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American Airlines' bizarre ideas of [domestic] "First Class" and "Customer Service"

American Airlines' bizarre ideas of [domestic] "First Class" and "Customer Service"

Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:10 pm
  #1  
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American Airlines' bizarre ideas of [domestic] "First Class" and "Customer Service"

Returned Sunday from our cruise on Celebrity Silhouette.
We had booked First Class round trip on AA LAX to FLL using AAdvantage miles--booking almost a year ago. Got "okay" flights--left Friday, March 18 on the red-eye--10:40 pm, arriving FLL at 9:31 am after a stop and change of planes in Charlotte. Flight home post-cruise was supposed to be 1:30 pm, changing in DFW, arriving home 7:00 pm. Reserved seats in row 2 on all four legs, reserved meals on flights home.

First off, AA gives you nothing at the airport for being First Class...but they did offer a "day pass" for the Admirals Club Lounge for only $50 per person...Way to nickel and dime your first class passengers, AA!

The seats on the plane were only marginally better than coach...A tiny drop extra leg room, about 2 inches wider...but hard, uncomfortable and no more "recline" than coach. Service was nonexistent--they came around once for drinks and also handed out tiny dishes of mixed nuts. No food. Also no entertainment--unless you brought along your own laptop and headphones and PAID for internet service and for movies. This is "First Class", folks!

Food on the second leg consisted of the flight attendant passing by with a basket with a choice of small bags of potato chips, popcorn or cranberry biscotti.

And the flights there were the better of the two!

The morning of the disembarkation, as we were about to disembark and head for FLL, we got an E-mail from AA:

"BeNotified
Your flight is cancelled

American Airlines flight 2280 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 5:35 PM has been cancelled. We’re working to rebook your trip now and will send you an update soon.

Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles
Sunday, March 27, 2016

To make changes to your travel plans

Call the travel agent who made your original reservation
From outside the U.S. or for special assistance contact us
From within the U.S. call 1-800-433-7300
If you booked with American Airlines Vacations call 800-486-7523"


Seriously!

Eventually, we found out they switched us to flights later in the day via Charlotte (flights that were eventually delayed a couple of hours, getting us home much later than planned). The message showed that we had seats on the first, shorter leg...but no seats on the cross-country leg. I looked it up on the AA website and only two seats showed as available in First Class--both windows (I always book an aisle--claustrophobic) and 4 rows apart. I tried calling AA to see if we could get seats together...or, perhaps a different flight, maybe routed through Dallas or Phoenix...even asked about going to Miami and flying from there. Nothing. They said, "maybe...ask when I get to Charlotte...or maybe...someone will give up their aisle seat and switch with you". Good luck.

When we got to FLL, I asked the guy at the desk about switching seats...Told him what happened--that the flight was apparently cancelled that morning... "No", he said, "that flight was cancelled WEEKS AGO...They stopped running that route, it's no longer on the schedule". Again, seriously? Could they not have informed us of this WHEN they cancelled it? Perhaps, back then, we might have arranged a different flight...or, at least, seats together...

Seats going home worse than going...same plane, basically, but the seat in Row 4 had virtually no recline...there is a wall behind it...and, on that wall are rods where they hang the coats and jackets of First Class passengers. Again, hard uncomfortable seats, no entertainment except for paid internet and movies, potato chips on the first leg. On the second, cross country leg, there was a meal...but, by the time they got to the fourth and final row of first class, there was no choice--rubber chicken with hard to identify sides.

Now, here is where it gets really infuriating:
The day after getting home, I decided to contact AA to let them know how I felt. After all, I had paid 100,000 AAdvantage points hoping to maybe get a little sleep on the overnight flight...and a little first class treatment. Coach seats (which I guess are never available nowadays anyway) should have been a mere 40,000 points.

The only avenue AA gives you to contact them is by email or snail mail. I sent a completely descriptive email. Got a call back. The representative said "Thank you. I will forward your comments to Operations so they might make any needed improvements. As a token of our appreciation, we will send you a voucher for $100 toward a future AA flight which must be taken within the next year." I told them to keep it. I find that token amount insulting.

