Another Incompetent Response From American Customer Relations

Nowadays it’s not often I complain to an airline or hotel. Best I can remember, it’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve sent a formal email complaint.

The last time I emailed American customer relations

American is my primary airline, and I do everything I can to compliment employees (whether it’s by emailing customer relations, mentioning flight attendants on Twitter, or giving out “job well done” certificates), because I’d rather be focused on positive reinforcement.

I wrote on the blog about the last time I contacted American customer relations, which was last May after I had a great flight on American, and wanted to compliment the crew.

American customer relations does a great job in responding to Executive Platinum members quickly. Last time they responded to my email within 12 minutes. Unfortunately the response completely missed the mark, and didn’t even coherently acknowledge what I was saying. It’s frustrating when you can’t even praise an airline employee without feeling like you’re being misunderstood, and is a sad reflection of the airline’s “premium” customer response team.

My most recent interaction with American customer relations

I emailed customer relations for the second time in a year yesterday (the previous exchange being the compliment I sent last year), and for the first time in years to complain.

I was flying American’s A321 business class from New York to Los Angeles on Sunday night, and none of the power ports on the plane were working. This was extremely frustrating, as I had work I wanted to get done on the flight, though due to a mostly empty laptop and no power ports, I couldn’t be productive.

American-Business-Class-A321 - 3

The crew said that the issue had already been written up on a previous flight and hadn’t been fixed, which is what I find frustrating. To me the most basic amenities available on a plane are power ports and wifi, and on a transcon flight one is of limited use without the other.

Sure, if I’d known the flight wouldn’t have had working power ports I would have come with a fully charged laptop. But American promises power ports on these flights, so my expectation was that I could charge my laptop onboard.

American-A321-Power-Port

I sent American an email expressing my disappointment. I didn’t even reference that the entertainment was glitchy and froze every few minutes (literally), or that the crew was extremely lazy. Because I generally find it makes sense to stick to the core, black-and-white issue. And that issue is that I wasn’t able to work on a flight with a block time of 6.5 hours because they didn’t have the power ports they promised available.

My point in the email was to say that the power ports on the entire plane were broken, which is terrible for a premium transcontinental flight. Furthermore, I explained that the power issue had been written up on a previous flight, and nothing was done about it.

The response from American

I received an email response 19 minutes after I submitted my complaint. That’s insanely fast.

Unfortunately the only thing impressive was the response time, because just like last time, the response didn’t address my issue:

Thank you for your interest in American Airlines, more specifically, the use of powerports during flight.

We are sorry to hear that there was no power to the power port when you plugged in. Each set of outlets in a row can provide up to 225 watts of power, combined, with a maximum of 150 watts per plug. If one device is pulling its maximum allotment, this leaves only 75 watts for the second plug, meaning there are times where there may not be enough power to run 2 devices. Regardless of the reason why there was no power, we are sorry that you were inconvenienced.

While we can understand your concern about the cabin deficiencies you brought up, we assure you our commitment to safety is absolute. No aircraft is ever permitted to leave the gate with any safety-related item that hasn’t been repaired. There is no relationship between the reliability of customer service items, and the trustworthiness of the safety features of our aircraft.

Naturally you should expect a properly functioning aircraft seat whenever you travel with us. With that in mind and as a gesture of goodwill we’ve credited your AAdvantage® account with bonus miles. We hope you will give us another opportunity soon to demonstrate our ability to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

We’ll continue to provide updates as American brings you more technology options so that you can be more productive or more entertained during your flight. For more information, please visit www.aa.com/powerports.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We hope to have the opportunity to welcome you aboard again soon.

I was explicit that the power ports were broken on the entire plane. But they clearly didn’t bother reading it:

  • They suggest that the issue may have been that other people in my row were using power ports
  • Instead of acknowledging the issue and saying that they’ll make sure that the plane’s power ports are fixed, they say that safety is their top priority, and that I can check American’s website for more information on power ports

The “gesture of goodwill” they offered me was 2,500 AAdvantage miles. I would have been fine if they offered nothing, if they actually bothered responding to my email in a coherent way.

I responded with the following (strongly worded) email:

I appreciate the quick response, though am frustrated by the lack of comprehension of my very basic issue. I don’t provide feedback to American often, and when I do, it’s typically to compliment an employee.

This is the second time in a row I’ve emailed American where I feel like someone is responding to a different email than the one I sent (the last one, ironically, was to compliment a great flight attendant I had, something which seems easy enough to acknowledge).

The email I sent specifically referenced that power was out for the entire plane. It had nothing to do with my plug. It had nothing to do with the limit of watts per row. It just wasn’t working for the entire plane, and the purser acknowledged it had been written up previously, and clearly nothing was done to fix it.

What value is there in responding to emails within 20 minutes if they don’t address the actual issue? The response I receive certainly doesn’t make me feel like my frustration for not being able to work for six hours is understood, or the importance of American delivering on their promises (you reference aa.com/powerports, which explicitly says there should have been power available on the flight).

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a response time of 19 minutes to the above email, and for that matter haven’t yet heard back.

Bottom line

While a small sample size, having my only two interactions with American customer relations over the past year be this incompetent leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Is it that tough for them to acknowledge a very basic issue and pledge that they’ll get it fixed?

If this is how they respond to Executive Platinum members, I can’t imagine how non-elite members are treated.

What has been your experience with American customer relations? Am I off base in my frustration?

Comments

  1. I got the same type of nonsensical response from AA customer service about a month ago. My fiancee and I booked roundtrip tickets for our honeymoon in May. I randomly logged into our reservation and noticed that the equipment had been changed. However, despite paying for Main Cabin Extra on all 4 segments we were randomly moved to regular economy seats on 3 segments. I moved us back to the Main Cabin Extra seats which were all open on every segment. Our flight time was also changed so that we had about a 20 minute connection in ORD which probably would have caused us to miss our flight and ruin the trip! We never received any notification so if I hadn’t randomly checked our reservation we could have gotten completely screwed as seats and flights filled up.

    I emailed AA customer service to complain about the involuntary downgrades and flight changes without any notification. An automated email would have been fine to notify us of any changes! I received a borderline nonsensical response from AA Customer Service saying that they could not be expected to personally call every passenger with every change, and that their flight itinerary changes “minimally impacted” passenger travel.

