American Airlines Customer Relations Contacted Me Regarding My Survey Response

Earlier I shared how I have started filling out the post-flight surveys that airlines sometimes send out. On one hand I hate wasting my time filling out a survey that just contributes to a statistic. At the same time, it’s clear that airlines really care about their survey scores (I’ve heard airlines justify some absurd things based on them), so maybe one small way I can contribute towards an improved experience is to tell airlines when I don’t think they’re doing a great job.

I wrote about the survey that I filled out yesterday after a paid first class transcon flight. I didn’t even think it was an especially bad flight. It was just your run of the mill American Airlines flight. The flight was operated by an ex-US Airways plane without power ports. The flight attendant did his job efficiently, but wasn’t particularly friendly. So I certainly wouldn’t have complained, and I’d actually say the service he provided was pretty average for American. But that still left me giving the following survey results:

There’s an interesting follow-up to this. Today, less than 24 hours after filling out the survey, I got an email from American Airlines customer relations. Before anyone thinks this is special blogger treatment, several people reached out to tell me that when they filled out surveys in a negative way, they quickly heard from the airline. My guess is that they flag particularly positive or negative responses, and contact those customers.

Here’s what they wrote to me:

Thank you for taking the time to complete our survey after you traveled with us on flight ___.

While we realize you are disappointed with us, we are glad you took the time to offer your comments about your recent travel experience. Our goal is to be the very best in the airline industry in terms of customer satisfaction and your constructive criticism will help us improve in the areas where we need to do so.

A good company, particularly one in the service industry, relies on customer feedback to be sure that it is focused on providing the very best product. Constructive criticism — such as you’ve expressed — helps us maintain that focus. As our way of saying “thank you” for taking the time to share your insight, we have added 5,000 Bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account.

Mr. Schlappig, please give us another chance to serve you.

Clearly there’s a difference between my expectations and American’s expectations. Maybe this is a useless distinction to make, but I wasn’t really disappointed, per se. I find it ridiculous that American has transcon flights without power ports (especially in first class), but I knew that going in. I guess American has higher expectations of their own service than I do, because I wasn’t expecting pre-departure beverages, to be addressed by name, or to be thanked for flying American. Quite to the contrary, I find it to be blog-worthy news when I’m on a flight where a crew member thanks everyone for flying with the airline.

The reason I find this interesting is because I think American’s survey is a bit unrealistic. I reluctantly fly American because they best suit my needs in terms of their route network, and I’m already on their “hamster wheel.” They have good premium international lounges, I like being a oneworld Emerald, I like being able to earn AAdvantage miles on their partner airlines, and I get upgrades a fair amount of the time. But I don’t fly American because I think anything about their domestic experience (in economy or first class) is impressive.

But if I’m going to fill out a survey, I’ll say that I don’t like the lack of power ports, that I don’t think American AAdvantage is a differentiator, as it used to be, and that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend American Airlines to a friend. Why on earth would I, based on the flight they’re asking me about?

I guess the moral of the story is twofold:

  • Filling out a survey may land you some miles (which wasn’t my goal, for the record)
  • I’d love to see some more realistic questions on this survey; rather than asking “what are the chances you’d recommend American Airlines to a friend?” how about asking “what are the chances that you keep flying American Airlines, given that you don’t really have that many options?”

Comments

  1. It’s amazing to me you don’t expect any of those things (the FA behaviors) on an AA flight. On DL, you definitely don’t always get them, but you do expect them since most of them do happen reasonably often.

  2. To answer your question: rather than asking “what are the chances you’d recommend American Airlines to a friend?” how about asking “what are the chances that you keep flying American Airlines, given that you don’t really have that many options?”

    It’s because Net Promoter Score is easy to calculate and is something they can easily report to executives. If they were to actually record and measure your likelihood of flying American again, they would need to come up with a new system of measurement and they couldn’t compare it against anything. It’s much easier to report NPS and follow up quickly with detractors. Then they at least can say they’re trying to do something to obtain customer feedback without actually doing anything to improve the customer experience.

  3. UA, DL, and AA frequent flyer programs are now programs for complaints, credit card use, and anything but flying. 5000 miles for a survey? If you fly LAX-JFK in economy class, figure on about 800 miles each way.

