How I Nearly Missed My Flight To Tahiti (Thanks, American Airlines!)

American Airlines is an operational mess. On top of that, I have really bad luck. In the past two months I’ve taken fewer than 10 flights on American. Of those:

And then there was the issue I had on Tuesday, which I’ll get into below.

The problem with American’s horrible operational performance

I know what’s going on here is a combination of me having really bad luck and American also performing horribly right now.

The way I see it, there are three issues here, two of which are pretty major.

The first major issue is that clearly American is having consistent maintenance issues. Their on-time record isn’t great.

But the bigger issue, in my opinion, is how horrible of a job they do handling delays. Delays happen, I get it. But the way you treat customers during a delay says a lot about the airline.

Experience a delay on Delta, and you’ll typically find that the pilots constantly update you, they set realistic departure times so you know when the flight will leave (rather than delaying flights 10 minutes at a time), they make it easy to rebook and know your options, and they just generally have fewer maintenance delays.

Lastly, not for a single one of those delays did I receive a proactive email from American customer relations apologizing. Most airlines have a system set up where passengers will proactively be emailed compensation in the event of serious delays. I guess an Executive Platinum being delayed by four hours doesn’t meet that threshold, which says a lot about the standards they hold themselves to.

American just doesn’t respect their customers’ time, both in terms of their maintenance, and how they handle delays beyond that.

My latest issue

On Tuesday Ford and I had an award ticket booked from Miami to Papeete, Tahiti. The only option available on miles was from Miami to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Tahiti, with an over 2.5 hour layover in Los Angeles. Perfect… or so I thought.

Then a couple of days before departure I saw that American had a reasonable fare from Miami to Los Angeles on the nonstop 777 flight, and there was confirmable upgrade space. Since I had systemwide upgrades expiring, I decided to book this on a separate ticket:

  • It would allow us to depart about three hours later
  • The layover was the same length
  • I figured there was less chance of things going wrong on a nonstop 777 flight that has a lot of critical connections, rather than a one-stop itinerary on American’s regional carrier connecting to a 737 at a non-hub
  • We’d get a flat bed nonstop flight rather than connecting; happy husband, happy life

In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking. No, I’m not referring to booking two separate tickets, but rather I’m not sure why I thought a connection of just over 2.5 hours on American was sufficient.

We boarded our flight from Miami to Los Angeles, and as departure time approached I started to wonder what delay would happen today, and also kicked myself for having booked such a tight connection (by American standards).

“Folks, some bad news from the cockpit. Unfortunately the air conditioning in the cockpit isn’t working, we’re calling maintenance.”

The captain didn’t provide any further updates for a while, and made it clear the delay could be lengthy. At this point I thought it was a sure bet we’d misconnect.

On the surface we might have been dumb to book separate tickets, but this was actually not a huge issue. The next Air Tahiti Nui flight, on which we would have presumably been rebooked if we misconnected, also had award space, so we could have easily rebooked even on separate tickets.

The downside was that I wanted to review the 787, and that flight only operates every few days at the moment.

In the end, after a delay of over 90 minutes, they determined that the maintenance issue was deferrable, and we started our journey to LAX. Despite being this late, and despite many passengers having connections to international flights that were at risk of misconnecting, we arrived at one of American’s few remote stands, over by the maintenance hangar. It takes forever to get from there to the terminal.

We had 59 minutes to make our connection (our connection was at 10:55PM). It was 10:15PM by the time we got to the terminal (these buses take forever), and then we sprinted towards Tom Bradley International Terminal. As we started our run they paged me throughout the terminal — “urgently paging Benjamin Schlappig for passport verification.”

Our flight was departing from gate 140, which for those of you not familiar, is basically a terminal within a terminal. It looks like a Costco, and is a haul even when you’re already in TBIT.

At this point I looked down at my phone (which was on silent, as usual), and noticed two missed calls from an LA number. I called back, and shockingly enough the lady at gate 140 picked up. I explained we were on our way, and we made it to the gate right as the flight was boarding.

Bottom line

Obviously I’ve had very bad luck, but everyone has a breaking point. Significant mechanical delays on over half of my flights is my breaking point. Even when American has the most convenient schedule, I just can’t count on the airline to get me where I need to go anymore.

I’d rather take a less convenient schedule and feel like I’m flying an airline that values my time, than continue to put up with this garbage.

I actually don’t regret booking separate tickets, because like I said, there was award availability the next day. What I regret is booking a connection of just over 2.5 hours, which in virtually any other situation would be more than enough time.

I just can’t with American anymore. It’s not that any single mechanical delay is what pushes me over the edge, but it’s a combination of the number of times it has happened, how horribly American handles delays, and the fact that they don’t even apologize for them.

They don’t keep people updated during delays, they don’t give you rebooking options, and they reduce staffing at gates during delays rather than increasing it.

Add in that service at American has hit rock bottom, and this airline just feels like dealing with a government organization rather than a for-profit business (no disrespect intended to government organizations). 😉

So I’m happy it worked out in this case, but I think I’ve reached my tipping point with the airline, and I’ll outline the actions I’m taking because of that in a subsequent post. For Ford’s part, he was going to requalify for Executive Platinum (either by doing a mileage run or buy-up), but is no longer doing that. He’ll just stay Platinum Pro instead, because we are done with this airline, I think.

Note that while American is in this rut, they’re also making it more difficult to earn status. “Hey, we’re delivering less than ever before, but we want more money from you.”

