Exhibit #23 Why I Left AA and It is A Customer-Unfriendly Airline

As of a week ago, I dropped down from AA Platinum status to AA nothing, after four years of being an elite.  I detailed the reasons why I left the airline here.  Nonetheless, I still have tons of AA miles — since they are never usable. I’ve even started redeeming for DC to NY flights since there is never any award availability on other useful flights — particularly to Europe, South America, or summer travel in the United States.

Well, I’m now dealing with a ridiculous situation that just confirms I made the right decision.

Four months ago, I made plans for Memorial Day weekend in Spain. Although AA itself flies to Barcelona from 5 cities daily and to Madrid 5 cities daily, and “partner” Iberia flies to Madrid from another 4 reasonable-connecting US cities, the only Business Class flight that had been available for months was through Boston.  Of course getting to Boston was another story, because AA just doesn’t release domestic peak season award saver awards.  Originally, I booked with a 7 hour layover in Boston. In coach. Yes, though it is an hourly flight, AA literally had ZERO coach or business seats available seven months in flight on the shuttle between the hours of 9am and 3pm.  By paying a third-party service to monitor their horrific award availability, I got a ding that later allowed me to drop it to a 2.5 hour connection — still in coach.

So my route was:

1:30pm Dep. DCA 2:53pm Arrive BOS (AA Coach)
5:25pm Dep. BOS 6:20am Arrive MAD (IB Business)
8:00am Dep. MAD 9:27am Arrive BCN (IB Business)

Not the shortest routing in the world, but not terrible.  But today, it went to the crapper.

AA Failure #1: AA Does Not Notify Customers of Schedule Changes

This is one I just don’t understand.  At least a dozen times over the past few years, the schedule on an AA-ticketed reservation tied to my account has changed, and I have received absolutely zero notification.  This has happened with 10 minute changes, with 5 hour change, and, today, with a change that creates an invalid connection.  The *only* way I have found out is by (1) proactively checking all my AA reservations once a month, or (2) by getting an email from a third party — a few times from Citi Travel when I used Citi Rewards points, but mostly through websites like CheckMyTrip.  Yes, I need to use a third-party to be informed that my flight reservation is no longer valid.  There is no explanation for this. It would cost AA little to no money to send an email. If it’s a broken system, I have literally complained for years, and I’m sure lots of people have been inconvenienced or missed their flights. AA has no difficulty emailing me to sign up for credit cards or buy expensive flowers; it can figure out how to email me when I literally no longer have a valid reservation.

So today, I received a notification from CheckMyTrip saying that there had been a schedule change by Iberia, and my new schedule was this:

1:30pm Dep. DCA 2:53pm Arrive BOS (AA Coach)
6:50pm Dep. BOS 7:45am Arrive MAD (IB Business)
8:00am Dep. MAD 9:27am Arrive BCN (IB Business)

A full 4-hour connection in Boston, and clearly an illegal 15-minute connection in Madrid.  Now, yes, this was Iberia’s fault.  February is fairly close in to be changing the schedule more than an hour on a summer transatlantic flight to your hub.  But how AA has handled it has been lacking.

I logged into AA.com and sure enough, once I clicked on the specific reservation, there was a cute little note:

Wow, thanks for letting me know.  All I had to do was have a sixth-sense that something had changed on this reservation, click on it, and you’d confirm I was right.

AA Failure #2 AA won’t make it right

2(a) AA won’t open up seats on any of its own flights

2(b) AA won’t reach out to its partner Iberia and ask it to open up availability necessitated by its schedule change

Since AA didn’t do the normal thing and either reach out to me or rebook me automatically, I called AA.  I got a call-back about 20 minutes later.  The agent spent about 10 minutes looking around, and came back with the following:

“Well there’s an 11am flight on Iberia from Madrid to Barcelona…in coach.”

Note – this is *not* the next Iberia Madrid to Barcelona flight.  There just isn’t award availability on that flight, and she would not call Iberia to ask them to open up availability to fix their schedule change mess-u. I tried, quite nicely, for another 5 minutes to get her to look at other options- explaining I did not need to connect through Boston, and that I’d happily fly on one of the ten daily AA flights to Barcelona or Madrid.  Nothing. I said, “Well, can you at least book me on a later DCA-BOS flight so I don’t have a 4-hour layover?” “No, there’s no saver award availability in coach or business.”

So yes, according to AA, my only option is a 4-hour layover in Boston and a 3-hour layover in Madrid, and 2 of my 3 flights in coach, arriving at my destination a full 3 hours late (half a day of a long weekend vacation).

AA of course has the power to open up availability on any of its flights, and of course is supposed to have someone to contact Iberia and at least get me on the next MAD-BCN flight…in the booking class I booked.

I told her not to change the flight, since I wasn’t going to voluntarily accept the downgrade and wanted to explore other options.

AA Failure #3 AA’s Social Media Team is Patronizing and Unhelpful

I really was livid, and thought maybe AA’s social media team would be helpful. Nope, it’s patronizing. (Note, my reference to “15-minute change” was inartful in my lividness.  It’s a 15-minute connection caused by a 75-minute change.”

See the exchange:

I love that AA’s “solution” is to tell me I’m “welcome” to go on its website every day and check the literally 100 options for getting to Barcelona on AA and its partner — oh wait I CAN’T EVEN DO THAT because AA.com doesn’t show Iberia award availability!!!!  So I’m supposed to just spend my free time in the next 3 months checking AA.com for AA flight availability AND BA.com for Iberia flight availability, and, hahah it’s a joke because AA never releases saver availability.  It took self-restraint to tell AA that it was not “welcome to <expletive> my <expletive>.

I haven’t decided what I want to do.  I certainly do not want to spend 17 hours to get from DC to Spain – i.e., 4 hours longer than a flight from DC to Abu Dhabi – with 2 legs in coach, when I’m paying for a business class ticket. So for now, I have an illegal connection on a ticket that AA still hasn’t proactively told me about or rebooked.

Seriously AA, I had low expectations of you, but this is insane. Maybe if I kissed their butts like some of the bloggers that sell their products I’d get reasonable customer service.


3 thoughts on “Exhibit #23 Why I Left AA and It is A Customer-Unfriendly Airline

  1. Pingback: Marriott Rewards Devalues, Hilton Status Match, Traveling While Asian, AA Sinking, Blogs I Like Changes - TravelBloggerBuzz

  2. Zo

    My suggestion is to take the flight to MAD as is, and then head to one of the Iberia desks air-side and have them put you on one of the other MAD-BCN flights. It sucks, and doesn’t absolve AA, but hopefully they will cause a fuss with AA afterwards and it will register somehow, somewhere

  3. Matthew

    I had this happen with a combination of revenue and mileage tickets. Had to get a supervisor to do anything. It took a while, but eventually, AA sorted it out and everyone got on the same flight IB after the schedule change.


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