    AS still offers actual miles, which might be 2400 miles but they only are good for transcons and flights from the West Coast to major cities.

  4. I fly a lot of the old US Air routes, and find the FA’s better than on the old American routes. Almost always get a pre-departure drink, I get a welcome and smile about 70% of time. I actually try to avoid the old American routes due to the difference I see in service. I do agree that the US Air planes need outlets.

  5. “What are the chances you’d recommend American Airlines to a friend?” is a Net Promoter Score question. It is very commonly used as “a proxy for gauging the customer’s overall satisfaction with a company’s product or service and the customer’s loyalty to the brand”.

  6. Ben, I’m sure you know the “recommend to a friend” question is all about pumping the Net Promoter Score. Management consultants have really made the tail wag on the dog on this one. Delta’s also blatant about this framing in their post-flight and phone surveys (internally the mantra is “Strive for 5” as in always get the customer to be “likely to recommend to a friend” as 5 on the 1-5 scale). It definitely feels patronizing in an industry where the players are oligopolistic utilities.

  7. Well clearly you are either getting recognized from the blog or the EXP status. As a PLT, I got no response on the survey when FA clearly didn’t care to be there. Called me by wrong name and gave “this is all we have” after running out of popular meal choice. I don’t expect any better service in F than in back of the bus, makes you appreciate the unicorn even more.

  8. Disclaimer I don’t work in the airline industry but do work a financial services/insurance firm. These surveys are actually taken seriously in order industry. When a customer gives below a certain score we actually require a manger to reach out. The only word of caution I have is that these survey results can negatively (or positively) effect employees. Employees can get fired depending on frequency of negative reports. Or given raises for positive reports.

  9. I have had 4 great flights with AA. I filled out all ‘Yes’ to those questions on 4 surveys. Never got a response. Has anyone reading gotten a 5000 miles gift from a positive survey response? Is there now an incentive to complain?

  10. @ American it’s because we are going for fake great !!
    And should you complain you will be tracked and your account closed if you complain
    to much
    We are here primarily for your safety
    have a nice life I mean flight sir
    We like doing little or nothing for you and it shows!

  11. Not to be cynical, but like the above post….
    either you got the miles due to the previous post (not sure of the timing) or you’re getting it from as an EXP or as a known blogger.

  12. There’s also the presumption that a “no” on all of those reflects negatively on the airline.

    I am at EXP. Someone thanking me for flying American (or not doing so) makes no impression on me. I literally don’t care.

    Likewise with addressing me by name. I’d actually prefer that they didn’t try – the manifest cuts my last name off and they get it wrong. It just creates unneeded awkwardness

  13. Lucky, i like your way of looking at most things! Must still be your german blood stream?! Frequent travelers worldwide still look at thing wayyyyy different and just a little chat during the flight with some FA is enough for them to be happy and “love” that flight. AMAZING, but glad to see guys like you who have a more PRO way of looking at things. The real thing!
    Like in my young days, when AWA (America West Airlines) had those surveys on there seatbacks mostly on the 747’s and it was called “Plane Truth” ….. GREAT!

  14. I’ve filled out more than a couple of dozen surveys for UA but never got any follow-up response.

  15. Why couldn’t AA give a Flagship one day pass to F pax who didn’t receive the company mandated standard of service ? It would show a going the extra mile attitude.

  16. I’ve filled out many a negative survey on UA and not once have they reached out to me to say anything. But like you I figure I need to fill them out, even if it is a stat. If enough people say their seats are uncomfortable maybe they’ll do something? Naaaaaa, who am i kidding?

  17. how about asking “what are the chances that you keep flying American Airlines, given that you don’t really have that many options?”

    Haha, got a good chuckle out of this

  18. It tells you AA is focused on the wrong things if those are the attributes they are measuring. Who knows how they came up with those attributes. Are they based on statistical research or a bunch of people sitting in a room creating a list of what they think is important to the customer and missing the mark by a mile. How about on time departure AA and fixing a problem before take off time with a fully loaded plane?! A welcome and and a smile do nothing for me at that point particularly when they are going to make me miss my connection!!

