American Customer Service Really Is This Bad, Even For Executive Platinum Members

Filed Under: American

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?

  1. Wait, I’m confused, you can’t just cancel a ticket and deposit it into a travel bank and re-use as credit to a new ticket automatically?

    I do that all the time with JetBlue and Alaska as a Mosaic/MVP Gold, or on Southwest.

  2. They probably sold your $98 seat for $500, so it seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal to let you use if as a credit.

  3. That’s not all the second agent could have done. Typically, the first agent who processed the refund for Dad and (supposedly) left a note on your record, would have had an electronic signature on the record, at least Dad’s records. She, or a supervisor, could have tracked him down, though perhaps not immediately of course. There is also a possibility of your phone conversation having been recorded, though the recording might have been discarded after a while.

  4. Correct @Alpha. You only mentioned airlines that have a pretty flexible policy when it comes to cancellations and changes.

  5. No you arent expecting too much. I have zero expectations with any Air Carrier in todays world. Things have deteriorated to the point where we are just cattle & a source of revenue for Airlines. I dont travel a lot but read your blog cuz its fun & gives me some insight into which carrier I might choose when I do fly. They just dont care anymore Ben

  6. @Alpha, I don’t know what policies Alaska and JetBlue have but that is not how things work on the legacy carriers. If you book a nonrefundable ticket and cancel, there will be some residual value left on the ticket (depending on the specific fare rules) but then to use that credit you have to pay a change fee out of new money, which is usually $200+. For a $98 ticket, it makes no sense to do that.

    Is it true that on Alaska and JetBlue there is no fee to use a cancelled nonrefundable ticket?

  7. The reason why the agent cannot do anything logical is because too many people have ruined it for the rest. You allow agents to use logic to rectify situations like this, and then you have agents using the same “logic” to rectify the situation when they friends don’t want to fly and want refunds. Pretty soon you have 5,000 PNRs a day that receive this refunds and have to employ an army of people to monitor the activity and un-refund the fraudulent refunds of friends, etc.

    And just like you mentioned in that the only way for the new agent to know that you were promised a refund is through PNR notes, there is also no way to automate the quality controls because you are reading PNR notes to determine why refunds were made in the first place. The rogue employees ruined this

  8. @BrooklynBoy

    In general, yes. They both let top tier elites make changes for free. They both have policies in place that make it less costly to cancel a ticket further out (as they will presumably be able to resell the seat).

  9. Just this morning I had two reservations DEN PHL LGA / LGA PHL BUF. Due to hurricane Jose I was able to shorten the connection in LGA to 45 minutes. Agent in DEN refused to check my bag thru to BUF, knowing full well it would cause me to misconnect in LGA. Common sense would dictate they find a way to check it to BUF – right? Why make a customer miss a connection when you can easily prevent it? “Speak to somebody in LGA after you miss your flight”

    Terrible terrible service in DEN. Agent in PHL gladly helped out and I made it to my destination in time

  10. @BrooklynBoy – as far as I’m aware, there is no fee on JetBlue to use a cancelled nonrefundable ticket *IF* you’re a Mosaic member. Not sure about Alaska’s rules.

  11. @Brooklynboy – There is a fee if you don’t have status, but if you have MVP Gold on Alaska or Mosaic on jetBlue there’s no fee. (Otherwise yes, it often exceeds the value of the ticket.)

    I’m perplexed as to why someone with Executive Platinum status on American, which is technically a higher status than either of these, doesn’t have that ability.

  12. Couldn’t agree more with you about the decline at the XP desk, Ben.

    I’m a 17-year XP and called to re-book after misconnecting in DFW due to weather. Incredulously, when I asked to waitlist on a sold-out flight, I was refused. I found this hard to believe since I was on a real, full-fare (yes, there are still some of us who pay) First Class ticket so I challenged the agent. Her reply, “we no longer waitlist on any fares.” WTF?


    The next agent apologized for his colleagues idiocy, put me on hold for 2 minutes, and came back on the line with a confirmed seat on my requested flight … and a 1A seat assignment.

    Welcome to America West.

  13. wait …. the agent offered you to use the credit in the future (which itself is already bending the fare rules), and you’re still complaining ?

    why do EXPs thinks none of the rules apply to them, and if the agent refuses to bend both space and time just to keep their egos happy, they think they have a right to whine online ?

  14. The frustrating thing here is that AA wouldn’t honor what the first agent promised. I’d actually be ok if they declined the credit in the first place, but to take away the credit after promised is horrible. The fact that they gave the front line agent no power to correct this makes it worse. Your are rightfully angry.

  15. Here’s another great example of AA Customer Service. In February, I bought tickets for my wife and I to go to Italy. As a Platinum,, I was able to book MCE. I looked at my reservation today and the seats were gone. No aircraft swap, the seats were just gone. I called and they offered to put me in row 34, plain economy. AA says “once your status changes, some of the previous benefits aren’t included. Too bad, so sad.”

    And they wonder why my status keeps falling on AA?

  16. Why don’t you call them back and tell them to listen to the previous phone call. I had the same issue with BA and they listen to the call and refund me the money. They record all conversations.

  17. @henry LAX

    Why do some blog readers not read the article but then comment anyway to demonstrate their idiocy to everyone else?

  18. It always perplexes me when elites feel entitled to free changes, refunds, etc. due to their status. However since the first agent agreed to do it, the second should have honored their promise, especially after taking your side.

