American Customer Relations Still Doesn’t Read Their Email…

Filed Under: American

In March I shared an experience I had with American customer relations. I was flying business class on American from New York to Los Angeles, and the power ports weren’t working, which meant I couldn’t be productive. I emailed American to express my dissatisfaction, explaining that the power ports on the entire plane were broken, and that it wasn’t specific to my seat.

They responded to my email in less than 20 minutes, though completely failed to address my concern. The crux of their response read as follows, suggesting that there wasn’t actually anything broken, but rather just that another seat was using the power (which wasn’t the case, since the power ports on the whole plane were broken!):

We are sorry to hear that there was no power to the power port when you plugged in. Each set of outlets in a row can provide up to 225 watts of power, combined, with a maximum of 150 watts per plug. If one device is pulling its maximum allotment, this leaves only 75 watts for the second plug, meaning there are times where there may not be enough power to run 2 devices. Regardless of the reason why there was no power, we are sorry that you were inconvenienced.

I was extremely frustrated by the response, especially since this was the second time in a row I emailed American where they didn’t respond to my actual feedback (the previous interaction was almost a year prior, when I simply wanted to compliment a great crew I had).

After I wrote about the situation, a senior analyst in American’s customer relations department reached out to me, and said the following:

In short, we didn’t get this one right. Again. While I’m pleased someone responded to you quickly, our response didn’t quite meet the bar. I wanted to assure you that your feedback, like last time, did reach the right people so that it could be addressed. That said, we could use some improvement in the precision of our response. We want to get it right every time and I apologize we didn’t quite deliver this time. We’ll do better.

He also called me, and basically emphasized the same points, that they were embarrassed by the response, and that they’ll do better. I appreciated him reaching out, and took him at his word.

So, is American doing better? Reader Christopher reached out to me yesterday regarding a flight he recently had where the power ports were broken. His email to customer relations read in part as follows:

My companion and I were booked in Business class as we needed to work on our laptops during the flight. However, neither of the power outlets at our seats was working. I brought this to the attention of a crew member but they were unable to get them to function. As a result, the battery power on our laptops was depleted mid flight and we were unable to continue working for the remainder of the flight. Having power at our seats was one of the primary reasons why we purchased business class tickets, so this was very disappointing.

How did American respond? With the same exact irrelevant response which I got:

Thank you for your interest in American Airlines, more specifically, the use of powerports during flight. We are sorry to hear that there was no power to the power port when you plugged in. Each set of outlets in a row can provide up to 225 watts of power, combined, with a maximum of 150 watts per plug. If one device is pulling its maximum allotment, this leaves only 75 watts for the second plug, meaning there are times where there may not be enough power to run 2 devices. Regardless of the reason why there was no power, we are sorry that you were inconvenienced.

Chris clearly wrote that both power ports in the row didn’t work, meaning that the problem wasn’t that one of the power ports was using all the power. If they bothered reading the email they would have known that.

Bottom line

I’m not surprised that American customer relations still isn’t reading the actual content of their emails. In this case it’s rather embarrassing, given that I spoke to a manager at customer relations who said the feedback reached the right people, will be addressed, and that they’ll do better.

Clearly not…

  1. They obviously have some bot that answers these automatically but they need human intervention to verify it’s addressing the concern. Speed is not more important than accuracy.

  2. @ lynn — In addition to not being able to swap out batteries in a MacBook, I don’t understand your argument. Should you also bring your own food and drinks in first class on flights, even if it’s a published perk?

  3. It’s such a BS answer on many levels. My MacBook Pro pulls 65 watts, I can’t imagine there are devices out there that are pulling huge numbers. And like you said, neither outlet was working.

    It would be helpful to know which planes consistently have these problems. I mostly fly Airbus 330’s and 777 and haven’t had these issues.

  4. You really think that American Airlines, or any large corporation, would hire enough people to read through every email they receive? Then personally respond?

    While it would be nice if they would that’s just not how things work these days. Could they implement something that scans AAdvantage numbers to pull those out of ExPlat? Yes and that would make sense. But they haven’t.

    Let’s get back to travel reviews and leave dialogue of how crappy corporate America is to the business section.

  5. I wrote United awhile back about there not being Wifi on their plane (I booked a 320 because all of them have Wi-Fi and they had a schedule change and the airplane ended being an CRJ without Wifi. After writing them they actually sent a travel cert, and I was happy.

    However I ran into a similar issue earlier this month with Uber. They did not apply a free ride credit so I asked them to adjust the bill, every time I responded they explained how go earn free rides. I finally started each email with “please do not send a canned response, this is NOT regarding how to EARN free rides” after 15 emails I was sent to a supervisor who was able to fix it, but the canned responses made me want to quit using Uber.

