American Customer Relations #FAIL

As I’m sure all of you know by now, on Thursday American announced some huge changes to their AAdvantage program. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest offense on their part was the lack of advance notice and the poor horrible way they communicated the changes.

Anyway, reader Tom emailed customer relations the following to voice his displeasure about the changes:

Over the years, I have been disappointed in the way various airlines have devalued their frequent flyer programs, but today’s changes to AAdvantage — especially the elimination of the Explorer awards — are unacceptable. They are in a phrase, simply bait-and-switch.

You’ve lured us into giving you our loyalty with an expectation that we will be able to have a certain kind of experience and reward for that loyalty, and now you’ve taken the reward away. It is dishonest, it is cynical, and I’m guessing that if any business treated you this way, you would feel as angry and cheated as I do, now. The fine print may say that you can make changes whenever you want, but the advertising, the emails, the award charts the promotions, have all created a very different expectation. I don’t do business with dishonest people or dishonest companies.

There were those of us who went to bat for you as you tried to compete with other carriers, who wrote to congress on your behalf when you wanted to create the relationship with British Airways across the Atlantic, and this is how you repay us. How dare you?

Here’s the response he received from customer relations:

Dear Mr. [Name]:

We understand that your AAdvantage® Gold privileges are important, and we acknowledge your comments about the changes to your free bag allowance. Our intention is not to detract from the importance of any of our elite levels, but to provide recognition to all elite members appropriate to their status level.

Of course, as an AAdvantage® Gold member, you will continue to be able to check your first bag free of charge. You will also continue to enjoy many benefits not offered to non-elite customers, such as priority boarding and expanded upgrade opportunities, just to name a couple.

Mr. [Name], we appreciate your business very much, and we hope to have the opportunity to welcome you aboard again soon.

Sincerely,
[Name]
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Ouch! I can appreciate that American is clearly trying to respond to the “feedback” they’re getting as promptly as possible, but with that kind of quality…

Comments

  1. Looks like all the UA 1k’s that jumped ship back in 2012 on the free status match (me included), and happily never looked back…might be doing so shortly. I will say I have had nothing but excellent service on the phone, in the air and on twitter with AA, so if that continues I’ll just grin and bear these changes. Although I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  2. This is pretty funny – it’d be funnier if it didn’t happen.

    I emailed these jokers about a month ago about having my Econ+ seats demoted (I’m a Platinum) and they offered a similarly off-base response.

    Of course, you can’t even reply. You have to go back to the website and jump through hoops.

    AA is very customer-service oriented. Pathetic.

  3. Wished he had included the name of the AA Customer Relations rep. Somebody’s head should have fallen.

  4. Looks to me like a “cut and paste” that went horribly bad. I imagine they simply have the canned responses on their system and simply copied the wrong response.

  5. “…comments about the changes to your free bag allowance.”??? What comments? Unless there was more text to Tom’s message than you included in the post, the AA response is another typical response for typical Customer Service organizations: The response totally fails to address the issue raised … and addresses an issue not raised. Sigh …

    (IHMO, these types of non-responses are not unique to AA. To me, it is a pattern with Customer Service at any large company. I’m not sure I believe a human being even reads most submittals unless they already has a “case number” assigned to them.)

  6. Reminds me of a constituent services email response I got the one time I sent an email to Congressman John Lewis’ office when I lived in his district. My email had specifically addressed some problems I had with facts they used in their boilerplate comments on a specific subject. Their response was the exact boilerplate position statement that I had quoted and criticized in my email.

  7. I’m surprised anyone is surprised. You’re no longer flying American. You’re simply flying USAir in red, white and blue planes. Ask anyone from CLT, PHL, or especially PHX what there is to like about their hometown airline.

    Most will say “nothing”

  8. I had a similar experience. I was tweeting at them, their response “The changes were made after careful consideration” was met with a blistering retort from myself that no doubt left their reasoning in tatters. So they responded with the exact same thing.