    With that being said, I’ve done the same: I had a nonref ticket I needed to cancel and got a wonderful agent who agreed to waive the change fee and notate. I called back and was told no record! I HUCAed twice and lucked out 😉 I had documented date,time,agent but UA doesn’t record (all of) their res calls so a whole lotta good that did me.

    ORD-Europe tkts were mileage I hope??

  19. Well, for my experience with AAdvantage customer service was great, I requested a platinum status challenge and paid 200 USD but it turns out that to achieve that you must fly specific airlines. Called to request for a refund the agent couldn’t do anything and asked if I can talk to supervisor, explained my situation that I have not been told about this specific requirement then they went back to voice record and told that’s right you haven’t been told about this term and we can make exceptions this time then got my 200 USD back.

  20. @ Ben — We (EXP for 12 years) were given the same crap yesterday over a $98 AA ticket. When I attempted to book a ticket for my nephew to leave MIA, the page crashed and returned a blank screen. No record locator. No email. No nothing, except apparently a ticket was issued, charged, and not used. The agent refused refused to refund the ticket. Period. Credit card dispute forthcoming. I hope you do the same.

    This experience is on top of our other recent problem with them, where they have forever ignored the complaint I submit over and over. F#$% American. They have definitely made an enemy out of me. I won’t hesitate to screw them over when the opportunity arises.

  21. “It just makes me realize the degree to which this isn’t the American Airlines I knew 5-10 years ago. ”

    5-10 years ago, American Airlines hadn’t been bought and assimilated by America West.

  22. @Delo I did a Platinum status challenge and to put me over the top, I bought a RT transcon F ticket on AA. They cancelled both my outbound and return and I had to buy walk up tickets on other carriers because AA had no seats in any class on either day for a paid F customer whose flights were cxl’d for mechanicals. It cost me an additional $2000 to buy coach walk up tickets. AA refused to refund the $200 platinum status challenge fee despite the fact that I would have easily hit it had they operated their flights.

  23. Lucky – I’m so glad that you continue to point out the complete and utter demise of AA. Hopefully, some of those numb-skulls at AA read your posts – even though, I’m sure they’re not motivated to improve in any way. I’m also glad that you seem to now be leaning more towards Delta as an alternate airline.

    I live in the Dallas area and it’s just very frustrating when you try and support your local based carrier and things just continue to get worse and worse. As a Platinum with AA in Dallas, it sucks. The level of service has gone completely out the window.

    I know that this will pre-date you Lucky but in my opinion, the day that Delta pulled out of DFW as one of their hubs is the days that AA started on a downward spiral – at least for DFW customers.

    Please continue to point out AA’s horrible customer service – even though, it’s not likely to do much good.

  24. sounds like you’re learning the hard way that “loyalty” is a one way street for these companies. The only thing they care about is the shareholder.

  25. Ben, you’re not out of line here. I guess in the future it would be a good idea to call back a short time after the agent promises to document a record just to make sure he/she did what they said they’d do. But, you shouldn’t HAVE to do that.

    Somehow I can’t help but think that Delta would have handled the same situation differently. In that case, you’d be a happy camper with your $98 credit and you would have likely blogged about the great customer service you received from Delta’s agent. Instead, AA keeps their measly $98 bucks but also incurs the wrath of an EXP member with a bone to pick who just so happens to also write a widely-read and influential travel blog.

    As they say, the pen is mightier than the sword!

  26. Also an EXP, I recently cancelled a flight for my wife and I and I had to pay the rebooking fee to book myself the remaining flight credit. I requested a flight voucher for my wife’s portion and they fully refunded her ticket without taking any fees. It ain’t all bad from AA. They certainly don’t make it easy though.

  27. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a commentary on American Airlines or airlines in general. This is how I’ve found customer service to be at so many companies these days. You are at the mercy of large corporations. If they promise you a refund of $50 and it never comes, or if they fail to provide all the service you paid for, the burden is on you to call them two or three times, wait on hold for an hour, re-explain your situation two or three times, etc. If on the other hand you do a company wrong, they will send you to collections. It’s just not fair.

    Unfortunately, many companies know that ultimately money talks. Even though I swore off AT&T due to bad experiences five years ago, I recently signed my mom up for their service just because the deal was that good. Guess I’m just weak… 🙂

  28. @Clam Shack America West of 10-15 years ago was better than the AA of today.

    Truthfully, this is how businesses die. In nearly every company that goes from a position of success and respect to liquidation starts down that road by putting incremental profit growth and stock price growth ahead of competent execution of core business functions.

    Delta does shitty things sometimes, but they don’t pull this kind of crap.

  29. @ Andrew

    “Even though I swore off AT&T due to bad experiences five years ago, I recently signed my mom up for their service just because the deal was that good”

    Principles don’t matter a damn unless it costs you something to hold them.

