The Broken Promises of American Airlines

Broken Promises from what airlines and mobile phone carriers have in common? They both exploit customers.  Well, to be fair, I really just think they are both in the same class of companies. Companies that often exploit you unfairly for their own benefit, extracting as much money from your wallet as possible without genuine concern for the bad experiences they are creating. This is what I was talking about in my Social Cash keynote last week in Stockholm.

But let me recap what I experienced with American Airlines flight 177 from JFK to SFO last night. (yes, I know I should be relaxing and not writing with my recent health issues, but this may be the biggest benefit of slowing down for me, that I find time and willingness to write, so please let me)

I was flying back from Stockholm yesterday morning, which means I started out to the airport from my hotel around midnight PST, 7am CET. First flight was simple, short hop on Finnair to Helsinki on a newish Airbus 319. It was fabulous. They offered up the standard nordic breakfast sandwich and orange juice and coffee. They didn’t charge for my bag. There was a problem getting my tickets printed in Stockholm for some reason, but the desk agent went ahead and did everything she could, but could not, for some reason, print my JFK-SFO boarding pass, so I had to leave without it afraid I would not be able to board in JFK or transfer easily. Whatever.

I got to Helsinki where they promise to be the easiest airport for transfers, and I have to agree, it was actually pleasant. Because of my platinum status with American Airlines (Sapphire in One World) I was able to enter the Via Lounge in Helsinki, which was just terrific. One of the best airline lounges I have ever seen, it even had a spa, though I had no time there to use it. Had an incredible bowl of minestrone soup and a short glass of white white, which in European lounges are provided to guests for free. Oh yes, of course, in the European (and most Canadian) airports, the small baggage rolling carts are also free, making the travel experience much easier on everyone, particularly people traveling in ill health like me. They care about the experience and the customers.

On board the brand new Airbus 330 from Helsinki to JFK, I really had a great experience, though I ate some chocolate sugary thing and some lasagna which may have induced a minor attack later (sorry for weaving stories/issues here but its important). I struck up a conversation with my seat mate, JJ whose best man in his wedding was actually flying the plane. The new seats were comfortable and the nice family who was traveling around us with their baby were kind enough to not lean back into us, so I actually had plenty of room despite my sarcastic tweet about it. During the flight I started sweating and having chest pains, so I told JJ of my experience in Sweden and said “I just want someone to know, I forgot to tell the gate attendant during boarding”. He suggested I needed to stay hydrated and had a conversation with the flight attendant in Finnish a short while later.  When she came back through to pick up garbage she also brought a water bottle and kept bringing water throughout the flight. It was a smooth crossing and when we landed, something incredible happened.

I had the most amazing experience in JFK airport. Seriously.

First, there was a woman standing at the exit of the jetway holding a sign with several names on it, including mine. Since we were about 95 minutes to departure of my flight, I briefly hoped it was a lift through the customs area and to the gate or something really cool like that. Instead, it was my boarding pass for the next flight which I thought I was going to have to fight to get. Instead, without checking my identification, I told her who I was, what flight and she handed it to me and I was on my way racing to beat the queue of over 500 people from other planes that got to the gate in front of me. Not necessarily smart for my condition, but I was feeling ok and I really didn’t want to miss my flight (knowing that it could take 2 hours to clear customs, border control and recheck my bags).

Somehow, the US Citizens queue was wide open and I literally walked right up to a border control agent who scanned my passport and sent me through to baggage claim. At the baggage claim I sat down to rest, prepared for a long wait. But no, the belt began to move in just a few minutes, surprising myself and another American on board the same flight. Within a few more minutes, my bag was off the plane and I was headed to the customs agent with my pass. After being screwed around with for a minute because I didn’t put the flight number on the document (my bad) I went to recheck, where I explained why the bag wasn’t checked through and checked my bag. I then went upstairs and got through the security line in just a few minutes for a grand total transfer time of just about 20-25 minutes from exiting my plane to getting through security again.

Incredible luck. This was definitely going to be my day.

