My Interesting Conversation With American Customer Relations

Filed Under: American

On Wednesday I wrote about a situation I encountered while trying to change an American ticket, which is just the latest example of how low American’s customer service has sunk. This is especially true for their Executive Platinum members, as they used to have the best top tier customer service of any airline. If you haven’t yet read the previous post I’d recommend reading that first, though to very briefly summarize:

  • My dad and I were supposed to go to Europe together, though his American flight was canceled due to Hurricane Irma
  • Because of the cancelation the trip wouldn’t work anymore, so they refunded his ticket, and the phone agent agreed to let me use my ticket balance towards another reservation, even though my flight hadn’t been canceled (this seemed like a fair compromise since we were heading to the same destination, and I wasn’t going to take the trip without him)
  • I phoned up American at a later point to use that ticket credit, and the (friendly) agent told me there was no note in the record indicating any sort of a waiver
  • Rather than recognizing the situation and what I was promised, she said there was nothing she could do, and that I was basically out of luck

If the initial agent had said “the rules are the rules and we can’t let you use the ticket amount towards a future reservation,” I would have ultimately been fine with that, even though it would have left a sour taste in my mouth. However, I have a real issue with an agent promising that he was documenting my record, me hearing him type for an extended period of time, and then later being told by another agent that this never happened.

Well, there’s a follow-up to this story — two different people from American customer relations reached out to me a day later, and the reservations agent who denied me the change reached out two days later to apologize and explain the mistake.

Yes, clearly they reached out because I’m a blogger…

Before I explain what happened, let me acknowledge that clearly they reached out to me because I’m a blogger. I often get accused of getting special treatment for being a blogger, whether it’s a suite upgrade at a hotel or what not. More often than not I don’t get special treatment, and it just comes down to my status.

However, clearly this is a case where someone saw my blog post and decided to reach out. After all, otherwise they wouldn’t have known about my displeasure with the situation. So while it makes me sad that not everyone would probably get this “treatment,” I’ll certainly use these situations to share my feedback in hopes of at least having things changed for the better.

I should also note that in situations like these, I make a point of turning down any sort of compensation or anything (not that I was offered compensation here). The only thing I hope to get out of this stuff is being able to report back to you guys on what happened.

American customers relations called me

Thursday afternoon I was sitting in American’s Flagship First Dining at JFK and got a voicemail from someone at American customer relations asking me to call her back. I won’t share the full content of the discussion, mainly because I want to be accurate and don’t want to misquote her.

She was a delight — as you’d expect from someone who works in customer relations — and apologized profusely for the situation. The gist of her message was as follows:

  • American has gone through a huge merger, and they’re working on trying to create as consistent of an experience across the board as possible, realizing that they could be doing better
  • As part of the merger and trying to align policies, departments have become policy driven, perhaps even to a fault, and it’s something American is looking at
  • In 2017, every employee will go through training to synchronize policies and make sure everyone is on the same page
  • She urged me to contact customer relations in the future when I have a situation like this, because unlike the Executive Platinum desk, “customer relations can work in the grey area”

I appreciated what she was saying, and of course she was doing her job to the best of her ability and truly made me feel like she and American cared. Unfortunately I know that’s not the case. Does American actually care about having a consistent experience across the board? If so, where are the power ports on the ex-US Airways Airbus aircraft, which make up a large portion of the domestic fleet?

But the truth is that I’m not sure I can blame American for not caring much about individual customers. They’re the world’s largest airline, and they’re successful in spite of having instituted customer unfriendly policy after customer unfriendly policy. I’m sad to say, but I’m not sure I’d do things differently if I were Doug Parker. Sure, you might annoy customers here and there for being “policy driven,” but for mega companies with shareholders, caring often doesn’t pay. I know that’s me being a cynic, but this is probably also why I don’t work in the corporate world; I wouldn’t find this kind of stuff fulfilling.

American customer relations called me… again

I had a great conversation with that first representative, and then an hour later I got another call from American customer relations. I’m not sure if they hadn’t communicated internally, but she was calling about the same thing, and emphasized similar talking points. She was happy to hear the previous representative took good care of me, and we left it at that.

The next morning I got a call from a reservations agent

Okay, this is where the story gets interesting. The next morning my phone rings from a number that I recognize to be American Airlines reservations, so I answered.

“Hi Mr. Schlappig, it’s ________. You may not remember me, but we spoke a couple of days ago regarding the ticket for the trip you were taking with your father”

Before I go any further, let me again emphasize that on the original phone call she was an absolute delight, and even though she ultimately didn’t help, she came across as competent and friendly, which is a lot more than I can say about many of American’s phone agents.

Now this is the part that’s a bit crazy. My assumption was that customer relations may have gone into the record and looked who I spoke with to figure out what happened, and that they asked her to call me to apologize, or something (which isn’t at all necessary, but…). Nope, that’s not what she claimed.

I don’t want to misquote, but the gist of what she said was that after she got off the call with me she just felt so bad and wanted to take a closer look at what happened. She said she dug deeper into the record, and noticed that the original agent had in fact documented the record. However, he did so in the history of the reservation, but not the history of the actual ticket, so that’s why she didn’t see it.