  2. If you replied to the “do not reply” email, then you won’t get a response. You need to file another complaint and reference your original one for them to follow it.

  3. As long as Aadvantage has reasonable low award availability I don’t care about power ports.

    Your second response was TLDR for the reps and sounds whiney.

    Maybe the ports problem was written up but they are waiting on a part or an appropriate time to fix it. They aren’t going to mess up their schedules for the power ports.

    They also aren’t going to call the maintenance guys to give you a status update on the repair ticket.

    Delta would have given you more miles but those are worth less so it’s a wash.

    So really you just want them to listen to you, fair enough. But are you ready to subsidize the cost of staffing enough reps to personally be responding to all elite email complaints in a timely fashion? Nothing is free.

  4. Seriously, AA’s CS team doesn’t read very well.

    I’ve only sent in two complaints in the past–one regarding MCE seating for a oneworld sapphire and one regarding a premium check in agent trying to charge me for a single checked bag (I was in the premium line, meaning oneworld sapphire at LEAST, AND I carry 3 AA credit cards which should entitle me to free bags. It was absurd).

    The responses on both were fairly quick, but completely disregarded my issue. It was infuriating. I would literally rather them not respond than try to sound concerned when they clearly didn’t read my email.

    I hope some PR manager in Dallas gets a whooping as a result of your blog post. Thanks for covering this

  5. Yesterday I emailed American about deplorable food served onboard in first (and I mean disgusting eggs and potatoes ) and they responded back saying they know first class seat comfort and amenities at important to all and will forward to ten proper department. Didn’t address be specific issue at all. I can clearly say of the 3 big airlines American is falling the fastest when it comes to service while Delta and United are improving. Although if you email Delta they simply don’t respond at all. Lol. Face it. We can’t win !

  6. Last week I spent over an hour and twenty minutes on the phone with a customer service agent about my platium miles on a QR flight. They were telling me I was not entitled to my Platium 100% mile bonus on a QR and I kept reading them the website.. Very frustrating. Then they tried to offer me half the value as compensation for being on the phone so long instead of my actual miles owed… No thanks. I wouldn’t have made such a big deal for a tiny bit of miles but CMB-DOH-PHL-RDU is not a small amount.

  7. @ Nick — The email didn’t come from a “do not reply” email in this instance. Maybe that’s different depending on elite status?

  8. Interestingly I am in the midst of a complaint myself, and am extremely frustrated by it. To your point, they missed the crux of my complaint and further, it felt that they were trying to blame another department.

    I am not an elite member by a long shot, but have enough miles to redeem a one-way first class ticket from NYC to SIN.

    I called AA a week ago to book an award flight, and was delighted to get an availability. I chose my seats and provided my credit card details to pay for the taxes, but perhaps due to my excitement and inexperience, I forgot to ask for a record locator number before putting down the phone (since the agent said that the details will be emailed to me). I then started making other plans based on my arrival date.

    Needless to say, no email came. I called back the next day and to my horror, no booking was made. I emailed customer service and complained, asking specifically at the end what the agent did with my credit card details.

    Response: “We apologize for the inconvenience you experienced when booking your award travel. Although AAdvantage Customer Service is not involved in the reservations process and has no authority to “open up” award seating, let me assure you that our colleagues in AAdvantage Reservations at 1-800-882-8880 will do everything possible to accommodate you.”

    Although the response (which I received 4 days later) may not seem as bad as yours, I felt that they were trying to brush me away by blaming their Reservations unit. Of course, Reservations cannot accommodate me at all if there are no award flights available (I have called them almost everyday since but to no luck). And at no point in time did they address my credit card question. I have been a victim of identity theft in the past and was fearful this time round as well.

  9. I’ve been on an flown an AA A321 where all the power ports were dead as well. The crew wasn’t very helpful.

    There used to be an executive customer relations number that I could call when I had issues. Most recently I’ve found that the phone number has been disconnected.

  10. I can understand why no power ports would be annoying, but don’t you think if they could have fixed them they would have? I’m guessing fixing the issue would have caused a large delay so AA planned to fix when they either had a spare aircraft to sub or a longer downtime.

    I guess I just don’t see the reason to complain other that to get compensation. AA wants the power ports to work. If this was happening every other flight I’d complain, but seeing this a one off issue I think i’d give them some slack. Other than getting a response that begged your forgiveness I’m not sure what else you want.

    I really enjoy your blog but sometimes I wonder why you make such a big deal of such little things.

  11. I have tweeted American a few times when I’ve had issues and get some lame responses pretty quickly. I was treated so poorly by a ticket agent in first class at LAX last month that I swore I would never fly American again. The response from the Twitter team upset me even more. I’m only gold status.

  12. I’m not an EXP…not even a gold. Started collecting points via bonuses, AAdvantage Shopping/Dining, etc. specifically so that my wife, son, and I could fly to visit my birth country and fly business/first class for the long flight. I recently had a terrible experience flying AA back from Punta Cana and emailed them two separate emails for two separate issues. I was surprised that the response I got was a consolidated response where I felt that they actually read my concerns and apologized for all of them collectively in one email. They not only credited my account, but also my wife’s account because they probably saw that we were on the same itinerary. I was a bit annoyed at the 2,000 mile credit since I paid for a revenue business class ticket for this flight so I wrote back and they responded pretty quickly(not 19 minutes quickly but within a business day) and doubled the amount of miles credited. So, my experience with email customer service has been great the first time. The service I had on the flights back from the DR on the other hand, was awful and am not looking forward to flying AA metal in business class on old 777-200 angle flat seats for 14 hours next month.

  13. @Lucky – I am EXP myself. All emails from CR, as far as I know and has been reported by many others, are not monitored via email – you have to file another online form.

  14. @ Nick — Now that I think about it, I recall a similar message in past emails about not responding directly, but there’s no message here saying so. Wonder if they accidentally left it out, or if something changed.

  15. @Lucky – I responded to their response email and got a response so I don’t think the replies are going unmonitored.

  16. An airline isn’t going to delay or cancel a flight for power ports. Things break on airplanes, and as they go in and out of maintenance will be fixed, but they aren’t going to disrupt a flight schedule for thousands of people downline for what is absolutely not a “basic amenity”. A basic amenity would be a working lavatory. Power ports are a luxury and is more of an inconvenience that they weren’t working at best.

