Will American’s Operational Performance Finally Improve?

Filed Under: American

American’s operational performance has been less than stellar lately.

It has been especially bad at LAX. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have to wait on a gate after a domestic American flight to LAX. That’s true whether we landed half an hour early early, on-time, or half an hour late.

American has been trying to grow like crazy at LAX, though unfortunately they may have over-extended themselves a bit. While American is adding gates at LAX, it sure seems like they should have waited until their construction was completed before kicking off the expansion efforts.

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People understandably give the airlines a hard time for this type of performance. I see Tweets all the time from people saying “our flight is 20 minutes late, how is it that we still don’t have a gate?” As a customer it’s a very valid criticism.

However, part of the problem is that airlines’ scheduling department and operations department often don’t work closely enough together.

In other words, the scheduling department plans the routes, while it’s up to operations to execute the plan on a day-to-day basis. Both departments have different goals — scheduling wants as many planes as possible flying profitably, while operations is a lot more concerned with flights being on-time, and being able to manage customers’ expectations.

Presumably neither group wants to take responsibility for issues, with operations saying that scheduling is giving them more flights than they can reasonably handle, while scheduling is saying that operations needs to get better at executing the plan.

Well, per the always reliable JonNYC, it looks like American is making some major changes to their scheduling department, which should help improve operational performance. Per his post on FlyerTalk:

In the scheduling dept vs. OPs war, OPs has prevailed in making the argument that there’s no way to run the schedule the way it is now and that the current state of affairs is scheduling’s fault, not OP’s.

That view has prevailed, for now, and changes are afoot. If those changes don’t help, larger changes (at OPs, then) will quickly follow– the will to fix and the urgency of same has arrived (later than it should have, ironically 😀 )

It seems like American is mostly putting the blame on their scheduling department for now, so expect some changes to schedules soon. I imagine if their overall performance doesn’t improve, they’ll start looking at their operations department more closely.


As someone who largely flies American out of LAX, these changes can’t come soon enough.

What has been your experience with American’s operational performance lately?

  1. Ah this will be a great fix. Nothing like landing early or on time and not having a gate. Almost missed a connecting flight to MAD last year LAX-DFW. Sat on the plane for 45 minutes without a gate.

    Had another one recently, also at DFW. Luckily the connecting hate was 4 slots away. Would have missed the flight otherwise.

    It’s been a problem for a long time while flying AA

  2. DFW has been abysmal this summer! I have had 15/30 flights either severely delayed, cancelled and have also misconnected multiples due to American’s operational performance, NOT weather. Check out American’s twitter, it is a rolling feed of AA disasters.

  3. I avoid AA at LAX like the plague. The terminals are worn and crowded, the lounges are depressing, and transferring between terminals is a nightmare. Especially the Eagles Nest. Nothing goes on time. AA ((and UA, DL, SW) doesn’t care as long as the planes are full. One exception: new walkway from Terminal 7 to TBIT without having to leave security! But it’s only one-way–(unhappy face).

  4. @ Ben — You really should switch o Delta. American’s operations have always sucked (at least in my almost 10 years as an EXP), but I tolerated them because of their excellent EXP customer service and elite program. Well, those suck now, too, so buh, bye, AA…been nice knowing you.

  5. As they say “the first step is acknowledging there’s a problem” and I have it on the best authority that that is now very much the case. Too late, no argument, but hopefully won’t be too little. From what I can ascertain, this is a very, very serious initiative to get things corrected with -full- acknowledgment that things are hopelessly screwed up presently and have been for months. The fact that there will clearly be a “search for scapegoats” and “blame-storming” phase” is an inevitable, hopefully they focus on rapidly fixing the problem instead.

  6. I haven’t experienced LAX and DFW recently … but I did JFK and SFO. Both were operating nicely, not only my AA flights, but also all the others seemed to operate on time. So far a happy AA flyer this summer. I will have some DFW coming up …

  7. My only gripe has been with FCO in the past few years – lots of gate construction and the flights usually land early and at times the wait has been 45 minutes before the staircase is moved into position and cattle cars arrive for the journey to the terminal. Easily adds an hour to an already tediously long trip from SAN. And your driver is pissed off because he’s there anticipating an early arrival and he’s been kept waiting as well.