  19. I usually fill-out AA’s surveys (I’m an EXP member). When I report on a great flight I hear nothing back from the survey. No “Thank you” or “We’re delighted you enjoyed your flight!”; nothing but radio silence. If the flight wasn’t so great, I get a canned ‘We’re sorry…here’s some miles” but absolutely no indication that they intend to follow-up with any person or department on why the flight, or crew, or ground experience, or whatever didn’t meet my expectation.

    I saw a great quote the other day attributed to Andy Stanley, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” Keep it up, AA, and pretty soon people with stop responding to your surveys. Keep the miles; just fix your problems.

  20. @ Ben — I would take 5,000 miles over a PDB and a smile every time. I guess I will start completing their surveys too, although I do suspect you received special treatment due to your blog. Even when American complete screws me over, I normally cant get even 1 mile for compensation.

  21. The higher your status and the amount of money you spend on them the more they will follow up. I filled a survey with Delta complaining about the service on a flight and got a call on my cellphone from a Delta customer representative.

  22. I stopped filling out those surveys a while ago. My time is valuable, but you’d never know it from all the businesses that think I should be eager to spend 5-20 (!!) minutes filling out a survey in exchange for the chance to enter a drawing for a $50 gift card.

  23. I’ve been platinum with AA for a couple years but decided to no longer favor them over direct flights after I moved away from LAX. Yesterday I flew transcon on DL 757 from MCO to LAX. Compared to AA the serviced was amazing (pre-departure drink of choice – instead of water or maybe sparkling wine on American… if they even ask, addressed by name by a friendly flight attendant, very healthy and flavorful food and a power port.).

    I flew the AA transcon to MCO last year in first and the soft product is comparable, but the service is always so hit or miss. AA’s food is usually lacking in either flavor, presentation or general desirability. Seriously, on an AA flight from Charlotte to LAX once they only served us a humus artichoke plate. in first on a 5 hour flight. AA seriously needs to refresh their old US Airways Airbuses. Maybe they can fix that awful raddling too.

  24. Hmm.. I am surprised that they even bothered to contact you and to give you miles above that. I’ve had several more serious issued last year which was escalated to customer service and even I wrote to the senior management about it – but received just a standard “yes we are sorry, we will strive to improve and hope to see you on our next flight”.
    I’ve given up on AA (especially the flying part), as their customer service recovery has done down the drain since last year, and now either pick DL where possible when flying domestic.

  25. Except for the small price of the PDB, it costs exactly zero dollars to smile, look you in the eye, thank you,etc. Why should a customer expect less? I always appreciate it in any circumstance.

  26. I know for a fact AA CE team is working very hard to improve service. I have seen the training FA go through and what the company’s expectations are. It’s unfortunate that all the good efforts senior management is putting in most of the time is still lost because of poor execution. I am sure the same applies to DL – not so sure about UA.

  27. @Steffl, I think in the article Lucky was saying it WOULD have made a difference on this flight (although not his general view of American) had the FA been more friendly and personal, addressing him by name etc?

    I certainly appreciate some slight personal attention, and being addressed by name, on airlines where I hold top tier status. I don’t think that makes me amateur, I consider it a sign of good customer service and professionalism.

  28. I had a 3-hour F flight to the Bahamas on AA. The seat would not recline. It was a daytime flight, so I just lived with it and did not report it to the crew (there were no available F seats to move to in any event, so I am not sure what they could have done at the time). The flight was otherwise fine. When I got the survey, I noted the seat recline issue. AA replied with an apology and 10,000 points.

  29. It is odd isn’t it…I requested a verification of a weather delay for my trip delay insurance and they gave me 10k points. I wasn’t even complaining. I’ve noticed people on Flyertalk mention they send in a complaint about ANYTHING that isn’t perfect, probably for this reason.

    On the flip side, today I wanted to get a main cabin extra seat assignment for my wife, whose flight was booked with Thank You points. I called the platinum helpdesk and they said no problem, but it will be a $50 “Assistance by Reservations” fee since her flight wasn’t booked through aa.com. Well gee, thanks for making me feel valued for my loyalty…

  30. @Mark F:

    Once, and only once. I had a fairly pleasant UA flight NRT-HNL in J (purchased Y and was an operational upgrade to J) and left an honest review in which I filled in the freeform text block with a mini-trip report. I commended the FAs for taking their time with several elderly Japanese pax who were clearly part of a tour group or some other larger party. For that, I did receive a note thanking me for taking the time to respond to the survey and they’re glad the FAs were providing great service to their older passengers. I don’t recall getting any sort of compensation, but it was nice to know they actually read the survey itself.