I then got to the Admirals Club near my gate, walked around to see if there was anyone I knew and lo and behold, found a free drink ticket laying on one of the tables. Score. After getting a glass of red wine (help’s blood flow if drank in moderation I hear) I sat down and started making calls. Then I noticed, that I was sitting near Danielle Staub from Real Housewives of New Jersey, who was just as sweet as can be (sorry no gossip from me, just a nice woman and really friendly). We were both commenting on how incredible the woman who ran the bar there was in looking after passengers, going to them and offering them water, snacks or bar drinks or whatever.  She reminded us of Delores who ran the best coffee sales 7-11 store on the Undercover Boss show.

Back to the Airlines Story.

So it was getting closer to boarding time and I decided to check Flightview to see if the plane was still leaving on time and if I needed to go. It wasn’t. New estimated take off time was now 625pm, so I called Kristie and told her the plane was going to be late. After hanging up with her, I looked back at the screen and saw that it said the plane was a 757, not the 767 I had expected. Huh, that’s odd. So I went to the Admirals Club desk just to see if the 625pm time was even accurate, and she said, “oh, so you got the news about the equipment change” and I said, no I hadn’t but wanted to just check in. She told me, you are in luck, you still have your business seat and she booked me into 4F. Whew, I thought, that would have sucked big time. All I wanted was that nearly lay flat business seat in the 767, but I would settle for a warm meal and a business class seat anywhere as long as I could get home after 16 hours of traveling by that point.

So I went back to my seat in the lounge happy that I didn’t have to go get dinner in the airport. I also went back to the web site where the plane info was still showing the 767 as the plane we were on and there were no notices in my reservations, or calls to my phone about this very major change.  As I found out later at the gate, there was little to no notice given to the rest of the passengers either as one after another tried to board with their old tickets only to be told it wasn’t valid any longer.

After a few more phone calls, it got to be 6pm, so I packed up and headed to the gate thinking we were boarding. Well, it was more then thinking we were boarding, the signs said in the lounge NOW BOARDING. But it really wasn’t. It was pandemonium as the gate agents struggled to deal with all these last minutes changes. The crew hadnt even been allowed on board by this point and the departure time was updated to 650pm. I simply asked at this point of the gate agent, are we really leaving at 650pm and do we still have dinner in first class on this flight, to which she replied yes. So I was standing around relaxed, ignoring the chaos and just waiting to sit in my first class seat, which I was promised by the folks in the Admirals Club when they rebooked me and handed it to me for 4F.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. When they finally opened the gates and I handed my ticket to the check in agent, she said, wait, “You are not Mr. XXXXX” and I said of course not, see my ticket says Heuer, 4F. To which she replied, “Oh, well we aren’t able to process upgrades. You know we changed the equipment right?” Of course, that is why you are at a different gate and have all these angry folks around. So I was instructed that they would have to find me a new seat and she would do her best to get me to one that had no one sitting next to me in the middle. Very nice I thought, but how could they do that going from a 767 to a 757? Whatever, I said what are you doing about food, my travel plans were based on getting a meal. She very kindly said, I will get the ticket, you can go get something now from the airport if you like. So I had to run down to the deli and pick up a crappy chicken wrap which in the end was probably best from a health standpoint.

When I returned with my sandwich, the chaos had grown even worse, with priority access members trying to board and being told not to by one woman, and then being told to do so by another. To be fair, the gate agents were just as screwed as the passengers here, it was probably a middle management decision and a pretty poor one at that, but more about this towards the end of the post. They were doing the best they could in the face of the dilemma and the atrocious behaviour of some other passengers who were just berating and cussing at them non-stop. Eventually, the gate agent handed me a new ticket with a 12a seat assignment. At least I was going home I thought, “I will deal with it”.

I wish the story ended here, with just the few promises made broken, but it doesn’t. And it may be even an even more insisidious problem beneath the thin veil of this horrible experience. Which of course is nothing compared to people stranded overnight or left on planes for hours, but for me, being told one thing, then another, then another with no one having the full truth available, it was bad enough. At this point, after one mild ‘attack’ during the day and over 17 hours into my travel day, it was bad enough.