So, this morning I tried calling AA. Virtually EVERY number one can find for them results in Voicemail Purgatory. You cannot get through to a live person on any AA number except Reservations...and they claim to have no way to connect you or give you a valid phone number for ANYONE. They actually claim they have never spoken to anyone at corporate. Can't be done.

I finally found a number for AAdvantage customer service that worked. (The one on the website for AAdvantage Customer Service was just another intro to Voicemail Purgatory.) Spoke with a very nice rep there--who was very sympathetic and said she would go to her supervisors and try to get me a refund of my excess AAdvantage points...She returned and offered me a whopping 3,000 points. Remember, the difference between coach and First Class alone was 60,000 points. 3,000 is almost worthless--especially since you can never even get available flights at lower award values. She agreed with me that it should have been much higher but that was all they were authorized to give. She suggested I write again and complain again. So, I did. This time I suggested a couple of proposals: 1) They upgrade my next flight (LAX to Heathrow) from coach to Business class or 2) They refund 60,000 of my miles so I can use them for my air to my cruise next June.

I got another return call for customer service. The rep denied my requests and offered me......3,000 points...and then said that she thought "that was fair"...I said "Seriously? I know that is the "official line" that you are required to say, but, really, do you REALLY think that's fair? She said NO...but that is what she is trained to say. That is the standard offer they make to EVERYBODY and they are told to insist that it is a fair offer. I pleaded with her to give me a number for corporate that would actually get through...and she told me she wished she had a number to give me...but they have NOTHING.

So, basically, this is the American Airlines standard for "Customer Service":
You CAN NOT call them.
You can not do anything but write...and hope they answer.
The clerks who answer are only authorized to give you a token back.
If you don't like it, "Thank you for flying American...click."
Bruin Steve is offline  
Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:33 pm
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by Bruin Steve
First off, AA gives you nothing at the airport for being First Class...but they did offer a "day pass" for the Admirals Club Lounge for only $50 per person...Way to nickel and dime your first class passengers, AA!
So outside of select New York (and on AA, Miami) routes to SFO and LAX, no major US airline gives lounge access to domestic first class passengers. At the airport first class gets you checked baggage allowance, first class check in counters, priority security lines (if the airport has them), and priority boarding. That's the nature of the product. Not the airline's fault if the customer doesn't know what he or she is buying.

Originally Posted by Bruin Steve
The seats on the plane were only marginally better than coach...A tiny drop extra leg room, about 2 inches wider...but hard, uncomfortable and no more "recline" than coach. Service was nonexistent--they came around once for drinks and also handed out tiny dishes of mixed nuts. No food. Also no entertainment--unless you brought along your own laptop and headphones and PAID for internet service and for movies. This is "First Class", folks!
Again outside of a few select routes this is domestic first class on UA/AA/DL. The seat should have reclined, and you probably can find better food on other carriers. AFAIK no US carrier provides free internet to first class passengers, entertainment varies widely by aircraft, and AA is probably a bit behind it's peers on this front.

Originally Posted by Bruin Steve
The morning of the disembarkation, as we were about to disembark and head for FLL, we got an E-mail from AA:


American Airlines flight 2280 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 5:35 PM has been cancelled. We’re working to rebook your trip now and will send you an update soon.

<...>

When we got to FLL, I asked the guy at the desk about switching seats...Told him what happened--that the flight was apparently cancelled that morning... "No", he said, "that flight was cancelled WEEKS AGO...They stopped running that route, it's no longer on the schedule". Again, seriously? Could they not have informed us of this WHEN they cancelled it? Perhaps, back then, we might have arranged a different flight...or, at least, seats together...
This I truly don't understand. AA has not, nor will it ever, cancel the DFW-LAX route. That's a hub-to-hub flight. It might cancel individual flights for operational, mechanical or weather reasons, but no-way, no-how has it "stopped running the route." Either you misunderstood the agent, there is something missing from the story, or the agent had no clue what he was talking about.