  31. 5,000 miles is interesting. I complained using the online form after the seatback entertainment on my paid first class flight didn’t work and the next day received 20,000 miles credited to my account. I was surprised and expected a $100 voucher which is what I got previously for a catering snafu.

  32. As you point out – they have devalued their FF programs.. that means they actually have to compete again on things like OTP, service, etc.

    I really love to fly DL (Despite being a LPLT on AA) because of the way they treat me. I really dislike their prescribed service pattern in F and I avoid flying them trans-con because of it. But any other time I’d much rather be served by someone that at least acts like they care that I am there.

    So while, for 2 million miles at least, I was a “given” to be an AA PAX, my dollars are now up for grabs. And things like pre departure beverage, being kind to me and making my trip enjoyable actually matters in my purchase decision.

  33. I wish American would send me the survey form. But then maybe I wouldn’t want to get them because I would constantly be hearing from them. My first point would be how about changing the crappy first class seats from LAX to MIA and use a comfortable plane rather than a 737 for a flight that long which happens to be jam-packed to the rafters. Gosh its an inferior soft (and often hard) product.

  34. Years ago on a Delta flight MANY people ended up without their luggage. While my bags were free, I sat in line with people complaining about PAYING baggage fees only to have the airline lose the bags. In a post-flight survey, I shared this with Delta, noted that it didn’t impact me because my bags were free, but maybe they should do a “sorry — the next bag is on us” email when bags are lost for paying customers. A week later I got a thank you and 10K miles. It made an impression on me.

  35. I ordered a FORD and was Pissed off by 3 visual things the DEALER should’ve FIXED before I got it . The head internet salesman (SLOW) called me up and I DEALT with the service department which fixed it after 2 tries.
    Sometimes surveys work.

    CHEERs

  36. I flew American in their new Premium Economy service from JFK to LHR on March 12th and used BusinessExtrAA points (3,100) to upgrade to business class on March 23rd.

    I have to say that the seat and food in both classes of service were excellent. (I normally fly Lufthansa Premium Economy across the ocean — and I’ve already done that twice this year).

    The seat in business class had exceptional leg room — I was really impressed.

    And, for context, I used to be a TWA Spy-In-The-Sky (Quality Assurance Auditor) in the early 1990s — and I still have an eye for that when I fly other carriers.

  37. I had no such luck with AA. Booked a business class seat to asia with cash. Never got my miles. Each and every time I called them they “assured me that it would be escalated and taken care off”. Same response every month for almost 6 months. Not until I took every single email correspondence I had with them and email them to several of their execs and public relations office did someone finally “escalated and took care of it”. They offered a basic machine written sorry email and that was it.

    I have not flown AA ever since other than 1 last flight with the remainder of my AA miles. I won’t be doing business with them for the foreseeable future. I have plenty of options and AA is way down the list.

  38. It’s sad that US carrier users have been trained to have such low expectations.
    I’m QF platinum and I’m genuinely surprised if I had reason to tick a no when flying domestic business. The service standard is amazing and I hate to say how obvious the low level service is when I fly in the USA.
    How did it come to be that passengers are treated like “self loading freight”, an annoyance endured even when paying premium prices.
    Were it not for points I wouldn’t fly AA but then again I don’t know if there are any better options in the US.

  39. I actively and profusely avoid AA despite living in DFW. Have flown almost 3M miles on AA.
    Curiously, my experience has been the opposite in that “legacy” AA employees tend to be slightly better than USAir.
    Delta employees seem to have some pride (despite the abominable telephone service).
    The beancounters have taken over a once proud industry.
    UA employees come across as aimless and frequently lost.
    Alaska tries, but stumbles. Virgin America was actually fun.
    Whenever possible, try to fly foreign airlines, wish they had more 5th freedom flights.

  40. I didn’t get an apology when they made me Group 8 with MCE. I was told they can change the boarding order for operational reasons. No idea what I paid for.