Before being told to turn off our cell phones, at 710pm I got a call from American Airlines who said in that great computer generated voice of theirs that the plane was now scheduled to depart at 715pm. I thought to myself, no way, they aren’t going to make that timeline, so I tweeted and turned off my phone. After sitting at the gate for about 30 more minutes and being told then by the pilot that they were still loading bags AND CARGO, I turned my phone back on to #twitch about it some more (my new word for bitching on Twitter, surely I didn’t coin the phrase, but I like it). Wouldn’t you know, while I was writing my tweet, I got another phone call from American Airlines telling me the flight was taking off at 750pm (about 5 minutes). Again, I thought this couldn’t be true. But in fact it finally pushed back from the gate just around there if not a few minutes after.

So the problem here is that none of the front line people want to tell us anything about what is going on in the back of the house because none of them can say so with confidence whether it is really accurate or true. There are so many dependencies on things like this, it is understandable. And with airline customer rage at an all time high, who wants to say I think we are taking off at 750pm when in fact they may be called out later for lying to us. Or who would want to tell an angry mob of passengers that the real takeoff would be 750pm when they can perhaps get them handed to another employee to deal with directly. So I understand why they dont disclose enough information often, but it creates a horrible relationship between company and customer. If we could only trust the employees and therby the airlines a bit more it would all be different. If we could only trust them and like them for their earnest attempts to provide us with great service and as much honest information as they could, we might be a bit more forgiving. But they can’t and we won’t.

Flying an Old Bird

So whatever the reasons American Airlines provides later on this equipment change, one thing is sure, they are flying some old airplanes. I got in my seat, and there was in fact no one sitting next to me. I usually fly aisle seats forward so I can get up and stretch and move around without bothering other passengers, so at least I was forward if not in the aisle. But my seat would not recline properly – if I put pressure against the window side armrest and leaned back with all my weight it would go back, but not if I just sat there. Weird. The real problem is that it felt like it was 32 dewgrees farenheit up against the window. I had to use 2 blankets just to shield me from the bone chilling cold of this way too thin membrane between me and the cold upper atmosphere. Thankfully, at least there were blankets, if there werent, I might have caused an incident. No pillows though of course, and no comfort in those overly worn seats with way too little cushion for my overweight body.

In looking at the seats that passed for first class in the early 1970’s plane they pulled from retirement, I was somewhat thankful that I didn’t waste my upgrade tickets (worth $180usd for JFK-SFO) but at the same time, still upset I was stuck where I was. At least I made it to SFO by 11pm PST and to my house before midnight (before heading into the hospital for another visit due to the stress that had started causing my chest pains again). But let’s not worry about me anymore, lets talk about American Airlines and allow me to share my opinion on what I think may have happened before this to create this bad situation. (Am sure they will respond here, as they said on Twitter last night, they are “listening” and the guy running the late shift twitter account (good process to run 24/7 shifts btw) promised a followup to see what happened on their end)

In Conclusion

From my perspective, I feel lied to and I trust American Airlines even less then I did before. As you may recall, I am a proponent for something I call a Net Trust Score to replace the aging Net Promoter Score as a system for measuring how well a company is doing in the market, with trust as the ultimate barometer, more important then promoting. If the company is trusted, they will be promoted, whereas with Apple I promote the iPhone (or rather I did) even though I didn’t trust or promote AT&T.

I have been loyal to American Airlins for the past decade plus because they fly to all the major cities I frequent most and usually have competitive rates on those flights. I have had gold and platinum status for years. After experiencing how they treat regular customers (how all airlines treat non-loyalty customers in fact), I never want to deal with that level of service again, so I stay loyal, because I have to or get even shittier service from other carriers (though I often choose to fly Virgin now if I can because they really do rock and JetBlue occasionally and then Southwest). The problem is I can’t trust American Airlines like I used to after this experience and many others I have had over the past year. In fact, when I upgraded my flight from DFW to LHR on my way to Europe about 10 days ago paying $450 and 25,000 miles for one segment, there was a miscommunication that almost cost me my seat on the plane if it were not for a good mannered well meaning gate manager, but I will let that story slide for now.

How can I be given a seat from one point in the system and then have it taken away in another? You promised me at this point that I had a seat in business class. I made all my planning at the airport on this promise, and it caused me undue stress as a result. Then there are the multiple changing promises about take off time. I know you can’t control when things go wrong all the time, but how odd is it that your phone system calls people to tell them of delays even when they are supposed to have their phones turned off and are sitting on the plane. Perhaps just an unfortunate system design in an edge case, but it was striking to me and furthered my distrust of your company.