Comments

  1. Pretty incredible the gate agent called you. At least that part of the story demonstrated good service.

    But yes, the most frustrating part is the rolling delays when they know full well it can’t take off when they say.

  2. This is pretty reprehensible.
    I mean I was crazy enough to book a flight with a 50 minute layover in Schipol during my honeymoom trip back from Venice (VCE-AMS-JFK).
    Fortunately, being in business, we got off first and Schipol has a fast track security for select flights that they know are popular for transfers. We made it just as they were boarding Economy and had enough time to enjoy a pre-departure cocktail on the plane.
    But let’s look at this.. KLM from Venice to Amsterdam, going from one terminal to another there (neither my hubby or me had ever been through Schipol) having to pass through security and we made it in less than 50 minutes.
    I’m kinda flabergasted that 2.5 hours is not enough time for a transfer in ANY airport because of the issues of the airline. Thanks for the good story though!!

  3. How many more of these are you going to post? You should know better than to even consider AA by now, surely?

  4. Gate agents seem to be calling people more. I recently was called by a JetBlue gate agent when I was running late for a flight.

    I haven’t experienced too many issues on AA like Ben has, but I only use them for select flights, mainly on short hops and the premium transcons. Delta is generally a better way to get around the country.

  5. Even Allegiant offers a gate beverage service when they know there will be long delays.
    I worked for a contract ground handler and Allegiant kept us well supplied with beverages that we could bring to the gate when delays happened.

    One of the few good things I can say about them.

  6. I won’t post this on Twitter as I will be identified quick. AA too me was my saving grace from a FAILING UA several years ago. UA as a 20 year 1K left me stranded MULTIPLE times with MX delays and just didn’t care to deal with issues that were outside of mother nature. 18 frustrated months of them and I just had it. I took my 2MM lifetime plat and LEFT.

    Went to AA who I found could generally operate flights, had limited MX issues (again exception is I RARELY ever touch a 767) and found the service and offerings fine. That was until THIS YEAR. It’s utterly amazing that the mgmt at AA is this out of touch. Out of 45 flights this year or so – 12 have gone out VERY VERY late. The hub return banking of flights to avoid hub hopping (e.g DFW flights used to go to/from DFW) seems to be gone now. If WX impacts one area it propagates to others – this is UA’s killer issues with me years ago. MX issues are common now – turnarounds are MUCH MUCH shorter and multiple times my perfectly operating inbound is swapped due to another flight issue and I get a crew that may go time illegal and AA operations who just doesn’t catch these things as an issue (e.g. if you likely are 70% chance of crew illegal on last segment – DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT EARLIER vs when you have 130 pax you will strand overnight).

    The few out of band UA flights I’ve taken have been fine – but the shocker was on an AA flight that was MULTI hours delayed from LAS-LAX (yeah I should have drove) I last min took a Spirit flight. Man – they are awful – but they operated on time and weren’t trying to be something they weren’t . They are CHEAP, CHEAP and will get you there – no frills – no special things. It’s the price. I’m just perplexed at what AA thinks they are now? Are they a mainline tier 1 carrier or a has been that only revolves around frequent fliers who won’t switch? 6 flights this year on Alaska and NOT ONE complaint. If it wasn’t for the OneWorld impact for me on AA I would switch to AS – I may still do that.

  7. Pretty much guaranteed a problem when flying any of those garbage US-based airlines. Sometimes it’s not the fault of the airline but rather can be security/immigration/airport etc. Unfortunately, the US public seem to continue to put up with it and provide these excuses for airlines with profits. So why should they change their ways? They really need a EU-style compensation system for delays. You watch the “on-time” rate improve!
    And yes – those friggin’ busses are horrible!

  8. I left American a while ago. As a 1K i never get upgraded, but Im also never delayed. Sometimes getting where I am going is simply more important than the wider seat. the food sucks anyway. I was over 90% upgrades at American , Im 20% or less on UA even on high fare tickets. Goes to show American just doesn’t have as many elite members.

  9. Last week my AUS-LAX flight landed 18m early, but congestion at the gates caused us to arrive 42m late. When this EXP complained about the delay The CSR told me that AA would rather cause short delays than reschedule gates. I asked and she confirmed that a 42m delay was a short delay. They just don’t care about providing decent service any more.

  10. If you are lucky, why did you book an award and a fare flight on a different PNR? you should know by now that after dropping your MIA-ATL-LAX segments, you could add your (paid) MIA-LAX flight on the same reservation without any issue. At least is should be more easy to rebook you in case of missconnect instead of look if another TN flight was available with miles.

  11. Ben, I think American’s poor communication on delays and IROPs is a fine reason to put your domestic elsewhere. Your bad luck this last couple months could happen with any alliance, as I had a bad string with Delta as a diamond a couple years back. Delta handled the communication and support very well.

    I fly less than you, but if I have an international connection on seperate airlines and itineraries I pack in 3 hours or longer. Not worth the stress otherwise

    For the flying you do I would go AS 75K and Delta Plat. Between both of those you could do pretty well. You will miss Oneworld Emerald at lounge time.

    FWIW I just do 75K with Alaska these days, and buy inexpensive F tickets otherwise.

  12. @ Ben — I find it funny that it has taken you so long to encounter these problems with AA. The Queen and I have been EXPs for about 11-12 years now, and this has always been the way of life for AA. Consider your self lucky that you’ve missed most of it. I always blamed the problems on the old legacy AA Super 88s and 767-200s, but the problems seem to continue even with more than 90% of the MD-88s and all of the 767-200s retired.