She said she felt so bad, and I said it was fine, and that customer relations had already reached out.

“If someone promises something they should deliver. One thing we strive for is consistency.”

That sounds great, though it’s a bit ironic when my experience was exactly the opposite. I was promised something, they didn’t deliver, and there was no consistency. American’s “going for great” motto seems appropriate, with the emphasis on “going.”

So she said I could still use that ticket credit towards a future reservation, and apologized again. I appreciated that she reached out, and like I said, she truly seemed incredibly competent compared to most American agents I speak with nowadays.

Bottom line

I appreciate that American reached out here. What’s my takeaway?

  • The customer relations agents said to always reach out to them when there’s a “grey area” issue, which I hadn’t previously thought about; I’m not sure I’d actually do this in the future, though it’s an idea I figured I’d pass on, in case anyone else wants to try that or share their experience
  • American is aware of how policy driven yet inconsistent their departments are, and they claim it’s something they’re working on
  • Personally I don’t think anything will change, and I largely don’t blame them
  • I found it especially strange that the reservations agent reached out and made no reference to customer relations, etc., as if she truly felt so bad about this situation and wanted to fix it; who knows, maybe it’s true, but it seems unlikely
  1. The reservation agents follow up would be more credible if it had happened immediately after she “felt so bad” and looked further into the situation and not days later after not one but two calls from customer relations.

  2. “American’s “going for great” motto seems appropriate, with the emphasis on “going.””

    Other than in the safety video they really don’t seem to use this slogan anymore (and the safety video was filmed some time ago..) Now they’re just executing on this-n-that, and they haven’t articulated a replacement vision.

  3. I have to start thinking of starting a blog to get service like yours,since got few incidents with no call back or resolution. Sad in customer service fashion! Thanks for the story.

  4. “As part of the merger and trying to align policies, departments have become policy driven, perhaps even to a fault, and it’s something American is looking at

    In 2017, every employee will go through training to synchronize policies and make sure everyone is on the same page”

    What am I missing? Isn’t this reinforcing the problem?

    They need to hire smart people and train them on the policies but to trust them on
    to use common sense.

  5. It… sounds like they didn’t actually apply the credit to the ticket you just bought, correct? I would escalate and insist the credit be applied to the flight you just purchased, where you were denied. Otherwise, it’s just them trying to make an extra sale at your expense. Or do I misunderstand something?

    This is what I’m hearing– You were told you had a credit, when you went to buy the ticket you were denied the credit, after you had already made the purchase three people come back and say, “Oh, there’s a credit, you can use it some other time but not this time.”

    If that’s what happened, I would definitely escalate, because that is not nice or polite or even interesting. I don’t even know that it’s a legal way to do business. They should apply the credit to the ticket you actually bought, not some ticket someday if they even happen to remember they owe you the credit.

  6. If this was delta, the Diamond Line agent would have likely put you on hold while they fully researched the issue. Rather than feeling bad after the call ended and nosing around in it, they’d just figure it out then. And if they still said no, you’d be able to ask for a supervisor, explain the original situation, and most likely have them issue the waiver at that point (assuming you got a supervisor from one of the better stations).

    Of course, as I referenced above, there are better staff at some stations then others, even with Delta. Some feel incredibly rules driven (eh eh, SLC), and some feel more flexible (MN iron range).

    I’m surprised you didn’t try to escalate the call when you tried to rebook, or simply call back a second time to see if the second agent was able to find the waiver.

  7. Does the tone of this seem a little sour….given that these do seem like basically friendly people trying to do better?

    And I don’t agree that American has no business incentive to try….look at your own behavior, shifting more to Delta.

  8. The agents only act according the info they’re being given by the superiors and they are getting the rule book by…

  9. @ John @ Petter N — If it came across as sour towards the individual employees, I apologize. That wasn’t my intent at all, as all three of them were incredibly friendly and professional. My frustration here is with the higher-ups at American because clearly they’re the ones who are behind these policies. I certainly don’t want to take it out on the frontline employees.

  10. Ben,

    I’ve got more than a handful of examples similar to your situation. It’s a large part of why I’ve moved on from AA. I’m glad that you’ve gotten ‘satisfaction’ from AA, but your blogger status makes a difference. For me, execplat and 2M lifetime miles did not. So frustrating.
    What a wasted opportunity that they had to pull in more business travelers, by keeping aadvantage intact, etc. I’m so over this airline, it’s hard to express in words.

    That’s OK, though. I’ve been pretty satisfied with Southwest and with the business tickets, I’ve made A-List Preferred in less then 8 weeks.

  11. You should take it out on the frontline employees. If they hear it enough, maybe they will provide enough feedback to those who make the decisons and things will change. They deserve to hear every bit of complaining and moaning and groaning. Sorry, but it’s true.

  12. No good. It’s not about any of that. It’s about whether they believed you or not. The 2nd res agent could only assume you were lying unless she could find evidence. That’s what stinks, to not even take an EXP for their word over a few dollars credit for another flight.