  17. @ Agshdjdjd dkkddk — Sure, everyone in life wants to be listened to. And yes, personally I’m willing to “subsidize” whatever it costs for someone to take 30 seconds to say “I’m sorry, the power ports were out throughout the plane. We realized how important this is to our passengers, and will be sure it gets fixed.” Seems easy enough, and arguably even faster than them finding the copy & paste response which they sent me instead.

  18. @Lucky/@JP – That would be new information to me – hopefully it is true because that would be an increase in service – even if the replies are still a little nonsensical. 🙂

  19. In answer to your wondering about how non explats are treated, I complained because we weren’t put on the upgrade list for one of the two segments for which we had paid our money and miles back in December, 2014 and again in January, 2015. To date (14 months) I have not even gotten a response. Not sure whether no response is better or worse than a stupid one.

  20. @ Chris — I disagree. A lavatory is a necessary, and not a “basic amenity,” in my opinion. An amenity is defined as “a desirable or useful feature or facility of a building or place.” I don’t consider that to include a lavatory, given that the existence of lavatories is regulated.

    So I *do* think power ports and wifi are the most basic amenity.

  21. Hi Lucky,

    Love your blog. I don’t feel your frustration is off base. On a recent (LAX/JFK) transcon return flight in Business class, my tv was finicky, the hand controller refused to cooperate even after 2 reboots by the crew, and my armrest didn’t retract. The crew seemed indifferent to my concerns, which annoyed me as I was flying on a full revenue ticket.

    That said, some people seem to think the cabin is their personal airborne office and will throw a Tasmanian tantrum if everything is not perfect, although I’m certain that didn’t apply in your situation. I also think it is patently unfair to categorize AA’S response based on status. Whether you fly 100 miles, or a million, a customer’s concerns should equally as valid.

  22. Same experience. I wrote a very strongly worded email about an IDB I experienced without compensation (even including a threat to file a DOT complaint), and got a generic email back about boarding times / procedures. Honestly it feels like they are simply scanning emails for keywords to quickly match with a canned response. Frankly wouldn’t be surprised if this is mostly handled by a computer, with maybe the occasional human spot check…

  23. This is completely typical of my experience filing complaints with AA. I’ll spare everyone the content of my recent complaint, but the response is always the same and along the lines of Lucky’s. They insert some boilerplate language which tangentially references a policy related to your concern, but never admit to any wrongdoing. I think this must be some sort of legal policy whereby reps are never told to admit to anything other than “they can do better”.

  24. @ Rick — Agreed they should be, but in practice they *are* prioritized differently. Executive Platinums are put to the front of the queue, and I think there are even different reps who handle those emails. So my point wasn’t to say that that’s how it should be, but rather that given how they prioritize emails, it makes it even worse.

  25. Makes me dearly miss the US Airways preferred customer service email liaisons. They would always respond within 12-24 hours, but it was always a personalized response, even signed with the specific name of the representative you were dealing with. My specific questions were always addressed, and it was clear they actually read what you wrote. It was fantastic, and I don’t know why there wasn’t more uproar when this went away as part of the merger.

    As someone who deals with the IT world for much of the day, I can almost guarantee you that a response time of 19 minutes to an email means it’s being auto-generated. There’s some algorithm/intelligence there looking for key words in your email (in this case, probably the phrase “power ports”) and then it’s replying with a set of prepared responses.

    It’s unfortunate that more legacy AA flyers never experienced the US Airways email team to know what they’re missing now.

  26. Lucky I am with you. Its so frustrating to write a long well written email with a valid complaint just to receive a canned message from American Airlines. In the past when I had big complaints with AA I resort to BBB because that way I am guaranteed a response.
    But I have had some other “minor” complaints when I just wanted the re-assurance that my voice is being heard and most importantly feel a valued customer.

  27. As an EP, I have tried calling, emailing or tweeting, and any request or comment about anything is met with standard answers of non help.

    At least US Airways Chairman’s felt cared for, and the US Chairmans desk would go out of their way just to give us a good experience.

    As an American EP, nothing. What’s the point of even calling or emailing. Who even cares about 2500 miles when they increase their one way redemptions by 35000 miles.

    I used to be able to email the chairman’s desk directly at USAir. Now everything at AA is a webform.

    Terrible.

  28. I have no status with AA. Flew on their a321t in F last summer using Alaska miles. The seat recline was broken. I sent them an email about it, and received a response in about one day with some of the exact same verbiage that you received in your email from them. They didn’t address the issue at all but did give me 20k aadvantage miles.

  29. Ah but what will you EP do? Stop flying Doug’s mess? AA has gone to shi! So what will you do about it? Just write lame complaints or vote with your wallet?

  30. Maybe you were looking out for the good of society and wanted to write to American so that the next batch of passengers are not inconvenienced. But most likely you were just fishing for miles and that’s why you are frustrated because you didn’t get enough from them.

    You could write up bad things about American, people are not going to stop flying them.

  31. Lucky, I am still amazed that you get 19 min response time. I am not amazed about them missing the mark. I wrote several complaints through their web form for my parents’ flight. I booked award tickets for my parents using AAdvantage, with CX and AS as operating carriers. On their inbound, they were denied issuance of boarding pass by CX at LAX on their way to CGK even though they just flew their first leg on AS. CX claimed AA cancelled the tickets. In short they were stranded for 2 days in LAX because AA could only rebook them on a mix of AA and JAL 2 days later. I had to write complaints to the DOT to get AA to actually respond, and they took full 60 days to complain, the maximum allowed by the DOT. They offered me or my parents nothing, and they blamed CX for the cancellation but offered no root cause. They refused further communications on the issue and consider the case closed.

  32. I normally don’t complain to airlines but this time I felt I had to do it. I complained to AA about a flight where they started boarding a flight that they knew would not take off, based on what I overheard and saw. Every time I called in to change my flight after the plane was promptly unloaded, I kept hearing I wasn’t able to switch because I had already checked in. Why they would check in a plane that they know wouldn’t fly is beyond me. I kept hearing from agents in the terminal that people on the phone can do everything people on the ground can do. But of the five agents I called, all of them said they can’t do anything for me and said I needed to talk to people in person.

    The lack of clear communication and protocol had me extremely frustrated. I finally got them to issue me a ticket on United to get to my destination but the AA agent who helped me didn’t even tell me that the flight I wanted was delayed by two hours and I would miss my UA connecting flight. I ended up having to pay for my own hotel that night because the delay was due to weather. I don’t know why the agent failed to inform me that this UA flight wouldn’t work as the UA desk told me that the delay was in place for a long while.