  13. AA is my last choice, I’d consider riding my broom for short/long haul then haul my cookies on an AA flight.

  14. While I agree with you overall, I should add a slight counterpoint: AA cancelled my LAX-OGG flight (which was booked on Avios awards) and didn’t have space on the next flight for me and my family. We would have had to overnight in LA, throwing our whole trip into disarray. But AA rebooked me on a United flight leaving only a couple hours later than our original departure. So even as someone with no AA/oneWorld status, on an award ticket, they did come through for me.

  15. The delays are often inexcusable, but leaving yourself a 2.5 hour connection at LAX for an international flight is super risky.

    AA definitely needs to improve their communication with their customers. I’ve had my share of delays with them and there are times when these horribly impact schedules for work, loss of sleep, missed meals. I would hope they take that into account instead of just trying to cram as many people as possible onto a plane to sell more seats. “see project Oasis” for reference

    They do get me from point A to B in the end safely and that’s always most important.

  16. @Federico Would you please enlighten me how you can put a paid ticket and an award booking in the same reservation?

  17. @ LAXJeff — I agree since we’re talking about American, but I’m not sure I agree otherwise. I didn’t have to clear security, and I was traveling between two cities that have good weather this time of year. I’d say in 99% of cases that’s a safe bet.

  18. During thanksgiving holiday I missed my connection at CLT because of a 1:30hr delay that was blamed on the AC. On the way back, I received a message that flight was delayed and we would miss our connection at CLT, changed the flights, then they changed the airplane that because of wrong plans got 1 hour delayed. Unfortunately because I live in Miami and my company has an agreement with AA I’m kind of stuck…

  19. Lucky,

    Do you have data showing that AA’s on time performance has been getting worse than UA or DL, for example?

    I’d be interested to see the data! Otherwise these are all anecdotes, fun anecdotes for a blog, but just anecdotes. If you talk to people who fly DL for example, you will hear stories about bad delays too.

  20. I have my Hong Kong Airlines business error fare coming up in February and need to position to LA for that. The earliest I could arrive was with a 90 Minute connecting time at LAX and on AA. Obviously I decided against that and will fly in the Night before on UA.

  21. Assuming you’re shifting your loyalty to Delta, good luck finding SkyMiles awards at a reasonable level when you want to use them. And forget about redeeming SkyMiles for international first class.

  22. I hear ya Lucky. The TBIT connector is a life saver getting between terminals there. I use if often when I go hit the QF lounge instead of the Flagship lounge.

    Honestly just think you’ve hit a really bad string of flights. I’ve done 72 paid segments on AA this year, and some of the delays have been brutal but they’ve been better for me this year than previous years.

    Just two weeks ago we had an entire 321 loaded for over an hour before they deplaned us, waited til everyone was off and then took a 321 for us but had to wait for it to be loaded, paperwork, etc….not a great way to start Thanksgiving week. Luckily we were at DFW and they had that option available.

    The updates on the app were like you said, every 10-15 minutes except the pilot said its going to take an hour even though that didn’t match the app. If they don’t know how long its going to take to correct an issue then they should guesstimate and update when they can.

  23. And in the past 20 months I’ve taken slight fewer than 20 flights on AA – none of which have been delayed due to anything other than a snowstorm in Chicago. And most of which have arrived early. I’ve also taken two UA flights – one of which was delayed more than a hour for mechanical. And one WN flight – which was delayed by an hour for mechanical.

    From this I can conclude AA is operationally great. And UA and WN are operationally terrible.

    Reality: Anecdotes aren’t data. (Altough they make for great faux-outrage posts from bloggers). Actual statistics shows AA’s on-time performance lags slightly behind it’s competitors.

  24. To me the most aggravating part of the story isn’t even the MX delay, but the remote stand at LAX. Last month I flew in from PDX (at least the first AA upgrade I can remember in ages) and was surprised to find myself unceremoniously dropped off at the remote area and it too nearly an hour to taxi all the way over there, deplane and wait and take the long drive in the crappy bus to take me to the regular AA terminal, and thence through the terminal to the curb. If you come into that remote/commuter area your AA flight will actually take 45 minutes or so longer than indicated on your ticket. Really deceptive and third rate.

  25. Hey Ben,
    You’ve been complaining so much about AA, but continue to fly them. You’re addicted to miles and only fly if you’re on a mileage run or can use an upgrade. Any normal person would’ve jumped ship now, but since you can only game AA and not DL or UA all of your complaining and idle threats of leaving AA haven’t materialized. As a non frequent flyer who accumulates all his miles on mistake fares, credit cards or mileage run, even with your Executive Platinum status you’re really not the typical flyer anyone is interested in. This is reflected in your inability to continue your hobby with another carrier. hAAppy flying on AA-you get what you pay for. See you on a future AA flight.

  26. Yet you keep taking them.
    Are there no other options or are you forced to do it under threat of violence?

  27. I’m still waiting for the next post… “My 2019 strategy for requalifying for Exec. Platium” 🙂

  28. I just spent 10 1/2 hours overnight @ CLT on my way to MCO on AA. I’m just a lowly lifetime Gold so there were no perks.