I will spare you what I think about making us wait for CARGO to get loaded on the plane so you can make a few extra bucks. OK, so I didn’t. I guess I lied too, just like you did to me.

As for bringing an old ass plane like that out to fly us across the country (and my friend Bryan Thatcher on one from Paris to NYC), well I know the economics of maintaining an older fleet and the huge cost for modernizing it so I understand why you HAVE to do it, but I don’t like it and I may leave you if I get stuck on too many more of these when I could be flying in comfort on Virgin or Jetblue instead. In fact, if I see equipment on any flight I am considering is a 757, I will not complete the reservation and instead will go somewhere else, regardless of what it costs.

Now for the part that American Airlines will be happy I saved for last, but will get quoted by the most number of people. I think this whole situation may have been part of a decision management tree and may have been a middle management move to squeeze the most profit out of the situation that deserves a real investigation. Perhaps I dont have all the story here on why the gate agents were overheard using the phrase “downgraded equipment” by several people, including my very relaxed and uber smart seat mate in 12c. But when I looked at the seating chart last week in Europe to see if I was going to have a chance of getting the upgrade, there were only about 8-10 seats showing available in economy. So I thought my chances were slim. When I got the upgrade notification 72 hours in advance, I was shocked but delighted. (part of the broken promise thing again, I was looking forward to this leg of the flight for 3 days!)

It turns out, that the woman sitting next to me, also saw there were no seats available on the seating chart last week. But instead, the smaller 757 we flew had plenty of open seats on it. Meaning the original 767 was way underbooked, else there would have been a huge problem trying to get them all in.  While many people like me were denied their upgraded seat assignments (some of who received extra snacks and drinks for the trouble though I didnt get such an offer), everyone it seemed got on the plane easily enough. Or maybe they didnt and people were screwed over in economy so people like me could have more room which if true would be even worse.

So given this information, that their were few seats to choose from on the bigger plane, but plenty left open on the smaller plane, could they have been deliberately presenting false information about available supply in order to get a higher price per available seat without anyone noticing? I know the car rental industry has recently been managing its available supply of cars in order to change pricing points on the demand curve (can’t find the article on this, but someone sent it to me in response to a twitter inquiry into high rental car prices in the fall). Could the airline be presenting false information about available seats in order to get a higher price on the seats it was selling?

While this is all conjecture and there is little but my anecdotal experience as proof, given how little trust we have left for companies who make so many broken promises, I wouldn’t put it past them to do something like this.

As I can imagine it might work if someone were to be so aggressive in the marketing of their services, if you aren’t selling enough seats on a plan at a price that makes the flight profitable, you present false information about there being fewer available seats in order to create a perception that the last seats on a particular flight are more valuable and worth paying the higher price. If you as the airline hit your profitability mark, you fly the plane as planned. If you don’t hit that revenue figure for the flight, you change the equipment at the last minute, as may have been done with my flight AA 177 on March 31, 2010 and force all the humans behind the shadows on the cave wall, otherwise known as the spreadsheet, to suffer through the very difficult human experience we all had.

If it is happening, I am sure there will be someone out there who can speak to this, because it would be so wrongheaded they probably couldn’t live with the lie, even if it meant their job. I have seen enough flights cancelled where there were clearly not more then a dozen or two people affected by it to know that such things have been handled by airlines in similar ways before, but who knows for sure? Only the managers making such decisions and a few of their colleagues in other departments who they have told about it.

As far as I can see this wouldn’t necessarily be an illegal thing to do, just an unfair and non-transparent trade practice that would cause such a PR nightmare, it would really hurt everyone from employees to stockholders to customers. Which is why again, I must point out this is only an imagined scenario at this point, based on conjecture, my experience, my imagination and my knowledge of business decision making processes. Still, I hope someone can look into this and I hope that American Airlines can tell us the full real story of what happened on this flight and how we all ended up in this crazy experience.

