American Airlines is exploring new ways to compensate passengers

Jun 21, 2020

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There are so many moving parts in the aviation industry that even on the best airlines things are bound to go wrong from time to time, from bags going missing to seats being broken or even a flight attendant accidentally spilling a drink on you during meal service. It’s important to have a positive attitude and not let minor slip-ups ruin your trip, so long as the airline takes reasonable steps to address the issue and provide compensation where necessary.

About two years ago American Airlines introduced the “iSolve” tool, which let flight attendants offer onboard compensation (primarily in the form of bonus AAdvantage miles) from their tablets. View From The Wing reported earlier this month that American suspended the iSolve tool, and now appears to be surveying customers on alternate forms of compensation it can offer. Some of the possible options include:

What’s interesting to note is that the new options being surveyed generally don’t cost the airline much and appear to reflect a desire not to add more liabilities to the balance sheet just a few months after receiving a $5.8 billion government bailout. Adding one incremental visitor to an Admirals Club likely costs the airline a negligible amount, as does an in-flight Wi-Fi pass. Priority boarding is an interesting benefit to offer right now, especially as airlines around the world are rethinking the way they board planes to promote social distancing amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

We asked readers in the TPG Lounge which of these options they’d prefer, or what other forms of compensation they’d like to see, and the results were pretty unanimous. Nechama K. pointed out that if you already have benefits like Admirals Club access and priority boarding due to your elite status, these benefits wouldn’t be very helpful. In fact it seems like AAdvantage elite members — the very customers the airline wants to keep happiest — would get the least value out of any of these forms of compensation. Andy R. voiced a pretty common opinion, saying “1,000 AAdvantage miles is better than any of those options. I know they don’t want to do that, but that still costs the airline nearly nothing.” 

A number of readers were also excited about the idea of receiving Admirals Club day passes. These lounges are generally only accessible to paying members, top-tier elites and certain credit card holders. While the quality varies heavily from location to location, making up for a service failure with an upgraded airport experience sounds like a good idea.

Reader Kyle L. suggested a sliding scale based on the severity of the incident, which raises an important point. While these options might be suitable compensation for something like a broken seat or running out of food on a shorter flight, they wouldn’t come close for a business class passenger with an inoperable IFE screen on a 15-hour long-haul flight. That’s one of the beauties of using bonus miles as compensation: it’s much easier to adjust the amount given to match the specific issue.

Bottom line

Just weeks after removing its “iSolve” system for in-flight compensation, American Airlines has begun surveying passengers looking for alternate ways to make up for service issues. Based on the limited choices included in the survey and the initial response from a number of TPG readers, it’s clear that AA needs to revaluate as most people would simply prefer miles. Many of the benefits listed here are redundant for frequent travelers with elite status, the very customers AA needs to be keeping the happiest.

Featured image by JT Genter/The Points Guy

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