    The response I received from AA missed the points I was trying to make. Worst of all, the template they used was not fully completed. I received a response that had incomplete sentences and had no flow to it. It just seemed to me like they are trying to crank through complaints as quickly as possible once they get a sense of the issue.

    In my experience, customer service on AA has really fallen since the merger.

  33. Lack of in-seat power sucks (experienced the same issue on a Delta TPA->JFK flight yesterday – Delta said this flight was equipped with in-seat power but no plugs were to be found) and sucks even more with no advance notice (i would have charged my laptop and phone prior to boarding instead of boarding with the batteries nearly empty).

    If you cant have in flight power, thats fine. But let people know. Legroom and food are nice amenties, but when you’re on a TCON flight the best perk is the ability to get some work done on the plane. I would have gladly taken a later flight yesterday if it meant being able to use the 3 hours productively and i’m sure Lucky would have done the same for his 6.5 hour flight.

  34. Lucky, have you considered forwarding your complaint and all these comments to the president of American Airlines? And I mean print them out and send them by priority mail.

  35. I do not think the issue with Customer-Service Representatives is specific to the Airline industry, having encountered several issues with inadequate answers from Customer service in the Life Insurance industry.

    Perhaps the CS jobs are ‘entry-level’ and/or require low qualification and/or the employees lack training and/or management.

  36. I agree with your complaint, and they ridiculous boiler plate email you received back, but as a frequent traveler you should know better than to get to on a plane with a dead laptop.
    I’ve learned a long time to never count on power or wifi working, so if it’s critical (emails must be sent, etc.) get it done before the flight.
    You have no one to blame but yourself if you didn’t get your “work” done on this flight.

  37. Hi Lucky, thanks for highlighting this. I’ve had similar a experience in the past with nonsensical responses. I am Plat but not EP.

  38. We gave up on them and started doing JetBlue Mint for all of our transcons. I don’t miss the terrible food, the surly service, or the extra $1000 AA/UA charge for it.

  39. Hi Lucky,

    Sorry to hear about the lack of power on your flight. This has happen to me several times on AA as well as Delta. I think sometimes it is the knowledge of the crew that can save the day. I have had a crew member after 3-4 failed attempts, be able to reset the power on my flight. I have asked in a polite manner and the rest of the passengers were very grateful. Subsequent to that I encountered the same issue and relayed the story to a different crew who I think would have just ignored the issue and wrote it up as a maintenance problem. I had them try successfully to reset the power and they learned something new. I’m not saying it is possible in every case but if they have never done it before it makes them less willing to try. Getting the flight out on time even though you sit there with the door closed seems to be the priority. I don’t know if the plane when it has been sitting overnight has the outlets turned off or if a circuit breaker was shut down or tripped. But if the crew are more knowledgeable about the aircraft they may be able to fix what might be a simple issue. Also it’s not always possible but I never use battery power in the airport if I can help it. When I board because of issues in the past my batteries are 90% or more. I always tell people, ABC’s (Always Be Charging) when traveling! Must have been brutal for a 6 hour flight.

  40. I’m EP and have varied experiences. One merited a personal phone call to apologize and provide compensation much to my surprise (involving getting additional SWUs). Another received a response in less than an hour (broken seat recline). A third one involving inedible food got the same response as someone above that they would let the catering people know, but no compensation. A fourth one (being dropped off the upgrade list) took a week to get a response resulting in an apology and nominal compensation. These came over a two year period, so I’m averaging a couple of problems per year meriting customer service attention.

  41. Just to put it out there, are we sure that the customer service replies are from a human and not AI generated? I know a lot of companies are migrating more and more online interactions to machine systems that try and parse your text for the “correct” response. Hearing about so many failures to identify the specific complaint while replying within minutes makes me think emails are being routed to an AI response system.

  42. Hi Lucky;

    You are living up to your moniker if that’s the worse experience with AA customer service.
    1) They lost my bag for 3 months; customer service said it’s the baggage dept. issue, the lost baggage people that answer the phone only handle the lost bag for 5 days, Central Baggage Claim has a phone line that says leave a message, but they never responded. I finally resorted to Twitter shaming

    2) On another flight, the last daylight flight LAX-MIA went mechanical after several hours of rolling delays. They put me on a red eye (missing a half days worth of meetings). They used to be proactive and award miles before you called for something this serious. Instead, after I write customer service about the rolling delay and mechanical issues, they write back saying they aren’t responsible for the weather.

  43. Being a travel agent by trade I’m used to all sorts of weird/rude/incompetent interactions with airline customer service or agent help desks. Usually I’m glad if I get an answer at all 😀
    They probably have an array of text brackets they just put together randomly very fast. They look at the word “ports” and the just copy and paste the text brackets for a port issue without really reading any of your email. I know that’s how it works with quite a few companies.

  44. Welcome to the world of Doug Parker… the guy who experimented with charging passengers for water.

    American’s customer service is absolutely abysmal. I had a major (and very stressful) screw-up with my return flight from Asia in January. The responses to my tweets and DMs were worthless, and when I finally reached a customer service rep (after being on hold for 30 minutes from Tokyo), I reached a woman who was nasty enough to be have the spawn of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz mating. The hang up and call back sequence that I’d normally employ really wasn’t an option, as I didn’t want to wait another half hour for someone to answer. (The creature refused to transfer me to her supervisor despite multiple requests)

    I ended up just abandoning my AA ticket, and quickly transferred some UR points to UA and got on the next flight on UA back to LAX (on UA’s 787 service up front, and it was quite pleasant and efficient – and with favorable winds we made it from NRT-LAX in under 9 hours).

    Once back home, I again contacted AA’s customer no-service department. As nasty as was the customer no-service rep I spoke with from Tokyo, this is how incompetent the second rep was.

    I ended up FedEx’ing a letter to Scott Kirby a few days later. I did get a call from someone in executive escalations who was at least pleasant. But the 10,000 bonus miles she offered me “for my troubles” wallowed in pusillanimity as far as I’m concerned, and it’ll be a long time before I even think about doing business with American again.