  29. The gate agent calling you is cool, I’ve never heard that. Just missed a connection recently when myself and another passenger arrived from a delayed flight just a minute or two after they closed the door. Fortunately there was another flight 45 minutes later and it was no big deal but a call would have been perfect in that situation.

    I’ve noticed that a delayed flight always gets the murphy’s law treatment: longest possible taxi and the furthest possible gate from your connection. Interestingly, software ought to be able to figure out the optimal gate based on connections, etc. I know there are a lot of factors in play including where staff are and what flights need to use each gate later on…but I bet software could optimize ground operations better than the current static planning that is mostly used.

  30. I agree with Bob. I’ve never had a problem with AA. In fact, they’ve built loyalty overall due to fine service and excellent rewards program…

    …for me, AA is far superior to UA, Delta, Southwest, et al.

  31. The last time I flew AA was 2010.
    The last time I flew UA was 1999. I think – memory might be fuzzy.
    The last time I flew DL was 2013.

    My breaking point was years ago and it could be my standards that I think are basic have become impossibly high for these to airlines to achieve. Other than folks held hostage by living in hub cities for any of these airlines or that these airlines provide the only air service for folks in smaller cities, it baffles me why any one chooses any of these big 3 airlines. They all are dreadful. None of them care about their passengers as valued customers. None of them care about service. Their definition of Loyalty is not as it appears in Webster’s, but instead means creating an environment where the customers have no choice, and thus they can price or mileage gouge them by default because ‘who else will they fly?’.

    No other industry has grown so big based on such terrible conditions and services as the airline industry. Yet many of us capitulate because of ‘Loyalty’ or chasing redemptions as though it would be worth the torture it took to get them. Ugh.

  32. And what is even more ridiculous is AA reducing MCTs across all hubs trying to tighten up their hub banks. The majority of my options now show connecting times ranging from 30-45 minutes.

    They really don’t care – anything to keep costs low.

    This is why I generally avoid booking AA for international trips (more difficult to find alternatives) although I like OneWorld a lot so I’ll continue to have EXP on AA but dominantly fly partners.

    DL is great to fly, but the quality of airlines in SkyTeam blows. Besides DL, only KL and KE are worth flying in biz IMHO.

  33. Paul – An in-flight safety video that they cannot even display on their newest aircraft (MAX). Truly “going for great” if you ask me….

    And I agree with others. The remote stand is absolutely crazy, especially for a 777 which is scheduled literally for the purpose of MIA-LAX international connections. Factor in the delay and the decision is even crazier, unless they simply had no gates that could accommodate a late-arriving 777.

  34. What’s worse is the lack of action by the American staff. They know it is a loosing battle to help anyone. You can see it in their eyes when they give you the canned response. Never once was I ever offered booking on an internline flight. They try to put you on one of their later flights as if waiting 12 hours -24 hours has no impact on your life. We should have regulation similar to the European model here in North America.

    I used to be AA loyal and would go out of my way to fly them. It’s just no longer worth the investment for such a minimal return. They offered me free platinum for two months this year which I used a couple times but basically just equates to early boarding and seat selection. I have a bunch of their silly 500 mile certificates that are a joke. They’re such a low value airline.

    I actively fly spirit in their big front seat now and it is cheaper than AA still.

  35. I’d still recommend Ford hit Exec Plat next year just to burn the extra benefits; you’ve come too far to drop that

  36. Yeah, the issue is not with the number of delays or the length of delays, but how they are handled. Statistically, AA and UA are pretty similar and Delta is only marginally better, however, American is the absolute worst at handling delays when they happen. My favorite was in Dallas on a connection headed for Orlando. I leave the lounge with my two children with about 10 minutes until boarding. Arrive at the gate and all looks good. Boarding time comes and goes and nothing is happening. Departure time arrives and they tell us there will be a 20 minute delay. We haven’t started boarding yet, so the chances of a 20 minute delay seem pretty remote. 20 minutes pass and still nothing has moved. Another 20 minute delay announced. At the end of that 20 minutes, another 20 minute delay announced and now the delay comes up on the app as “unavailability of aircraft due to weather” and we have a gate change. Wait, I came in on that same aircraft that I was supposed to go out on and it has been sitting at the gate the entire 2 and a half hours I have been in Dallas. Now the board changes to Jackson Hole and the Jackson Hole passengers all happily troop onto the aircraft that is unavailable. They gave away the aircraft that we were scheduled to fly on and then say that we are delayed because of weather elsewhere in the system. 4 more rolling 20 minute delays later (now 4 hours in Dallas, 2 and a half of that in 20 minute increments), off we go. I send in a complaint detailing my misfortune and crickets.

  37. I flew 37 segments this year on AA metal (157,241 EQM) with only one late segment (about two hours) and no missed connections or cancellations. I believe you’re having a crazy string of bad luck. Look on the bright side – you made your connecting flight, got your upgrades and award flights. This delay, though annoying, was not a big thing in a otherwise series of successful events.

  38. These are the same planes I flew many years ago when I was working. It is amazing they keep flying. Feel bad for the maintenance guys trying to fix planes that just keep getting worse.

  39. The American – US Airways post merger has left them with all different kinds of equipment , seat configurations , and 7 hubs. American is building a new billion dollar terminal at LAX to alleviate some of the current issues.

    The MIA-ATL-LAX sounded nice. It’s a new month and AA must have loaded some new inflight entertainment content to enjoy.

