American Airlines&#59; Experiences

Today's NY Times had a fascinating account of a recent AAL Paris-NY trip, entitled "A Trans-Atlantic Trip Turns Kafkaesque," which made American Airlines sound like a 3rd-world airline. I have not flown American either domestically or internationally for many years, but never remember anything particularly bad about those trips. So is this author's experience a one-off thing, or has American really gone that far downhill?

Posted by Robert
629 posts

Yes, Bets, it could be that AAL just had the misfortune to have a NY Times writer on their most horrendous flight situation of the year. Just as if the woman you met had been on assignment for a major magazine or newspaper.

Posted by Bets
1970 posts

Interesting because over on Flyertalk it's the one most people recommend for accumulating miles, upgrades, etc. If it is indeed getting this rickety, it's alarming that they are planning to close their big maintenance center in Tulsa.
By now everyone has airline horror stories about all of the companies. I met a woman in a Delta "re-routing" line who had been trying to get home for three days, a route she could have driven in 6 hours. She had been sent to Atlanta, Indianapolis, the east coast, etc. When I met her in Indianapolis, she was going to de-plane in Detroit and have her father from Toledo come pick her up.

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
916 posts

That would be a great story if I weren't flying American to Italy tomorrow! Will keep you posted.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

American Airlines has been in the news lately due to maintenance cutbacks, which have caused pilot strikes/sickouts/slowdowns. Many people are having less pleasant experiences lately. One good piece of advice I saw was to have American book you on another airline if your American flight is cancelled.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

The recent pilot sickout was due to pay and benefit cuts approved by Bankruptcy Court judge. No doubt that employee morale is at rock bottom tight now.

Posted by Frank II
4377 posts

The author of the NY Times article is not a Times reporter. He's a Russian born, American bred novelist. According to wikipedia, "much of his work is satirical and relies on the invention of elaborately fictitious yet somehow familiar places and times." After reading his NY times article, I think the description is perfect. As for the seats, instead of jumping to conclusions, why not wait until the FAA finishes their investigation.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

You fly long enough you get a horror story. I have horror stories on Delta, USAir, AA and others. If I swore off of all of them where a nightmare has occurred I would have to quit my job so I could stay home full time. The only airline that serves my airport for domestic travel that I have not had a horror trip on is Spirit. And I don't ever plan to give Spirit the chance to upset me.

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
532 posts

We've flown AA for years and accumulate FF miles with them as well. We've had splendid experiences flying from Dallas to just about anywhere, with our favorite being to London. We had superior customer service flying an invalid relative back from CA to Tulsa. The staff on the aircraft and at intermediate stops could not have been better. All airlines have flights and delays from hell. AA is no different but even with the bankruptcy, we have been treated quite well by all levels of AA employees. Strange how it workssmile, pay them a compliment, use please and thank you like your mommy taught youhopefullyand you'll be surprised at how well you're treated. Scowl, whine, and make snide remarks, and you'll likely experience a flight from hell.

Posted by Tom
2876 posts

Flew American round-trip Chicago to Boston last week. Excellent experience both ways. Seemed like the pilot and crew were going out of their way to be helpful. Landed on time going and coming. I wouldn't hesitate to fly them again to any destination.

Posted by Robert
629 posts

I've always been impressed by airline employees at all stages, including reservations, desk, and in-flight, so I understand what people are saying about American and its latest problems, and how the flight crew was great and everything went fine. In some ways, these airline personnel are the perfect employees for the Mitt Romney style of corporate governance; you cut their pay and benefits and treat them as 2d class citizens, but they continue to deliver because they are really nice people and went into the profession because they like it and want to be helpful. But at some point things have to give; you can't treat them as slaves for too long before they start to get nasty and rebel against the way they're being treated, and they can't take it out on their owners, so they take it out on their customers, the flying public. I had a friend who was a flight attendant for United for 35 years, and had a great career with lots of travel and benefits and good pay up until the last few years. But his last few years got worse and worse, and just when he planned to retire, the United bankruptcy threw a wrench into his plans and he had to keep working for several more years. He said that there was no way he'd recommend the profession to anyone starting out. But knowing him, there was no way he ever took his frustrations out on his customers, the passengers.