  8. AA has been horrible to me at DFW/SEA. Also many crew availability issues, presumably from being out of position. With the new mileage earning change, it was an easy decision to go back to Alaska even though times are inconvenient and I will have to add a PDX connection to get to Seattle ironically.

  9. I’ve recently lost confidence in AA to leave on time, if at all from LAX. In the past few months I’ve had delay after delay with re-ticketing and refunds on itineraries that failed to deliver me when and where I needed to go.
    I always try to handle the FAs with some gratitude, even the tough ones have softened up after you show some appreciation. One recently admitted to me, during a delay/re-ticketing, that the scheduling is just too aggressive. They want too many flights a day – and it’s just not possible. This was a particular incident when the flight was LAX-LAS and outside the window the 737 was at the gate, sans wheel. Parts strew about, 4-5 engineer standing around looking at the mess. And what does AA do, push back departure 20 mins at a time – when we all know its going to take a while. This 7pm-ish flight I believe got out near midnight.
    It’s about time they addressed this issue, because I have opted for AS out of LAX or DL out of LGB.

  10. Follow up to my comment: GA=FA
    The silver lining to the op issues is that usually I get something when i ask – miles or a meal etc – when delayed.
    The other is the incredible T4-TBI walkway and access to the oneworld lounge. So if flying AA from LAX, i plan on giving myself enough time, including AmTrak and Fly-Away bus to LAX. So i can actually make a delay or cancellation quite enjoyable 🙂

  11. @Ben

    I think both you and I use AA’s Terminal 4 (and T6, for PHX and CLT) at least a couple of times a week. I’d concur that it’s far worse now than it was even two years ago. The added flights (and destinations) just can’t be accommodated by the airport layout, which was ‘modern’ in 1962 when LBJ came out to christen it but which hasn’t really been revamped since.

    Those claiming UA (or DL) are better simply can’t be talking about the LAX we know and loathe. Between the never-ending construction on the T7/8 expansion, and the narrow alleys between 4/5 and 5/6 Delta’s stuck in the same situation– and DL claims they are ‘adding flights’ as well. You forever hear “there are two planes in the alley”, we will get to our gate in about 20 minutes when you land on Delta. LAX is a mess and opening more Wolfgang Puck outlets isn’t fixing what’s fundamentally wrong with the airport.

    Generally, I find “the other side of the field” to run better. SWA and Virgin are great. And, I’m finally taking your advice and trying Wow to the UK next week out of the TBIT, via KEF.

  12. As a frequent AA flier out of LAX, I would have to say the traffic/congestion problems are not unique to AA. I also fly AS, DL and AC, and have had similar problems. Surprised for the AC problem since it’s on the other side of the airport. It was an after-midnight arrival into LAX from YVR and all the gates in T2 were full. Ended up deplaning at the remote West gates and bussing back. The south side of the airport is a mess, in general. Even worse now that AA/DL/UA are all on that side of the airport.

  13. My major problem with AA for the past several years boils down to almost one thing: MD80s. Soooo many mechanical issues, and always a different one. Last time it happened, the pilot himself told me not schedule flights that involve them.

  14. @ Peter Haas

    Hardly an endorsement of Delta on those MD80s, either (they still fly on the type certificate issued to the DC9 back in the 1960s). DL flies more of them, with an average fleet age over 4 years older than the rest of the majors. It’s another reason I don’t believe Delta’s “we don’t cancel” and “we are more ontime” than anyone else. The DC9s alone defy physics in that regard.

    Both the fleet age and operational creakiness are showing up in AAs and DL’s numbers.

  15. In 2008 I decided not to ever fly with American Airlines after the fly delay coming from Pop. They had to put in a hotel overnight. The next day when I finally arrived at Jfk my suitcase was like if a hurricane went trough it..I said thisairline I’d not for me I switched the Jet blue witch I been extremely happy with. I decided to go to Belize and Jet blue doesn’t go there so I had no choice but to use American Airlines. Not only the plane was delayed but everyone had to get off the plane. I missed my connection flight. They put me to stay in a cheap hotel where the carpet in the hallway is filthy. The so call restaurant offer almost nothing to eat. The staff at Jfk is so rude.They left passengers standing waiting while they are arguing between them. The airplane was beautiful and well equipped but with this kind of administrative performance they will never be improvement .

