It’s no secret that I’m disenchanted with American, and in particular, their AAdvantage program. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post outlining just how many negative changes have been made for American’s top tier Executive Platinum members. The program has gone from the best in the US to below average, in my opinion. That’s what happens when three airlines control 80% of the market share in the US.
Today I wanted to share my latest encounter with American customer service, which involves Hurricane Irma. Let me say that in the grand scheme of things this is minor — so many people lost so much with Hurricane Irma, and I wasn’t among them — but this blog is about airlines, hotels, and loyalty programs, which is why I think this is worth writing about.
How my travel plans changed due to Hurricane Irma
My dad and I were supposed to take a trip to Europe last week. The plan was to meet in Chicago — I was coming from Los Angeles, and he was coming from Tampa, and we were both booked on American Airlines.
His flight was canceled due to Hurricane Irma, so they rebooked him two days later. Of course that wouldn’t work with our plans, since we’d miss the tickets we had booked from Chicago to Europe. Beyond that, my dad decided he didn’t want to take the trip at that time, since he had no clue what the damage would be like in Tampa, and he owns a small business.
As you’d expect, American offered to refund his ticket, since his flight was canceled. For my ticket I tried to explain that I realized my ticket wasn’t technically covered by the travel waiver, but that the purpose of the trip was to go with my dad, we were flying to the same city, etc., and I asked if they’d consider refunding my ticket as well, given the situation.
The agent told me he couldn’t refund me, but would document the record to allow me to use the credit towards a future ticket. That seemed fair, and I confirmed with him that he documented the record to reflect what we had discussed. He even had me hold for a minute as he typed.
Then I tried to use the ticket credit
Today I phoned up American and got a very friendly agent at the Executive Platinum desk. I tend to think you can tell within a few seconds whether an agent is good or not, and this one seemed friendly and competent. I gave her my e-ticket number and explained the situation, and said that there should be a notation in the record indicating what happened.
Nope, she said there was nothing in my record saying anything. I gave her my dad’s record locator, thinking that maybe the previous agent left the comments in there, but there were no notes in there either.
Fine, I figured I’d explain the situation to her, and surely she’d understand “my dad and I were taking a trip together, he lives in Tampa and his flight was canceled due to Hurricane Irma, and a father-son trip without the father isn’t really a thing. I understand American didn’t want to refund my itinerary, but the agent offered to let me use the credit towards a future trip. I swear on my life the agent promised he was going to notate the record. This ticket was only $98, and I wouldn’t be making something up over that.”
The agent believed me, apologized profusely for the other agent’s mistake, but said there was nothing she could do.
“We’ve been hit really hard. There’s just nothing we can do here, if I take this to another department they’ll say no.”
Look, I get that Hurricane Irma was costly for American Airlines. It also hurts an ice cream shop when you have a colder year than usual. But that’s the airline business, and it’s also a massively profitable company otherwise. Natural disasters are part of doing business.
Why this is so disappointing
This isn’t about a $98 Los Angeles to Chicago ticket. This is about how American isn’t able to apply logic to their customer service even for top tier elites. American keeps rewarding frequent flyers less and increasing the investment required to earn status. You’d think they’d want to make their frequent flyers, who are having to spend more than before, feel valued, even if it doesn’t come in the form of published benefits. You want me to spend $12,000 per year with your company, but you want to stiff me over a $98 ticket? Really?
It just makes me realize the degree to which this isn’t the American Airlines I knew 5-10 years ago. Back when American had a dedicated Executive Platinum desk in Tucson, the agents were the best in the industry. They’d find reasons to waive change fees, even when it wasn’t necessary. I’m not suggesting American should still do that. What I’m suggesting is that it would be nice if American could apply logic to customer service. At a minimum it’s something you’d think they would consider doing for their top tier elites.
An American agent made a mistake, and I understand people probably sometimes call in and lie about what a previous agent had said. So I get that. But I figured at a minimum when I explained my situation the agent could have applied logic, recognized the circumstances, and created some goodwill over $98.
Instead “the rules are the rules,” and customer service is dead, even for Executive Platinum members.
Am I expecting too much here?