Posted by Bets
1970 posts

To follow-up on what Frank wrote, not only is the author a satirical writer but as I read on Flyertalk, since the article was in the Review section of the Times, a section open to outside writers of essays, there is no fact checking.

Posted by Robert
629 posts

I didn't realize that the NYT published satirical fiction as fact w/o fact checking; especially by the author of a book as bad as Absurdistan. I should have looked into that before making it the basis of a posting, although it doesn't explain the unbolted seats on Saturday. The recently-deceased Arthur Ochs Sulzberger must be rolling over in his grave.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
612 posts

Anything can happen on any airline and unfortunately we just have to learn to put up with it. I travel about once a month on business. Last week, on American, a 45 minute layover in Chicago turned into a 2 1/2 hours waiting to board the plane (with no explanation). Two weeks prior, a United flight was delayed about an hour due to a minor mechanical issue with a cargo door, but the captain kept us informed about progress of the fix as he was informed. Even opened the door to allow anyone to deboard if they desired. The flight made up time in the air and arrived in Chicago only 10 minutes late. Earlier this year I paid $99 to upgrade to a bulkhead/aisle seat on United. When boarding I was bumped to a window seat for a Cello with a bad attitude from the boarding agent. Requested refund through the United site and not only received a refund, but a United voucher for $150.00. Friday flew back to the west coast on Delta, and the plane left on time and arrived early. Basically, its sheer luck as to when air travel is uneventful or not.

Posted by Anne
Simi Valley, CA, USA
19 posts

Wow, I am flying AA on Friday I hope its a good flight to Paris. As the others have stated that if you are kind towards the flight attendants you will receive the same service back. I love to watch the interaction on airplanes, people just don't get that the rules are the rules for a reason. Follow them, use your manners and you will be fine.

Posted by Robert
629 posts

I wouldn't be worried Anne; you have a great attitude. Although I was the one who posted this originally, as well as the follow-up about the seats coming loose, if someone gave us 2 free round trip tickets to Paris for tomorrow but said we had to fly American AL, I'd say: what time should I be at the airport?

Posted by SUSAN
64 posts

Took flight from Boston to Paris on 9/27, and returned on 10/9/12 on American Airlines. Flight was bumpy on the way home, but everyone was very nice and could not have been nicer. Both ways, we were able to get seats together, although when originally booked my husband and I were about 10 rows apart. I agree with the earlier posters - if you smile and are not aggressive and snarly, then you will be treated nicely. With that said, my son, who lives in China and travels 75% of his work time, notes that the US airlines' staff do not do as good a job as the European and asian airlines - and I'm sure that has to do with all the concessions they've had to make, loss of benefits and pay, etc. However, people who travel the world notice this, and seem to want to fly on other airlines instead of domestic because of this. I feel for the workers of US airlines, but if they are not cheerful, friendly, and nice, people will make the choise to fly other carriers for international destinations. With that said, American was very good on our recent trip to/from Paris, and I hope for the best for them, as I've always had good service with them.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
1841 posts

I fly to Europe every summer from Seattle, WA. I always try to fly on European Airlines since they all seem to fly non-stop from Seattle to my destination in Europe. I also fly often in the US on US airlines and from my 50 years of flying, I will take a European airlines any day over a US airline. My first flight on Lufthansa Airlines was scheduled for this August 31 but was cancelled because of their strike in Europe. They did a VERY poor job of taking care of we displaced passengers. Seemed like their employees had never gone thru a strike before. After finally get to Europe and spending several days in Frankfurt (via United) we went to their counter there to take a scheduled flight to Venice. And, guess what? No flights again due to another strike. We will be checking out another airline next summer.