Flight cancellations happen. Once they do, it's not the time to be overly picky about seat assignments. People are generally nice, and passengers will switch on board if you are separated from your family members. As a single traveler I have done this a number of times.

Last edited by bse118; Mar 31, 2016 at 2:49 pm Reason: clarity
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:35 pm
  #3  
 
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I wish you had come here sooner. Sorry to hear about your experience. Folks here could have set your expectations for what kind of service you might get onboard the plane.
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:40 pm
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Hmm, about 80% of the complaints sound like they're coming from a clueless traveler. Caveat Emptor, I think? It's pretty easy to know that you wouldn't get free lounge access, free Wifi, or a meal on certain flights.

And those seats in front of the coats DO recline. Just push harder. @:-)

But hey, the ticket was free and you didn't have to pay to check your bags!
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:43 pm
  #5  
 
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Regarding food, 60 seconds on AA.com would have given you an accurate expectation of what you would receive:

"When planning your travel, please keep in mind that we serve meals in First and Business Class between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m."

"Up to 699 miles (under 2 hours):

◾Light snack such as a fig bar, cookies or pretzels."
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 2:59 pm
  #6  
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Also, seatguru.com can give you an idea of seat pitch and recline on various aircraft of most airlines. So, you can see which seats are best.

Delays and cancellations unfortunately happen. At least, you got a note about it and knew to inquire immediately at FLL.
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 3:14 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Bruin Steve
. . .

The morning of the disembarkation, as we were about to disembark and head for FLL, we got an E-mail from AA:

[SIZE="1"]"BeNotified
Your flight is cancelled

American Airlines flight 2280 from Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles on Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 5:35 PM has been cancelled. We’re working to rebook your trip now and will send you an update soon.

Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles
Sunday, March 27, 2016

. . .


When we got to FLL, I asked the guy at the desk about switching seats...Told him what happened--that the flight was apparently cancelled that morning... "No", he said, "that flight was cancelled WEEKS AGO...They stopped running that route, it's no longer on the schedule". Again, seriously? Could they not have informed us of this WHEN they cancelled it? Perhaps, back then, we might have arranged a different flight...or, at least, seats together...

. . .
The "guy at the desk" was just making stuff up! The flight on that day may have been cancelled, but that route of course has not been cancelled.

In fact, that same flight number is flying that route today leaving DFW at 5:35 pm and arriving LAX at 7:00 pm.
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 3:31 pm
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Want FC take a fight, not, two short hops,

FC is worth the miles international,

100,000 miles one credit card application, and the gave you AC If you renewed.

Still a low budget trip
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:02 pm
  #9  
 
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"I got transported from A to B, but some of it was not to my liking"

Now so far, the complaints, although a bit trite, are fair. The flights and service were not to the OP's liking, and gave him less than the experience he had expected. Specifically, no meal choice and not having the ability to sit in the seats you had preferred, can be a bummer. The first is definitely the responsibility of AA.

Most of the other, I'm sure they made him not feel like AA has a good product, but some research could have informed him, or they seem coloured by a mindset that's looking for the downsides of the mundane.

As for his suggestions:

1) They upgrade my next flight (LAX to Heathrow) from coach to Business class or 2) They refund 60,000 of my miles so I can use them for my air to my cruise next June.
You do realize that you're talking about hundreds of dollar in value, for a missed meal and missing out on a seat preference? Kind of hard to take that seriously.

Last edited by AtlanticX; Mar 31, 2016 at 4:15 pm
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:12 pm
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Originally Posted by ijgordon
Hmm, about 80% of the complaints sound like they're coming from a clueless traveler. Caveat Emptor, I think? It's pretty easy to know that you wouldn't get free lounge access, free Wifi, or a meal on certain flights.

And those seats in front of the coats DO recline. Just push harder. @:-)

But hey, the ticket was free and you didn't have to pay to check your bags!
^ Domestic first class is hardly worth it for me unless it's a lie-flat bed or I'm just upgrading. I can bring my own snacks and a slightly wider seat is hardly worth twice the fare.

