TPG Readers on What American Airlines Could Do to Win Them Back

Aug 4, 2019

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American Airlines has been earning itself a bit of a bad reputation recently, from labor issues to plane densification to lack of IFE (oh, and those tiny bathrooms and terrible award redemptions).

With all that’s been happening we polled the TPG Lounge to find out if there was anything American could do to make its customers happier or bring back some of those flyers who might have left the airline for a competitor.

Related: I Was an American Airlines Elite. Now I’m Loving Delta

While the more than 200 comments on our question were varied in their responses, there were some definite themes to be garnered from the feedback.

Densification Woes

One major theme of the respondents was about AA reducing seat pitch and adding seats to its aircraft:

“Out of all my complaints about AA, I’d want them to fix seat pitch first. Except they don’t think it’s broken!” — Jason M.

“Stop Oasis and improve legroom in general.” — Christopher B.

“Seat pitch. 30” pitch for flights that are 4+ hours is ridiculous.” — Ian J.

“Be consistent: you do realize that they are squeezing seat pitch to 30” in economy and removing IFE on all retrofit planes? Yes, they are going to be consistent: consistently awful … All the newer Southwest and JetBlue planes have at least 32” in economy (33” on JetBlue for major transcontinental flights) and all the new AA retrofit planes are 30”. Those two inches make a huge difference in comfort for me at least, even though I’m not a tall/huge guy.” — Mitsu H.

While it’s easy to say that we would all like to have more legroom on flights, it would seem that AA’s move to only have 30″ seat pitch is a major complaint of some of the airline’s most frequent flyers.

Awful Customer Service

One of the biggest issues raised by readers was a severe lack of customer service. From employees with attitudes to customer service agents being unwilling to help, customer service, or lack there of, was a huge issue for our readers:

“My number one thing about American is [their] employees, a lot of them I run into especially flying international and Business class are very rude and act like you’re bothering them just being there.” — Carol C.

“AA customer service slogan “whatever happens, happens … sorry, not sorry.” — Paul G.

“Customer service needs a major overhaul.” — Josh L.

“Employees look like they have checked out and rarely have any kind of initiative. Some are downright rude and are ever ready to escalate situations … In one of my flights to Europe last year the FA literally looked like he had just rolled out of bed, an unheard of situation on any other mainline airline in the world. There are so many things wrong with the airline right now but fundamentally it is a people problem. Bring in new management who can fix the employee morale and train them to be empathetic, humane and helpful. AKA Delta.” — Prash K.

“Better customer service when we call for help. We’ve called for an issue regarding a disability and had several different responses.” — Chris S.

“Treat your customer with respect. Acknowledge they could have chosen another airline. Be grateful they chose AA. What I saw on my most recent American Airlines experience was beyond words. Yes, things happen, what can you do? Begin with exceptional customer service. You can forgive a lot after that.” — Rosemary B.

“Better customer service, both on the ground and in air. Value my business, not expect it and treat me like another number.” — Charlie R.

“If their employees weren’t absolutely miserable to deal with, I’d consider AA.” — Tony F.

“They need to treat their employees with respect and repair the damage they have done to that relationship. Until that is done customer service will never be where it needs to be.” — Scott K.

“From a service/attitude standpoint they can’t compare with some of the other major US carriers. Across the board service training would be a good start.” — Michael A.

“Please please fix the employee attitude! AA staff, especially tenured ones seem to hate customers. I sit on an AA flight right now where “senior” FAs didn’t say hello to passengers, didn’t help find seats, barely spoke during drink service. I’m a 1.4 million miler on AA and trapped by their near monopoly at DFW. Status means nothing.” — Bill W.

It’s pretty clear from the comments that our readers think there is a culture problem at AA. It would seem our readers are getting an experience like flying with a low-cost carrier rather than a major US legacy carrier when it comes to customer service.

Issues On Board

Issues with seat pitch aside, readers had other complaints and suggestions about their onboard experiences as well:

“All of their former USAir planes are trash — no power plugs, some even in first class!” — Leo Z.

“You know, I look at Delta, who is modernizing their cabin, upgrading the ECONOMY experience with TVs, cabin refreshes, dining, and their staff always looks and acts extremely professional.” — Zach C.

“IFE is my single biggest complaint with American.” — Anthony I.

Install good quality screens like JetBlue has. Update the awful airplanes. Even US-UK routes have awful dated seats even in business and I won’t even mention the atrocity that flies from NY to Phoenix.” — Elena L.

Planes are old with thin, worn out, tired padding, no electronic amenities, and too small seat pitch.” — Samsunshine L.

“Updated seats, better on time percentages (about half the time I fly with them the flight is either delayed or canceled), better premium experience, improved in flight Wi-Fi and entertainment, full stock of food and beverage options (have had to go to third and fourth choice on drink preference and food is a joke).” — Kristi C.

“AA needs a re branding agency to come in and overhaul the entire company and get new planes. Their hardware is old and janky!” — Hannah G.

“I do think the Delta planes are far superior to AA offering items such as power outlets and screens on most Delta operated flights. AA is severely lacking here.” — Doug H.

Once again, our readers seem to be in agreement on what AA could do to better the in-flight experience as well: update planes (so long as it’s not part of the Oasis retrofit), change the IFE and serve better on board meal and drink options.

Award Redemptions Are a Joke

We here at TPG pride ourselves on helping you get the most out of your points and miles and there are some tricks to helping find award availability on AA. AA is certainly making redeeming your miles harder for most award flights. While you can redeem your AAdvantage Miles for awards, it’s most likely not going to be an itinerary you want to fly, and some award tickets are outright ridiculous in their routing, as some readers noted:

“Award availability, especially saaver J is very difficult to find. The married segment awards are ridiculous.” — Michael I.
“Make my miles worth something again. They are worthless now that I have to make 2 connections on pretty much any reward itinerary.” — Zach A.
“Domestic award flights are atrocious. 2 layovers on an east coast flight to Miami is absurd.” — Joey C.
“Award redemptions are severely lackluster. The ones available have obnoxious layovers and stops.” — Sebastian K.

“Better redemption. And STOP FLYING ME TO FIVE LAYOVERS with an overnight on the third one, to get me from JFK to MIA.” — Max P.

“Not just award availability but get rid of the ridiculous routings that are the majority of what they offer for award flights.” — Joanne S.

So while flying AA might earn you miles, it would seem that when our readers are ready to redeem them for award flights, it’s not as easy as you might hope.
Bottom Line
Our readers have given some great feedback about AA in the TPG Lounge. It’s clear there are problems over at AA that are causing customers some real anxiety and frustration with the company. Hopefully AA will listen to their customers and make changes.
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Featured Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images
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