14 June 2009

American Airlines...the ugly American

**update. I have been forced to fly AA several times since I wrote this commentary and have been treated with respect and a bend over backwards for the customer attitude. SO I have changed my mind. The commentary below was written in disgust for how I was treated one time I myself made a mistake and ordered the wrong ticket and tried to change it within a few minutes of making the mistake.

#tcot, #airlines #americanairlines #customerservice

Why I will never fly American Airlines again, the short version, very bad customer service on the ground and they obviously don't care.
UPDATE to story, flew them again (not my choice) and had a great experience.
First let me introduce the subject by admitting a mistake. The mistake I (the paying customer) was in no way the fault of American Airlines. However as you will see when I respectfully asked for help from them, they refused unless I was willing to pay $150 (which would double the price of my ticket). Any appeals to common sense were rejected. “Don’t you know we nickel and dime you now?” I was told with a smirk…TWICE!
My Mistake; I was shopping for a ticket to LA from Denver to leave on a Saturday and return on Sunday evening for a very special occasion; so I could see my daughter graduate from college. I did not really have the money really but I knew I could not, or should not miss it. I bought it about 6 weeks out to get a good deal.
I shopped for nearly 2 hours on and off checking various sites, and flights, including CheapTickets.com and the Airline websites directly. I found the prices were all very competitive so because I once had a good experience with American a few years ago (I watched them offer uniformed military personnel the opportunity to sit in first class for no charge) I chose them.
I closed the deal, put in my credit card information and bought the tickets. About 3 minutes later after I had printed out my itinerary, I realized I had made a mistake. Looking down at the printed sheets I saw that I had bought the wrong ticket for my trip home, way too early in the day. I had lost track of which one I was looking at and bought the wrong ticket. Yes my fault, a dumb mistake, I should have been more careful. I would not have been able to attend all of my daughter’s graduation so it had to be changed! Should be no problem if I call right away and explain what I did.
So within 5 minutes of buying the ticket I called AA explained my mistake and asked for help changing my ticket. I figured they would probably change it for me, but I might have to beg.
I was willing to pay a charge for their trouble. I figured 5 minutes of their time to change the ticket for another time the same day (this was 50 days out) was not unreasonable, perhaps they’d charge me a fee…and I was ok with that, I made the mistake
AA informed me they would be happy to change my ticket for $150. The ticket itself was $165. I explained the situation politely again. Their answer was NO, no, no, no no no no, no no and they did not budge. I did not yell or get angry but they didn’t care. They apparently did not even care if I ever flew them again, since I said they were losing a customer. But they did not care period. American Airlines does not care about customer service, they don’t go the extra mile, they don’t go 6 inches.
Angry but still hopeful I felt for sure once I got to the airport and explained my situation they could not refuse to help me when we were face to face. I was respectful, just like before, but …the “customer service” rep did not care. I could fly standby (on an already overbooked flight) said the uncaring “customer service” person. He also mentioned I’d probably have to buy another ticket and that flying standby was a long shot at best.
Now come time to fly;
Day of flight out, I get a call early in the morning from American saying the flight has been delayed by 90 minutes. However, our plane actually left Denver 150 minutes late (2 and half hours) after the scheduled departure time, no bad weather to speak of, and no reason for it I could tell or was explained….the strong feeling that they don’t care just deepens with each event.
The plane; At this point I feel like I am whining about small things and perhaps I should just leave it, but it was the straws piling up that got to me, one thing after another after my initial experience with the lack of customer care that got me mad enough to write this. It was all very revealing. American Airlines employees do not care for their customers, and they apparently don’t care if they lose them…so I recommend letting it die. The once great carrier American Airlines has now become the personification of ‘the ugly American.’ loud, rude unkempt and uncaring.
My saga continued on the flight out of Denver; Once seated I noticed that my seat did not, would not recline. This makes it very difficult to type, watch a movie or be comfortable especially if the person in front of you is reclining. The flight was full, so I could not move to another seat that worked properly. I didn’t even ask for help, I already knew they would not care.
My window seat looked over the port side wing and I began to stare at another symbol of a company who quite apparently does not care what people think about it - peeling paint and rusty bolts (see pictures). Not to mention violently shuddering brakes.
I don’t pretend to know anything about aircraft structural mechanics nor do I really think these items are anything but aesthetics (although rusty bolts and shuddering brakes are a bit disturbing) but peeling paint on the wings of an aircraft I am riding in says a lot about the Airline. It says they don’t care. It says they don’t go the extra mile. The shuddering brakes shook the entire air craft each time they were applied again, continuing the impression, we are low budget, and now feeling uneasy about how well kept the planes are!
The flight finally made it out of Denver with great piloting, and the service from the crew was above average. But by now, I had already made up my mind, AA would be my last choice when choosing an Airline next time. Had they helped me in the beginning all the other annoyances would have been just that…annoying but not deal breakers. Together however they painted a bad picture, especially because you have so many choices when you fly.
The return flight was fairly uneventful with a couple of exceptions; I called American that morning and explained the situation again, they said my only option was either to pay the difference for first class or go stand by on an already overbooked flight. Again the rep reiterated that chances were slim to none, and I would do better by buying a first class seat, but I was determined not to use money I did not have. I worried all day that I would end up having to miss work, stay an extra day and all that, or spend another couple hundred bucks I didn’t have.
I arrived at the airport two hours early, 4th person in line. The counter was manned by 3 people. 35 long minutes later I was helped by a nice customer service representative who assured me there were going to be seats available and that I would get on…This was very surprising considering I was told several times chances were slim to none with urgings to purchase another ticket. …Why did they tell me that? Were they trying to get me to purchase a first class ticket? At this point I can only assume that was why! I easily got a stand-by ticket and there were empty seats on the plane!
The flight was uneventful although once again late, this time by only an hour though. They didn’t even announce the delay until after we were scheduled to board.
I however made it home and didn’t miss work…whew. This trip could have been completely stress free but because of my mistake and AA’s refusal to help, a lot of stressful energy was spent and a once great company lost a customer, perhaps a few customers.
The reason I write this scathing review is because I want it to serve as a lesson for all businesses. Customer service will make you or break you, unless of course there is no competition and everyone HAS to buy from you. AA acts as if there is no competition…that I don’t have a choice. I’ve flown a lot, and have had Airlines (even recently) go the extra mile for me..perhaps I am behind the times, expect too much…perhaps but I won’t fly AA again if I have a choice.
It wasn’t in the rules to help me fix my mistake, but American Airlines ridiculous stubbornness and tone deaf attitude cost them thousands of dollars in future revenue from me, and perhaps more if this gets legs and come up on enough Google searches.
After doing some searching myself, I found that I was of course not alone.
AA Overbooks flights without concern for passengers...
Rescheduled and cancelled flights
American Airlines headed for a crash...
First class blues...
There's a pattern here....