    Later, I really went for it and said something along the lines of “I hope you and Suzanne let a bunch of loyal fans down today.” Their response was “Oh no! What happened?”

    I kinda feel bad today. Kinda.

  9. sorry, the last tweet I said should read “I hope you and Suzanne KNOW you let a bunch of loyal fans down today.”

  10. @Lucky,
    I re-read your blog again today and I still felt extrmely angry with AA. The letter you posted clearly represented my strong hatred against AA that I felt I was betrayed by a dispicable man guy who pretended to be an honest man.

    When hilton mistreated me, I gave up my diamone status to switch to marriott and stay away from hiltons for two years (100+ nights at marriott annually). This time, I am also pretty much devoted to dump AA as much as possible. I hope when we unite together, we can make AA feel ashamed and apologize and swear it would never happen again. Can we?

  11. Don’t think they are that bothered by the reaction they are getting. With the merger of US Airway and American there are only a few big airlines left in the US that you can use your miles on especially if you are looking to fly first or business class. The less competition, the more airlines can get away with.

    Lucky, what do you think are the odds they will give advance notice the next time they make negative changes?

  12. This is a “copy” and “paste” email. Same crap they told me. I am a lifetime Gold and that is now the same as having no status. Priority boarding? Anyone can buy that. I cannot get my preferred seat assignments and cannot fly economy comfort for free. RIP AA!!!!

  13. I am 100% sure this is an automatic response for every complaint. I filed the complaint to DOC and they forwarded to AA about the explorer award gone. AA sent me the EXACT same response as you posted.

    I replied the response and told them this is not even what I complained about. Got another automatic response:

    “Thanks for your email however we are no longer able to accept replies. All emails will be deleted. We value your feedback and urge you to contact us at http://www.aa.com/customerrelations.”

    Oops.

  14. Decisions were made at top levels of the company. I’m curious what other response one would expect to get from Customer Relations? What wording did you expect to see in CR’s reply?

  15. adding insult to injury.

    its the big 3 (aa/ua/dl) against millions small fish like us. i proposed again regardless of the program you are in, tweet/email/call the daylights out of whichever airlines that did the deed. we cannot sit on sidelines and hope whatever devaluations wont happen to your program, it will, unless they hear a louder outcry from the group customers.

  16. Made a similar email complaint emphasizing disappointment at lack of notice and loss of explorer awards and got a voicemail about baggage policy changes. Ghastly response, if ever there was one! I got Parkered!

  17. @Topgunner and lucky: That should be the new hashtag for any and all AA complaints on Twitter: #IGotParkered

  18. i got a similarly canned response when i posted on their facebook page. i complained about the lack of notice of the immediate changes to the program (e.g. removal of oneworld explorer awards)and this is what they replied:

    “Jeff, we value your business and loyalty to AAdvantage. The notice given today for AAnytime awards changing takes effect June 1st.”

    does not inspire much confidence when customer service cannot even communicate clearly about the changes…

  19. Personally, the Explorer award is the thing I can’t get over. That is the longer term loyalty FU. I built my balance for 2 years. I hope they reconsider, it is such a small percentage of their award redemptions. Are you listening disAAdvantage?

  20. The US Platinum desk sent me a pretty pathetic form reply as well. About as generic as it possibly gets. The funny thing is that I work in an industry where we send tons of form letters, and the one I got was so bad that had it been my industry whoever wrote it would have gotten fired.

  21. Anyone that gets such a ridiculous reply like this should seriously consider printing it out and physically mailing it along with yet another complaint to the AA Customer Relations address (as another form of communication). This is what I’m going to do if I get such a shitty reply, if they finally reply to my email (to Suzanne, cc’ing Parker and customer.relations@aa.com).

  22. So the government gave in to a merger that never would have been allowed under the same circumstances 10-15 years ago. There is such ating as a private anti-trust suit. I am licking my lips over the negative publicity. Imagine your elite ff filing an antitrust suit against you. I just have to think of a basis, The baggage fee change might be one

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