  40. I bumped off a PHX-JFK flight over thanksgiving, and took a flight to EWR the next day for $750.

    The only reason that was possible was that the EWR flight was 20 hours late. All the other JFK/EWR flights were very oversold, and likely because so many people were able to bail from this flight.

    To boot, I got more money from AA than any of the delayed passengers and I had the whole row to myself.

    How the hell can they delay a flight that long?!

  41. Back when was was a 15 year ExPl, I saw these things come in spurts and they are ALWAYS union related when they happen so often in any given time period. I had many FA friends (flying too much, right) and also have an FA as a niece, who told me “the big secret”. Unions know they can f**k with Doug Parker by doing these things and really don’t care about passengers. Who can blame them? Can you imagine having Grinch and Scrooge Parker as your ultimate boss. He’s gotta go, things need to be resolved with the operations and maintenance unio, not to mention all the other ones. Time to please someone besides Wall Street and Goldman Sachs. Of course, this is the problem with the majority of the institutions in America these days, bottom line and stock price is everything. Squeeze em into small seats, take away their perks, cripple the salaries of all staff. Lean, mean flying machines. I suspect United is the worst, gave up on them decades ago, but American is certainly leading the race to the bottom these days. I will be spending all of my 1.5MM miles on One World partner airlines. If they don’t take them away for some reason…

  42. Ben

    I am sorry about your experience on AA.
    I mainly fly on long haul overseas USA to Europe and Middle East flights.
    Clearly, the European main carriers such as Air France and even BA are much better, more reliable with better service and comfort.

    I dump all my One World miles (American, BA, Qatar) into my American Advantage account thus I have executive platinum status. I am now going to dump the miles into BA Avios.

    My last 3 flight with American in the US have been terrible. The upgrade policy is unfathomable, it is even difficult to purchase a First Class Ticket. The quality and comfort of American First Class
    is marginal. The business first USA to Europe does not even come close to BA or Air France ( I am platinum of Sky Team).

    The problem I see is a terrible attitude and inconsistency of service by American personnel. This stems right from the top. Thus, poor senior management.

    From now on in the US I would rather fly Jet Blue in coach (even more room) that American in First. What is even more tragic is that the service and quality of Saudi Arabian Airlines in my opinion is better than American; pathetic!!!

  43. I disagree about 2.5 hours being enough. Weather is not always good in LA, even for other airlines. I would never leave just 2.5 hours for a once a day long haul.

    Why did you think they would rebook you? Protection for misconnects are only in place for AA to another one world carrier, which doesnt include Tahiti Nui even though you wrote hopeful blog posts about them joining a few years ago.

    Pretty surprising rookie mistake.

  44. To everyone who is surprised about the GA calling…that would have been a Air Tahiti Nui GA not an AA GA calling. so dont worry the earth has not gone off its axis, up is not down, hot is not cold, and AA is not suddenly providing good service 🙂

  45. Sorry 4 u But I’ve Great Luck with AA from ORD>CDG there was a 2 hr delay .They were waiting for people in the walkway with a booth with their options for their not mine connecting flts . They also came looking when I had my return Flt. they wanted to leave early for an odd reason..My most Valued Award points as in Gold .Did I tell u the date are changeable for Free too..

    CHEER

    PS.. I Hate Delta

  46. So sorry for your experiences. I’ve noticed a trend in weird routes which I attribute to the use of reward miles. Some I’ve spoken with lament being unable to change without fees, short connection times etc. Is it a case of getting something for nothing, or close to it? True the tickets are earned but the users end up with the least desirable routes.

    Also, I must chime in on allowing two and half hours at LAX: Not enough. Need to always make sure one has enough time for unforseen circumstances.

    Now on to delays: they happen. We’ve been delayed for mechanical reasons perhaps ten times in 25 years of flying AA and a handful of times for weather. We’ve also circled the airport waiting to land because of weather til all the possible connecting flights were gone (we were put up in a hotel) and were diverted because of storms and missed the final connecting flight home again (hotel again). Remember the notorious ash cloud? We are ash cloud survivors. Hunkered down in a provided hotel room in Rome before we could get home. The point being life is what you make of it. I will stick with AA since they are the only major US airline that does most of their aircraft maintenance in the US with federal regulations in place. The others have moved their’s overseas where there is no oversight.

  47. A new union contract for us mechanics at AA would certainly help the maintenance issues. We along with the US Airways mechanics have been negotiating for 5 1/2 years to get a joint contract. Still no deal.

  48. @lucky you’re 100% right on the money!
    To compound the frustration AA says whilst devaluation “we are just keeping competitive with the competition!”
    Don’t you just want to scream!?!
    The upside is EXPLAt’s leaving. Goodbye!
    Enjoy Tahiti, isn’t that fabulous!!!

  49. AA I’ve only had problems with on a string like this, once. I usually run into the issue where we leave early and board ahead of schedule.

    Unfortunately, I have had a bad run on with both United and Delta, so I avoid them.

    I get immediately rebooked on my AA flights when there’s a delay or cancellation, so I find it odd when people have this kind of luck.

  50. As an ATC at LAX, American is the worst operationally, again anecdotal. It is common to have multiple AAL planes holding for gates, and when the gate finally pushes, there is no ground crew to take the aircraft in so you (the passengers) end up taxiing around in more circles.

    Southwest, Delta, Alaska, and United all land with occupied gates too, but they are all very good about switching them after the plane is on the ground.

  51. Regarding weather in LA – torrential rain last night and early AM leading to mudslide warnings in the area after the fires. Second such storm this week. This is the rainy time of year , when there isn’t a drought.