  6. What exactly are you trying to accomplish by continuing to write emails?

    You can always take your loyalty to United or Delta.

  7. AA doesn’t care about you or any of it’s customers. They don’t give a rats ass if you have seat power or not. Certainly you don’t really expect YOUR email to get answered do you? Seriously?

    LOL too funny.

  8. I’m still waiting after 6 months for American to answer my email correctly. Of course they responded to my issue within 45 minutes because “they care”, but they didn’t actually solve anything. They passed it along to the next level support and I haven’t heard back. I even followed up and still haven’t received a response.

    Then a few months ago I sent in an issue because my trip wasn’t showing up in my account and it was a ridiculous back and forth. First they said it wouldn’t show up in my trips because it was with Etihad, which isn’t true and all and I showed them another Etihad flight that was showing up in my account (and my husband was booked on this same flight and it’s showing up in his trips) and then they said I had to put in my FF number for it to show up, and I informed them that my number WAS attached to the record, I booked it with my miles and I can pull up the reservation with my record locator and my FF number is in there, so that’s not the problem. So what is there response? They continue to repeat 1 and 2 over again even though it’s all false.

    American seems to forget that the only competitive advantage they had was their FF program, which they have now gone and destroyed, if they don’t step up service why in the world will people keep flying with them?

  9. @Donna The strongest power brick that is used by Macbooks is a 85W model that is used by the Macbook Pro in it’s highest configuration. Still much less than 150W

  10. last time I emailed AA it was because my family of 4 was coming home from MIA to PHL. this was in the post-merger but pre-one reservation system days, so our flight was US Air metal and flight number. had 4 seats in one row (2 on each side of aisle). That flight got cancelled a week before departure, and we were moved to a flight w/ AA metal and number. on the new flight, we all had middle seats no where near one another. only way to sit together was to buy Preferred Seats. called AA, explained what had happened, asked to have 4 of those preferred seats with the fee wavied – response of phone agent was “no” and “we’re not one airline yet – US Air caused your problem”. this made my frustration 10x greater than before the call, so I emailed in. response was exactly the canned crap described by Lucky – that seat assignments can be lost amid sched changes and IRROPS, etc etc, and they “regret the inconvenience”. no response to the notion that plenty of seats were open together, and that i was simply looking for a fee waiver. irrate, i made the foolish move to not pay…arrived at the gate, plane completely sold out, gate agents were too busy with other issues to ask folks to switch so i had to walk around the gate to get the job done – not easy when your own seats are all middle. got 2 of the 4 seats together to sit with my 9-yr-old. my first experience ever flying AA (was a US Air lifer) was a rough one, and that email response was perhaps the worst part.

  11. I have always had United respond adequately to a couple of issues I had with them. My last tripe to Europe, my mother’s video monitor did not work but mine did. Without even asking, we both were issued $100 travel certificates.

  12. Lots of problems and complaining, but no solutions offered.

    You’d get mad if they didn’t answer.

    You get mad when they don’t read but do answer.

    So you want them to hire flocks of customer service reps to personally read all the emails? Would you pay for that service? Would you accept higher fares to cover the extra staff costs?

    I guess it’s annoying, but what is a pragmatic answer?

  13. Customer service didn’t read through these particular emails because once they saw mention of power ports, it went straight to a canned response since their ports probably malfunction all the time. If you are writing about a commonplace issue, but want a personalized reply, then ask for some miles as compensation. Even if that isn’t what you were aiming for, you would probably have received a reply by an agent who actually read your entire message. I’m sure their agents do read customers’ emails because when I complained about a change in seat assignment that was just thrust at me at time of boarding, I received a personalized reply and a few miles as an apology even though I didn’t ask for anything.

  14. Not just AA or Airlines all business does this. They think were idiots and they just want to get rid of the problem not solve it. For you whiners about Ben’s topics I READ the blof to see what he thinks if I don’t like a particular blurb I STOP reading. I wish these people would go to the other website about air travel and annoy them. Good job Ben keep it up ignore haters

  15. I have a similar issue with them and just tried to call them out on it. I just returned from my own run out to Beijing and back through Chicago. I ordered the vegetarian meal as I always do. VGML meals also cover vegans as well, but their food included cheese and milk… not exactly vegan.

    Received a precanned response that they are sorry they disappointed me, they’ll try harder next time… same old response they always give. I get that they deal with heavy volumes of email, but showing they are actually trying to address an issue would be a good start, I don’t need a novel written back, but something personalized would be good.

    While I don’t personally get bent out of shape over things like this, I wanted to see how they would respond and there are cases where medical conditions require certain type of food and they offer these foods. If they screw something like that up it could be a serious medical concern.