    I’ve burned all of my remaining AA miles (I now have exactly 1 mile in my account), giving tickets to relatives with my same last name as gifts, and I don’t even want to hear the name of that worthless airline again!

    continued to send DMs

  45. The most common comments seem to break down into 3 types:
    1. Lucky is whining inappropriately about the Fail, should instead be grateful that AA sometimes (usually?) doesn’t Fail on WiFi, power. These are First World Problems, of which we should all be ashamed.
    2. Lucky’s expectations are inappropriate because Stuff Happens, Be Prepared, why wasn’t your laptop charged before boarding, you bozo? You’re supposed to be experienced.
    3. Lucky is just trying to manipulate AA into giving him AAdvantage miles.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have friendly responses to all 3.
    1. The problems described in the post are, indeed, First World Problems. OMAAT is not about development of safe drinking water in remote African villages, or ending the criminally inhumane practice of female genital mutilation. Those matters are much more serious and infintely more worthy of a person’s attention than anything you will ever read here. Anyone who must feel better about themselves 24/7 should stop reading this sentence and visit a more worthy website. If you’re still with me, I think we understand each other. Let’s enjoy our guilty pleasure a few moments, then return to making the world a better place. Here, we’re trying to make AA a better airline. Enough with the FWP shaming.
    2. Ben brought his uncharged l;aptop onboard an AA A321T precisely because AA usually does deliver the WiFi and the power ports. Ben’s expectation was consistent with AAdvertising promises. We might be overcomplicating this; AA promised, AA didn’t deliver.
    3. It is obvious from reading hundreds of posts on OMAAT that Ben’s interest is to discuss AA’s conduct in public. AA should understand that failing to promptly fix amenities that matter a lot to some (not all), when perhaps they could have in this case, inconvenienced an EXP million-miler, avgeek blogger with ultra-high readership. 2500 or even 10000 AAdvantage miles is a drop in the bucket for our fearless host. The argument that he’s more interested in the “compensation” than in AA fixing the process is simply wrong.

    AA wants to draw business by boasting WiFi and power. It’s useful for the great unwashed to know whether their advertising is BS.

  46. I don’t know why anyone is surprised. It all started when the merger was announced…I was EXP for over a decade and am just a touch shy of 3mm lifetime miles (virtually zero on credit card RDMs in that). In 2013, AA began to make some very customer unfriendly moves and it became readily apparent that AA was ceasing to exist even with Doug only having indirect influence.

    In one particular instance, AA took out too many EVIPs from my account (they actually used seeral brand new ones instead of old ones and then the old ones expired). I disputed this, got several agents to agree that they did me wrong, but in the end, they refused to help me and did not fix the error of their agents.

    I was reasonably upset by this episode and coupled with some changes in work schedule and the declining ability to redeem on AA metal,I status matched to UA in the summer of 2013 and made 1k. Have been 1k since August 2013 and have not flown AA in almost 3 years.

    Turns out UA has a good schedule and fits my flying patterns well. If AA hadn’t been so ridiculous back in 2013, I might still be spending my 50 weeks a year work travel (plus personal) on AA rather than UA. But alas, AA has gotten even worse based on what I am reading here and elsewhere.

  47. File with DOT
    I would recommend that Lucky file a DOT complaint, not because of the original issue, but because of the ineptness of AA customer relations as an Executive Platinum member. DOT has a complaint category of Frequent Flyer. I am pretty sure that complaints that are routed in via the DOT are handled in a personal way instead of through either pure or nearly 100% automation.

    From the comments on this thread, AA Customre Relations is clearly 100% out of line! They are not treating their EP members with the dignity and respect that is deserved, and for this they deserve to be severely punished!

    If a dozen EP members filed DOT complaints in a calendar month, it could seriously knock AA down to either the bottom or very close to it for that monthly report, and management seems to only care about these sort of metric based numbers.

    And for those of you who do not see the nuance of the complaint, it is simply that AA is treating EP members as well as the rest of their customers in a disrespectful, unprofessional, and overall poor way in terms of how their customer relations department responds to complaints and even compliments. This is a slap in the face to EP customers who likely spend 10’s of thousands of dollars every year with American! What other company would I spend upwards of $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, … and get treated like — (bleep)?!?!?!?!

    Again, the issue is not the power port, its the nature of the response, and the fact that it seems like they don’t carefully read, review, act upon, and thoughtfully respond to inquiries. That last part is maddening, and there’s no excuse for it!

    I would be curious for some of you who don’t seem to mind the maddening response, how you mentally process that you can be treated so badly and ignored and pawned off!??

    I can’t imagine in my work if I responded to inquiries in that way, I would not have a job very long!?!?!?

  48. @Lucky These corporations don’t give a funk bc they don’t have to.

    I’ll try front line CSRs once, then I CC the CEO. Not worth my time to deal with human robots. If that’s unsuccessful, I’ll either file a formal complaint (DOT, OCC, etc.) or let it go. Needless to say, my tenacity results in a pretty good success rate 😉

  49. The solution is actually quite simple. Never assume anything and take ownership of your own responsibilities.

    You of all people should know that an airline is only responsible for getting you safely from A to B. Anything else is pretty much a bonus in thier eyes…

    Also, any response to an email from a company the size of AA within 20 minutes is very obviously going to be auto generated. It might actually be an interesting exercise to see what keywords generate what response?

  50. @ Greg — Really, never assume anything? But you should assume a safe flight? Should you assume you get to your destination within a couple of days of when the flight is booked? Or that you’ll be served a meal on a 17 hour flight when it’s promised? The extent of my “assumptions” are what travel providers promise…

  51. Your letter was a canned response based upon a key word scan of your letter then glanced at by an Indian customer service rep for about 30 seconds.

    The 30 seconds may be optimistic.

  52. @Jon. Very funny. Love Luis C.K. Joking aside, for some of us airplanes are considered offices. Some of us spend 20-30 productive hours! on planes a week! It is 2016. We don’t use airplanes for fun. Far from it. Would you be upset if your office or home has no power-outlets one day? There are things in life that becomes necessity as time goes by. My boss expects tings to have it ready as I land. I would rather watch a movie or sleep, but I have to work.
    I’m sure I will be suprized why something is neccesity for my kids when they are my age.
    If airlines state in their brossures that there are poweroutlets, they must provide them otherwise it is false advertizing. If they say, there are power-outlets, but be aware that some may not work, I go with that. They don’t say that. — sorry for any typos, typing on my phone without spell checking. I guess spell chekers also became a necessity.