  52. AA sucks. of the last 3 round trips, I think one flight was cancelled due to “not having a flight crew” WTF??? had to wait at least an extra hour I think, then my connecting flight was rebooked (because I missed it) with a 3 hour layover. Last July I went from SJC to DEN, connecting in PHX, missed my connection both ways due to delays. I did just fly AA to New Orleans and surprisingly had no delays. Well I’ve used up most of my miles with AA, am focusing on UA now!

  53. I have had terrible experiences with AA in 2018. Of 50+ AA segments this year, I would say at least 25 had a moderate to major issue that caused significant delays or negatively impacted the experience. The very worst part of all of it is their indifference and callousness in handling these unfortunate events.

    My worst was an 18 hour rolling delay from ATW to ORD. Thankfully, after 6 hours I rented a car and drove to ORD and made the last flight out from ORD to PHL that night. As with Lucky’s experience, the first 12 hours of the 18 hour delay were rolled out in 10 or 30 minute increments. If they had just told people up front that they had an unsolvable maintenance issue, people could have made other arrangements (like I did). After I cut bait on the segment, I was able to see the continuing incremental delays with push notifications from the AA app. It was not until 1:30 a.m. when I was in PHL that they finally called it for the night and pushed it an additional 6 hours to 7:30 a.m. (this was a flight scheduled to leave ATW at 1:30 p.m. the prior day). I felt terribly for the passengers who sat at ATW for 11 hours from 12:30 p.m. on Sunday to 1:30 a.m. on Monday only to be told to come back for a 7:30 a.m. departure.

    American never reached out to passengers with an apology or compensation. I eventually requested and received a refund of the segment I never flew, but AA refused to pay for my rental car or other incidentals.

    I am AA Platinum and 2018 will be my last year of status with them after their abysmal performance.

  54. This blog definitely had me rolling and also had the same questions as others going thru my head. If you hate AA so much, why don’t you start from scratch and go elsewhere? You’ll probably hate that airline as well tho and blog about that. Maybe you feel satisfaction by blowing off steam that makes it seem like you are one of the greatest guests for the airline? We all feed off of each other’s negative energy anyway. This is similar to the restaurant reviews on yelp.

    On a different note, I heard southwest is good.

    Personally, I’m AA > UA. Delta, too many connections to get to where I need to get to. UA I’ve flown a few times in my life and 100% of the time, poor ground service. I vowed if there’s minimal price difference, never again will I fly UA if I can avoid it. (I also live in a major UA hub city so that may be part of the problem). Flight attendants on any airline is not a problem tho. I fly AA a few times a year without any problems, with a delay here or there occasionally, and have been frequently flying since I was 3 months old.

    I guess it helps that I come from an airline background family so I know what questions to ask, when, and when it’s time to give good ol’ customer service a call when there is a delay that will affect me.

    Lastly, like lucky, I have too many miles invested in the one world network. Jumping ship at this point seems silly and I do like the other airlines part of the OneWorld alliance team.

  55. I am PLT on AA and for the last 2 years being on time has been the exception. Having anything less than 3 connection time is risky. And they falsely report their on time stats regularly in addition they only report when the plan lands not when it reaches a gate which can be an hour later.

  56. Good Finally Lucky American are so bad and don’t deserve business fly Delta though what are you going to do about Oneworld Emerald?

  57. As Former employee of TN, I can says this has been a frequent problem with pax connecting from AA, for years. But the blame is not on AA alone. When airlines suggest booking realistic connecting times, that allow a cushion for late inbound connections. This advice is usually completely ignored. Flights LA to Tahiti are only once or twice each day, so the wait for the next available flight, may be a long one.. especially for award seats.

    I think the author might have given Air Tahiti Nui a “Thank you”, for being pro-active and trying to reach him by phone, from Gate 140, and, for the flexibility TN shown by ensuring the 2 late, connecting passengers were boarded, when other airlines might have left them behind. Most travelers are very quick to publicly criticize, and very slow to praise an airline that goes above and beyond!

  58. Today’s AA125 – DFW-HKG flight has a scheduled time of 10:35am. That came and went. Creeping delay….11:00am, 11:20am, 11:40am, now get off and get a new airplane. 1:00pm posted departure. So back to the delays…..1:00pm became 1:15pm, which became 1:50pm, which became 3:30pm, and finally….wait for it…..yes….8:00pm with an arrival in Hong Kong at 2:58am. Connections anyone? Well yes, of course, I had one to Bangalore. I went to the G36 “temp lounge” and it took 2 hours to re-book me. So said goodbye to my F-Class seat for a J-seat DFW-FRA and then have to travel FRA-DOH-BLR, because I didn’t want to downgrade to Y on BA or others getting to BLR. I am CK. Did I get a phone call from the CK Desk? Nope….so don’t feel so bad, they even treat their beloved CKs like shit too.

  59. Lol @beachfan. Torrential indeed. I live in Los Angeles and it is a normal rain anywhere else and a light rain in the Midwest, but Cali natives tend to get overly dramatic about a light rain. It’s only problematic because of major fires this year and last year leaving a huge burn area and causing mudslides.

    I have detailed my travails with American on here before so I won’t do so again, but a friend was recently telling me they were excited for a flight to the Caribbean, on American no less. I told them good luck with the borderline hostile aa FAs and GAs and they said they had never had a bad experience.

