2023 Domestic F Service Levels

Old Mar 27, 2023, 11:51 am
  #1  
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2023 Domestic F Service Levels

On a recent domestic mainline r/t of ~3 hours each way, I found the complete absence of service in F absolutely astounding on both segments. Both flights were running late, so the lack of a PDBs was understandable. On my outbound flight, service was delayed due to *extremely* light chop. I literally had to flag down the FA for a single refill of my Diet Coke -- the glass was empty when she plopped down the tray. Beyond the FA asking for my drink order / confirming my preorder, and asking to pick up my tray there was literally no proactive service interaction for the duration of the flight. On the return, the first glass of water was served more than halfway into the flight in spite of completely silky-smooth flying conditions. I appreciate the extra room in F, but it feels like these days that's about all for which I'm paying (exponentially) more. It is no longer a "premium" service experience at all.

I know that this will come off like a grandparent bemoaning the "good old days," but when I think of domestic F as recently as the mid-2000s on AA, the differences are dramatic. Long gone are the days of a choice of salad dressing, warm bread basket, wines poured in the isle in addition to one's ordered beverage, etc. The food was also mostly edible in those days.

There's got to be demand for something in-between the current F service offering and flying private. Maybe it's time to stop posting these complaints on FT and start going out of my way to direct my premium cabin revenue to other carriers. Surely there's something better out there? DL? UA? Would love some enlightenment.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 11:55 am
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Originally Posted by AADFW
Surely there's something better out there? DL? UA? Would love some enlightenment.
Nope. The major US 3 have all sunk to rock bottom. People are paying for rock bottom and will continue to do so and that means nothing will change.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 12:25 pm
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Originally Posted by enviroian
Nope. The major US 3 have all sunk to rock bottom. People are paying for rock bottom and will continue to do so and that means nothing will change.
Well, that's rather depressing. I have heard some claim that Delta is at least marginally better?
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 12:33 pm
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Originally Posted by AADFW
Well, that's rather depressing. I have heard some claim that Delta is at least marginally better?
The key word is marginally. In this day and age of airlines making hand over fists profits, reduced schedules, lazy service I just can't muster enough energy nor bandwidth to switch to another carrier that might be marginally better. Besides at Delta getting a coach seat with 2-3" more inches of seat pitch is considered an "upgrade".

Meh.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 1:09 pm
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Originally Posted by AADFW
Well, that's rather depressing. I have heard some claim that Delta is at least marginally better?
I may be in the minority here, but I regularly fly DL and usually find the F FAs worse on average than AA (goes without saying that this is an already-low bar).
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 1:13 pm
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I agree, the standard in the US is for proactive service.

IMO the near term solution in these situations is to ask.
Flag down (as you did). Ring the call button to ask for service if you are in J. I've done this when I have to. While they are varying degrees of delight in responding to the call button, I have never been outright refused or told not to use it. It sometimes also sets off a parade of requests from the cabin.

Yes - it shouldn't be that way. But when you are already on the flight, not much else you can do and you can still make it a better experience by asking for it.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 1:31 pm
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It's just so variable. On a trip a couple of months ago, Service was mediocre to abysmal on 3 of 4 legs in F but exceptional on one of them. RNO-DFW, the flight attendant not only served PDBs, including mixed drinks, but also offered a second before departure. As it's about 3 minutes from leaving the gate to wheels-up out of RNO, the FA advised that we could hang onto our drinks for takeoff, but "If you spill, that's on you," LOL. Warm, friendly, greeted by name, thanked...I had to pinch myself. DFW-TPA on the same trip, not a word to any passenger until about 30 minutes after takeoff. MCO-MIA no PDB but otherwise adequate service on this short leg. MIA-JFK no PDB and again no service until 30 minutes in. I do get that the 77W is a cavern with a huge J cabin, but it takes a metric eternity to get 300 Floridians on an aircraft. We could have had lunch service and a long nap before we left the gate. I was in 1A in the F cabin (sold as J on this route), and again, not a word from any FA until we were nearly over Charlotte.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 1:54 pm
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Originally Posted by gophish11
MIA-JFK no PDB and again no service until 30 minutes in. I do get that the 77W is a cavern with a huge J cabin, but it takes a metric eternity to get 300 Floridians on an aircraft. We could have had lunch service and a long nap before we left the gate. I was in 1A in the F cabin (sold as J on this route), and again, not a word from any FA until we were nearly over Charlotte.
I have never had good service on a domestic widebody. In fact my worst ever was on a 787-8 domestic and that is a small cabin!
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 2:02 pm
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Much of this has to do with training and expectations setting. Back during US Airways bankruptcy #2 (or it might have been #1), the food in F was literally a free snack box. Not good at all. However, some flights attendants made the best of it and still made the experience as good as it could be. Others didn't. (I can honestly say I don't think I ever drank so much wine on flights as I did on the US transcons during this period. LOL) I see some parallels to what happens today. None of the food is like it was in the 90s and early 2000s -- that isn't coming back. However, some FAs do a great job making the experience a solid one -- PDFs, frequent refills, always offering water, clearing trays quickly, coming by an hour before landing to see if anything else is needed, addressing passengers by name, etc. Others drop the food and you barely see them again. It's wildly inconsistent.

Similarly, I've had great service from many PSA FAs. I can only guess their training department emphasizes certain service standards in First.

My biggest pet peeve -- with AA or quite frankly any service provider -- is inconsistency. It's not that hard -- or shouldn't be -- to set service standards and expect people to follow them.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 2:13 pm
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To be fair, I remember in around 2011 or so, when pmAA F was pretty much in its heyday, there were scattered reports of lousy/grumpy service, as well as good service. The food was definitely complained about back then too, but when September 2014 happened and the new meal service rolled out, everyone was suddenly screaming for 2011 to come back.