    We can all be armchair critics – but unless we stick to our word, why should we expect anyone else to bother? Though I accept that maybe it’s a grey area if you expect your mom to pay for your principles…

  30. AA left me pretty unimpressed as well with the way they handled my flights during Hurricane Irma. My MIA-BOS flight on Saturday 9/9 was cancelled and after multiple phone calls I was able to rebook for Friday 9/8. This flight was cancelled Thursday night so I rebooked a MIA-DAL flight for that night to get away from the storm. They cancelled that flight about an hour before departure leaving me stranded in Miami. Customer service did nothing for us, had to eat the cost of renting a car to drive to Boston. Luckily Boston has plenty of flights from other airlines so it will be easy to avoid AA in the future 🙂

  31. AA loves to treat EXP horribly!!!

    Recently, my spouse (8M miles on AA) and I travelled home from CDG to DFW in business class, kind of. One minute before boarding, they inform us that his tray table doesn’t work and my seat does not recline at all. The entire aircraft is full and they offer us premium economy and $800. We paid $6k a ticket. Unbelievable. They tell us to contact American Airlines in the Us because they will offer us better compensation for the fault. We take our crap business seats with no voucher. Voucher was only provided if we downgraded.

    Terrible flight. Broken toilets, bad tray table and no recline for me on a 10 hour flight we paid for. Mind you, this is AA’s brand new 787-9.

    We return to the states, contact American. They offer us 10k miles each for our hardship. UNBELIEVABLE. They claim that since we traveled the flight it is exceptional for us to get any compensation of any kind! They stated: “It would be an exceptional situation in any business to give a refund when the product is used.” What if the product used is defective?! We are so appalled by American Airlines and seriously are considering cancelling all future travel with them. Together we fly 400k miles a year and our companies use American for our employees. We also sponsor travel for over 100 attendees once a year and use American. AA needs to better protect their bread and butter profit margin passengers.

  32. I had an award flight on Etihad booked for April 2017, going to Tehran, Iran. Iran reciprocated Trump’s travel ban by banning Americans. Even though Trump’s ban was in limbo, Iran stopped issuing visas to Americans. I explained this to an agent on the phone and they refused to waive the fee for redepositing miles, which is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like they thought I was trying to game the system, when in reality it was that I literally could not travel or I’d probably be arrested.

    Anyways, after calling 3-4 times, and twitter messaging nonstop, they gave me a one-time waiver of fees out of the goodness of their hearts. Took up way too much of my time and theirs. God damn AA, use some common sense. Idiots.

  33. Just try switching to Delta already (which you keep mentioning as a possibility). Do a number of flights and give us a direct comparison of DL vs. AA. I was NW elite, then DL, now this year trying out more on AA. But seems DL keeps improving, while AA falls back. So would be curious to hear your experience. As an aside, of course service is falling back compared to 5-10 years ago, that’s a real downside to the industry consolidation. Your experiences with the AA call center are probably like ours at NW with their famous “Chisholm, MN” station which provided amazing service to Platinums. Of course, that is long gone under the Delta regime. Fortunately, some things there seem to be coming back in terms of better service/amenities.

  34. Had NRT-DFW this week. AA metal, AA flight number, JL ticket stock. Called 2 different agents to apply SWU, both shot me down saying they can’t do it because of JL ticketing, which isn’t true. All that is required is AA metal and AA flight number.

    The ladies at the NRT Admirals Club got it done for me in minutes.


    The worst part of living in Dallas is having to fly AA.

  35. This is what happens when the government allows all these airlines to merge and they don’t have to do much to compete for customers in a strong economy. Most US airline investment in customer experience these days is on international services where they have to compete against better foreign carriers.

    US airlines will get better and start making an effort to retain frequent flyers when the economy slows down and/or when they start to fear that the government will re-regulate the industry.

  36. And the fact that you called and she denied you, you are basically F… up since she will notate the record stating her denial so nobody else can do it. One thing I hate about AA is they note the records every single time. So there is not HUACA.

    Hope you reach Diamond Medallion. They will waive all fees all the time. Salt Lake City agents will do anything for you. Cincinnati ones are harder but some will do. Minneapolis is 50-50. But unlike American you just HU and they do not note the record.

    I broke my leg 2 years ago. I had around 10 trips booked on Delta for the next month or so. I only had two with American. I am Diamond and EXP. Delta cancelled all the tickets and waive all reissue fees for me to use those tickets for future purchases. American? sir I can waive half the re issue change fee on ONE ticket but the other is a throw away ticket. Nothing we can do.

    It is terrible!

  37. Things need to be reinvented from point view of customer experience. Nobody wants to take any responsibility in large organizations. BA doesn’t even disclose ticket terms on request…

  38. This is a no-brainer. Ask them to listen to the recording. Every call center I know keeps at least 30 days off recordings. Your agent just did what she was supposed to do when someone makes up a story.
    I am not saying you did but I suppose so.many are trying to talk themselves into benefits that AA cut back a little. As an elite they already think you get competitive benefits…

    I agree that lack of competition does not help.

  39. OK, you’re an EP, and you spent $98 for a ticket- a savvy traveler in my mind, all-the-way-around. But perhaps a little petty and short-sighted, in my view. The airlines were dealing with a CATASTROPHIC volume of flight cancellations and tickets refunded or rebooked. Yes, the agent was wrong to lie and say they notated it in your record. However, $12,000 vs $98. I would pursue it, yes, but not via the internet blog; but instead through the EP desk senior or supervisor on duty. I agree that it’s a shame what has happened to tbe AAdvantage program since the USAir merger…. especially for top-tier members. Justifiably, you should drop your anqst and:
    Never fly AA again
    Understand the program will never again be equal to what has been in the past. The Reason? There are still only a limited amount of seats in First and Business Class on EVERY airplane. It is ludicrous to see a upgrade list at the gate for 25 people on a flight that can only hold 16 people in FC, for example-AND, the flight is BOOKED FULL already. If 16 of those 25 people sat on someone’s lap, there would STILL not be enough seats to upgrade those requesting it. So, post-merger, there must be double the EP and KEY passengers than before. Sooo, in conclusion, my suggestion would be to choose your battles according to your personal priorities and ALWAYS deal with the EP desk directly regarding any and all questions, concerns or complaints. That’s THEIR job.