Unfortunately, the OP's expectations not being in line with the reality of most carriers' domestic first class products is not the fault of AA. The $100 voucher and 3,000 miles are pretty much the most AA will offer.

It is concerning that AA seems to be the only major with no direct line to customer relations anymore, but clearly their financial performance hasn't suffered for it so I doubt they mind too much.
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:14 pm
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Originally Posted by zitsky
I wish you had come here sooner. Sorry to hear about your experience. Folks here could have set your expectations for what kind of service you might get onboard the plane.
Expectations, and tips/tricks on how to get better seats, service, etc. For instance, if OP had posted here before selecting those flights, s/he would likely have been told to avoid the pmUS Airbii like the plague for a redeye flight. Instead, OP posted a long screed for... what, exactly? Was there a question I missed?
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:25 pm
  #12  
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Originally Posted by rjw242
Expectations, and tips/tricks on how to get better seats, service, etc. For instance, if OP had posted here before selecting those flights, s/he would likely have been told to avoid the pmUS Airbii like the plague for a redeye flight. Instead, OP posted a long screed for... what, exactly? Was there a question I missed?
Yes, this. A little preparation goes a long way. I do suspect there would have been some wise advice shared here. Could have selected better aircraft, known about reserving meals online, etc.

Obviously, the OP has never flown on flights of those lengths in Europe in "Business Class", e.g. British Airways with 3 + 3 across (middle seat blocked) with a miserly 30" of seat pitch.

And IMO, the proffered miles and $100 voucher were decent; Business Class to Heathrow was a nice pipe dream, but it will never happen.

They upgrade my next flight (LAX to Heathrow) from coach to Business class or 2) They refund 60,000 of my miles so I can use them for my air to my cruise next June.
As to calling today, Texas (DFW) has been in a meltdown mode since yesterday with the weather. I'm guessing the telephone center's were pretty busy.

Last edited by JDiver; Mar 31, 2016 at 4:40 pm
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:35 pm
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Interestingly enough, the OP did inquire previously about whether or not a first class ticket granted lounge access and was given enough responses to know what to expect: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/ameri...l#post25633387

So....I'm not really seeing what the OP's gripes are? Domestic F can't be compared to international F but that's not supposed to be news to anyone, right?
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:36 pm
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I'm not one to "pile on" but most of what OP posted is information that would have been easily uncovered with a very modest amount of investigation. AA's domestic F is no different than what OP could expect on any other domestic carrier. AA has some decent direct flights from LAX-MIA on much better aircraft although OP would have shelled out some additional $$ to take them. I would hope that folks do some homework to see what they're buying before investing their hard-earned $$... I know that I most definitely do.
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Old Mar 31, 2016, 4:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Bruin Steve
This time I suggested a couple of proposals: 1) They upgrade my next flight (LAX to Heathrow) from coach to Business class or 2) They refund 60,000 of my miles so I can use them for my air to my cruise next June.
Sorry that your first class flights were not up to your expectation. However, I do think your suggestions for the compensation is unreasonable.

Way I see from your post is that it is about your expectation of first class product was very different from what AA offered on domestic first class. I think we all agree that AA did not mislead you to believe that AA first class would have offered what you had in your expectation. You simply had different expectation for whatever reasons.

Lack of meal service on LAX-CLT red-eye flight and lack of lounge access for domestic first class passengers, all those are listed on AA website and you could have learned about this before you purchased your ticket by miles. Meal information is provided under flight details and lounge access rule is provided on the website also.

Regarding seats on domestic first class, meal offering on red-eye flights, and lounge access for domestic first class passengers, AA is no different from other airlines. You would have experienced similar situation with Delta and United.

As for cancellation, thing do happen and pretty much all of us frequent flyers have experienced more than few flight cancellations. At the end AA got first class seats all the way back to LAX and arrived at LAX on same evening as originally ticketed flight. Things could have handled better for sure and you were very frustrated, but did not result damage to yourself or financial loss. I am guessing that during flight cancelation situation at FLL no AA employees treated you with disrespect nor derogatory way, although some could have been done things more professional ways.
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