DL offers the widest span of products – from international Delta One to basic economy – sometimes on the same aircraft.

    you can kick and scream about what air travel has become but you can’t redefine reality. American’s business plan is not delivering profits comparable to its legacy carrier peers but it is delivering profits that are better than half of the industry including Spirit and JetBlue. Even Southwest, long a favorite of investors, is delivering earnings that are much more like Southwest than Delta.

    AA like DL and WN is a for profit business. You don’t have to like what the industry has become and Gary can rail about the degradation of air travel but AA’s business model right now is not working because it isn’t translating into success. as much as you might fight to admit it, Delta is the financial gold standard in the airline industry – not just in the US but in the world – right now. They have figured out how to find the point where they can maximize their profits – which they are required to do for the benefit of their owners, the shareholders – intersects with what customers are willing to pay for. The fact that Delta’s model involves above average revenue AND COSTS proves that delivering the cheapest product is not universally what customers want.
    Given that United also gets more money per passenger mile than American and also makes more money, the few data points indicate that AA could be more profitable by providing a higher level of service which people would pay more for. The airline industry is an oligopoly. AA itself chose to offer service levels closer to ultra low fare carriers than its legacy carrier peers – and its financial results are closer to ULCCs than to legacies. any rational person – which might not include you – can see the correlation

  16. @jns operating income is not profit. Please try Googling “Amazon profit breakdown.” The first link is to a site called fourweekmba. It gives 2022 data though.

    “ Amazon was not profitable once AWS was removed in 2022. In fact, Amazon, without AWS generated $10.6 billion in operating losses. While Amazon, without AWS, generated $12.2. billion operating income.”

  17. @Tim Dunn “US carriers pay some of the highest labor costs in the global airline industry. There is no way any foreign carrier could offer the service they do if they had to pay US labor rates –”

    First, foreign carriers with high wage rates offer good service too, and second you forget that there’s variance among service levels across US carriers paying high wage rates.

    Remember that Delta offers better service than United despite offering higher wage rates! And go fly Air France and compare it to flying American.

  18. Gary, in your opinion how long will this current C-Suite stay at American, and do they have the support from the BOD? (I liked the article and am wondering if the board is aligned with your viewpoints…)

  19. @Dominic Kivni – “an you name one airline that is owned by private investors that has done well by “investing in the product””

    Delta is outperforming American and United with its marginally more premium strategy and friendlier service

  20. Lifetime 3M Plat here (almost all flown, AA and Oneworld). I’ve personally given up on AA in general. They are a materially different airline company than I lived on for nearly 30 years. They always felt more stable operationally and slightly ahead of the curve in everything they did for those 30 years. But recently, they are more expensive, have less convenient flights, felt less reliable, and AAdvantage has lost its luster, as well as Oneworld feeling lifeless.

    Airline products change, interiors, employees, inflight services, pricing structures…. all change. I get it. But where AA for decades felt like home turf after some far flung business trip, it no longer has that feel to it. Its overly product managed, cheapened, the rule set is super convoluted. I can feel the CPM/RPM calculation in every way. Its now a total commodity player, selling perishable seats product on every flight.

    The fact that UA feels more like a full service airline, even in BE, is puzzling. I’d rather fly Norse Atlantic across the ocean than go out of my way to deal with AA (which we have been doing in the past year and half). Heck, for commodity perishable seats on a plane, even Spirit has been fine for our purposes.

    I did see this coming years ago, when AA offered wonderful mileage offers for buying underwear and laxatives, rather than having a more detailed in flight product. They became generic, and I will always view them as such

  21. Gary, if you want to know what American thinks of customers, look no further than their lounges and the animal food they serve their most valuable customers. As someone who is based in AUS I am shocked you didn’t mention the state of AC lounges. I understand you hold the AUS Admirals Club employees in high regard, but the AUS AC and an overwhelming majority of AC’s generally are serving literal slop to customers while the Delta SkyClub across the terminal has food and beverage selection which rivals Centurion (and equally friendly and helpful agents).

    To me, the American Airlines lounge experience is not only the most significant gap between AA and DL, but is an outright slap in the face insult to customers.

  22. American Airlines has a simple solution to become profitable, benefit shareholders, and offer a better product: eliminate 1/3 of their flights which obviously are unprofitable. A lot of American’s problems stem from the constant blackmail by unions. They can solve that by lowering their demand for pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and ground crew. Then they have the leverage, can pick the best ones to keep, and be able to have the upper hand in labor negotiations because it is a lot easier to train new flight attendants to replace existing ones when they don’t have all those unprofitable and unnecessary flights.

  23. @Jake-1, the link would be good if the author, Gennaro Cuofano, actually linked to where he was getting his data. Even so, I don’t really have an argument for the 2022 year but for the other years e-commerce was profitable overall even though international e-commerce was not profitable in 2021 (“The only reason they’re profitable overall is because of AWS, which provides data center services to other businesses.”). Hardly a case for e-commerce being unprofitable and AWS profits carrying the company over any years other than 2022.