  53. “@ Greg — Really, never assume anything? But you should assume a safe flight? Should you assume you get to your destination within a couple of days of when the flight is booked? Or that you’ll be served a meal on a 17 hour flight when it’s promised? The extent of my “assumptions” are what travel providers promise…”

    Off course you can hope they will offer you all that. But you can’t assume they will and I’m sure they will have lawyers point to many terms and conditions to prove that they don’t have to as long as they are getting you safely from point A to B.

    My personal experience with making assumptions is that they invariably end up biting you in the backside. If I needed to work on a 6 hour flight I’d make sure my laptop was charged. If it was a 17 hour flight, different story. Then I would be miffed.

  54. @ Greg — Okay, great, so you’d make sure your laptop is charged is you “needed to work,” but what if the wifi is broken? Odd you’d make an assumption about power ports possibly being broken, but not about wifi being broken. So would you then just not fly if you needed to work, because there’s a small chance the wifi doesn’t work? C’mon…

  55. Sadly, canned responses are becoming the norm for most large companies because 99% of customers will accept them. I fly from Vancouver, so I’m fortunate to have lots of options. Much like AA, Air Canada has been pulling this nonsense for years, refuses to be held accountable in any way, so consequently, I’ve voted with my wallet and refuse to give them my business. Most of my travel is within North America, and I fly Westjet whenever I can.

  56. I just filed a DOT complaint against AA because AA didn’t respond to an email within 60 days. It was regarding a delay that caused us to lose a day of our trip and they wouldn’t extend our trip an additional day on the back-end, instead told us it would be a $300 change fee to extend 1 day.

    I just go the DOT route for all complaints now with the airlines in the US, only thing that will force a change is if everyone stops bothering sending an email to the airlines where they get a cut and paste crap reply and the DOT can really see how badly the airlines are.

    Imagine when the DOT is getting 10,000+ complaints a month against the airlines, something would get done pretty quickly.

  57. If you want to send a compliment about an AA employee, send them a DM on Twitter – they handle DMs better than public tweets, and much faster than email. Also feels like they don’t just copy/paste for DM responses!

    If you want compensation, I’m pretty sure you still have to deal with email… but the Twitter team does a good job making sure that compliments are properly recognized!

  58. Deferred maintenance. Welcome to the issues us coach fliers on U.S. airlines routinely face. Non-working power, wi-fi, or entertainment is fairly common and we have learned to never depend on it. Complaining is useless other than maybe getting a few miles out of it. I am surprised this is such a notable experience for you!

  59. @Andrew wrote:

    “As someone who deals with the IT world for much of the day, I can almost guarantee you that a response time of 19 minutes to an email means it’s being auto-generated.”

    At the company I work for, we pride ourselves on our personalized, responsive service, and writing a well thought out response to an email request or complaint within 19 minutes is pretty much the norm around here.

    If someone requires more information, or troubleshooting etc., we may respond in a more generic fashion, but it’s not computer generated – we may acknowledge receipt of the email, and let the person know we are investigating their issue, and will respond back with a more thorough response shortly. Again, not computer generated.

  60. Thank you for writing about this! I received the same rote reply within 20 minutes in response to my complaint last month. They offered a very ‘generous’ 2000 miles for my troubles without even addressing the issues I raised. Wrote back to express my dissatisfaction and heard back a few days later about how they will pass on my message for ‘internal review’. Hopefully something will be done to remedy such poor customer service given your platform but a part of me feels like this is wishful thinking 😉

  61. AA Plat here. I would such an awful/frustrating experience I didn’t even write back (not that I was even given the option to respond since the email was “do not reply”).

    Here is what I sent them:

    Hi –

    I recently flew flight 869 MBJ–>CLT and then flight 1908 CLT–>ORD on a paid first class ticket. The aircraft and crew were the same, there was just a stopover at CLT requiring us to deplane. When I attempted to board the second leg of the flight the gate agent told me my bag would not fit on the plane. I explained that I had already been on this aircraft and the bag did indeed fit (I also travel with this bag every week and it’s designed to fit into the overhead compartment, even on smaller configurations, and I’ve never had an issue). I told her I did not want to check the bag as I had packed light specifically so I would not have to wait at ORD, and reiterated that the bag had previously fit on the exact same plane. I then took my gym bag out of the roller to make it smaller (again, it would have easily fit into the bin with minimal effort) and she claimed I could not have three bags. At this point I put my gym bag into my small backpack.

    She then said I was being detained until a supervisor was present. This entire experience took place in front of a plane-load full of people and was extremely embarrassing. This is not how I expect Platinum members on a paid first-class ticket to be treated (or really, anyone flying). The supervisor then came and let me through. I asked for their employee numbers and they refused. I took the gate agent’s picture and was told that was not allowed so I deleted it in front of them. I believe the gate agent’s name was Erica and the supervisor was Claudia. They were both wearing US Airways name tags. I’m not sure if this is how US Airways treats their customers, but I was appalled and again, embarrassed. The gate agent then did the same thing to several passengers behind me who mentioned it on their way in (they had also been on the MBJ-CLT leg).

    I would please like a response about this incident as I switched over to AA last year, have two AA credit cards, flown consistently, etc.

    This was their response:

    On behalf of American Airlines, thank you for contacting us. Please accept my apology for the difficulty that you faced on your most recent trip with us.

    The Federal Aviation Administration diligently audits airline conformity of mandated policies and procedures – carry-on baggage restrictions being just one of the areas of compliance assessment. Recently, some audits have pointed out a lack of consistency on our enforcement of carry-on baggage policies. As a consequence, our agents have received additional training related to carry-on baggage requirements and are working hard to consistently apply the associated restrictions. Accordingly, we now must use a more conservative judgment by restricting more carry-on bags than we previously did.

    Because of the compliance requirements mentioned above, we have given our gate agents instructions on diligently monitoring carry-on items. At the same time, we expect our agents to handle every situation with professionalism and courtesy. We are sharing your comments with appropriate management personnel at the airport, who will discuss them with our colleague. We are all working hard to ensure our customers’ experiences meet or exceed expectations and we are sorry to hear that we did not prove that commitment this time.

    Mr. Turner, thank you for contacting us about this issue. We will continue our efforts to ensure that your overall travel experiences with us are the best that they can be. Your feedback will help us do just that.