I remember in 2009, "Helen" the FA made the news. This was in F as well. I remember the SAN catering snafu back in ~2006 or so. I remember the uproar when sundaes were discontinued in midcon F back in the early 2000s or so, maybe even the late 1990s.

My point is, things might seem like crap/inconsistent nowadays, but I promise it was exactly the same thing back then. I guarantee you someone had a meh experience in AA F back in 2005, including lousy food and grumpy service, then someone in December 2021 had amazing food and exceptional service in F. That person in 2005 was probably wondering whatever had happened to AA and bemoaning the good old days of 1993... while someone in 1993 had a horrid FA in F who was snarly and judgmental, and the meal was undercooked. And so on. Counterwise, that person in 2021 was full of admiration for AA and declared them the best carrier ever.

Stuff happens. The only consistency is inconsistency... on every airline. My two cents.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 2:32 pm
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I've always thought flying on the US3 is like choosing between the nearest DMVs in your area...all provide 99% the same service, with each having some small aspects better and worse than the other locations. One may have a relatively faster line but parking is a pain, while another may be the shortest drive for you but have the absolute meanest workers, etc etc. But at the end of the day, you just gotta hold your nose and pick one.

Should premium flying on the US3 be better? Sure, no one is saying its OK now. But if you switch from AA to UA or DL, you'll find yourself right back in the same space of frustration once the honeymoon phase goes away (but with less status!).
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 2:48 pm
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FA in my last paid domestic F trip was reading a bookwhich tells you all you need to know where were at.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 3:05 pm
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Originally Posted by MrAndy1369
To be fair, I remember in around 2011 or so, when pmAA F was pretty much in its heyday, there were scattered reports of lousy/grumpy service, as well as good service. The food was definitely complained about back then too, but when September 2014 happened and the new meal service rolled out, everyone was suddenly screaming for 2011 to come back.

I remember in 2009, "Helen" the FA made the news. This was in F as well. I remember the SAN catering snafu back in ~2006 or so. I remember the uproar when sundaes were discontinued in midcon F back in the early 2000s or so, maybe even the late 1990s.

My point is, things might seem like crap/inconsistent nowadays, but I promise it was exactly the same thing back then. I guarantee you someone had a meh experience in AA F back in 2005, including lousy food and grumpy service, then someone in December 2021 had amazing food and exceptional service in F. That person in 2005 was probably wondering whatever had happened to AA and bemoaning the good old days of 1993... while someone in 1993 had a horrid FA in F who was snarly and judgmental, and the meal was undercooked. And so on. Counterwise, that person in 2021 was full of admiration for AA and declared them the best carrier ever.

Stuff happens. The only consistency is inconsistency... on every airline. My two cents.
I actually agree with this to some extent which is why I qualified the comparison.

However, consider the difference in touch points just procedurally for absolute minimal customer interaction in F back in 2005 vs today, say, DFW-LAX during a mealtime flight.

There were an absolute minimum of 10 separate "mandatory" (assuming passenger accepted it) service interactions back then, and often a dozen or more:

1.) PDBs were >90% (anecdotally) even if only juice/water;
2.) Drink order taken and meal choice confirmed either immediately after departure or even perhaps before;
3.) Always hot towel service;
4.) Drink / warm nuts brought to each passenger;
5.) Tablecloth on each tray table; (4&5 sometimes combined)
6.) A "setup" was brought on a cart in the isle for meal service featuring a large salad plate, at which point you were offered wine or water;
7.) Salad plate removed, often at which time another beverage was (maybe) offered;
8.) Hot main was served using tongs, along with a basket choice of warmed rolls, after which wine or water was topped off;
9.) Dinner setup removed;
10.) Dessert and coffee offered/delivered and placed on tablecloth;
11.) Dessert dish and tablecloth removed;
12.) Mints and water just before landing (not always)

Versus 4-5 minimum mandatory service interactions for the same exact segment and timing in 2023:

1.) PDB 50/50 at best (anecdotally);
2.) Usually hot towel service;
3.) Drink order taken and meal choice confirmed, often >30 minutes after takeoff;
4.) One drink and nuts dropped off;
5.) Single meal tray dumped;
6.) Single meal tray collected

So it's not merely nostalgia. There are some very real differences in the service standards themselves, lazy/grumpy FAs notwithstanding.

I blame Eric Holder and believe these differences are due primarily to insufficient competitive tension. The DOJ has allowed far too much consolidation.

Last edited by AADFW; Mar 27, 2023 at 3:21 pm Reason: Forgot about the bread basket.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 3:26 pm
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Ok I am a grandpa now and do remember the good ol days of domestic air travel. ;-). Traveled for work extensively for 31 years. With leisure travel added. In the 90s I was able to start upgrading to domestic F frequently. Of course, significant different service levels than now. Remember getting menus and wine lists for dinner service on mid-con domestic flights. Boggles my mind now. Fly AA almost exclusively since the TWA take over. As noted AAs domestic F service is inconsistent. Still have great FAs who seem to love the job and are friendly, proactive and attentive. Sometimes not. We go to Hawaii a couple times a year non stop from DFW and since they changed it to Flagship business, service levels have improved. But as I mentioned on another thread the prices on that route have also increased dramatically.
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Old Mar 27, 2023, 4:20 pm
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Given service is unlikely to improve, I suggest we all start packing more Woodford minis! If the FAs don't move around to service the cabin much, you can get away with it (perhaps not row 1 until they see the glow of the FAs phone - wink)
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