  24. One important thing to think about.
    It has become very difficult for actual frequent fliers to get upgraded on flights. Those people that have the most loyalty point get the upgrades. People are getting vastly more LP from credit card spend and hotel stays than from actually flying. I really don’t understand this as what keeps them in business is people flying, especially the frequent business traveler.

    They also claim that when upgrades are available 48-72 hours before that you should be able to be confirmed for an upgrade but they seem to do most of these awards at the last minute at the airport.

    I have also been on overbooked flights and show up earlier to try to catch an earlier flight where the plane is half empty but they make you wait for the whole plane to be loaded for them to release standbys sometimes even though they could confirm them right away.

  25. The problem as i see it is they have the wrong definition of “competitive”. In my world being cmpetitive means i want to wipe the floors with my competitior not “be like them”. If professional sports had this attitude every game woudl end in a tie…HEY they were competitive.

  26. Gary,
    you prove my point. But what QR offers from DOH on 12 hour flights is not going to be anywhere near what they or SQ or anyone else could offer on narrowbodies within the US, if they were allowed.

  27. AA cannot even maintain privacy of their pax. Last month I received multiple emails and texts from AA for two pax traveling from Orange County to Greensboro and back. I looked them up and found their address. Imagine what someone with malicious intent could have done with that information. If those pax knew about this I presume they would take legal action.
    This ship is listing badly.

  28. Today I called to go standby on an empty flight that had been delayed 321 with 80 seats open – told can’t go standby have to reprice ticket – flight I was on was over sold – helping them accommodate more passengers that needed to get on that flight

    I’m a CK and fully felt the effect of not helping the customer

  29. American has gone from being the Macy’s of the sky to the Target of the sky quickly heading to the Walmart of the sky and the eventual Dollar tree of the sky.

    Trying to charge a premium price for a low value product will not work. Moving towards a Spirit business model will lower revenues. If you are going to charge premium prices, you have to provide a premium product.

    What does the passenger want verses what does the passenger pay for? The fastest way to get there comfortably for the cheapest price.

  30. I agree with you 100%. Years ago, I got to airport early for a flight from DFW to NYC. I could have made an earlier flight, but my ticket didn’t allow it. I was fine, found a nice comfortable seat and did my work. I have often wondered about the plane they wouldn’t allow me on. There were empty seats and that flight took off and their option to sell those seats went with it. Move me with a paying ticket to that plane and now my seat on a flight 2 hours later could be sold and on and on. I could see if they said “wait and see” closer to flight time, but it was a flat out no. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from 2019 when AA downsized my flight from Philly to Rome and knew about it 36 hours in advance but did nothing until all 40 of us showed up on (many with repositioning flights) only to be told we were bumped and 1.5 hours before take off they then started figuring out our rerouting. People missed days of their Pilgrimage, luggage was delayed for days and…the person organizing the Pilgrimage (about 5 per year for minimum 80 people each time), will never use AA again as a choice for his business.

  31. Welcome to the new AA, now American SPIRIT Airlines. Unless you are on the board, in upper management or a pilot, they don’t care about you. They need the pilots to fly the airplanes full of cargo. Current management doesn’t know how to be profitable. Most of the money comes from pushing the FAs to sell credit cards and cargo. First Class service used to be on 3 tiered carts with caviar. We don’t even have something so basic as a wine list for our premium customers. Altho, I have tried to explain to my supervisor that FC pax dont care why, they expect a premium service and amenities. As they should for the cost of a FC ticket. The FAs who spend the most time with pax and have the most knowledge as to what they like or dislike falls on deaf ears. Management has zero respect for the flight attendants and our insights. We write stuff up constantly and nothing changes. They do not care. They have their great big ideas and much hubris. Clearly what they are doing is not working and they are destroying a once great airline.
    FAs need to stop selling Credit Cards till we get a contract. Our union is a joke.

  32. Customers? Don’t you mean profit for stockholders and upper management.
    Seriously. It is all about the bottom dollar. Period.

  33. Everyone is an airline CEO here. So many factual errors in the post. If you have a frequent flyer number you can standby for free same day. I stop there.

  34. Nice article @TimDunn.

    AA gets what it deserves: they hand out a very second rate product, and they get very second rate payments. My example: in Quarter 4/2023, I flew across the Pacific FOUR times (all Business Class). How many on AA? ZERO (that’s zip, nada, none). Hmmm, why?

    One simple word: quality. I flew twice on EVA Air, once on Qatar (went “the other way around the world” for heavenly service), and once on United/ANA. And for each, the price was LOWER than the AA/JAL flight messes.

    AA doesn’t get it. And (sadly) doesn’t give a sh!t that they don’t get it.

    Me? I didn’t make EP (first time in about 25 years). Well, whoopee. I got to my office (in Clark, Philippines) for my company that I own in much, much better shape and with thousands of dollars more !!


  35. Robert Crandall was the best for the airline, yup, he is rolling over in his grave seeing what Doug Parker has done to American Airlines, actually, probably rolling over many times in his grave and shedding many tears.

