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Old Aug 20, 03, 10:50 am
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: NYC
Programs: AA 1mm; SPG Gold
Posts: 672
Observations over the past month (long)

Fellow FTers,

August has been a particularly greuling travel month for me. It's not so much the flights, but rather the back-to-back nature of them. Example: Monday of this week LGA>ORD>PDX followed the next morning at 6:30am by PDX>DFW>LGA. It's been like that.

All of this time spent in airplanes over the past few months (80% of which on AA) has lead me to ponder a few observations, to which I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and responses (for background purposes, I am AA PLT, and have flown just over 60k flight miles this year and am based in NYC):

* Firstly (because this one really irks me) AA vessels have been FILTHY lately. Seats, lavs, everything. It's becoming the norm to sit down in an AA first class seat (esp. on a 757 or S80) and see crumbs, old boarding passes, grease, grime, etc. This is absolutely disgusting and cutbacks or not, this is inexcusable. Recent flights on CO, DL, and NW (more later) have yielded clean seats. This is pretty basic stuff.

* AA personnel, especially the in-flight types, are fantastic. This continues to be the reason that AA has my business. My flight attendant on my last segment yesterday, "Gil", even managed to remember the names of everyone in F throughout the flight, without the benefit of looking at the manifest. Very nice touch. AC staff are always great, and the phone folks are excellent too. GAs can be surly from time to time, but I suppose that goes with the stress of trying to get an aircraft out and all the logistics that goes with it.

* The food - when there is food - isn't that bad. Despite the cutbacks, the meals in F have been pretty good. Southwestern omlette? Yum. Chicken salad? Nice. (Greasy personal mushroom pizza? Yucko...)

* AA's domestic-route aircraft are most definitely behind-the-times. With the exception of the 777 most other airlines have AA beat on cabin technology/comfort. To wit: the F seats on the 757 are a misery and I will never do another LGB/SJC>NYC redeye again for that reason. It is simply impossible to get comfortable and I am only 5'7". The lack of GTE Airfones on AA aircraft is a big minus (not that I'm a big fan of paying $10 per minute, but it's nice to know that it's there) - plus Verizon's new in-flight data services available on most other carriers is great. IFE on AA's non-767/777 fleet is also pretty bad - every try to watch a movie on a 757 without breaking your neck? Forget it. And (obviously) you will need to bring a good book on all S80 hauls. Granted, 757s and S80s on other carriers have just the same pitfalls, but AA's reliance on these two aircraft as its workhorses exacerbate the problem. (Let's not even discuss the F100.)

* DL is not something I'd like to find myself traveling too often. When traveling to ATL it's hard to avoid them, but I am NOT a huge fan. Their ticket personnel at EWR leave a bit to be desired, their aircraft in coach are unpleasant, and I HATE their new lobby concept, especially in ATL. "How do I talk to a person?" "You don't." Grreeat... Three positive things about DL though: 1) the flight info monitors in their terminals, 2) the ATL CRC's and 3) the DL Shuttle. Next time I fly to Atlanta it will be on Airtran.

* NW.. never again. Sorry to NW loyalists, and I am sure you have your reasons for flying them, but yikes. Those planes are OLD, first of all, and the FAs on them are some of the surliest I've ever encountered. Recently had to fly them to get to a wedding in rural GA (another story) and was disappointed start-to-finish. My girlfriend asked the lead FA if we could hang up my suit in the closet since the overheads would have creased it (F and Y were empty) and the response was "actually that's for first class. You can use the overhead." Just a bad experience. (However, their regional affiliate was great - those Canadair RJ's are incredible...)

* CO - especially in F - is a nice product. Really. Planes are very clean and comfortable (love the foot-holes in the bulkhead on their 738), their EWR hub is beautiful, and the FAs are great. Living where I do (Queens), however, EWR is not a viable option for me, and their FF program doesn't really meet my needs. But boy, AA could really learn a thing or two about in-flight comfort from CO.

* Eagle continues to be hit-or-miss. For DCA/BOS, sorry, but it's just not a real Shuttle product. I don't mean to generalize, but the FA and ground staff (especially ex-JFK) are not nearly up to par with mainline.

* UA is courting my business and I'm contemplating whether to give them a shot. I've only flown UA once or twice in my life and don't remember any strong impressions either way. Their sales rep was in my corporate travel office when I was there booking an AA itinerary, and he practically begged me to give UA a try. He says that I'd be happier with them than UA and that they'd emerge from C11 within the next couple of months. I'm in sales too, so I know where this guy is coming from, but I don't know about investing too much mileage equity into a bankrupt-protected carrier. I do plan on giving them a try over the next year to see what they have to offer. At a quick glance, MP seems like a pretty fair and attractive program...

* Airports are not fun places. LGA and JFK, in the early mornings, have been near riotous lately, especially in the checkin area. I use online and self-service checkin whenever possible, but the infrequent visit to the PLT/F checkin lines have yielded long delays. And security (despite the occasional presence of premium checkpoints) has been backed up 20-30 minutes by TSA dictatorial types who still demand that "everyone take off their shoes" even and especially after the recent TSA release indicating that you do NOT have to do so. I love how these clowns make up their own rules and treat you like a criminal because you need to fly. I've said it before and I'll say it again here folks - it's up to the AIRLINES to push back here...

* "You no longer need to show a photo ID when boarding." "You must show a government issued photo ID when boarding." DECIDE, people, DECIDE... we can't continue to have different rules at different stations!

* Security lines at YYZ are such a pleasure. Reminds me of the old days.

All said and done, AA has its flaws (more on some days than others) but net/net they will continue to be my "home" airline. I know that more often than not, I'll get good service and a seat up front with a decent meal, for a fare that my corporate travel people can swallow. AA must, however, stay nimble with the times so that they can effectively compete in what has become the low-cost, no-frills carrier's space - and for heaven's sake, clean those darn planes!

best, Lewis
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