UPDATE 6April2010 10:30am: American Airlines sent me a form letter (customized of course) that basically said it was an equipment/maintenance issue that made them change the plane and offered 3 electronic upgrade coupons (value=$90) for my troubles and 73 minute delay. My reply was, thats great to know, why didnt you tell me that last week because that is a really simple thing to find out. What about the other issues like the freezing 757 and why the system allowed me to get rebooked in the first place, then denied. The form letter thing was quaint, but expected I guess, including this wonderful gem “eager to continue the beneficial relationship we have developed to date”.

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  1. #1 by Anders Abrahamsson - April 1st, 2010 at 14:40

    [reposted from FB comment]

    Hi, Chris.

    Good you had a safe landing, and feel rested at home – Happy Easter, friend! And, btw, I think writing longer narratives is a good therapy for you. Write about your stress factors, and you get them outside your system. Keep your sharing longer stories on your blog now, and reduce the tweeting, as you said. But write these longer ones … See MoreONLY when your heart feels like sharing! Not to place this on your demand-too-much-of-yourself map, then it’s counter-productive. There is work that increase your stress, and work who decrease. I feel intutively that these narratives are the latter, as said. When coming from your heart and spirit, and not (that over-achieving) mind(set). Keep it up, at your own pace (and btw, I think we synch paths here – longer blogged narratives are emerging material for a good book – I will start to do the same 😉 #causebizbook). Hugs from Sweden with an cross-atlantic friend sharing the Deep Rest State of Being 🙂



  2. #2 by John F - April 1st, 2010 at 14:54


    Sorry about your lousy customer experience on American and hope your health was not impacted too severely because of it. So many opportunities there for the airline to exceed guest expectations and a clear line where they entered the land of failure (the US border, as it turns out). It is possible to handle an equipment change with class and style, but you’ll never make every passenger happy.

    As for your theory on if the particular trap you fell into was related to a revenue-management program, you’re probably correct. The whole travel industry is really focused on driving every last penny of efficiency from revenue-management these days. I would bet that someone got a nice raise after coming up with the particular spreadsheet that was your personal hell.

    From the company’s perspective, consumers are more price conscious than ever. Services like Kayak drive up to 80% of hotel and airline business these days. Those customers aren’t looking for the sort of amenities you like in your travel, they just want to get from point A to point B as rapidly and affordably as possible.

    I’m not saying they have the right solution, but Airlines have responded to this pressure from consumers by slashing service, offering nearly everything a la carte, and managing each seat on the plane for its ultimate profit value. There is room for the Virgin Americas the Jet Blue and the Southwests models, but they are the outlier examples. The core of the travel industry is all about flying as few routes with full airplanes as possible to service the demand.

    I’d love to see more airlines concentrate on providing an excellent experience for their customers from start to finish. But they wouldn’t be able to compete on price and I have to wonder if, right now, the demand is there for that sort of service. You admit that you use the loyalty system to get yourself parks that us non-frequent travelers never get, but would you be willing to pay more in cash for those same perks?

  3. #3 by John F - April 1st, 2010 at 14:58

    On reflection, imagine a service like Kayak where instead of bidding on the lowest price service to get you from here to there, all travel methods compete to match demand with service. (If 500 people need to get from LA to NY on this day, the website would bundle them and let companies bid to get them there)

  4. #4 by Eric Olesen - April 2nd, 2010 at 11:41

    Having worked in the industry for the past 23 years, airlines rarely downgauge equipment because of light bookings. Frankly, it’s cheaper to cancel the flight outright. Aircraft routings are a complex thing to manage, due to coordinating all the maintenance checks that need to take place on different timelines (some are driven by hours, some by the number of flights, some by the type of flight). Taking an airplane out of its routing causes more disruption than any value they’d see from putting a smaller airplane on a lightly booked flight.

    AA had the choice of canceling your flight or and operating with a smaller aircraft. Both would have inconvenienced a lot of people — downgauging means that some people don’t get the upgrades they expected; canceling means everyone is delayed by a few hours.

    You say that AA lied and broke promises. I agree you didn’t get *everything* expected, but at the end of the day, you did get from JFK to SFO more or less at the time you paid for, and it sounds like your bags got there too. That’s the primary promise of air travel fulfilled…

    As a Platinum, you probably know planes break. As an Executive Platinum, I fully expect it and know that the only guarantee I have of keeping my upgrade is once the airplane lands at its destination. Until then, anything can and will happen….

