Observations over the past month (long)

 
Old Aug 20, 03, 10:50 am
  #1  
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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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Old Aug 20, 03, 12:14 pm
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Thanks for such a detailed report!

I mostly agree with your observations, although I have been in the Asian region for the past few weeks.

About the cleanliness of aircraft, AA actually scores not too bad on my list. UA has dirtier seats and WN is part of the list of course. This is unacceptable. Of course, it is based on experiences before July. Sad to hear that AA has reached this stage.

AA's MD-80 is a really sad aircraft to deal with. I really hope that AA can take more Boeing 737-800s... I feel really bad for people who needs to fly in and out of DFW... BTW, don't worry! F-100 will be retired soon, but I am not sure if it is good news because Regional Jet (ERJ or CRJ) will likely replace these F-100s, which at least offer a F class cabin and MRTC.

About Northwest, I actually find it quite pleasant and the meals are not too bad, compared to what we get served these days by UA and DL.

United used to be a great airline, but after it files Chapter 11, it has been different. The new Airbus fleet offered a nicer F class product and better inflight entertainment system and audio, but I like AA slightly better especially UA gate agents at SFO are really unpleasant to deal with.

There is actually one more aspect that I like about AA. The AAdvantage program is better in certain aspects, especially I can earn elite bonus miles when flying Oneworld carriers, unlike Star Alliance (no elite bonus). Redeeming awards seems to be easier on AA and less restrictions when issuing Oneworld award tickets.

Thanks for such a detailed report!
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Old Aug 20, 03, 1:47 pm
  #3  
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You're pretty much right on...

I really like American Airlines. I really dislike that it cannot clean its planes properly. Makes me wonder if those people live that way at home, and I often ponder how clean the Dallas headquarters are.

Am I the only person alive that appreciates the MD-80? They are quiet, the 2-3 configuration is nice (especially on the AB side), and, actually, I like the lack of inflight entertainment. It forces me to read and work versus watch garbage or listen to music. It also makes for a quieter cabin, IMO.

I also wish the airlines would consider dumping the full aisle-beverage service with carts. I like the Southwest format of beverage service...keeps the aisles clear and is less distracting.

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Old Aug 20, 03, 1:52 pm
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It breaks my heart to say this - yet I must agree on the F cabin cleanliness comments.

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Old Aug 20, 03, 2:54 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by dll:
Am I the only person alive that appreciates the MD-80? They are quiet, the 2-3 configuration is nice (especially on the AB side), and, actually, I like the lack of inflight entertainment. It forces me to read and work versus watch garbage or listen to music. It also makes for a quieter cabin, IMO.
</font>
You're not alone. I rather like them too, especially with MRTC. And of course it doesn't hurt to have plenty of F seats upfront to ugprade to. I really don't care about IFE (although I do have a weak spot for air shows...). In fact I find video on planes without individual IFEs (738, 757, etc) quite annoying.
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Old Aug 20, 03, 3:29 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by dll:
Am I the only person alive that appreciates the MD-80?</font>
No, there are quite a few of us. Unless I'm stuck way in the back (which admittedly is very noisy and quite miserable), it's my favorite short-to-medium-haul plane.
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Old Aug 20, 03, 3:53 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Ready2Go:
No, there are quite a few of us. Unless I'm stuck way in the back (which admittedly is very noisy and quite miserable), it's my favorite short-to-medium-haul plane.</font>
I fly weekly from STL to MCI,LIT or OMA. Always in F on an S80.

I'm going to really miss F in the S80 after 11/1 when I'll be forced to fly Southworst to those destinations.

I wonder just how many FT's out there share my opinion?
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Old Aug 20, 03, 7:16 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by dll:
Am I the only person alive that appreciates the MD-80? They are quiet, the 2-3 configuration is nice (especially on the AB side), and, actually, I like the lack of inflight entertainment. It forces me to read and work versus watch garbage or listen to music. It also makes for a quieter cabin, IMO.
</font>
I actually thought they were fairly comfortable and i'm able to sleep well on them. I do like their config but the last times I was on them, they were pretty full.
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Old Aug 20, 03, 7:45 pm
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You are spot on about the dirty planes... filthy even.