  16. For what it’s worth BA are equally bad (maybe it’s a One World benefit). Two recent experiences:

    – I try to be a good customer and respond to an SMS survey BA send me while I am in the Lounge preflight. I give negative feedback on Lounge cleanliness and food. I am happy to leave it there, but BA respond with an email saying that they sorry I was unhappy (good). They then include a long section on how they try guarantee quality of in flight food. If they’d just sent no email I would have been content. Instead now I am p**d off as they have made it completely clear that responding to their request for feedback is pointless. Even an automated response should have been able to pick up they sent me a lounge survey.

    – My flight is diverted due to weather (such is life). BA again have the crew tell us that they will arrange ground transport, they repeat this update both by SMS and Email – great service. The flight crew then sprint out of the airport. They take two of the last three cabs on the rank. Then a stooge from the airport gets to tell us the updated message from BA that we are dumped, in the wrong country, at 11pm and BA is giving us no further support. I find a hotel and pay for ground transportation the following morning. I communicate with BA. They agree to pay for expenses – fair. But I also ask for some form of compensation for their poor handling – I make no reference to EU law as I know that weather means that it does not cut in. BA repeatedly respond telling me that EU Law does not apply. Even in when I start a email saying “I know EU law doesn’t apply” they respond telling me the same thing. They ignore my actual point.

    BA clearly don’t give a damn. I am not surprised, but I am a little frustrated at how far they have gone out of their way to make that clear to me.

  17. AA’s canned responses infuriate me. Due to an operational delay and their agent’s re-booking error, it took me over 30 hours to get from Miami to Houston over the January 2-3 weekend. They also left me and my companion’s bags in Dallas. The whole experience was an absolute nightmare. All we were offered during the ordeal was one $15 food voucher. Well, when I sent my complaint as you did, I received the same type of canned response. AA did give my companion and I each 5,000 miles, but I felt that was very stingy. I have status on their airline and they didn’t even seem to care. I ended up reporting them to the DOT for their lack of responsiveness and my flight delay nightmare. Only then did I receive an actual response composed by a human with an offer to cover my hotel the night of the delay. They have the worst customer service of the big 3 carriers by far.

  18. While Delta certainly has its flaws, I must say that every e-mail I’ve sent as a lowly Platinum or Gold Medallion over the years has still been answered in a way that shows that a customer service representative actually understood my issue. They have frequently made up for whatever inconvenience I have taken the time to e-mail about by depositing miles into my account. I don’t think it’s asking too much to expect actual service from airline customer service departments; if Delta can do it, certainly AA should be able to as well.

  19. I’m a newbie to AA, choosing to migrate my allegiance from DL and try out AA. Plus I’d be at DFW more often anyway, this was good to try. I purchased a ticket in Dec. I did not understand the 24 hour hold policy; the only thing clear is that by purchasing a ticket it was not refundable. Same as other airlines. I cancelled the ticket inside 24 hours of purchase, expecting AA to function like all other airlines. Nope. No love from customer service either, $200 change fee would be assessed when I chose to use my cancelled ticket $$. OK, I didn’t like it but it was policy, after all. I expected something like a ‘one time courtesy’ kind of thing. Nope. OK, maybe I’d rethink my allegiance change. Then AA changed the policy. I emailed back with my original support ticket and mentioned that since AA had decided that my confusion was too much and they changed the policy would they please review the case again. Success this time, change fee waived and I get the full amount. AA’s customer service is terrible, at least their policies regarding customer service. Take care of your people and they’ll stay loyal…maybe Delta is doing something right even if Skymiles are becoming less and less applicable.

  20. The bots, canned responses, etc., are there to make it easier for customer service to ACCURATELY respond to your complaint. The systems are designed to have some type of human oversight to ensure that happens. Clearly, there is a flaw in AA’s system as it appears to be failing.

    It sounds likely to me that there is a bot involved that’s preselecting a response that’s reviewed by a CS agent (likely in the Philippines or something similar) who doesn’t speak English well enough or isn’t well enough trained to determine that the response is a miss. It’s also probably combined with too few canned responses to choose from and the CS agent not being empowered to make the response correct or metrics that discourage the use of their brains. Criticizing AA for this is appropriate!!!

  21. Ben, Hyperjuice sells an external battery for different Macs. I use them on photo shoots. It’s not a rationale for not having power on the flight as that argument stands! Just thought you might be interested in the product….