  36. We had the misfortune to fly American last night (actually this morning) MIA-BWI. AA738 was scheduled to depart Miami at 9:10p, arriving in Baltimore at 11:44p. Unfortunately, that was the fictional scenario. We left at about 9:45p. It was a choppy departure ride, down the runway, but we finally left the ground. After about 10 minutes the pilot tersely announced we were returning to Miami, with no explanation. Shortly thereafter, either the pilot or purser announced that we were making an emergency landing, and we literally bounced onto the runway, with emergency equipment trailing us.

    We deplaned, with our bags, at Gate D30. Fortunately there were no AA reps at the counter. I went to the nearby Admirals Club, to check our options. The stupidest agent I’ve ever encountered had no info and could care less. The AA App was useless. Back to the gate with the other clueless passengers, and still no one from AA.

    After numerous imaginary takeoff times being posted, a crew finally appeared at Gate D34, with another plane. We left about 12:45a, and arrived in Baltimore at 4:00a. There was neither an announcement nor any explanation by the crew or AA.

    We got home at 4:30a. Unfortunately, AA is the major carrier to the Caribbean, where our flights originated. AA gave new meaning to not caring about its customers.

  37. @Snowman – “Robert Crandall was the best for the airline, yup, he is rolling over in his grave seeing what Doug Parker has done to American Airlines,”

    Bob Crandall is still alive.

  38. Pretty much why I fly Southwest. I don’t have to pay for checked bags. I’m an A-list person (and have been for years) so I can get an earlier flight the same day with no issue…(as I think they’ve recently allowed other fare holders to do the same). And since I’m A-list I pretty much always get whatever seat I want even when switching flights. And I can change my tickets, even to get a cheaper price, whenever I want with no charge for doing so. Yeah…there’s no first or business class, and some people don’t like their boarding process (A,B,C groups)…but I don’t care.

  39. I use AA when I have work trips, and if our companies travel agent isn’t on AA list for points, then I will not fly AA anymore.

  40. It appears that some missed your point(s). That’s too bad and with which I agree. Corporate travel managers have told me that several large companies have taken American off their preferred airline list when American eliminated their sales organization. Corporate travel managers rely heavily on the airlines’ sales organizations to assist with many aspects of business travel. Time will tell if their will decision pays off for the airline or drives some of their best customers away.

  41. AAL quality and customer service have plummeted since US Airways won takeover. Article is spot on….

    Customers are an inconvenience to AAL, to include the Admiral’s Club. Price gouging is obvious, and service declination continues.

    As long as “we” continue to pay, nothing will change.

  42. @Leo: Depends on point of view, my former company was one that took AA off our preferred list in Concur, which was a blessing for me personally, because it made it easier for me to avoid flying on AA, which I despise.

  43. I believe that we all need to get over any romanticized ideas of airline travel. The industry will continue to devolve and degrade its product.

    Do we not all realize that US domestic carriers have become the equivalent of bus transportation?
    United is Greyhound, American is Trailways, etc. and most passenger terminals, especially in large cities, are the equivalent of bus terminals. The vast majority of airline passengers travel with the decorum you would expect of bus passengers. The only difference I see is that airlines don’t land when someone wants to get off the bus…I mean plane.

  44. American used to be my premium choice for business travel. But last year, I only flew 48,000 miles with this carrier. I am tall, my knees are now always against the seat in front of me. I flew four roundtrip flights and for all segments, I was served the same turkey wrap in business. I take my own cleaning wipes, as the airlines only pick up trash and the trays and arm rests are disgusting. As for getting out early, there is nothing better than finishing up on Friday early and catching an earlier flight home. No hope of that any longer and this is just one of the reasons, I am driving to more client sites.

  45. Ignore all the comments here about legroom, delayed flights, old planes. AA’s fleet is actually the newest of the “big 3,” delays and legroom are roughly the same on all the “big 3.” However, I must say that AA’s customer service is lacking, their seat bottoms are uncomfortable, and in flight entertainment lacking. They say “we have the best wi-fi,” and they do have a good product and more wi-fi than anyone else, but they also charge for it. Yet I can get it for free just for signing up on the Delta frequent flier program, AND they have seatback entertainment, plus the food at Admirals clubs is severely lacking. Do the clubs have the same caterers as their airplanes? It sure tastes like it! AA has literally spent billions on new planes, then have thrown that all away by the nickel-dime choices they are making as outlined in this comment. Another absolutely ignorant management has made is having the weakest international network despite having the best domestic network to profitably feed those international flights!

  46. American doesn’t “care for people on life’s journey.” We had a tight connection in Dallas and they closed the door on us. But, come to find out from the gate agent, they also left more than FIFTY people from that flight because “the flight must leave on time.” So how is that reliability going to turn into profits when you have more than fifty people stranded in Dallas never wanting to fly American again? Couldn’t wait even 5 minutes for 1/3 of the plane. That’s not exactly how you build loyalty.

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