    When they returned they told me about the delays, misconnections and outright rude aa employees they experienced that ruined their vacation. Never again if I can avoid them, I’d rather fly United.

  60. Ben, glad you and Ford made it! Come on over to Delta and enjoy the difference! No airline is perfect or without delays and cancelations but I am delighted to interact with mostly happy and helpful employees whether on the phone, on the ground or in the air. I am relatively new to frequent flying , requalifying as Diamond only for third time and for someone who lives in NYC (with heavy domestic and intl travel in every dorection), there is just no real alternative to Delta and SkyTeam. Perhaps there are more and better options elsewhere but for now I am happy to be a Delta fan in a Delta hub.

    PS: As a Diamond, i experience 4 out of 5 comp upgrades to dom first – that makes international discount biz flying on SkyTeam partners (40% of distance MQD, for example) worth the spend.

  61. Terrible, but not surprising. Was flying PHL-MUC a few months ago. Departing flight was delayed, then delayed again. Tucked into the lounge for some foods and drinks. I know what they say… Stay in the gate area blah blah. But my travel companion and I left in time to be in the boarding area with plenty of time, only to have a gate agent call me as we walked up to the gate. Kudos to AA gate agent. Dumb they post (via AA app and airport monitors) poor updates. I get it for weather related issues But this was not weather related. Go Delta.

  62. Anecdotes are incredibly valuable information. Even the Federal Reserve uses them. On the other hand, some stats like on time performance are horseshit because they’re padded. Really, 2 hours EWR-CLT? Thats 1.5 hours at best.

    I switched from United the last few years (never higher than Gold though) and I’ll hit 60 segments with American this year. Easily a quarter of my flights have been delayed, sometimes a half hour and sometimes hours. Very few of those weather related. Legitimately missing United, to be honest. Haven’t taken a Delta flight in at least 20 years so can’t comment on them.

  63. I could have written this post. I semi commute to/from PHX with AA usually being the logical choice but over the past 2-3 years I have almost never arrived on the flight I was originally booked because of operational problems. And agreed, the way they deal with it is deplorable. A last minute reroute usually means a downgrade and losing your confirmed F class seat and then you get to fight for your miles back. This airline is an absolute mess right now.

  64. Will not ever fly American or United if I can fly SWA, Alaska, or Delta. Problem, my closest airport is Ontario in SoCal. LAX is a living nightmare and far away. Government never should have allowed mergers. AA separated family to middle seats throughout plane on tickets with picked seats six months before flight at full price. We have not flown AA since. But they keep making record profits, meaning complaining does not change a thing with no competition. Yep, we sure do need bigger Government to help us out.

  65. Your day started off like my day when I was trying to meet up with my family for my sister’s birthday. Going on a 4 day cruise to the Bahamas… everyone made it to the cruise except my and I live in Florida.. I had a 6:57am flight out to get into Miami early and with room to spare just in case there was a delay… I arrived at Tampa airport at 4am and by the time Inmade it through security it was almost 5am.. I walked down to my departure gate sat and got comfortable and 15 minutes later I get a notification they canceled the flight and rescheduled the flight for everyone to get on at 3:30pm.. no regards to nothing for their customers no apologies at all.. my cruise cut off till departure was at 3:30 and I told the representative 3 gates down because no one was at my departure that I would miss my cruise..sorry it wasn’t nothing he could do.. I was so pissed I called the customer on the phone who was actually nice and accommodating and found me a flight leaving at 12:57 get to Miami by 1:57… I went home to get some rest and on my way returning to the airport I received a notification stating plane delayed till 1:15.. now I am extremely hot because I’m cutting it on thin ice… finally we were able to board by 1:15…ok hey I might can just make it.. I had called Royal Caribbean explained the situation and was give a half hour extension.. yeah I might just make u would think…. nope!!!! We can’t pull off in the plane because now only one lane open so ours had to get in line… I’m boiling at this point.. ok the plane finally takes off at 2;45 with me having to check in my port by 4pm now… hey maybe I still can make it… we land at 3:30 on the opposite side of the airport to have to run 15 minutes to the luggage place and got there and another planes suit cases were coming around on the turning belt..that’s another 10 minutes…finally my luggage came hopped a Uber to the port to get to the door and couldn’t be let in why!!!! It’s 4:30… I lost out on well over 1200 dollars and all they were willing to cover was a186 plane ticket… they could have my service again

  66. Your candid and honest review of American’s abysmal service is right on point. Delta on the whole I feel is a far superior carrier. They’ve proven to me they value my business. Make the switch both feet first and I suspect you’ll find the same. Safe and pleasant journeys to you Lucky.

  67. Welcome to the dark side!!!!! Welcome to Delta!!!!!! As a DM for the last 3 years I have been treated like a king for US airlines standards.

  68. To the ones asking about Lucky’s OW Emerald: who said that not flying AA anyway will prohibit him from getting OW Emerald? He can just credit all his OW flights on BA where OW Emerald is much easier to achieve when you fly long distance premium class. Sure, he wouldn’t get access to First Class Lounge will flying domestic UA, DL or whatever but Lucky seems to be flying on a international business of first class ticket most of the times anyway and would be able to get into UA Polaris Lounge for example when connecting domestically and there’s always the Centurion lounges.

  69. Asa regular traveller you should know that if you are on separate tickets then you are NOT connecting. So you have to take these risks in your stride. So stop moaning about them.

