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Deterioration of treatment of elites during irregular operations?

Deterioration of treatment of elites during irregular operations?

Old Jun 19, 19, 2:02 pm
  #1  
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Deterioration of treatment of elites during irregular operations?

Hi all,
I've been an AA PLT for about 20 years now. As such, I've had the occasional experience with irregular operations at AA. My experience had always been that one of the great effective benefits of maintaining elite status on AA was getting preferred treatment when things got operationally dirty. But twice in the last year, I have received much worse treatment from AA than I had come to expect from the previous decades: over an hour wait time on the "Platinum line", agents offering to reschedule me on flights days away when earlier flights are available, and so on. The last few days are an example: while I tried to get from WAS to ABQ, I had three different flights cancelled (one mechanical, two weather) and every other segment delayed by at least two hours, so I had many opportunities over the 2.5 day ordeal to chat with AA agents. In every single case, they offered me rebooking days away when flights were available the same day, which I had to feed to them. In the end, my arrival in ABQ was delayed by 48 hours. Last winter, I had a similar but not quite so egregious experience with AA recovery from irregular operations. My rose-colored recollection of previous years was that AA did a much much better job of taking care of their frequent flyers when operations were not going so good.

So I guess my question is whether you all share my experience of declining service to AAdvantage elite members during irregular ops, or have I just gotten very unlucky this year? If this effective benefit has indeed evaporated, due to higher load factors or grounded 737s or whatever, then that certainly changes the cost/benefit ratio for maintaining AA elite status, I would think.

A couple of suggestions as to how AA could in principle improve their recovery from irregular operation situations:
1) STOP SELLING NEW TICKETS when they have a backlog of stranded passengers. One could imagine that it would be their highest priority to get their stranded passengers with unbooked tickets to their destinations. Right now, the only way for a passenger with an existing but unbooked ticket to get a seat on a new flight is for that seat to be opened up for sale to any new customer. I would suggest that AA could create a new fare class which is open for rebookings but not for sale at any price, and this fare class would be populated during irregular operations.
2) Increase their overbooking margins during irregular operations. It is my observation that during IRROPS, many more passengers than usual fail to show up for their booked ticket. For example, in attempting to escape from DCA on Monday, I boarded a flight to RDU that pulled away from the gate the first time fully loaded; after returning to the gate for a mechanical, deplaning, and replaning, the flight was less than half full as people bailed out for other options.
3) Especially increase their overbooking margins for elite status members. This is totally selfish on my part, but it would allow elite status members to certainly benefit at the expense of potential IDBs for non-status passengers.
4) Improve their operations by focusing on avoiding missed connections, by prioritizing dispatch of flights to hubs. For example, at DCA on Monday there was a weather related ramp hold. After the hold ended, AA had many planes waiting to be serviced. The flights to DFW and ORD were serviced AFTER flights to RDU, Bermuda, Louisville, and several other outstations, thus maximizing the number of missed connections at the hubs. This was an operational decision somewhere in the chain of command that I find very hard to understand. I get that it could have been done for crew availability issues or whatever, but regardless the result was maximized disruption to their passengers and maximized extension of the effects of the IRROPS.

Thanks for any feedback,
saunders111
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Old Jun 19, 19, 2:20 pm
  #2  
 
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Maybe...as exec plat I was told Sunday that I couldnít be reaccomodated in J on BA after my connection to DFW was cancelled.

Then I asked to leave from AUS instead of SAT and I was told that was not possible because it was a weather delay.

Then I was told that despite both being against the rules, she accidentally did it anyway before she asked the supervisor.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 3:14 pm
  #3  
 
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Load factors are a lot higher than they used to be, which explains most of what you observe. However, I would agree with your points and I would add: reduce the reliance on "rolling" delays.

I had a good experience when caught up in the weather yesterday into NYC. My original flight was canceled, and when I called I was through to an agent in about 60 seconds (Platinum), who rebooked me quickly and pleasantly on the next flight, which ended up going almost on time (although we ended up diverting to JFK after circling for an hour waiting to see if we could land at LGA-- I would have preferred if the pilot had made the diversion decision a lot sooner as most people didn't have a need to go to a specific NYC airport and we ended up wasting a lot of time).
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Old Jun 19, 19, 3:43 pm
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EP is the new platinum, CK is the new EP. Basically everything has moved down a notch, and woe to the customer who isnít ConciergeKey.
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Last edited by SouthernCross; Jun 19, 19 at 3:57 pm
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Old Jun 19, 19, 4:22 pm
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Originally Posted by wetrat0 View Post
Load factors are a lot higher than they used to be, which explains most of what you observe. However, I would agree with your points and I would add: reduce the reliance on "rolling" delays.

