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American Airlines

American Airlines Is Trying to Get Better At Apologizing

American Airlines Is Trying to Get Better At Apologizing
Jeff Edwards

In the face of unprecedented operational problems, American Airlines managers are coaching frontline employees on how to hone the perfect mea culpa. If ever caught, one mysterious document leaker may soon be a quick study on the subject after an internal memo discussing the “science” of apologizing and exploring the L.A.S.T. technique for crafting sincere apologies was made just public.

American Airlines employees have had to do a lot of apologizing in recent weeks. Operational woes at the world’s largest airline have disrupted the travel plans of thousands of passengers in just the last month alone with no solution in sight.

The station manager at one of the carrier’s busiest hubs has an idea on how to take the sting out of the too often disrupted service. In a memo, first obtained by A View from the Wing’s Gary Leff, American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Senior Base Manager Tom Kilheeney offered employees a quick tutorial on the “art and science” of apologizing. To his credit, Kilheeney first acknowledged the somewhat untenable position customer service workers have found themselves in recently.

“When we face IROP (irregular operations) days, maintenance delays, catering issues, customer emotions can escalate, and you may need to offer an apology to acknowledge how they feel,” Kilheeney wrote. “I know that is easier said than done. It’s difficult to find yourself apologizing all day for things that don’t go as planned or are beyond your control. So let us explore what the perfect apology is and how we can deliver it.”

The AA manager’s advice on crafting a “relevant, effective and ultimately successful” apology appears sound (if a bit formulaic) and keeps in line with the airline’s focus on extensively coaching employees on how to de-escalate potentially fraught passenger interactions. In 2017, the carrier began a program to provide just such training to at least 65,000 frontline employees, including gate agents and flight attendants.

Although the L.A.S.T. (Listen, Apologize, Solve and Thank) method of apologizing cited by Kilheeney might seem a bit manipulative, it is also a skill set that is very much in demand at American Airlines nowadays. Or as United Airlines proved when a letter to a certain disgruntled human passenger went viral – a bad apology might just be worse than no apology at all.

How was your most recent apology from American Airlines? Did you feel heard, understood and valued or were you left just feeling handled? Sharing your experience on the American Airlines AAdvantage forums means never having to say you’re sorry.

View Comments (4)


  1. kbhayani

    August 27, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    A good try. But whether it will work or not a question. Sometime ago, I invited attention of flight attendants with no luck. Just received sorry when gave feedbacks to AA. in one instance, we requested seat change on a flight from Charlotte to Salt Lake City, my wife and I were overwhelmed by smell of fish from a dinner brought on board by a window seat occupant. Similarly, traveling from Miami, my wife and I were squeezed by an oversized passenger in window seat. Since he boarded earlier than us, he just lifted handle on my middle seat and made himself comfortable. Our request for change in both the instances was not acceded inspite of available seats on those flights. Attendants just sat in their jump seats and did not make any effort. We are not accusing them of any other motivations, but it was disappointing as we did not want to move ourselves to vacant seats and invite other troubles. Our opinion of AA service is not very high.

  2. POatParker

    August 27, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Glad AA is finally realizing this and taking corrective action. The biggest apology to customers would be to get rid of Parker!! He is the most uncustomary centric person at AA! The sooner he is replaced, the better AA will be!

  3. flyingmz

    August 27, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    I would certainly rather have the problem fixed instead of just an apology. (Yes, I did read SOLVE, but…)

  4. LukeO9

    August 27, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Perfect for Companies.
    Perceived benefit and at no cost. Doesn’t even have to be genuine.

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