  40. This is one area where Delta really does pretty well IMO. Their agents are not always fully informed when it comes to relatively complicated things like using upgrades on partner airlines or booking complex award tickets, but for simple customer service gestures like this I find they will almost always make a special allowance for a high-level elite member. I’ve sometimes even been offered change fee waivers without having asked for one.

  41. It is about time to move to the dark side. Fly Delta!!!!! Their loyalty program is worth nothing but they will treat you better.

  42. What I dont understand about AA’s customer service in recent years is that there ARE still good agents out there. While I have certainly had my share that made me stop and call back later, I’ve also had several who, when presented with a problem, made sure it was solved before I hung up (notably getting me miles and tax back that had been taken out twice for an upgrade).

    I do have to say, however, after a couple recent experiences flying Delta, their cabin crews and ground staff seem ‘happier’ (?) which was noticed by fellow passengers – with comments around me like, “He’s jolly, isnt he?” (the gentleman boarding us, smiling and ‘singing’ us aboard) and ,”Wow, she was really helpful” (flight attendant who, in the middle of a service with a smile on her face, sussed out a tight connection that on the surface looked impossible for a worried passenger who didnt fly much – the airline had automatically rebooked her but her app hadnt updated)


  43. Lucky; “That’s what happens when three airlines control 80% of the market share in the US.” Not even close to being accurate. Top 3 are about 50%, top 4 are 69% top 7 hit 80%.

  44. I think the summary I understood was that AA played by the rules. You expected a special favor and hoped to have it granted? Large companies are rarely set up to be helpful in this manner.

  45. I was a US Chairman for 14 Years, US Customer Service treated me well based on the amount of $ spent with them. AA Customer Service is absolutely the worst, I’m using my 1million miles for award seats can’t wait till they are gone. Our government screwed over the people when they listened to the airline executives and allow the mergers. It’s never helped anyone except the airlines deep pockets, we the people got the shaft.
    Sorry to hear of your problem, they will only get worst with AA.

  46. As someone who had American rebook them in business on a ba flight from Gatwick to Tampa on one of the last flights before they closed the airport, you can guess what I think of your opinion when you say that not breaking the rules for you is bad customer service. They didn’t shaft you, they didn’t let you have a freebie. That’s not the same thing.

  47. You bet it’s not the same AA as 5-10 years ago. Since Dougie took over, it’s all down hill. They won’t waive ANY baggage fees to the Caribbean for recovery efforts and people trying to get needed supplies to the destroyed islands in the U.S, Virgin Islands. Not even for a month . AA has made a fortune for decades flying down there and they have no compassion for their customers there who have lost everything. Jet Blue did and will have a lot more customers after recovery because there is a huge backlash against AA down there as will Delta. Disgusting airline and I no longer use it after steady loyalty for almost 40 years.

  48. Same thing happened to me… promise to cancel but note the account that there would be a credit. Sounded shady to me… luckily I recorded the call.

  49. Just the opposite AA experience for me. I am a low rung AA gold who had a mechanical return to gate on my Lax/Dfw/Yyz trip. Back at gate AA rolled out a snack cart for our entire plane. An hour later we boarded a new plane, even kept my 1a window seat. Being late I missed the last flight to Toronto. AA personnel went the extra mile for me in getting my luggage (with my medical supplies) out of the dfw/ yyz sequestered storage, booked me a hotel,2 meal vouchers and 2 days later an email of apology for inconvenience and 5000 miles added to my account. The Yyz/Clt/Ilm leg coming south lost one of my bags. Aa delivered the bag to my hotel that night, safe and sound. I live in Tampa and trying to avoid Irma was a challenge and required several calls to the AA gold desk. Each time you could tell the agents were under a lot of stress but they protected me with travel waivers, waived change fees and were absolutely great. I fly again this Sunday from Rdu and look forward to their service.

  50. AA I have stopped doing business with and avoiding at all costs. I had a credit if $1,000+ for a cancelled flight. It was originally for two tickets mine and my 3 year old daughter’s. When I finally needed to fly again, I had made arrangements that this time someone will watch my daughter home and I’ll be able to travel alone. The new ticket cost $500. I said great! So I went to book and you have to do this over the phone. With all the rebooking fees and I don’t know what fees it came to about $800. I still said great. That’s still within. They said I had to pay $300. I said wait. But $1000 minus $800 is $200. So I’ll still have credit left why should I pay more? They said well because it’s not $1000 for one passenger but it’s basically $500 per passenger. Anyway, I said she’s not traveling now and I’m her mom and it’s not like she can travel alone she’s only 3. So as you said common sense wasn’t present with the agent I spoke with and their famous saying “there is nothing that I can do..” I kept hearing it over and over and over. Then I said you know what. Since this is the deal I’ll wait till we both can fly I will leave this credit for now, I’ll use a different airline for my current trip and revisit this credit…. I had an upcoming trip and I said that one I’ll just make sure to take my daughter with me so I can use the credit. Note, they give you the credit for only a year from the original ticket. And the travel must be before that date as well. So not just the booking… I had a plan, all excited I’ll finally use my $1000 and if I have to pay anything extra that’s still good… had good spirits… BUT they still gave me a hard time. They said yes even though the original ticket that I cancelled was to start travel September 15, I booked the ticket on August 15… and so the one year is not from the day the original flight was supposed to be but one year from the date you cancelled!!!!!!! I was so furious. I got really mad. Anyway, back to the “there is nothing that can be done.” This time I said you know what. Let them enjoy the $1000 because I will never, ever, ever, again book with them and will avoid them at all costs. They should have from the very beginning told me, oh you cancelled that’s it, it’s done, it’s over. I would have been happier that way.