I had a good experience when caught up in the weather yesterday into NYC. My original flight was canceled, and when I called I was through to an agent in about 60 seconds (Platinum), who rebooked me quickly and pleasantly on the next flight, which ended up going almost on time (although we ended up diverting to JFK after circling for an hour waiting to see if we could land at LGA-- I would have preferred if the pilot had made the diversion decision a lot sooner as most people didn't have a need to go to a specific NYC airport and we ended up wasting a lot of time).
That plane is scheduled to fly people from LGA, diverting likely cancels that flight, always a lot of considerations in these decisions.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 4:26 pm
  #6  
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This is why having an AC membership is very valuable even if you pay out of pocket for it. I look on my phone, find flights that look like they have available seats (I jot down several options). Go to the AC desk, they change my flights. I have a drink (or two) in the AC, board my new flight and off I go. With load factors expected at 90% this summer it's going to be hell from hell. Unless you're a CK you're probably on your own. If you do need to call do your homework.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 4:54 pm
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Originally Posted by jliehr View Post


That plane is scheduled to fly people from LGA, diverting likely cancels that flight, always a lot of considerations in these decisions.
Understood. It was midnight by the time we landed so undoubtedly the outgoing flight was already canceled, but flying to JFK certainly puts the plane in the wrong place.

Totally off topic, but bizarrely the flight that took off 14 minutes after us, somehow passed us in flight and landed 44 minutes before us... at LGA... .

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/...340Z/KORD/KJFK
https://flightaware.com/live/flight/...040Z/KORD/KLGA
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Old Jun 19, 19, 5:37 pm
  #8  
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OP's situation is an unfortunate series of events, but seems to run contrary to what AA generally does. JonNYC has recently posted AA's internal policy for rebooking in IRROPS and it greatly favors elites with lengthy delays. It is also my impression that AA clearly blocks seats in IRROPS so that it can move stranded pax and that its overbooking algorithm accommodates large-scale IRROPS by recognizing that there may be less availability, but that there will be more no shows.

There are certain things which are new and which do suggest a bit of research before seeking accommodation.
#1 - Flights are full. That is true not only for AA but across the US. Full flights means fewer empty seats available in IRROPS. But, that does not preclude standby and that is the route in large-scale IRROPS. Overbooking flights beyond what can likely be accommodated simply prolongs the misery and is not financially responsible.

#2 - Before speaking with an agent, have the research in hand. Asking for a reroute is rarely a good idea. Always better to have reroutes in hand to propose. When you do that you will more likely get what you seek than waiting for an agent to come up with what you like.

#3 Be flexible. If getting to your destination in a timely manner is more important than your F aisle seat, make a point of saying so.

Finally, remember that one of your options if a flight is cancelled or substantially delayed is a refund of the ticket. It is not always the case that other carriers will be more expensive at the last minute. Bear in mind that AA does not interline with B6 or WN. In the case of DCA-ABQ, there are at least 9 frequencies a day (all with at least one connection). But, AA cannot book them. You can. If you can see positive space on WN, grab it, and cancel AA.

It is always helpful to have a high-end corporate TA with 24/7 backup which can handle IRROPS for you, including making hotel arrangements. But, if you don't have that, a bit of prep in advance can avoid problems downstream.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 5:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
<snip>
Finally, remember that one of your options if a flight is cancelled or substantially delayed is a refund of the ticket. It is not always the case that other carriers will be more expensive at the last minute. Bear in mind that AA does not interline with B6 or WN. In the case of DCA-ABQ, there are at least 9 frequencies a day (all with at least one connection). But, AA cannot book them. You can. If you can see positive space on WN, grab it, and cancel AA.
Good advice. Cancelled makes sense, that is pretty clear. But in AA's policy, what is the definition of "substantially delayed" that would allow one to obtain a refund?

Regards
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Old Jun 19, 19, 5:57 pm
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I might be vilified for saying it, but maybe all F upgrades should be handled at the gate (T-60? T-75? I forget when that usually is). That way those of us who suffer IRROPS on paid F tickets can avoid a downgrade when being re-accommodated. If the next available flight is 4 hours away, maybe the phone line would be able to find me inventory in my paid cabin if upgrades haven't been processed yet. Even better would be a mandated downgrade compensation like they have in the EU, not based on "at time of departure" fares (I've seen people here on discounted F say they were refunded only based on the difference to a full Y fare).

(not an AA specific thought/complaint).

Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
Finally, remember that one of your options if a flight is cancelled or substantially delayed is a refund of the ticket.
And regarding a cancellation to rebook with someone else - I've done that before, but it was always the second half of my ticket or a one-way. What if it's my outbound that is cancelled and I still need the return?
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Old Jun 19, 19, 7:12 pm
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To me, it ties directly to the lack of knowledge of newer agents and the generally abysmal state of customer service and attitude that trickles down from the top.

I have experienced more agents who dont know how to do basic things and a subset of those who, instead of finding out, make stuff up.

You have a CEO who is leading the worst performing sector stock, who has unhappy employees, poor operational performance and increasingly unhappy customers and yet the Board and shareholders dont act. When there is no repercussions for failure at the top, it makes it's way downhill.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 7:32 pm
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I've been lucky avoiding irrops for the most part, but the last couple of times it happened I was able to use the AA app to choose a satisfying rebook option literally seconds after the flight was cancelled (and even then, I find it easy to keep rechecking and switching to a better option). I don't see much need in talking to an agent, at the airport nor on the phone, but the AC angels are my backup.... Of course, my domestic mostly flying through DFW to another hub or major city lends itself easily to many options, so maybe the rebooking app just works in my case (or does nobody else even try to use it?)