    Does that sound whiny? It seemed ridiculous and the point of my email was how rude the gate agents acted.

  62. I miss the US Chairman e-mail response, those were the days – quick, definitive, accurate. One stop shopping for all my needs and I saved a phone call. With AA, e-mail seems offshore based on the quality of response so I wind up waiting 45 minutes on hold on the ExPlat line when a simple email would have saved both of us time and money.

  63. Hey @Brian S – “Indian CS rep”? really? Stop being a racist pig. @Luck how can you allow this nonsense?

  64. Us lowly Platinums get responses like “We are sorry that your flight was delayed an hour because the coffee pot was missing. This is standard equipment and we can’t fly without it. Thank you for flying American!” And when I tweeted about it I got some other dumb response about pilots and caffeine. No points, no acknowledgement that this was just stacked on top of other mechanical delays that meant I got home 16 hours late.

    Same zip, zilch, zero when I reported my bag destroyed when it was delivered to my house since it was delayed. Or this week when I complained about getting bumped to a seat in the back of the plane when they decided to retract my upgrade as I boarded (which was from a perfectly fine exit row seat).

    Thanks American. I hope you like the glow of my United Gold Status.

  65. Your complaint( as well as the compliment) went to an AI computer which spotted key words and spit out a generic response. No real person read your message. Customer service, even for the high valued Exec. plat. , is being ignored in the name of short term profits for the top managers. Compliments rarely make it to the front line people. this is the new American.. Striving to be cheaper than Spirit.

  66. I haven’t ever emailed AA, but my experiences with United’s 1kvoice email address have been pretty good overall, although they take some time to respond (probably averaging 2-3 business days, sometimes a bit more). I’ve sent them maybe a dozen or more requests over the past five years or so, including compliments, complaints about non-functional equipment or excessive delays, and requests for missing mileage credit. In all cases they at least read my message correctly and most of the time they also resolved the issue to my satisfaction. I do agree generally that it’s really unacceptable (and exacerbates the customer’s frustration) to not even bother to understand what problem the customer is writing about. Something tells me AA is using response time as a metric for the agents writing these responses (which would explain your experiences, with these amazingly quick replies), rather than quality which is of course much harder to measure.

  67. Lucky, if you don’t want cut and paste responses, become a Concierge Key member. It’s only uber-elites that get any old style customer service these days (Qantas P1 or CL for example, British Airways Premier List, Emirates IO, etc).

    Top standard tier members are, despite some suggestion of elevated customer care, are now typically dealing with the same people as everyone else. And that means the whole process is typically cue-carded in many airline call centres and customer care areas now, even for OneWorld Emerald types, so low paid low level workers just briefly skim, match to a cue-card issue, then cut and paste stock responses specified on the cue-card – they don’t read emails in full or try to comprehend the matters at hand, it’s just “close enough to this cue-card”.

    Sorry to break the news, but being an Executive Platinum ain’t going to get care and attention to your communications. What you should hope for is AA lauching something like P1 (as it seems they are leaning toward), but even that is tending towards lower standards of care and consideration, so who knows how long even the top of the top of the FFPs (that aren’t on the airline’s CEO “I recognise you” list) get the robo like response.

  68. I’m Executive Platinum and recently had a similar experience. I wrote an email about having to wait at an airport (without an Admirals Club) for eleven hours because I wasn’t allowed to standby for the first flight out as attempted because it would change my connection city. They insisted my entire trip had to remain unchanged to standby. My first email from AA Customer Service gave me a boilerplate description of standby & same day confirmed changes, not even remotely addressing my specific issue or the questions I asked. I responded like you did, with frustration that it seemed my email wasn’t even read. A few days later, I got a response from a different agent who had clearly read my email and responded appropriately. Not only that, but he sent me a $200 eVoucher for my troubles at the airport that day. It’d be great if they just respond like that the first time instead of trying to get back to people soooo quickly!

  69. Lucky, i am an EXP and have been very frustrated for the last year about the quality of Aadvantage customer service, both in response to emails, and also to direct phone calls. At one time American staffed customer service with very compent agents, but this seems no longer true.

    My email experience is the same as yours. The response always seems as if the agent did not bother to actually read my email and responds to a different issue.

    If i calll on the phone the agent is typically powerless to solve a simple issue, and actually seems more intent on sending me an email on some revenue opportunity such as Aadvantage Platinum Dining.

    I would love to have a conversation with an American executive about this.

  70. Hey Lucky, long-time lurker– enjoy the blog.
    The overhead seat lights were not working in FC not working on a recent evening flight and with cabin lights down, I was unable to read, work or even see my meal (which might have improved it). Emailed customer service requesting return of the upgrade stickers pulled for the flight. I didn’t get a canned response, but was instead told seat light on a plane was only a “diversion”. Maybe the CS agent should try working in the dark (maybe they do). Taking advice from previous posters, next time I’ll bring a charged flashlight.

    “We are very sorry to hear that the light system over your seat was not functioning properly on your recent flight. We know light is a welcome diversion and regret it could not be repaired in flight.
    While we must respectfully decline your request, please do not think we are unconcerned by your experience. We take your comments seriously and will try to meet your expectations the next time you travel with us. I hope that will be soon.”

  71. TMan pretty much sums up how inept AA is now. I am really not surprised with that reply below from CS, they really just don’t care about anyone regardless of status now they are the biggest airline in the world, which they keep reminding us of constantly.

    “We are very sorry to hear that the light system over your seat was not functioning properly on your recent flight. We know light is a welcome diversion and regret it could not be repaired in flight.
    While we must respectfully decline your request, please do not think we are unconcerned by your experience. We take your comments seriously and will try to meet your expectations the next time you travel with us. I hope that will be soon.”

  72. American advertised a service. They didn’t deliver. How many other companies can advertise for something, not deliver it, and just have it not matter? Have it be a first world problem? That you should assume that you’re not going to get what was advertised? I don’t understand the perspective of some of you people.

    On another note, this is my first year as an EP. Just in time for the program to be wrecked. I’ve had several flights this year requiring assistance from the EP “special” hotline, including award travel around the world. I’ve been less than impressed with my “special super customer service” abilities. I’ve got my best help from the Twitter team, where my status meant nothing.