    As much as it sucked for you, they still chose what was probably the better of the two choices and inconvenienced as few people as possible.

    And by the way, Virgin, Jetblue and Southwest airplanes break, too. They just don’t have the option of switching out a different configuration…

  5. #5 by Chris Heuer - April 2nd, 2010 at 16:04

    How long have you been working for American as an apologist Eric. You have your opinions, I have my experience. Probably and actually aren’t always the same, especially since we can’t trust the airlines any longer.

    The @aairwaves crew promised a response the other night, which still hasnt arrived. Now thats not a promise unfulfilled yet, but its heading that way….

    Yes, as I said, at least I got home, but why did the plane show nearly full, and end up with such less capacity? Love it when apologists fail to acknowledge the most damning points against the people they are apologizing for. Just getting more upset here with them and people like you Eric.

  6. #6 by Chris Heuer - April 2nd, 2010 at 16:06

    the point is about when a company says one thing, and does another

    and in this case, whether or not it was planned in advance as a part of a systemic management decision making plan, or if it was actually due to broken equipment.

    no answer. no idea. speculation continues.

  7. #7 by Eric Olesen - April 5th, 2010 at 11:52

    Gee, Chris, I’m sure being snarky gets you followers, but calling me an apologist doesn’t change the fact that your blog post is based on some speculation and my rebuttal is based on 20 years of being involved in moving passengers, freight and mail by air.

    I don’t disagree with your perceptions of how you were treated, but your speculation on why they changed equipment is way off base.

    I stand by my statement that swapping equipment out-of-type on the day of departure doesn’t save the airline anything — it costs them money. That’s fact. Go ask someone like Bill Swelbar from MIT or the guys who teach airline economics at GWU, Embry-Riddle or Northwestern University.

    Not only does it throw off the maintenance routings as I mentioned, but when you sub a 757 for a 767, you also screw up the ability to carry containerized cargo, which arguably can be more profitable than carrying passengers. You also screw up the return flight. Just because your flight to SFO was “lightly booked” doesn’t mean that the flight back to JFK was.

    There are a few airlines like Southwest and Continental who do use demand-based equipment scheduling, but they only do it type-for-type (subbing 737-700 for a 737-900 or 737-800) and they also lock in the equipment type before the check-in period (24-48 hours prior to departure) so that they can minimize customer disruption, better plan their cargo capabilities and also lock down the maintenance routings.

  8. #8 by Eric Olesen - April 5th, 2010 at 18:20

    Chris, since you have no interest in responding via DM or Twitter, here’s a more detailed response to your flawed conclusions:

    “From my perspective, I feel lied to and I trust American Airlines even less then I did before.”

    You got some bad information. Lying is intentional. Someone not having complete information is unintentional. From experience, both as a customer and as a gate agent, you give/get information based on the facts available. I’ve never lied to a customer, and I don’t think I’ve ever been deliberately lied to by *any* airline. Sure, there’s times I’ve been given outdated information, but that’s life. Airlines aren’t exactly on the cutting edge when it comes to handling realtime communications, and when there’s a lot of chaos with a change of equipment, the airport environment isn’t exactly conducive to it either.

    “How can I be given a seat from one point in the system and then have it taken away in another?”

    Yep. Sucks to have a seat taken away, but my guess is that it went to someone who was either a full-fare J or a higher upgrade priority (e.g. Exec Plat). The flight went from 30-some J seats to 22. That means 8 people got downgraded in the process, including you.

    “Then there are the multiple changing promises about take off time. I know you can’t control when things go wrong all the time, but how odd is it that your phone system calls people to tell them of delays even when they are supposed to have their phones turned off and are sitting on the plane. Perhaps just an unfortunate system design in an edge case, but it was striking to me and furthered my distrust of your company.”

    I have the same problem with AA’s flight status notification system. There’s a definite lag at times, especially when the system is stressed. Personally, they should stop sending out notifications once the original departure time has passed and the difference in time from the previous notification is less than X minutes.