  51. Calls to AA are recorded – the only approach here is simple:

    1. State that a credit was offered by AA and that you took up the offer and you expect that offer to be honoured. State that your next step will be to raise a chargeback with your card issuer should nothing be done.
    2. Should it not be honoured, raise a chargeback with your card issuer and cite the lack of delivery from AA, requesting the call recordings be reviewed to support your case.

    Step 1 tends to get me results most of the time, whilst step 2 always does (and not just with AA, but every airline I’ve tried it with).

  52. Am I the only one who is stuck on it only costing $98 to fly LAX-ORD?? Those of us who pay dearly since we have to fly out of less competitive markets would love to have the chance to eat an occasional $98 ticket. So yes, you’re sounding a bit entitled on this one. OTOH, you are very right that AA customer service sucks worse every day. Did anyone not see this coming, though? Hello, Doug Parker. I’m looking at you. If I didn’t have Lifetime Platinum status I would never fly them.

  53. Agree American Airline customer service is horrible from personal experience. You may ask them to pull the call you had with the first agent for validation. I would also send a complain to the CEO email if no further resolution provided to your issue.

    I had an issue with them last year, to make a long story short they did not do their due diligent and caused me to lose the complimentary chauffeur service with Etihad Airline, after many discussions with few employees and supervisors, they advised me to find a local company and they will reimburse me with receipt provided. After my trip I did what they told me but didn’t get any response first and then after few follow ups of my own they told me there is no proof for such arrangement has been made, I requested numerous times to talk to the supervisor who told me that or have him to call me but they refused. I spoke to few other supervisors and they all rejected my requests and even one hung up on me. They really take poor service to the next level. I then sent an email to the CEO and talked to few other supervisors not one but few supervisors I mean until one eventually willing to look into it and found the proof of that conversation in one of their system tools. They then sent me a cheque but it was after lot of time waste on my end.

  54. My breaking point with AA was after a round trip mileage award trip from DCA-MIA-SCL booked in international F. On the outbound I was downgraded from F to J on MIA-SCL due to an equipment swap. I figured AA would sort it out so I didn’t bother writing a complaint while I was on vacation in South America for 3 weeks. Upon returning I noticed I still had not received the difference in miles back so shot them an email. It took WEEKS to get a reply. I finally had to email the CEO. All I originally wanted was the “fare difference” in miles returned to my account. American decided to return 87% of the “fare difference” because I was not downgraded on DCA-MIA. How moronic are they that they do not know international J books into domestic F. I was beyond livid, but this was the new American and I was done. Burnt my last bit of miles on the Etihad Apartment and now I’m happy back to flying Star Alliance!

  55. The failure here is that people equate “good customer service” to “change the rules, and apply them unevenly, to fit my circumstances.”

    Good customer service is well defined, well-published, polices applied evenly and uniformly. Not to say that AA is good at that. But expecting the EXP desk to rearrange policy for every EXP that calls in is not a reasonable expectation of good service.

    Writing as a a multi-year EXP.

  56. I am convinced that many of the agents want to help.

    However, it is my impression that AA management has taken authority away from Agents, or punishes them when they help too much.

  57. @C Brown, @Chris

    I tried all of that. Unfortunately even my credit card said well since I didn’t do this right away (it’s been almost a year) they cannot reverse the charge and because originally I had accepted the credit idea. And the credit card company themselves reached out to AA but finally said the issue cannot be resolved. I explained exactly what you said, that they basically took my money yet haven’t rendered services… but didn’t seem to matter.
    Quite frankly remembering this whole thing makes me angry, I was almost going to cancel even my credit card because I felt they weren’t being helpful.

  58. I don’t know Lucky. The hurricane was an extraordinary time. At least they answered and cancelled your dad’s trip and at least (sort of) offered to help with your ticket as well. I had a flight booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards that connected through Miami and was cancelled. When I initially called, the travel agency had a recording up that said unless you have an emergency, they could not take your call right now. Two calls and two weeks later, I finally had the points refunded. But I can’t blame them – they had to focus on the people who needed to get out first.

    It is frustrating that one agent couldn’t validate what another said. But don’t you just do what you always do – hang up and speak with another one until you get the answer you want?

  59. I’m a long time AA flier. Platinum (would have made Platinum Pro if it had existed last year; I’ll easily make it this year). But, American lost me a few months ago.

    When I got to the airport for my flight, I learned that the inbound flight was delayed some. The AA employees were insistent that our flight to Chicago would arrive on time, even though reason and logic told me it probably would not. (Of course, by saying it will probably arrive on time, they avoid many questions and requests from people who want backup reservations. And, indeed, when I asked for a backup reservations; they just told me that it would be on-time.)