  73. I’m an EXP and often felt that AA CS was out to lunch and a dead-end. That changed early this year when I actually got a call from someone at AA CS to follow-up on a point I had submitted. We had a good conversation and it led to them contacting the station manager to make sure some personnel were well trained.

    After that, I submitted another issue/suggestion which also led to a phone call.

    IME, if the issue is one where there is a path to improvement of service and the request is clear/concise and identifies a reasonable path for AA, there is some acknowledgement. If the issue is one of those “it happens” kind of situations (which I acknowledge are frustrating and can make me mad) but don’t really have a good solution (ie. yes, the tech should work but sometimes it is broken and we’re not going to take an aircraft off-line and cancel flights for it), there’s not a decent response other than an apology and some courtesy miles.

  74. It’s nice that you even got 2500 miles. I got a confirmed business class ticket with my ba points and due to circumstances I had to cancel that flight and stand by for a later flight. Ticket agent and Admirals club angel assured me that I would be on stand by for business class as there were seats available. As soon as I get to the gate, I was cleared on standby list but told very loudly in front of the other passengers how reward tickets can only be sold as a ECONOMY class ticket and that I did not purchase a BUSINESS class. How my ticket is a REWARD ticket and since the fare code is U I have to fly economy. Even I know a fare code U is a Business Class reward ticket!!! http://cwsi.net/aa.htm. Turns out the gate agent doesn’t know her fare codes and totally messed up. Stuff like this happens to me with AA all the time. I am losing hope.

  75. I had a similar situation with American as well and no, I am not an Elite Member, hence why after several complaint emails, there is radio silence on the AA Customer Service rep side.

    I had booked flights with my CC points back in February 2016 for my October 2016 honeymoon to Costa Rica. After our wedding in July, I soon found out I was pregnant and could no longer visit Costa Rica due to the Zika virus. I immediately began the refund process for my flights with American, so that my husband and I could go somewhere within the US instead for the honeymoon that is now less than a month away.

    I reached out to AA on 8/31to start the refund process and indicated my situation to which a Customer Service rep emailed me back right away. I was shocked by the timeliness and very excited that I was actually going to have a good customer experience with the airline. She indicated she needed a doctor’s note to which I sent her the same day and she indicated my refund would be issued within 7-10 business days. Great! I was done, nothing else to do but wait…..so I thought!

    And I waited and waited patiently for those 7-10 business days and finally when it was passed and still no refund, I reached out to the same rep. She replied she was sorry it wasn’t issued yet and would resubmit my request. Again, I wait a few days until now 9/13 where I am extremely frustrated and ask her to please check into it and expedite the process as the tickets I wanted to book for our new US honeymoon were getting more expensive as time passed. She JUST THEN figured it would be good for me to know that my flight needed to be cancelled in order for the refund to take place. Why this was not told to me from the beginning when I started the refund process in August, I am not sure, but I made sure to cancel the second she told me. Obviously if this information was provided to me early on, I would’ve done it right away and not been in this predicament.

    After emailing her asking her to please make her mistake right and help me by expediting the process, she has not answered back. Additionally, I answered a survey, issued several other complaints on American Airlines website asking to speak with another Customer Service rep and made calls to speak with a Supervisor who indicated there was nothing they could do to expedite the process. The Supervisor even called over to the Refunds Department who said they never even were provided my Doctor’s note that I submitted the customer service rep in August.

    At my wits end, I am still trying to get in touch with any and everyone there who will help me. I was unable to be put through to Refunds as the Supervisor said they are not able to do that, and no-one else will seem to answer or put me through to someone over the phone.

    At this point, they are screwing me over big time while providing no help whatsoever. What I thought to be a great customer service experience from the beginning due to the Customer Service rep’s quick and timely response, ended up being a nightmare. Now I will have to wait another 7-10 business days and by that time with only weeks prior to the honeymoon, I’m sure the ticket prices will go up even more, if not double.

    If anyone knows how to get these issues taken care of with American, or knows how to speak to someone who will actually listen and help, I would greatly appreciate it!

  76. It would appear that the new American “our goal is great” is trying to get there with a completely disabled CR function.

    I am a 26 year loyal customer, Exec Platinum, with 4M+ miles lifetime.

    I recently flew a rather expensive business class routing through Asia. On my return from NRT – ORD my seat controls were broken. While the plane was at the gate with the door open, I informed a flight attendant. He reset the seat and I partially reclined it to make sure it was working. It immediately went dead a second time. I called the same attendant and told him that I definitely didn’t want to take an 11 hour flight without being able to fully recline and sleep. He reset the system again but this time it did not even turn back on. I asked him a third time (while still at the gate with the door open). He told me the system needed time to reboot and I should wait. Then I notice the jet bridge retracting. I immediately called him again and he told me to wait until we were in flight and the seat might start working (yeah, right). I was very angry at this point. The Purser then came buy and told me she was not aware of the issue and that the plane should never have left the gate with a known issue. I told her I would have gotten off and taken a different flight if the seat was broken but it was too late at that point.

    I reached out to the Exec Plat desk who were pleasant as always (and actually have managers that will talk to the customers) but they told me that I needed to deal with CR. The nightmare begins – 5 emails with BS cut and paste responses and finally a call from a belligerent agent who told me she was authorized by the CEO to tell me that I would get no better offer then 15K miles or $200 because I had a first class seat (it was actually business class) and despite the fact that it didn’t recline (which effectively made it an economy seat) AA still felt that they had delivered the promised service. Note – my original ask, which I thought was pretty reasonable given the complete dysfunction at the airport, was either a refund of the difference between the business class fare and the economy fare (for the one segment) or a one way upgrade for future use. The offer from Joyce the CR agent (who sounded more like a bill collector) was 15K miles or $200 (as opposed to the $300 offered in the original email responses). I objected and said the offer was simply not reasonable and asked for a manager. She again told me that she was directly authorized by the CEO and that supervisors and managers in CR will not talk to the customers. She also heatedly told me that CR would not be responding to any more of my emails or even talk to me again on the issue.

    In my view American (post-merger) is striving to become the Greyhound Bus of the air. This is a real disappointment give the investment I have made in their airline. I will definitely be moving all of my rather substantial international business to alternate airlines. I realize they simply don’t care about customer loss and revenue loos but I don’t believe that Delta or United would have handled the situation this poorly.

    In fairness, I run into great AA employees all the time. They apparently just don’t work in customer relations…..

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