  16. @Tachyon
    Nope. I havent taken a single Southwest flight in the past 6 months that hasnt had some sort of delay, though that may have to do more with the fact that SWA schedules 25 min turns…

  17. @w

    Yeah, can’t argue that the Top 4 are all awful. My only defense of SWA is that they WILL treat people fairly in the aftermath– The people DL insulted with 20K SkyDrachma would have gotten $600 in cash vouchers from SWA, plus hotels, meals, incidentals. All the stuff DL (or AA for that matter) won’t do.

    Alaska, Virgin and JetBlue are all too small to make a difference for me, but they are the last hope.

  18. If you think American’s bad, try flying BA: it’s actually a suprise if your flight leaves on time. We all know LHR is way over capacity, but some flights haven’t arrived on-time for over three months straight!

    Puts things in perspective…

  19. I was batting 4-for-4 on a recent string of flights where we either arrived and had no gate or were at the gate but didn’t have a gate agent to bring the gate to us for 5-10 minutes.

    Have also had more flights than I can remember this summer that have left late because of late arriving aircraft that had impossible turns scheduled (<45mins for A321s). Once the inbound is just 5-10 minutes late, the entire effect of that cascades to the next flight and the rest of the day. The scheduling of the tight turns is what peeves me the most, especially when they don't bother to post a delay despite it being boarding time and the plane is just arriving — sorry but there is no way that plane is departing on-time. Note, that doesn't mean it won't arrive on time because they pad their schedules so much, but there is no need to be at the gate if the deplaning process hasn't even started.

    Finally, don't get me started about the Eagle terminal at LAX. Got into a shouting match with the driver the other days as we just kept waiting and waiting for the bus to fill up more and more until we reached sardine levels despite there being another bus that pulled in behind us many minutes before. It just boggled my mind that they could not even figure out how to run an effective shuttle bus as they were creating their own bottlenecks.

  20. Forgot to add, one of those late arrivals/no gates ended up resulting in me sprinting to catch my next flight — which surprise, surprise, didn’t have a delay posted but was still at the gate. As such, because it looked like I was going to miss the scheduled departure time, they gave away my upgrade.

  21. Isn’t the DOT great in allowing these mega mergers.

    AA could care less about OT performance.

    It’s a captive audience now and they know this.

  22. We had the same issue with United this summer at LAX. We drove around the airport for almost an hour before we had a gate. I think it is more a LAX issue than a specific airlines

  23. I’d say it’s a negative synergy overlap issue– AA operationally having severe problems and LAX in particular having it’s own severe set of endemic problems. We’ll see AA announce LAX-specific changes very soon as well.

  24. One bad experience after the other. AA953 has a 37% reliability and an average of 151 minute delay according to expert flyer. Other South American routes aren’t much better. Ridiculous.

  25. To answer he question that the article poses: No, because AA is a dismal airline with low quality and standards and is in the human transportation business and not the travel business. AA is not alone. AA, UA, and DL are all in a competition to see who can define the new low.

  26. AA has also taken some of the USAir old gates in LAX T6 to make things worse for connecting passengers. You can actually walk underneath to T4 and continue on the new corridor to the TBIT without passing out of the secured area which is nice. However, most people don’t know this and take those God-awful shuttle buses which have to navigate the tarmacs…

  27. How can we expect AA to fix their dreadful ops when they can’t even stop the sniveling cowardly internal “mole” who keeps feeding JonNYC’s Trump-sized ego “classified information” via unauthorized use of internal AA employee intranet? Amazed AA’s corp security haven’t shut down JonNYC yet. Maybe AA should put JonNYC in charge of Ops. They do have mostly people with 0 EQM’s who fly for free running their ops. And JonNYC is the smAArtest AAss in the room…

    Asking for a friend…

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