    When we arrived in Chicago, we waited at a holding area for a gate to open up. I don’t understand why a gate wasn’t open, since our flight was supposed to be occupying a gate at the time when we landed, nor do I understand why AA didn’t simply move us to a gate that was open. Nonetheless, we waited.

    By the time we arrived and I retrieved my valet bag, it was 8:05pm. I hurried to the gate to catch my connecting flight (scheduled to depart at 8:15pm) and I arrived at the gate at 8:11pm. When I arrived, out of breath, and saw one of the AA employees closing the jetbridge door, I told him I had a ticket for the flight. With some mixture of exasperation and disdain, he said, “this flight closed minutes ago”. (Actually, I think he said, “10 minutes ago”.) Then, he walked away, without expressing any sympathy or any desire to help. Right then and there, I decided that I was probably done with my loyalty to American. Even an ounce of sympathy might have made a difference. But, his words, attitude, and behavior were the final straw. He had an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in AA’s relationship with me, and he did–it just wasn’t a positive experience.

    When I went to the Admiral’s Club to get rebooked and told one of the employees what had happened, she said something like, “Yeah, they close the doors 10 minutes before departure. And, you know, there are signs all throughout the terminal telling people that, but some people just don’t read.” I informed her that it wasn’t my fault, and I had rushed to the gate as fast as I could. She changed her tone somewhat, but it was still wrong of her to assume that I was at fault for missing the 10-minute cutoff.

    The worst part is that I checked the next morning’s availability for my connection while we were sitting on the Chicago tarmac. There were still seats on early-morning flights. By the time the Admiral’s Club rebooked me, they were gone.

    I’m biding my time until I get Platinum Pro (should be my next trip). That opens up doors for better status matches/challenges on other airlines. I’ll decide what to do about a new airline after that.

  60. Yes you are asking way TOO MUCH!!! All I can see here is an entitled whiner. Your flight was never affected! Why in the world would you get a refund or anything even close to that. Trying to use other people misfortune to complain about your overly cheap ticket. Please get a life and follow the rules. That’s how society works today

  61. I am not even close to be a platinum member but I am a customer that had the desire to spend money in American to be screw again by American.

    Let’s get to the point, American doesn’t have any commun sense, I live in Dallas, my wife and I we were supposed to go to Seattle and stay there over the weekend over the long weekend, because of the storm we couldn’t get out of town so that’s why we couldn’t come back from there so I called American and I try to negotiate with them.
    I told him that because the gas shortage that we have in our city I was unable to leave home to go to the airport I didn’t want to have the risk to be throw on the middle of the road with no gas on my intent to go to the airport, the rep told me that too bad because she lived in a city near to the airport as well and then she didn’t have any issues finding gas so she called me liar right from the get-go.
    I wasn’t even asking for the refund I was asking to just be able to use the credit aka the money that I paid on those are plane tickets coming from Seattle to another purchase of another ticket down the road I was told that I bought a cheap fare and because of that she cannot refund anything blows the city of Dallas or the north North part of Texas was not declare on the disaster Zone therefore she couldn’t do anything for me, I called and spoke with a supervisor and they told me that yeah no problem you can use your tickets however these supervisor failed to tell me that because changing the ticket will cost $200 and I pay pretty much $200 per ticket then I want to be pretty much losing his money American doesn’t have it right they don’t care about the customer service they don’t care about the users they don’t get about Flyers.
    I know that my tickets where it called me and that’s totally fine but I come on guys American please use common sense you there’s no gas well I didn’t invent it look the news, people look social media you will have to find gas for a couple of days in Dallas well I ended up losing the morning.

  62. 98.00 did you by the Basic Economy Fare? The one that allows no changes? The one that states use it or loose it?

  63. In another note, I was in New York in February, on my flight back to Dallas I made it to the airport with about 20 minutes of time before they closed doors I was dropping traffic for almost hour and 20 minutes by the time we get there to the checking agent I was store Wichita Six Mile I’m sorry I’m about to close the flight and you’re not getting any because you’re late I’ll look the lines and there was none I look through security and I can see the actual Jet Bridge Way open with no people waiting on it and there was no one through TSA the lady simple decide to go ahead close a flight and then just leaving strain in Newark my wife had to work the next day so I ended up buying a plane ticket with United which was a counter next to it and they were very friendly and they were very very good at it since the day I’ve been flying united only because a lighter customer service even though they have the incident with the doctor and all those things he was not actually United you was the police and United somehow seems to be at least more careful with the clients

  64. @ Brittany Belk — It wasn’t a basic economy fare, but the same “use it or lose” principle applies, since the change fee was $200.

  65. Jillian, there is a contract that you sign that states, Non Refundable, Non Transferable & Ticket Validity is one year from the date of Purchase! Maybe you should read the Contract of Carriage before clicking the box that says you agree to the terms and conditions.

  66. You should ALWAYS record ALL conversations with airline reps. They know very well they can lie and that management and the DOT are in on it.

  67. Totally valid complaint. It’s not about $98.00 and I understand. With the merger that happened a lot of their senior employees were forced out and kicked to the curb. That is the truth. The employees now really don’t care – they’ve cut benefits & there’s no job security. This company is not what it used to be.
    I’ve started flying DL and what a DIFFERENCE, starting at the ticket counter, flight attendants and gate agents. It’s very obvious Delta employees like their jobs and the company they work for which is a win win for the customer. I’ve been flying them at least once a month since July for work.