Anonymous said...

Regarding your weather situation, realize it was nice of you to get a call in the first place. People always look at the sky, see blue, and ask-- how can this be a weather delay? Do you know what the weather in Dallas or Chicago was like? (the likely origins of that flight) On time operations are at the mercy of weather all over the country. Weather at the origin is only one of the factors that account for weather delays. As you said, they did not say this was necessarily a weather issue, but it could have been.

Regarding your seat recline issue, I can tell from the picture that you are very likely seated in seat 19A or 20A. These seats are not allowed to recline due to FAA regulations at the emergency exit rows to facilitate a speedy evacuation without obstruction. This is no secret and indication of seats that do not recline is contained on seat maps on AA.com and other sources.

With the challenging fiscal times in the airline industry, there has been the need for a stricter emphasis on generating additional revenue through change fees. Do understand two things: the fare class you were booked in that did not allow changes also was responsible for a very reasonable $165 ticket. 2. As you said, the standby option was given, and I cannot say if an agent disingenuously advised you, but can tell you that load forecasts can be unpredictable, and a delayed flight such as Hawaii or Tokyo could open many seats, as well as a fluctuating standby list. I am glad you were able to be accommodated on stand-by.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the shuttering brakes, all airplanes shutter when the speed brakes, or spoilers, are deployed. The spoilers are called spoilers because they "spoil" the lift and forward velocity to help slow an aircraft down so it can descend and land at a safe speed. I don't know of any aircraft that does not shutter when the spoilers are deployed. I think most of your whining and bitching about American Airlines is petty and pointless. Go find another airline that never has a delayed flight, peeling paint, and shuttering brakes. You will not find one.

Mr Bob said...

Brave of you to comment here...anonymously. And yes, I could be whining about all the little stuff, I actually said that..but you missed the point...bad customer service loses customers. I don't even care much about all the rest that much.
I called within 5 minutes about the mishap with the website, your company refused to help me...over and over. I fly a lot and have not EVER seen this blatant of "sorry, your fault, don't care" with any other airline. It would have even paid a penalty for my mistake.

THe shuddering brakes were shuddering brakes...I know what those feel like and as I said I fly a lot, had never felt that before either except when I had broken brakes on my car. The airplane was not landing, we were only going about 20 miles an hour and were taxi-ing for take off.

I was not in the exit row, the seat was broken. I have never seen peeling paint that bad the hundreds of times I've flown as far as being on time, perhaps I was a bit hard on AA there, but it just got thrown in with the bad taste in my mouth. I'll never be back and now anyone that reads this will probably not choose them first either.

Bottom line, your airline is broken and needs fixed. You have people working in key positions that don't give a shit. obviously you are not one of those and that is good, but don't fight me...find them and expose them, take your company back from the I don't give a shits.