  41. I am CK on AA and GS on United and I fill out the surveys as you did, to give candid feedback, with no expectation. (Ok maybe some), I expect that when I share some service failures or opportunities to improve, I’d get a response. Not one, I must have completed 5+ That could use some “help” (and I am not gifted CK or GS, they’re earned). I don’t want/need comp I return, just some to give a damn, which you’ve shown is a mix bag (at lease for AA

  42. Of course it’s ridiculous that AA has flights without power points (especially in first). How dare the cattle back in economy have them. Only those of us who fly up front deserve anything.

  43. They really think calling me by name makes a difference? I don’t care even a tiny bit. Doing it is one of those pretend things that give the appearance of service and really are not even top 50. Actually, I find it creepy. Don’t wait until we are 40 minutes into the flight to ask for my jacket and you don’t have to call me anything. Cancel the 5 minute credit card thing and you can even call me shithead.

    I’m amazed people care so much about the name thing that it’s a priority.

  44. The survey designer must live in some alternate universe. The questions should be: did our staff make you feel worthless? Be actively rude to you? Make it unmistakable that they truly hate their job? No – then you had a magnificent flight by AA standards.

  45. By the look of the response, it was written by a computer – I wouldn’t actually take it as “caring”, or think that a single AA person has seen it …

  46. I am a DL guy, but often fly AA first class CLT to JFK. I find the service has been for the most part on par if not slightly better than some DL first class flights I have been on. I find that there is almost 2 or 3 if not more inches of legroom on the domestic AA first class than on DL where you are crammed in, even in the new seats.
    I get surveys all the time from DL. I am a Diamond with them, but see that they give surveys to everyone as my mother, who was not a medallion got the same amount of surveys as me. I have never gotten a response from a survey, because I always say I would recommend them etc, but on one flight, I did not get my special meal, as it was just not ordered. The flight attendant could not have been more apologetic and urged me to write to DL to complain, which I promptly did inflight. One of the reasons for being upset about it was that there was a particular health reason for the requested meal at the time. When I told this to DL, I received a call from them a few weeks later apologizing profusely for the mistake and saying how they understood my reason for the complaint and how they empathized. They took a lot of time with me, saying how important it was that I should get what requested etc. It was a very nice call and then they gave me 10,000 miles to apologize as well. I thought that was a decent recovery, but in no way made up for a situation whereby I did not get something for health reasons. I will bring my own food next time. Lesson learned.

  47. Why would you post this morally wrong people will lie and get free points (then again usually it will be the truth)

  48. How is it that most of the people commenting to this article felt that they are trapped by a (monopolistic, oligopolistic, choice less) system, where even bad service standards have to be accepted because of lack of choice. America has more flight carrier choices than most regions with about 300M potential consumers, you would think that one of the airlines would rise above the pack. But it seems more like a race to the bottom. In particular when reading one earlier article where the CEO of a airline bragged about being happy because of responses from Concierge class members i.e. the most advantaged and pampered 0.005% of consumers of his brand.
    Seems like the CEOs have to look at where their profitable income stream is, and its the people flying at the front of the plane, but not on super prestigious ratings, after all those people are well addressed, so start to move the sights to the others that use those very expensive premium seats.

  49. Net promoter score is simply another incorrect metric senior management uses to measure performance. Surveys vary with the number and type of questions but the one money question is how likely you would refer a friend or family member. CEO’s and their senior manager get some serious bonus money if they hit their targeted scores. And like a previous comment stated they are giving the perception like something is being done however we all can see no progress is being made .

  50. On Alaska, as a gold member (equivalent to AA platinum), they always call me by name, are super nice, even when I’m in coach I get a free alcoholic drink, tons of upgrades to first or premium economy. As a former AA elite, the difference is like night and day. I go back and forth between PDX and Texas, so Alaska works for my situation… I’d never go back to American again.

  51. My biggest frustration with some of these surveys is the lack of space to write comments.

    Probably the most laughable survey I ever received from a company was Wells-Fargo. It included responses such as “Using my Wells-Fargo card makes me a better parent” and “Having a Wells-Fargo card makes me feel important.” I wish I could find it now. The questions were so laughable that I printed it out and gave it to my Chase personal banker who passed it around their offices and had a good laugh at it.

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