  70. I never book anything on separate tickets unless I stay overnight inbetween. Sooner or later this will get you.

  71. I’m at 35 AA segments, half or so connecting this year and have had no major delays or cancellations. The only time I had a issue was arriving into LAX 15 minutes early we spent 30 minutes on the ground taxiing between the remote stands and the eagles nest trying to find a place to park. LAX is just a terrible airport to connect in. If you stick to JFKLAX and the international flights with dedicated gate space then you’ll avoid LAX problems.

  72. Same thing happened to me with UNITED. I switched to American after being a 1k status with UNITED for many years. Have not experienced much trouble yet with American, but understand that it is probably just a matter of time.

  73. On behalf of the professional Aircraft Maintenance Technicians at AA, let me be the first to tell you…You’re welcome. Thanks to our dedication and UNCOMPROMISING work ethic to not put your safety in jeopardy, making sure you sit on the ground until your plane has been deemed safe and legal to fly, you are still here to write your little blog and complain about the hardships of your gravity defying, trans continental, and ocean crossing journeys. We will continue to repair or legally defer every maintenance issue, and will ground your plane in the event that the issue involves safety of flight, regardless of how inconvenient it is for you. And again, you’re welcome!

  74. @Buford seems to think his customers should be thanking him, instead of the other way around.

    The impatient people on those planes are the only reason you have a job at all, mister.

  75. AMEN! Idespife flying AA and out of Tyson McGhee is pure hell. No direct flights everything has to go to Charlotte first and they cancel Ty’s to CLT CONSTANTLY.

    I am flying AA in January and August unfortunately no other choice and praying that I actually get to where I’m supposed to be going on time or reasonable similance.

    NEVER have I seen an airline with so many crew issues!!!

    Someone needs to get involved with them, their false advertising and fraudulent business practices.

    Should be “Here’s a ticket for today you may get there today maybe two or three days later!!”

  76. Not only is AA getting worse with their on time performance, customer service, trying to obtain upgrades, and inflight service. Remember for all of those who have the Citi World Exe Credit cards and others that qualify you for Admiral’s Club access. As of next November, the only way in is if you are flying on AA that day. I get it that other airlines are doing that, but what is the point then of paying $459 dollars a year for a service that I can no longer use unless I am on AA.

    Pathetic and Doug Parker has got to go!

  77. @Christy

    Yeah, you are right. I travel to Miami monthly and that can be torrential, and what we had in LAX would just be called rain by folks from there. But no-one would call it good weather.

    The rolling delays are definitely and issue, and it is very disrespectful to passengers.

  78. “Add in that service at American has hit rock bottom, and this airline just feels like dealing with a government organization rather than a for-profit business (no disrespect intended to government organizations).”

    Last two times I took Amtrak the trains ran on time, the crews were very friendly, and the dining-car food was actually very good!

    Last flight on AA I felt like everyone regarded customers as an impediment at best, an active annoyance at worst. Last month on DL I felt welcomed and appreciated, and I was in coach. For Thanksgiving on Spirit and Southwest, same thing, except for one rude FA on Southwest. All flights on time, except for the DL flight ATL-SRQ, which was about 20 minutes late and the pilot apologized both on takeoff and landing even though it was really quite minor.

    When a ULCC and the government are both beating you on reliability and customer service, you’re doing something wrong.

  79. Maybe time to tweet Everytime this happens by every flier until they wake up. We must vote w our wallet until their board installs leaders who recognize we do have choice
    As a near million miler I am fed up as well. Clearly they do not understand decades of loyalty has not only a past but future cash value.
    Recently after rendering medical assistance on a flight London, I did not even get a thank you from the airlines.
    Maybe Delta will recognize my status to get me going.. hmmmm…..

  80. But Air Tahiti wouldn’t have had to rebook you, correct? You could have lost the miles and had to rebook yourselves?
    I’m honestly just trying to understand as that has been my experience, but you don’t seem worried about it.

  81. Come back to Alaska. I don’t know what on-time performance is like for AS at their SEA hub or at LAX, but at PDX where I am based, they always push back early and arrive early. AS has such good on time performance out of PDX that I have been using them to connect to Southwest through DAL the last two years and I have yet to miss a connection. I know one day I probably will, but as an MVPG, I can always cancel for free either the AS ticket or the Southwest ticket online if I get into tight connections. The people at AS are so nice. I used to be Platinum on American, sweating out their ridiculous mechanical delays, and I am so glad I left for AS where the people are so friendly. I love talking to the MVPG priority employees based in Boise or Phoenix, or Seattle, etc. They are like talking on the phone to someone in my grandma’s hometown. Then use Delta to make up for where AS falls short in their route.

  82. I flew SFO-LAX-LHR yesterday and I booked six hours at LAX because i don’t trust LAX operations or SFO operations. But that’s an airport problem compounded by AA’s lousy operations.

    Also, I work for the government and I’d never tolerate my employees treating our customers the way that AA treats theirs. We actually value customer service and drill it into our staff.

  83. I’m PLT and have been for years … I had the worst cancellations and delays on AA this year … including a funeral to SDF where I paid top dollar to fly nonstop … both nonstop flights were cancelled and don’t ask about how badly the connections went … including a gate door slammed shut in my face and the plane spent the next hour connected to the bridge. WTF?! No explanations, no apologies, no consideration on each leg, which was worse than the next. If I ran my business this way, I would have no customers left. #getitogetherAA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *