My last mileage run went very badly; I had problems checking in, problems with gate changes, flight changes, equipment changes and numerous delays of my flights to/from Los Angeles. I was not happy with the way things turned out, so, the day after the trip, I went to AA.com, clicked on Contact AA, then went to Customer Relations and selected Compliment/Complaint/Comment.

A new window popped up where I entered the relevant information (name, flight number, date, PNR number, etc.) and then began my note, I had 1500 characters to tell my story. The three items I wanted to focus on were:

  1. My problems checking in at the airport when the iPhone app would not display my boarding pass, forcing me to turn back from the front of the TSA security line, and then the self-serve kiosk would not let me check in either.
  2. The numerous delays of my flights to/from Los Angeles. It’s one thing to say a flight will be delayed, it’s something else when you change the departure time, then change it again, and again, and again, and again — that only serves to make your passengers more frustrated than they already were.
  3. And finally, I wanted to know why I had a reservation for flight 1113 from DFW to Austin, but ended up on flight 1550.

I sent the message, and received a reply the following morning. This is how the issues were addressed in my reply from AA Customer Service:

Problems checking in: “I know it was frustrating to not be able to use your mobile boarding pass to get through security. We will continue to work to improve this feature to avoid such incidents. Your feedback will help us to do just that.”

That is a good response. I am glad to know they are working to improve the app, and that my feedback will help. Good job!

Numerous delays: “Also, we recognize how important on time departures and arrivals are to our customers, and we are committed to spending the resources necessary to achieve substantially higher levels of as scheduled departures. Still, with so many variables affecting our operation, there will be occasions when delays are encountered despite our best efforts. I especially regret that you experienced two such disruptions.”

I don’t know if the customer service reps have pre-written letters that they use, but that paragraph sounds like it came from one. I’ve sent a message about delays in the past and received a reply that actually explained what went wrong, There may have been a mechanical issue, a crew member was late, whatever the reason they at least tried to explain it to me. I got none of that this time. Bad response.

Change from flight 1113 to 1550: not even mentioned in the reply, very bad response.

“As a gesture of goodwill, we have added 5,000 bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. This adjustment will be reflected in your account very soon.” Thank you, I appreciate that.

And finally “I assure you that we will continue to strive to focus on on-time flight departures. When you travel with us again, we will do our best to get you to your destination as scheduled.”

So, I was happy with their response to the problems with check-in, think they could have done a better job of explaining the flight delays, and appreciated the 5,000 bonus miles. I was not happy that my final question was ignored.

So, I waited a few days to see if I would hear from them again and when I did not, I wrote back. I thanked them for working to improve the iPhone app, I thanked them for being devoted to on-time service, and I thanked them for the 5,000 bonus miles. I then pointed out that I had not gotten an explanation of why my reservation was changed without me being notified, and I wanted to know why that occurred.

Three days went by and I did not receive a response to that message. Now I was getting annoyed.

I wrote a third time, pointed out that my previous letter had been ignored, and asked when was my reservation changed, why was it changed, and why wasn’t I notified? I had a reply the next morning.

“Thank you for contacting us again. Our records (show) that the change from flight 1113 to flight 1550 was a change in schedule, made on December 25. (Emphasis added) We realize that schedule changes can be an unexpected — even unwelcome — event for those of us who carefully plan itineraries and count on the airline to operate as scheduled. In fact, most schedule changes are negligible; flight times are often recalculated by just a few moments due to seasonal fluctuations in weather patterns or as more direct routes of flight open up. On the other hand, we must occasionally realign flight schedules altogether. In all cases, we try to work with our customers to minimize any inconvenience, and I am sorry we weren’t more successful this time. I regret, too, that you were unaware of this change.”

So, my reservation was changed two months before departure —  yet AA did not send me an email, text message or robo-call to let me know. Nothing was highlighted on the website to indicate a change when I pulled up my reservation, so I continued to believe that my itinerary would match the written confirmation that AA had sent me when I purchased the ticket. I really don’t care that “most schedule changes are negligible,” if my change was negligible I wouldn’t be writing. There is an important phrase in this message, a phrase that will seem very important shortly, “On the other hand, we must occasionally realign flight schedules altogether.,”

I was still not satisfied with this. How often should I double-check the flight number and departure/arrival times on my reservation to be sure there had not been an unannounced unexplained change?

So, I called the AA Platinum Desk, asked for AAdvantage Customer Service and when I was connected to them, asked to speak to a supervisor. They placed me on hold for a moment and then connected me to a supervisor named Steve. Steve was great!

I explained what happened and said I did not understand why my flight had been changed and why I had not been notified. Steve looked through the records and confirmed that the change had indeed happened on December 25, but now he was puzzled. “Whenever a change like this occurs, ” he said, ” there is normally an explanation — the flight was changed due to a change in equipment, need for a larger/smaller aircraft, changes to AA’s flight scheduled, etc. There is no explanation here as to why your flight was changed.”

I  was glad to hear this seemed odd to him too.  And then he added, “Your original flight, 1113, was not cancelled, It flew that night and in fact left DFW late so you might have even been able to make your original connection if the change had not happened.”

If my original flight was not cancelled, what did “we must occasionally realign flight schedules altogether” mean? There was no realignment!  My original flight was not cancelled! The original reply with this comment was not worth the paper it was not written on!

I heard Steve type for a while and then he said, “I am a supervisor. I am supposed to be able to solve problems and get answers. But in your case, I am sorry that I cannot give any answer, I have no explanation of why your flight was changed and why you were not notified. This is not the way we should treat our valued customers.”

Thank you Steve, I appreciate that, and I appreciate the fact you were honest with me and did not give me even more meaningless answers.

I learned some important lessons from this trip:

  • Don’t trust that your original itinerary is correct. Check and re-check your schedule as your trip approaches
  • Don’t use the iPhone app for your boarding pass, get a printed boarding pass instead. (If you have to call AA Customer Service about your trip afterwards, they may ask for your ticket number. That’s not available on the electronic boarding pass, but is printed on the paper boarding pass.) I’ll have more comments about the iPhone app in a future  post.
  • If you are not satisfied with the answer you receive, ask again.

I have another mileage run at the end of the month, I hope it goes more smoothly than this one. And, if AAdvantage customer service reads this, I hope they will take my comments to heart and look to improve their service.

Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR Corporation, American Airlines’ parent corporation. The value of my holdings is less than $100.