My gripe with AA is the rolling delays. They hold you at the gate for hours with rolling delays for a flight that often just gets cancelled. Their entire logistics of getting a plane+complete crew during irrops seems to be nothing more than hopeful thoughts and prayers.
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Old Jun 19, 19, 7:58 pm
  #13  
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Originally Posted by MarkOK View Post
I've been lucky avoiding irrops for the most part, but the last couple of times it happened I was able to use the AA app to choose a satisfying rebook option literally seconds after the flight was cancelled (and even then, I find it easy to keep rechecking and switching to a better option). I don't see much need in talking to an agent, at the airport nor on the phone, but the AC angels are my backup.... Of course, my domestic mostly flying through DFW to another hub or major city lends itself easily to many options, so maybe the rebooking app just works in my case (or does nobody else even try to use it?)

My gripe with AA is the rolling delays. They hold you at the gate for hours with rolling delays for a flight that often just gets cancelled. Their entire logistics of getting a plane+complete crew during irrops seems to be nothing more than hopeful thoughts and prayers.
For whatever reason, in this case the app also showed only new flights days away for rebooking, even when flights later the same day were available for sale on the app at the exact same time. Why, I have no idea. This happened repeatedly over the course of the few days.

saunders111
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Old Jun 19, 19, 8:01 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by newyorkgeorge View Post
This is why having an AC membership is very valuable even if you pay out of pocket for it. I look on my phone, find flights that look like they have available seats (I jot down several options). Go to the AC desk, they change my flights. I have a drink (or two) in the AC, board my new flight and off I go. With load factors expected at 90% this summer it's going to be hell from hell. Unless you're a CK you're probably on your own. If you do need to call do your homework.
Yes, I agree that the AC is a great resource. I did make use of it (you might remember my recent post about AA meal vouchers not being accepted at the AC). But in this case even the AAngels were unfortunately not a lot of help, although they certainly were positive and proactive. Whatever cultural disease is infecting the rest of AA's employees does not seem to have reached the Admirals Clubs, as far as I have seen.

saunders111
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Old Jun 19, 19, 8:16 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
OP's situation is an unfortunate series of events, but seems to run contrary to what AA generally does. JonNYC has recently posted AA's internal policy for rebooking in IRROPS and it greatly favors elites with lengthy delays. It is also my impression that AA clearly blocks seats in IRROPS so that it can move stranded pax and that its overbooking algorithm accommodates large-scale IRROPS by recognizing that there may be less availability, but that there will be more no shows.

There are certain things which are new and which do suggest a bit of research before seeking accommodation.
#1 - Flights are full. That is true not only for AA but across the US. Full flights means fewer empty seats available in IRROPS. But, that does not preclude standby and that is the route in large-scale IRROPS. Overbooking flights beyond what can likely be accommodated simply prolongs the misery and is not financially responsible.

#2 - Before speaking with an agent, have the research in hand. Asking for a reroute is rarely a good idea. Always better to have reroutes in hand to propose. When you do that you will more likely get what you seek than waiting for an agent to come up with what you like.

#3 Be flexible. If getting to your destination in a timely manner is more important than your F aisle seat, make a point of saying so.

Finally, remember that one of your options if a flight is cancelled or substantially delayed is a refund of the ticket. It is not always the case that other carriers will be more expensive at the last minute. Bear in mind that AA does not interline with B6 or WN. In the case of DCA-ABQ, there are at least 9 frequencies a day (all with at least one connection). But, AA cannot book them. You can. If you can see positive space on WN, grab it, and cancel AA.

It is always helpful to have a high-end corporate TA with 24/7 backup which can handle IRROPS for you, including making hotel arrangements. But, if you don't have that, a bit of prep in advance can avoid problems downstream.

Thank you for the feedback, all of which is absolutely on point.

Would you have a link to JonNYC's posting of the policy? I would love to read it, because what you describe in your first paragraph is diametrically opposed to my experiences of this week. Maybe it is just that PLT effectively doesn't count as elite on AA anymore, as another poster suggested. But regardless, what you describe and what I experienced could not be more different, as I described before.

Regarding bailing to another carrier, one of the frustrations, of course, was that while AA was in seeming fibrillation, at DCA and DFW, WN was running more or less normal operations out of DAL and BWI. They had multiple seats available on many flights during this whole period. So I obviously considered walking away from the AA ticket (this was the return half of a round trip) for a refund and taking WN instead. But, it was always the same decision: I'm booked on an AA flight in four hours out of DCA (or later ORD). Should I pay about $400 (WN fare - AA refund due + cost to get to BWI or Midway) to switch over WN, which is also of course not guaranteed, or should I hope that THIS is the time that AA delivers on their promise? It never seemed worth investing in that gamble, and then another six hours had slipped away... In hindsight, of course it would have been the right decision to walk away from AA early on, but it wasn't so obvious at the time.

Thanks,
saunders111

ps I would suggest this decision about whether to walk away from AA is one that all of us are kind of facing at a larger scale, like where do we put our flying next year?
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