  68. @Jillian – timing is a problem in these cases. Depending on which scheme your payment instrument is issued via and the issuer’s own policies, I’ve found 6 months to be the absolute upper limit for the commencement of chargeback proceedings.

  69. And from the responses these people don’t know what customer service is either. Jeese
    The agent that helped you had options, you’re EP.

  70. @Lucky Go to this site: and select:

    Topic: Customer Relations
    Subject: Complaint
    Reason: Ticket changes

    Fill out everything on the next page and document your conversations like you did here.

    Happened twice to me where 1st agent supposedly added fee waivers that were no where to be found when I called back. Both times they reviewed the phone calls and gave me a voucher good for 1 year. No guarantees that it will work, but I’m 2 for 2 following that process.

  71. American Airlines has forgot what customer service is! I had a cancellation due to Irma. It was a nightmare trying to deal with them. I will cut up my Executive card and send it to the CEO!

  72. @Jillian Did you reach out to FT for help? On United you can buy a cheap ticket to free the money from the PNR but I don’t know if it works that way on AA.

    I agree the whole validity thing is confusing. I was screwed out of the TSA fees twice on WN and now boycott them. I guess my business wasn’t worth 22 bucks!

  73. I have to laugh every time I see another column whining about AA. Just 3 years ago Lucky was AA’s biggest fanboy because management waited a year to jump on the revenue based mileage earning scheme. At the time we all pointed out this was merely a temporary phenomenon and in no way worthy of shifting your business to a carrier that was heading dowhill fast thanks to US Air management.

  74. That’s such a copout by American…’feel bad for us.’ Seriously, they don’t have business continuity insurance that will cover these losses? I hate when customer service reps use these excuses because they are just reading from the script and at that point you can’t move forward anymore.

  75. Hence the reason why US Airways had to purchase AA. The company gave away to shop and worked it’s way into financial hardship. No one expects to go to any other business and have them give you credit when it’s not the company’s policy to do so. You are one person asking but just like you feel entitled. How many more individuals do you think feel entitled as well. Where would it end, what makes you more entitled than the next person that wants or expects an exception. Rules are made for a reason. If you always expect rules to be broken just for you then why have an rules. Let’s just give everybody what they want.

  76. As a former airline employee. I will say this. AA has the biggest Asshole based EP’s. Here is why.
    I have been through the American/ TWA merger, Continental / United merger, And now the US Airways / American (Which if you don’t know by now US Airways bought American hence your customer service issue). American is the world’s largest Airline big whoop. But from a front end employee standpoint. The ticket counter, Gates, and the ramp are all unskilled positions. You really can’t expect top-notch service when a large amount of the airports are operated by American Eagle employees like Piedmont, and Envoy. They pay is around $9.00 hr and they top out at $15.00. Staffing issues, poor leadership in a lot of the locations. So a lot of you fly on the regional jets to get to your homes. If you want American larger aircraft and Hub like quality you should demand bigger jets on the routes and American management to step into the smaller markets.

    Now back to the EP ass holes. Most of you fly for work. Yes, you pay for the ticket up front… But your company reimburses you. So the company pays for you to fly, Right? Right. So you do all this travel for your company. So if your CEO’s booked the trips in their names you should get mileage. But since the airlines value the companies. They give you the mileage under your frequent flyer number. And boom. You get these upgrades, move ups and bag fee waived. Now moving forward. Where do you get the right to be upset for a mileage ticket that was free or cheap and show your ass? Then talk shit about the people who can help you pretty much or refund your ticket and tell you to figure it out. Yes, we pass judgment on you as well. Because for the simple fact. You think you are really living it up in 1st class. Yes, it’s nice to ride in the fat boy seats but for it to change how you treat people and carry yourself. Watching you line up to board because you gotta be 1st on the plane is pretty funny. Sometimes we have to delay boarding because the FA’s don’t want to deal with you yet.

    As a recommendation. To American: Get rid of regional flying. Training should be 6 weeks for Customer Service. In Station Training should six months.

    To the frequent flyer: You watch the news and the weather. Why do you assume your flight won’t be affected by mother nature or man-made events? Red flag you knew of the Hurricane and still elected to travel. That was your own stupidity. Think it is still legal.

    Learn something. If not. I will write again. I am sure of it.

    #goingforgreat is not the same as #makeamericangreatagain

  77. Instead of commiserating, let’s get to the action item: Which airlines are doing status matches to AA? Of those which ones can we reasonably expect to provide better CS?

  78. In my opinion, if an agent has promised something and even claims to put a note down in the reservation, than as a customer, this should be seen as an agreed agreement irrespective of what the ticket conditions were when purchased.
    If the agent had no authority to permit that use of the ticket for future use, he/she should have informed Ben correctly and not try and make up something just to a) satisfy the request of the pax or b) to end the call without the pax feeling dissatisfied with the outcome by given false hope.

    In general, I do agree with Ben on the Exec Plat desk (if it really exists). Since the take over by US, it has been appalling. 80% of my call to them are answered by agents which you immediately know from the tone that they do not wish to be there. Just a couple of days ago, I called up to finalize and pay for an award ticket – immediately I knew that the agent was disinterested and after speaking to her a couple of mins, I just politely ended the call and called again. 2nd agent I got was much better and I knew at least would be much efficient to work with, though I could hear during the whole conversation her yawning behind the line a couple of times…how professional is that?

