Does American have AAngels?

American’s Executive Platinum members (top tier elites) like to refer to Admirals Club agents and phone agents as “AAngels.” As someone that previously only flew United, I thought there were some things they did a great job with on the elite recognition front. For example, I find that gate agents and flight attendants treat 1Ks especially well. At United gate agents often recognized my status and said something along the lines of “oh you’re a 1K, of course we can do that for you.” Along the same lines, once aboard, meal orders are taken by status, and there’s generally good recognition of elite status (I’ve been thanked a countless number of times on United over the years for being a 1K).

Interestingly, American seems to be exactly the opposite — I haven’t found status recognition to be especially good among flight attendants or gate agents, but it has been exceptional among Admirals Club agents and especially phone agents.

At American it’s clear that the Executive Platinum phone agents are actually specially trained and given some leeway in what they can do. The agents are friendly and professional, and they’re less concerned about the rules and more concerned about understanding customers’ needs. For example, I recently needed to make a change on a ticket due to a rather complicated problem I was having. I figured they’d say no or that it would take authorization from a supervisor. Instead, the agent identified my problem and was able to waive the change fee on a revenue ticket without having to get authorization to do so in less than a minute, even apologizing for the problem I was having (even though it was totally outside of her control).

As she said, “here at the Executive Platinum desk we can waive just about any fee if it’s for good reason.” So it’s great to be able to talk to agents that are actually empowered to help customers. So far I’ve not once been put on hold for an Executive Platinum agent to go to talk to a supervisor, while I can’t say the same about any other airline’s top tier phone agents.

One observation about the phone agents, though — their automated greetings drive me nuts. No, I’m not talking about the hold music or script, but when the agent answers the phone, they have a pre-recorded greeting that they put together — something like “This is Ms. Jones at the Executive Desk, how can I help you?” It drives me crazy because sometimes they’ll add something to their pre-recorded greeting “live,” like my name, though there’s a huge delay and it gets awkward because I’m not sure if they’ll say something else or not. Or sometimes they’ll sound totally different than their pre-recorded greeting, in which case I usually can’t help but laugh. If you haven’t noticed it, give American a call and listen for it when an agent answers the phone. Enough about that, though.

Similar to the phone agents, the Admirals Club agents couldn’t be nicer, though that’s not a function of status. It’s the little touches that count, and that’s where they shine. I’m addressed by name every time I enter the Admirals Club, and the customer service agents don’t view you as an inconvenience when there are irregular operations.

That being said, I generally find Red Carpet Clubs to be nicer than Admirals Clubs, though Red Carpet Clubs have agents that range from awesome to awful. In my experience there are 10% of agents that truly couldn’t care less, 80% that are just fine, and 10% that are phenomenal.

Anyway, just a few observations. United rocks at the gate and onboard, and American rocks over the phone and in the club (and not “in da club” in the Flo Rida sense either).

Comments

  1. Agree about the EXP phone greetings, seems pretty unnecessary to me. Also, sometimes they don’t always say “Executive Plat Desk”, so I wonder if I actually have the EXP desk.

  2. Sitting in SFO RCC club right now, after getting some outstanding help from an agent, so I’m definitely a happy camper.

    While some RCC clubs appear a bit worn and in need of a refurb, this one is quite nice.

    As for Admirals’ clubs, the one in Dallas is easily the nicest domestic club I’ve been in, bar none.

  3. Hm. Are we becoming a bunch of picky old ladies with our knitting in a snit? One might be grateful for the Exec. Platinum phone number and service – and move on to business. A great answering phrase might be, “[Airline Name]Executive Desk, this is [First Name]. How can I help you? Or, if they already know your name, “How can I help you, Mr. Customer?” Let’s don’t fuss about the greeting and focus on how they make seats happen on the flights that you want. The Exec. Desk agent’s ability to waive some fees for premium class clients is a no-brainer and also expected. Allowing strange and unusual routings that break lots of well-considered rules and for obvious mile runners, is an entirely different subject. When asking for those variances, the caller should expect a a polite, respectful refusal. At the end of the day, the airline still has to make a profit. While the major lines certainly WILL honor your mileage status and the associated perks, both you and they recognize that the few hobby flyers (mileage runners) like you do not really contribute much to their bottom line. They offer the necessary respect for your accumulated miles, but there is another little code on their screen that marks you as a Runner or some such. While it is all legitimate and legal and certainly fair play, mileage runners should always assume that the airline and especially that Executive Desk agent know exactly what you are doing – and why. When they decline a request to vary some routing rule, please know that they understand what you are trying and they still have to generate some measure of profit for their line. When your request for some small variance will result in a ’round-the-world’ “F” seat, and at net fees that won’t even cover their catering costs for your seat, don’t be surprised when the politely decline. The men and women who work that Executive desk are not fools and they (usually)know the finer points of the rules at least as well as you do. With all of that said, yours is a wonderful, fun, often funny and enjoyable hobby. Reading about your trips and exploits is great fun. The major lines tolerate the few of you, in an effort to provide usable benefits to the folks who usually pay for their upper cabin seats. They also derive some measure of PR benefit from your exploits, but not enough to generate genuine income. It has been – and continues tobe a great run and great fun for you and your readers, but heads-up! One of these days, the game-like experience is going to end. The progressive tightening of benefits and rules is obvious and all of the lines and alliances want to limit their exposures and obligations. Over time, they will do so. You and the few other runners and collectors will certainly get your due, but newbies won’t make the grade. It is coming… Serious revenue fliers like Mr. [name?] UA’s 10 million mile seat guy will continue to enjoy whatever they want, but their numbers will decline. In the end, a fun hobby of many years duration will eventually squeeze itself into oblivion. You have a degree and a warm brain, so I I know that you have a backup plan. With serious , one of these days you might have to earn a living! With good-natured chuckles, my best wishes to you and your mileage seeking colleagues. It really IS a fun game and you are one of the handfull of world class masters. Next time, we’ll address another, new subject, one that may be currently limiting your progress. Most sincere best wishes, -Craig (Cedarglen).

  4. @Jim Yes–there is an actual EXP desk with EXP-specific desk. However, during high-volume call times (such as in MX situations), you might end up with a fake EXP agent. When an agent answers–if the words “Executive Platinum Desk” precede the agent’s name, you have reached the EXP Desk. If the reverse, you have not. Read more here if you’re interested: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-aadvantage/1168313-how-tell-if-youre-really-talking-executive-platinum-desk.html

  5. Very interesting to ready your thoughts on American so far. I’ve had the opposite experience so far (though not an EXP) and am more impressed by American so far in my travels than I am with United. YMMV, as always, and I’ll have a post in the near future with my experiences. Thanks for this, Ben… I’m happy to hear the grass isn’t necessarily greener from your perspective.

  6. I was under the impression, and that may have come from JonNYC 10 years back when I started with AA after a comp from UA, that all EXP agents are supervisors, so they don’t have a need to check with someone else to make a decision. The buck stops with them. In 10 years of dealing with the EXP desk, with both awards and systemwides, I can’t recall a single time the agent wasn’t able to process my request. Hopefully your time with AA will be as flawless.

  7. RCCs nicer than ACs? I don’t agree with that generalization, but there are some great clubs and some not-so-great clubs in both systems, so I guess it depends on what clubs you are comparing.

  8. When will you tell us if you prefer being AA EXP or UA 1k ???

    I can’t wait to read that post… but something tells me you will refuse to pick a side? haha

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