  13. @AMPfromBNA

    That’s exactly why most of my flying is on DL anymore. And living in a UA hub, that means I sometimes pay more or take a longer journey than if I went with the path of least resistance.

  14. Both my parents work for American…. both formally US Air employees. My dad is a dispatcher, my mom is a customer service agent at the airport. The front line employees, like mom, know how bad it’s got. They have their hands tied… if they don’t follow the rules they could get reprimanded. More than US Air, American is policy driven. But if you treat the front line emoloyees well, and understand it’s not their fault, they will be more likely to bend the rules for you.

  15. I recently had annoy so pleasant experience and submitted a complaint online. As an EP, I expected to receive nothing in return and even less for someone to contact me. However, the next day I surprisingly received a call from AA Customer Service where they apologized profusely and explained the same issue about retraining agents, etc.
    They insisted on compensating me and a verbal apology.

  16. Hah I’m sure the res agent called back out of the goodness of her heart. *rolls eyes*

    This is just evidence of AA going way *too* far for you to “fix” the issue. Not your fault, but indicative of what the airline has become.

  17. What I think is missing is that Alaska elites automatically get their cancelled tickets deposited into travel bank credit without any headaches. And then there’s Southwest that applies that policy to everyone.

    Nonsense like this is why I had explt for 2013-16, and even with platinum status this year, have not credited a single flight to AA.

  18. Oh, horse feathers. If they want to improve customer relations get rid of Doug Parker and restore the Aadvantage program to what it was – the best in the industry, instead of vying for worst.

  19. The only problem is that you CANNOT reach out to Customer Relations via phone. You can send them an email or from the form online but it takes weeks to respond, so sure they can give you a credit or whatever but defeats the purpose to being helpful when you need them.

  20. AA Customer Relations is horrible more times than not lately. It is a real crap shoot. What is really incredible to me is that they answer to no one. They are their own supervisors and going to the executive offices gets one sent back to the same bad arrogant customer services person.

  21. Ben, FYI you cannot add a comment to the history of an E-ticket. Period. A ticket does have a separate history in Sabre, but in no way shape or form can an agent add a comment to it. About the only place that is free text where an agent could do that is the endorsement line, which no agent would ever do. Comment and waivers like this would ALWAYS be added to the PNR (and subsequently the history of the PNR). So the agent you spoke to did not access the previous PNR correctly (or the PDR in the case of the PNR already being purged). What airlines usually do in the case of waivers and passengers requiring comments is they add a pseudo/info segment a year out in the PNR to keep all of it’s contents active instead of being purged. Your situation is truly bizarre.

  22. What Frank says. Since it’s impossible to contact Customer Relations in real-time, their suggestion that they could have helped if only you reached out to them is hard to take seriously.

  23. Thanks for the update on this story / case Ben. Blogger or not, it’s interesting to see how it got sorted and handled by American.

  24. @tom – I fully agree. AA Customer Service agents are the pedantic and incompetent. It is also frustrating that you cannot escalate things.

  25. So let me get this straight. AA Customer Relations can work in the so-called “grey area”, which they presumably would do for any schmuck who happens to call them. But the Executive Platinum agents who are in place to provide the best possible service to AA’s top customers, who each literally give the carrier thousands of dollars every year in revenue, don’t have access to the same “grey area”, whatever the hell that means?

    Am I the only one who has a problem with that? I rarely call the EXP Desk but when I do it’s because I have a problem that for which I need their help. I don’t need the rules recited to me by some petty functionary. I need someone who can either resolve the issue or offer alternatives.

  26. I keep laughing out loud when I get on an AA plane and see that “Airline of the Year” sticker.

    I’m borrowing from a famous quote here, but the sticker should say ” A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”

  27. @frank @lucky

    Correct, Customer Relations is not a department that can be contacted quickly. It can take weeks or even months depending on the circumstance. Unless lucky has the secret phone number he would like to share?

  28. Just as Frank said, It’s practically, realistically impossible to “reach out to Customer Relations.


  29. In the race to the bottom of service, it’s hard to choose between AA and United : they’re apace.
    The other airline I experience a bit of is British Airways : great history and dreadful Business product . Another downward spiral in customer experience.

  30. Doug Parker has no respect whatsoever for passengers. I’m a million mile flyer on AA, multi-year executive platinum and almost always fly on paid business or first fares. Virtually everything has degraded as he brings his “touch” to yet another airline. This is the guy who charges for water on airplanes with on board water systems that are barely potable. He won’t be happy until AA is bought and his coffers enriched. We’ve only seen the beginning of his destructive behavior.

  31. What about all of us out here in AA-land who are NOT executive platinum sapphire twinkling Cartier bah-da-boom?
    And Geez Louise, this was a $98. credit. Isn’t there an adult in the room who can award that credit without a lot of to-ing and fro-ing? Presumably you are a good customer, not some mooch who moves into First Class because a seat is empty. They can see that history.
    Newsflash! Corporate apologies are worthless, totally worthless. Any phone-answerer can — and usually does — apologize 18 times in one phone call.
    All in all, I think you are setting a VERY low standard for decent customer service. Most of what you report just sounds inept and puffed up.
    Btw, how long have these two companies been in the process of integrating? And, is there some natural law that they should should be given a free-pass on decent service while they get more control over flying, exploit their position, provide worse actual flying service ranging from smaller seats, to smaller planes, flying less often and less directly?
    In many, many years of travel in what used to be called the third world, I would often think how can these folks put up with this filthy bus or unsafe plane or these absurd schedules? Then I would remind myself that they had no power, no rights, no choices. Well, we are on our way.

  32. Typical of AA. The only long term solution is for travelers to press Congress to change the Airline Deregulation Act to give passengers’ some bargaining power. As it stands now the airlines have all the power and face no real downside when they mistreat passengers.

  33. @Lucky,

    I think you handled your misgivings about this being due to your blogs rather well; being very forthcoming and open about it.
    Great post!

  34. The merger was in 2013, yet it is still not complete.

    The pilots are integrated, but the flight attendants are not. They cannot transfer between US and AA bases and cannot work the equipment of the other carrier.

    Integration is projected for October 2018, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  35. Since the merger there seems to be this assumption that all problems with AA today are a result of the US Air side of the equation. I migrated from US Air with the merger and my experience has been that customer service was great at US Air and is just awful at AA. It was especially bad last year – I never felt comfortable with any reservation until I was seated on the plane. They would constantly make flight changes at the last minute and you would be forced to phone to get placed back on the original flights, always with great difficulty. It was abusive. This year has been much better, so far.

  36. Love the honesty and transparency in this post, Lucky. Even if you get special treatment, at least you can stand up for the rest of us EXP non-VIP plebes. We have all watched and experienced AA go from first to worst.

  37. I assume your father’s ticket was on a separate PNR. Technically both tickets are handled independently. The fact that you chose to not travel since your father’s ticket was cancelled is not really AA’s fault.

    Each ticket is processed separately. Could you not have cancelled your ticket and paid the $200 cancellation fee and then retained the ticket value that way – that is the normal process that most people follow. Otherwise you are requesting special treatment that most would not get. And only the blog got you special treatment.

    I think you should have followed the normal process and reported the normal process in the blog – paying the fee to retain the value.

    There is always a risk when 2 people are traveling on separate PNRs.

  38. Doug Parker and Scott Kirby together ruined and destroyed American. They lost plenty of profitable customers. Maybe they make money anyway but they could have made more and had a brand they could be more proud of. Not that they care. Scott Kirby is at United doing the SAME thing! One man destroying one airline to the next.

    Customer Relations told you to call in the future however anytime I have called them about a ticketing issue, they have ALWAYS sent me back to the EXP desk. Customer Relations only handles past issues and not future travel so I am sure if you come across a situation like this again, you will find the same inconsistent experience.

  39. You were right in your earlier statement. They answer to shareholders. The only concern is filling seats at the highest revenue per seat possible. That’s why previously semi-comfortable seats, have been replaced with kiddie seats. So one could say fine, I’ll take my business elsewhere. Not likely. The merger that was discussed, along with mergers and acquisitions by other airlines, has created an oligopoly. You might or likely may not be able to fly with another carrier. They know this.
    It’s a new day in air travel.
    We’re screwed.

  40. I got a call from a “Executive Cuotmer Relations” AA agent last Christmas. She said they noticed I flew a lot on AA in 2014 and 2105 and then not much at all in 2016. “Was something wrong?” I said, yes as a matter of fact it is. But we can’t solve all of American’s issues on the phone while I’m standing here in Costco. You know what wrong’s with AA, right? She said they were aware of some things they needed to work on. Elevated me to Plat status despite being way short of miles .

    American KNOWS what the issues are. They just don’t care enough to fix them. One place to start would be to actually reinstating the phone number to call Customer Relations. Getting rid of phone support is pretty good evidence they don’t give a s**t.

  41. Yeah, no. Your initial experience is what everyone receives. This is just special treatment in hopes of you writing a positive article which you have done, saying everyone is so positive, competent, and friendly even though they weren’t initially able to help. Christ, stop forcing youself. American is terrible.

  42. I think you are pretty harsh on AA here:
    I’ve been in post-merger integration projects, mergers are very, very difficult. And especially so for customer service staff – you have hundreds or thousands of call center staff with limited training, coming from very different experiences, trying to present “one face” to the customer with the switch – that doesn’t happen. So, following tied policy is the right approach.
    Where AA failed is to not provide more training and more authority to top-level ExecPlat staff to work in that grey area and insulate the HVC from the chaos that inevitable ensues after a merger.
    You can’t run an airline with a budget-mindset and expect top customers to be happy, unless you segment the customer service accordingly. AA clearly isn’t good at it, neither are many others…
    Given the situation (and considering that you were not entitled to a credit in this situation), I think the individual staff did actually reasonably well! Better than I experienced at United post-merger as a GS…

  43. Been an EXP for the past 10 years and things are getting more and more disgusting with AA. And their EXP reservation agent are not helping but worsening it. my camel just got the last straw fall on his back.

  44. Bottom line:

    Start a travel blog, develop a ton of traffic, and then expect to get excellent customer service from hotels and airlines!

  45. I have traveled with AA for the past 5 years and have been very happy with AA. This past week I had traveled from Lisbon and arrived in Philadelphia. I was somewhat tired. I had plenty of time to catch my flight, on my ticket it said 24C, so I waited on my flight on gate C24. There were more people waiting, but the boarding was supposed to be at 17:55 and the departure would be at 18:25. So I waited and waited. I finally looked at the departure screen and it said C25, but C25 for some reason is not in numerical order, it’s in another block down around the corner, so I missed my flight. I felt horrible, that type of situation never happened before missing my flight by such a way. So I went to the correct gate and the lady there was like an angel, she understood the issue about the confusion of the numbers, looked for other possible flights for that day. She end up getting a free hotel at DoubleTree w free shuttle together w a new flight for the next day. I surely was very pleased with American Airlines. Thank you so much for always taking such good care of my family.

  46. Harsh? Why oh why is a merger an excuse for anything? Who is the merger benefitting?
    It is obvious that no one protected the public in this merger. Every one of these remaining 3 carriers should be paying out service fees to cities who lost service and passengers who are inconvenienced.
    More training is needed? Damn right! And grossly overdue. Where were (are) the training plans before the merger was granted? With umpteen mergers behind us, much should have been learned. AA is better than United? Well, holy frijole, I hope so!
    These mergers have been going on for 30 years at least. They are the result of the eradication of FAA standards which used to protect the flying public. It is amazing to me that people keep quoting the airlines’ own rules and regulations about who is entitled to what as if those often silly regulations were God-given law. Those standards — and pretty rotten they are — are thought up by the airlines only to benefit the shareholders and top executives, e.g. $200 change fees on a $98 ticket. We in the US are not protected by any standards such as the EU mandates which provide reasonable compensation.
    This situation with airlines is very much like American health insurers who have created the hideous mess we now have impeding decent healthcare. Those insurance companies dreamed up “pre-existing conditions.” “co-pays,” punitive “group rates,” “insurance contract benefits” (to the insurance company) and premium increases following any use of the insurance. We have allowed our transportations system to become as tangled, profit-driven, and inefficient as our healthcare system. They have lost all customer focus.
    Harsh? When did corporate America become sacred? If your electric company provided power only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with endless rate increases or your water company provided polluted water, as in Flint, there would be plenty of outcry, executive platinum water user or not.

  47. Ben

    Welcome to our world. We always ask for an email confirmation of what was discussed or agreed. What else can we resort to other than recording every phone call for proof.

    We gone thru it all, with the big corps. One major hotel platinum reservationist made reservations, did not send the follow up email as promised, and when I checked the prices she booked, they were higher than agreed. We no longer book reservations thru the platinum desk.

    Another major hotel diamond desk tells us things on the phone but won’t send an email thru to confirm it. We have alot of discrepancies with them, and solutions have not been reached.

    We are at their mercy for what they say on line, and unless we get it in writing we do not have the confidence it will be what they say.

    That indeed is a sad state. Thankfully it does not happen all the time, but far too many times it has.


  48. the us was a big joke. No consumer protections like the EU. Simply, america was by hustlers, for hustlers, and about hustling. Everyone was enslaved by us corporate fascism –that’s why america failed. hustlers, hucksters, and opportunists.

  49. I guess being a blogger helps cos I had a situation where I had been promised a refund by the customer service agent, after 3 months of being told the refund takes 1-2 months, I was finally asked to fill up an online form. Next day I got a call from the “refunds department” or something like that and was told that the customer service gave me a wrong information and that there will be no refunds. She said she could not help, that the customer service department doesn’t know how the refunds department works. I lost $250 and can’t do much about it

  50. What IS the number of American Airlines Customer Service?
    If what you say is true, and as a blogger you take nothing but material to report, then why not list that telephone number so we may all use it?

  51. Everyone complains about AA and the fact that AA doesnt care about fixing the problems.
    Why should they care? You all seems to fly them anyway. When you guys stop flying them, only then will they care.

  52. Rob – I work in a similar industry and have made “mistakes” like this in the past. Once you’ve made the “mistake”, you don’t have unlimited time to just dig around and start investigating things off your own back – I’d simply make an internal note to have a look again in the future when I get time. Sometimes I’d discover a resolution I could action several days later – it’s perfectly plausible this agent did the same.

  53. I work for the new American but started with USAir for 19 years, not to defend American but since the merger it’s been crazy. we both have different policies in which we integrating to make 1. Just as its a headache for the public its the same for us workers we all get new training feels like every day.

  54. @chase,

    VCRs do have a remarks field that any escalation agent can write in. (ExP are escalation) the current policy would prefer VCR remarks to PNR historical remarks, because PNRs eventually purge and agents would then have to access the archive, which takes an eternity, to read them.

  55. Has anyone considered that the reservation agent got back to you on his/her next workday? @Joe is correct about the comments and I think it is commendable that the agent called you back. Very humble.
    I work in AA’s CR department, and have been called every name in the book via email and conversation. I have reached out to people and broken, not bent, rules to make them happy, and yet they still treated me like garbage at the end of the conversation. I agree that loyalty goes both ways, but so does compassion and graciousness. We want to help you, but there has to be some structure.
    I am sorry you had a bad experience. It should not have happened. Disasters can cause chaos even after the fact. I think we are playing catch-up and I am sorry you got caught in the middle. I hope you were compensated properly.
    If you saw how much money has been raised and effort has been put in to assisting others by American Airlines’ low paid employees who make (per year) what many flyers spend on one or two vacations, I believe you would have a better view of the employees.

  56. It’s pretty amazing that you called to get a $95 ticket refunded to start with. How much is your time really worth? $95???

  57. I agree with AACR according to the graciousness part. Just because the mother company absolutely SUCKS! and they do, does not mean any of the agents should be treated any way other that graciously. No one should ever be dis respectful to a phone agent. ITs still a human t0 human interaction.

    American Customer Service has just had so many ridiculous lows and stupid policies that people forget there are humans behind the operation.
    example: Same day confirmed must be the SAME EXACT routing. This is just one example of a stupid policy that helps no body. There are many such policies that piss people off and make them go insane. That is how all those phone calls end up with a less than human repsonse is my guess.

  58. I work for AA in Reservations. A lot of what I have to say has already been covered in the comments. One thing I noticed is that you pretty much insult front line agents twice in your post. I’m damn good at my job, and so are most of my peers. We do our best to stay on top of an inordinate number of ever changing complicated policies while providing service with a smile. For you to have the attitude and/or treat us as incompetent is unacceptable. And to take your frustration out on us is even worse. We are painfully aware that some of the policies are not friendly. We know the merger has been long, complicated and is far from complete. And try as we might we cannot get through to you customers that some of those policies are there for your safety and protection. At the end of the day we really do want to sell you the best ticket at the best price or give you the best service possible. I end every call I can with “It’s my pleasure.” and mean it.

  59. Over and over my sense is that the person(s) answering the telephone is being used by upper management as cannon fodder on the front lines.
    It is utterly predictable that the ticketing agent will be confronted by unhappy CUSTOMERS if the policies are convoluted and essentially anti-customer. Ditto with “ever changing complicated policies” and “policies [that] are not friendly” and a “merger that has been long, complicated and [that] is far from complete.”
    AA upper management owes it to reservations people to provide them with decent protocols, reasonable back-up, good training and sound policies. It is completely unacceptable to send troops to the front-lines untrained, unprotected and leaderless.
    That is obviously what is happening to AA reservations staff. In addition, reservations agents at every level are not given the authority to make changes and act on their own initiative.
    It is disgraceful that reservations agents are unsupported by management, but it is also just plain fantastic to expect the public to be gracious about being subjected to arbitrary, exploitative airline policies.
    You have been maneuvered by your management into being a human barrier wall protecting them from the unhappy victims of their exploitative policies. What do you think is going to happen in that situation?
    Frankly, every United States airline flying has used up my quota of patience for their rotten, exploitative management.
    I’m happy to tell that to the responsible people, but, of course, I can’t reach them behind the protective barrier they have set up.

  60. Lucky: Something does not pass the common sense test here.

    The “wonderful EXP agent” had missed the previous agent’s notes and felt very bad about it. Enough to research more and find you had been right. Enough so just had to call you—now, several days later.

    Sounds sweet, but why didn’t she fix the problem then and there when she found that you had been right about the previous agent’s promise? Issue the promised credit and inform you by email and/or phone. Simple. Why all this drama days later, after your blog post and two CS calls?

    Seems like a coordinated PR effort to me. You are getting suckered into presenting their version of the story to your readers without any opportunity to verify facts, interview actual people involved, etc.

    Not surprisingly, the story does not add up.

  61. well, I have an odd but ending with very good result experience with an AAgent. Our flight was an award SLC-DFW-MIA and our plan was to take the TriRail from MIA to FLL where we live. Because AA NEVER releases the needed seats to FLL so we have no choice but to book MIA and use the train home. Been use this workaround many times in the past for awards.

    TriRail was suspended without a schedule to resume service after Irma. I called AA when we were still in Salt Lake City 50 hours before our departure time on this predicament. I asked the AAgent to waive the $150×2 ticket change fee due to we changed the destination from MIA to FLL but it was due to Irma and AA also had a travel waiver for virtually all Florida airports it serve, free change to origin / destination within 600 miles was one of the waivers. However there was no award seat whatsoever. Therefore I asked if she could confer with revenue management to open up award seats.

    The AAgent said “Your flight to MIA was canceled so regardless the change was free.” I was surprised to learn that because the itinerary online was intact. (Hours later Google flight still showed the DFW-MIA flight we were originally on….) She put me on hold for brief moment, then came back, “I would put you on the DFW-FLL flight just that you would have a longer layover than usual.” At first I thought she was putting us to the evening flight so I said it was fine we could always standby the 2:30pm flight but would not mind to be confirmed on the evening flight. She came back said, “No, you are confirmed on the 2:30pm flight, arriving at 6:14pm. You are all good to go. Just wait for the email for the new itinerary in next 24 hours.” I asked her if she would not mind to hold the line a minute while I logged in my AAdvantage to see the new itinerary. She assured me she would be stay on the line while I went checking. Itinerary was rebooked, status changed to Pending Ticketing or something like that. With a big relief I thanked the agent profusely for her help and asked if I could send in a Thank You chit for her service (I still have a couple of those left for 2017). She said you could just send an email to my supervisor. So I got the details of that and her name. I really feel that we customers need to give positive feedback when it is deserved.

    While most the time it has been unpleasant with the “new” AA in the past 3 years, there are still good to great front line agents who are genuinely wanting to help. I must say the Mandarin line agents are the most helpful, time and time again. I was calling the Mandarin line initially but the hold time was so long it eventually defaulted to the regular English speaking line. No matter this time, I was lucky to have a good agent who had found ways to help us.

    I just wish we dont have to play “Agent Roulette” to get competent agents and good customer service.

  62. @Cassandra: You sound like a wonderful person as well as a pleasant and competent professional representative.

    Could you please give us your direct number, personal or work, so we can call you with any issues that come up and need sorting?


    We must call the general number? Listen to that music, and deal with whichever agent picks up the phone?

    I thought so.

    So, you see, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

    These comments are about people’s own experiences with average service standards, flight attendants, airport agents, phone representatives. They have been on a sharp decline lately and are pretty bad now.

  63. @Lucky “The customer relations agents said to always reach out to them when there’s a “grey area” issue, which I hadn’t previously thought about…”

    If you refer to my comment on the original post, I suggested that you do just that based on my previous experiences.

  64. My last two concerning events with an AA flight drew deaf ears with customer service even though I am an Exec Plat for 18 years running…an a 5.6 Million miler.
    In one event my first class meal was tampered with. I had fallen asleep and when i req my meal… the purser simply sent me his half uneaten meal. And on my latest occassion

  65. Did neither of the Customer Relations reps find the remarks that the original Reservation Agent had in fact typed in and that the second Reservation Agent finally found after your call?

  66. This is timely, reading from O’Hare while on a miles-run after an AA agent confirmed (and allegedly noted such confirmation in my account) 2 months ago that my summer itineraries would meet their Exec Plat status challenge (switching from United Platinum). Last week, a week before the challenge ends, I call again to confirm and am told that while I’m several thousand miles over I’m $16 short, there’s no note, and nothing to do but fly within the next 5 days! Now, while on this last minute 10 hour miles-run to cover that $16 shortfall, further contrary information as I’m being told there’s also no note about getting standby on earlier flights back to LGA instead of JFK. Pretty disappointing when I’m paying to shift my allegiance and keep getting incorrect information from AA agents during the process. Have a few American business class flights coming up but United suddenly doesn’t seem so bad…

  67. MegaC: Don’t you find ALL of these convoluted exercises a ridiculous imposition just so you will be treated well as a passenger — a paying customer? Even in running their obstacle course, AA has been inefficient and unhelpful, not to mention inconsiderate. How did we let these companies gain this power over our lives?

  68. In July I booked 2 reward flights to and from Europe. When I booked them I was told I would be able to switch to window seats at no charge approximately 1 month from my flights. They did come open but with a $93.00 fee because they are considered a premium seat. I called the agents and allthough polite said there was nothing they could do.

  69. I tried AA, paid F, MIA-DTW RT this past weekend. First flight 3 hours late, 30 minutes at a time. Pre-reserved F meal was “not available”, this is what we have left. 40 minutes for “Priority” checked bags to get to the carousel. Return flight arrives 15 minutes early but we wait 55 minutes to get to a gate. Pre-reserved F meal wasn’t on board due to a “catering mixup”. The deadheading pilot in uniform sitting next to me got the meal I ordered. Hmmm. 50 minutes wait for “priority” checked bags to show up on the carousel. Every time I leave Delta to check out the competition I seem to choose the wrong competition. With Delta I would have 2500×2 miles for the bags over 20 minutes. More likely I would have had my bags and 0 miles. At least 5K for the very delayed flight. The meal issue would have been a dice roll.

  70. Carambolla makes a fair point. Most of the rank and file employees at the airlines work hard and do a good job. That said, there are many employees, particularly at American, who are long in the tooth and arrogant. They are sharp elbowed and could care less about passengers. Why, because the executive team sets that tone at the top. It is the Doug Parkers, Oscar Munozes and Scott Kirby who lead by example. Let’s not forget the horrendous treatment United employees handed out to Dr. Dao, knocking his teeth out, or the American flight attendant who challenged a passenger who had stepped in to try to help a mother and her baby, to a fight. This could only happen today where airlines are not accountable. There are also passengers who are abusive, spoiled and rude. But this series of comments is fundamentally about the fact that the passenger is completely at the mercy of the airlines. Why? Because the airlines lobbied Congress to pass the Airline Deregulation Act. It gave all the power in the passenger airline business to the airlines, making them immune from suits and ordinary claims. So there is zero oversight. I don’t advocate letting anyone bring any claim. But if the Act were changed to give passengers some ability to seek relief airlines would quickly change. And the mergers have made the problem even worse because passengers have no options. Why should American have a monopoly on traffic at DFW? Or Delta at Atlanta? If Delta and/or United began competing on major routes in and out of DFW you would see service dramatically improve. It comes down to competition and when there is none, as is largely the case now, there is no need for an airline to be fair or to treat customers like it needs them. You can write all you want about various instances where American or other airlines were unfair or did not deliver as agreed. That is going to continue until passengers are given some power in the airline/passenger relationship and until competition is restored. No where in America is an industry as protected as are the airlines. Let your Senators and Representatives know how you feel.

  71. I’m Concierge Key in American and my service is worst than it has ever been. Needless to say that I fly less with them now, than ever before. Luckily there are alternatives.

  72. American Airlines customer service motto is demonstrated daily. That is “you must have mistaken us for someone who cares”! Our family will never fly with them again. Too many awful experiences.

  73. Understanding what you had been going through and I am having my own trouble With American Airlines. Wish US Air was back, with much better services!

  74. I just finalized my own experience with the Customer Relations at American Airlines, and I’d like to share it. Three weeks ago, my family had to cancel our flight last minute because of a last minute illness that one of our children came down with. He displayed symptoms of impetigo at bed time, and the next morning our flight was scheduled to leave Chicago at 8:00. Because his siblings had recovered from the impetigo, we felt that he likely had it, and we were concerned that it could spread to others on the flight. After some deliberation after midnight, we decided to call American to cancel the tickets.

    The representative explained that he could not redeem a travel voucher because we were canceling so close to departure time. Nonetheless, we canceled the ticket. He encouraged me to contact Customer Relations to petition a credit, but he could not guarantee a positive outcome. That night I wrote an email to Customer Relations that had the maximum amount of allowable characters, 1,500. I waited for a decision the next day yet I did not receive a reply. A few days later I called American, and the representative could not offer any insight.
    He simply encouraged me to follow up with another internet inquiry with the Relations Department. I did, and then I waited for three weeks with no reply again. I presumed that their department did not get to the case because it was busy with Christmas traffic and rescheduling issues.

    I called American back, and the representative informed me that typical inquiries receive a response within a week. It made no sense to be upset with the company if they were struggling to keep up with unforeseen circumstances. Two days later, I received a phone call from American on a Sunday from an executive assistant. I was impressed that she worked on a Sunday, and I was very pleased to receive the news that American would grant us flight credit.

    I realize that many posts on the internet about customer service describe distasteful experiences. In this situation, the people at American Airlines were reasonable and pleasant. And in the end, they landed a more dedicated flyer.

  75. Chris,
    Ya’know that’s swell. Glad it worked out for you.
    BUT it would save everyone a lot of duress if American and United and Delta would all have the same policy that Southwestern does. I will bet it would save those three some money to not have staff passing worthiness judgements on customers. But then again, their punitive set-up is probably bringing in tons taking money for services NOT rendered.
    While it is great that you won, do you really think what you went through was NOT distasteful?
    Wow, are you giving Big Air an easy pass on decency.

  76. Is there really ‘No AA Customer Service’ anymore ???
    Just today I called AA and Posed a question to this ‘entity’ in order to gain more specifics on the most recent OW Association with INTERJET…and was told by the Reservations Agent that they can assist…. after some time, She referred me back to the AA site for the Information…..then why in Heavans Name would i have called ???
    Only to be ‘referred back’….As a 34 year AA MM Veteran’ I have just noticed DELTA is offering a ‘Redeem your Medallion’ Status’ not only yearly
    Non-qualification, but over time….
    Time to Fly Delta !

  77. It’s not about AA customer service .
    If you buy a ticket and it’s no refundable you should have bought some type of insurance.
    Why do AA have to change rules you agree to, when you purchase the ticket just bc you can make it public. That’s some bullshit you get upgrades just for you not to talk bad about place’s you visit you are taking advantage.
    Like everyone living in USA they should have not change there rules at firts point of contact if they cancel your fathers ticket he got it refund it, why do they need to help you with your ticket if it was not affected.
    Buy a car dont buy insurance crash it and go return it..let me know how that goes. You got what you pay for so next time buy a refundable ticket no restrictions and stop making excuses when u cant get what you want.

  78. I am dealing with being told there’s nothing that can be done for me for my non-refundable ticket to Puerto Rico, even though there is a state of Emergency and a natural disaster due to Earthquakes on the island. An American Airlines customer service person directed me to email customer relations, which I have done. Delta refunded the other ticket for me purchased for this trip, without hesitation.

    I would love to know how to get a hold of customer relations on the phone in the event I don’t receive a call back from them. This whole situation is awful but I’m safe and I am praying for the safety of the people in PR.

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