... but fares are finally competitive out of DFW again.
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Old Aug 20, 03, 10:07 pm
  #10  
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I really like the MD 80. It's great knowing you can get on the two side and not have to deal with a middle seater.
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Old Aug 21, 03, 12:36 am
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I agree with virtually all of your observations especially the one about trying to sleep on a red-eye in a 757 in FC. What were they thinking?

In contrast, the MD-80 in FC is a pleasure especially on a lunch flight. Small cabin, quiet, good unhurried service and usually a nice cold salad with some chicken or fish.

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Old Aug 21, 03, 1:04 am
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who on earth could possibly have only flown United just once? perhaps a desert island refugee with no access to a major Star alliance airport or an uncultured being with no understanding of a world class airline?

this is just plain bizarre.
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Old Aug 21, 03, 1:10 am
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I think I am going to jump in on this with my observations, I have 25 segments equalling at just over 41K miles with AA.
- Cabins are sometimes dirty but I've noticed that its often on flights that are in the middle of a stop-over like my STL-PHX flight yesterday which was actully DTW-STL-PHX, they just dont have the time to clean them too fully.
- I disagree with LGA being bad in the F/Elite lines in the morning, Ive been there at 5:30, 7:30 and 8 and I was either the second person in line or the third, never any delay at all.
- In flight personal are just nothing short of amazing, I've only had two I didn't really like and they were coming off multiple RJ hops on the day. I can't say the same for check in agents, the ones at LGA are particulary bad, prone to snapping fits and angry sighs. Gate agents are on the most part ok, except the ICT ones who thought it was a gas to make noise with the microphone.
- IFE on the planes isn't the best but it gives me a chance to catch up on my reading and if you want to watch a movie on the 757, 10A isn't too bad for the screen, the EX-TWA ones have drop down screens which are excellent.
- Admirals Clubs although strapped for food have great staff and are still much better then sitting in the C concourse at LGA or the B pier in STL
- Meals up in First/Buisness have been consistantly good minus the Chicken Salad Sandwich but what I find odd is why is that my STL-PHX MD-80 has a better dessert (Ice cream sundae) then my Buisness Class 777 JFK-NRT (Cheesecake) or my Business Class 762 JFK-LAX (Scoop of ice cream) that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me.
- The best and the worst as far as the American Facilities at major airports are.
Worst Hub - DFW, too lagre, not enough concessiosn and no **** windows.
Worst Focus City - JFK, I feel sorry for New York visitors as their first view is of a dump
Worst Other Site - RDU, the AA terminal does not have a single major chain store/resturant, that should tell you something.
Best Hub - ORD, Great Admirals Club, lots of natural light, clean, well Air Conditioned
Best Focus City - LAX, Nicely refurbished Terminal with a new Admirals Club/Flagship Lounge to boot.
Besst Other Site- DCA, nice terminal with good food choices both before and after security and quite comfortable airport chairs with my favorite small AC.
The End

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Old Aug 21, 03, 7:42 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by unitedbusiness:
who on earth could possibly have only flown United just once? perhaps a desert island refugee with no access to a major Star alliance airport or an uncultured being with no understanding of a world class airline?

this is just plain bizarre.
</font>
I guess I wouldn't even fit into this lowlife category.
Maybe because I've lived in MKE for the past 4 years and MIA for 10 years prior to that. Since 1992 I've been COMPLETELY loyal to AA and have qualified for PLT the past 6 years.
Maybe b/c my 8+ years of medical training hasn't afforded me the oportunity to become "cultured".
Oh yes, there was one exception to my Complete AA loyalty. That was when I used 140,000 AA miles for award ticket on AA/CX F (MKE-ORD-LAX-HKG-SYD-HKG-LHR-ORD-MKE) two years ago. Not quite sure if CX F would fit your category of a "world class ailine though"
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Old Aug 21, 03, 10:02 am
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I agree with the cleanliness issue. My last flight a few weeks ago, the seat in front of me was ripped, the carpet was stained, etc., and this was in first. But on the other hand, if AA has to cut costs I would rather it be with maintenance of the seats and interior than maintenance of the mechanical components.
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