  79. It’s just amazing how some airlines simply don’t value their loyal customers. AA has really improved in so many areas including customer service over the past few years but just when they have you up in the clouds they drop you like a sack of potatoes.

  80. In my opinion, airline travel will never be the same as in the old days. The bottom line is that people have gotten used to cheap travel and airlines will cut costs everywhere they can to deliver the cheapest possible price while maximizing their profits. Airline ticket prices are one of the few items that are cheaper now than 30 years ago. Even without adjusting for inflation, a round trip ticket in the US is less expensive now. We are in an era of demanding “Greyhound” prices and we will get “Greyhound” amenities and services.

  81. I was fortunate to have a trip booked in/out of MIA 9.13/9.17. AA let me change my outbound to 9.12 and my return to 9.18.

    I coordinated with the Platinum desk and didn’t have any problems. Maybe you should look to devalue your status for 2018…

  82. In 1995 out of DFW I started flying Delta because American didn’t offer service to my project worksite. I did that for 10 months and I absolutely LOVED Delta airlines. Friends of mine talked about how great AA was then, but I could tell a difference in the employees. Delta employees were so friendly and helpful, only once in 10 months did a bag get redirected to the wrong airport and I received it within 2 days. I also left a pair of prescription glasses in a case in the seat pocket in coach. I didn’t realize until later that night at home (I wear contact lenses). I never notified the airline because I thought they would never have been found. A week later I received a package with glasses and case. Now THAT’s customer service.

    Then my projects worked more for AA non-stops and I switched. I enjoyed AA for many years and was Ex Plat for 2, but it’s been progressively downward for 10+ years. I feel for the employees because they had a great company that turned on them and decided they no longer wanted to pay employees a real salary. I feel for the customers who have to endure “NO” all the time. I feel for the kids who’ll never know what air travel was really like and I’m not talking 1970’s, I’m talking 1999 when you could easily upgrade at the gate, if you missed your flight you could just roll to the next flight without issue which left just 45 minutes later with plenty of seats. I’m surprised we’re not sitting on sitting on attached barstools so they can wedge 15 more rows on a plane. Flying is a commodity now and we should treat it as such. Status belongs with luxury brands. Find an airline you can tolerate, buy the least expensive, “upgradeable” ticket and use any way (miles, $) to get in biz or first.

    And CJS is EXACTLY right about Delta leaving DFW, AA started sliding downhill from that point on. I rarely fly anymore – it’s just for leisure and I’ve been flying SWA more and more as a result. Nice people, free checked bags, I’ll pay the extra $15 dollars to get priority boarding, no change fees and if I cancel a ticket I can use those travel funds for future travel. Now THAT’s the way to run an airline and they’re the largest domestic carrier. THAT tells you something.

  83. You were not entitled to X. Agent offered to give you Y since it could not give you X. No evidence that you were given Y, and no evidence you were entitled to Y. Now you’re upset because agent didn’t waive a rule he/she probably didn’t have authority to waive. That it?

  84. In virtually every ECON101 textbook, American’s behavior would very much match the definition of how companies lacking meaningful competition, with high barriers to new entrants, behave…

    …and the chapter this basic lesson is taught is called: Oligopolies

  85. This is absolute crap. I work for an airline that has been mentioned in this thread and I am appalled. I’ve gone above and beyond several times for United 100K fliers, Delta Diamond, AA EXP and Gold75K’s bending the rules that were actually made to be bent for these types of tier status members, and I’ve gotten stellar reviews from each sent to my supervisor(s) for doing so and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    This isn’t about complaining to get what you want.This is about doing the right thing, not just for yourself (Lucky) but for the airline as well. It’s good for an airline to read reviews about how their services have fallen, because it gives them an idea of what they need to improve on. For the airline I work for, we’ve had our shortcomings and have made up for them 10 fold. It really does suck to read about what another agent has done, over something so little that could have prevented this whole thing from happening.

    Anyways, that’s just my two cents.

  86. I dumped AA last year, just before the most drastic AAdvantage cutbacks. I’d already noticed the been burned by CS issues, and I was simply tired of beat-up old airplanes, crummy food, and grouchy flight attendants. Part of that was dropping from EXP to PLT, but after the merger operations obviously suffered and it was a safe guess that things would continue to go downhill. (Plus, flying through PHL, ugh) I miss my favorite GA at CDG but otherwise, I don’t regret leaving.

    After mid-tier challenges last year on both of the other legacies I chose Delta because I wanted a better flying experience. I haven’t yet had terrible issues during IRROPS because of luck and knowing how to respond proactively (also faster text alerts from Delta), but after spending hours at ATL with a lot of unhappy people in July on a day when the Eastern half of the country was a mess, I can’t really tell whether Delta responds more effectively than the others. But as someone who usually end up in coach or E+, I find Delta’s planes, entertainment, and food to be much better than AA. FAs in coach are all about the same, alas. I hope eventually to experience international enhanced business class but that depends on future travel.

    And I happen to think that a $12K/yr customer deserves a few breaks–that’s how business usually works.

  87. Did you manage to get any other refunds from your planned European trip? Or use travel insurance? Was everything refundable? Sorry if this was covered elsewhere.

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