  22. I normally fly on Delta as I find that they go out of their way to make your journey pleasant and hassle free. Even as a FF with no status they have sent me an email apology for a flight cancellation and posted miles into my account. They worked with me to get on the next available flight to reach my meeting on time.
    Last summer I booked a tour to Ireland with friends through a tour company. It was on Finnish Air, but the Flights were American. I upgraded my seat to get an aisle seat. Are flight was delayed 3 hours in LAX so we missed our connection in New York and were put on BA flights that rerouted us through London. We were given vouchers not tickets when we arrived. We were forced to go to the check-in desk outside of security to get real tickets. Where we found out our vouchers were for a flight that had already closed per BA. She was able to get us on a new flight, we arrived 8 hours late.
    It took me three months of going back and forth to get the refund credited to my Card. No one on the phone would help me or at the airport. I was told something differs by each rep. There is no way to actually speak to a person and you have to go through their web site to send an email. You cannot even respond to and email you have received! The most frustrating experience ever. Oh, they also left our luggage in NY.
    I will stick with Delta and United for the big three. They have always tried their best to take care of me.

  23. One of the last two e-mails I have sent to AA customer relations also was answered by a bot. The second one addressed the issue. I guess it may have to do with how I worded the second e-mail.

  24. Ha Ha Ha the joy of the canned answer.

    The issue is double here, having someone lying attention to what they are reading and then making sure they have the ability to write an appropriate answer, more and more for legal reason customer service agent are limited in there ability to write email and must default on a canned answer , which if nothing s appropriate to your issue totally useless. Let’s give less power to lawyer and more to customer service agent and then they will be able to provide a better service…

  25. Oh boy I’m really not looking forward to trying to get a decent reply from them over the 10h delay to AA104 over the weekend (handled appallingly by ground staff, delayed hour by hour throughout the night rather than rescheduling early and putting pax up in a hotel). What’s the best route to complain? Webform? Email (if so which address)? Do you give them one chance to do a decent reply after a rubbish one before involving the DOT? Are they more likely to be generous with miles than a voucher? Of course this would have been a €600 if the delay had been LHR-JFK rather than the other way round, grr!

  26. Quick Question. I am debating whether to email AA Customer service to let them know that on my recent DFW-HKG flight, the flight attendant for our side of the plane prior to landing did not do the typical landing check and multiple passengers had their seats reclined upon landing and even worse the curtain dividing coach and business class was still closed rather than stowed as all others were which would have reduced the speed of an evacuation in an emergency. To make the situation worse, the flight attendant saw that the curtain was closed ducked under it and sat in his jumpseat right next to it prior to landing. In addition, on my way over on the connecting flight I reported to the flight attendant that the screw securing the bulkhead was missing but no one from maintenance came on to investigate.

    I don’t want compensation but considering that the flight attendants announced at the beginning of the flight that they are there primarily for my safety, I find it ironic that they were not following proper safety procedures. I only want to report the issue since these 2 flights clearly safety was not the emphasis as it should have been.

  27. I haven’t experienced these same issues with AA. In fact, responses I receive are timely, and relevant. Most recently, I received very poor customer service from a phone supervisor. Customer service replied to my email complaint with what appeared to be a personal response and compensated me appropriately with miles.

  28. @anon and lucky:

    External battery. Useful for charging not just laptops but also phones and other electronic devices when you’re away for an outlet. You shouldn’t be expected to carry one, but it’s nice to have in all sorts of situations. Some of them have a built-in LED for use as a flashlight in emergencies.

  29. At least you received a response… even though it was garbage.

    I wrote them twice … about two different issues … over a week ago and have received no response yet.

    I am not impressed with the ‘new’ American.

  30. So basically your complaint is, that they didn’t take the time to thoroughly investigate and follow up with the crew and maintenance logs with the nature of your complaint. Instead, they just sent you a generic response over what can typically be an ongoing issue; and just assumed it covered the basics.

    Que in canned laughter…

  31. I’d love a new segment on the blog where you go work in the AA Customer Service center for a week. Then we’d do another one where you were a flight attendant. And then baggage handler. And so on… I’d love to watch that show 🙂

  32. You’re not getting a response from AA Customer Relations (which wasn’t great to begin with…), since the merger, US Airways management moved all customer relations to PHX. The phone call you got? PHX area code. The canned response you got? US Airway bot. The “Senior Analyst” (whatever that means)? America West employee.

  33. I used to work in customer services and would get so infuriated with colleagues that would half read emails and send a standardised response that didn’t answer the question. Then the customer would email back generating more work. Or worse, call and start yelling.

    Amusingly, the supervisors were the worst at doing this.

  34. Why is this surprising? My favorite description of the US airline industry is summed up by my good friend and colleague, the BBC’s NA editor, Jon Sopel:

    “As the BBC’s North America editor, I travel all the time. From one regional airport to another on American airlines where the best you can hope for is a packet of pretzels.

    Americans fly for work like Britons hop on and off buses or trains. Consequently it is utilitarian. Customer service is virtually non-existent. It is grin and bear travel. Though more grim than grin.”

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