    “Now for the part that American Airlines will be happy I saved for last, but will get quoted by the most number of people. I think this whole situation may have been part of a decision management tree and may have been a middle management move to squeeze the most profit out of the situation that deserves a real investigation. Perhaps I dont have all the story here on why the gate agents were overheard using the phrase ‘downgraded equipment’ by several people”

    Downgraded equipment means going from a three class to a two class airplane, or from a larger to a smaller plane.

    But read on….

    “It turns out, that the woman sitting next to me, also saw there were no seats available on the seating chart last week. But instead, the smaller 757 we flew had plenty of open seats on it. Meaning the original 767 was way underbooked, else there would have been a huge problem trying to get them all in. While many people like me were denied their upgraded seat assignments (some of who received extra snacks and drinks for the trouble though I didnt get such an offer), everyone it seemed got on the plane easily enough.”

    Here’s a fact:

    AA’s 767 seats 119 people in coach.

    AA’s 767 seats 166 people in coach.

    Do the math yourself, but you had 40 more seats in coach. That would indeed feel roomier. Downside is they lost 20 seats in F and J.

    Just because you don’t know who I am, or believe there’s not some bias in why I’d respond doesn’t change the known facts, Chris.

    Can’t wait to see what @AAirwaves responds, but frankly, if you can’t find it possible to believe the opinion of someone who has been on both sides of the transaction, you’re probably not going to believe what they tell you either.

  9. #9 by Chris Heuer - April 6th, 2010 at 13:59

    Eric. You are a former American Airlines employee who entered this discussion for an unknown reason. If I worked at American Airlines and I knew you, I would call you and tell you to stop talking about this because you arent making it any better on them or on yourself. I wont debate you point by point because you dont matter. You can’t deny my feelings on this matter or what I experienced which is all you are trying to do at this point which is simply making me more angry with American Airlines since you are clearly representing them in this discussion.

    Of course I have responded to you via twitter though not DM because I wont be following you ever, so that means you intentionally presented information above that you know to be false or at the very least misleading to support your argument. Or were you meaning to say I didnt reply quick enough because I have other things to do in my life then argue about how bad American Airlines screwed up?

    Since you worked at AA you should know they fly 2 configurations on the 767, one has 119 and a first class cabin, the other has no first class and 194 seats.

    Just move along already.

  10. #10 by Jeannie Walters - April 7th, 2010 at 01:24

    Chris – I fly a 1000th as often as you and yet I still have crappy customer experiences most of the time with airlines. There is something fundamentally wrong. I have noticed a particular trend with gate agents ignoring customers so I was inspired by your post and my experience today and wrote about it:

    Hope they sit up and listen. It’s no fun to go anywhere any more.

    And feel better!

  11. #11 by David Z - April 7th, 2010 at 09:33

    Nothing really, Chris. But you might like to read the entry and comments from CrankyFlier as it’s got arguably interesting stuff. 🙂

  12. #12 by Joe - April 7th, 2010 at 11:00

    Yes, AA runs 2 configs of 767. You were originally scheduled on the three-class (lower capacity) 767-200.

  13. #13 by Jay - April 7th, 2010 at 13:01


    I love the conspiracy theories. As a UA 1K I have had more equipment swaps then I can remember and just because you got “downgraded” on this flight doesn’t mean that you won’t get an “op-up” on the next swap. I have found that it generally even s out.

    Oh and the most likely reason you were bumped is because you are a Plat and not a ExPlat. Fly more and this won’t happen.

  14. #14 by Brian - April 7th, 2010 at 15:14

    You flew from the east coast to west coast in a pressurized metal tube at near the speed of sound in about 5 hours. Seriously, crap happens, they got an aircraft. Clearly there weren’t as many seats as originally confirmed for first. They have process’ for dealing with this. Paid 1st class first, then upgrade instrument, then status.

    Crap happens. Unless you paid cash for first class, I really can’t feel sorry as AA’s upgrades are generally gifts to AA elites (or stickers sold at a crazy discount). It’s a perk not a obligation from AA.

    As an EXP, although I’m a tad bit bummed when I don’t get an ugprade, I greatly appreciate that I can fly anywhere in the world for free and get complimentary upgrades on all flights (including overseas using SWUs).

    Any other airline would’ve had the same situation and they’d have dealt with it similarly. Perhaps your 763 was removed from service and it was the choice between a relief 757 or waiting until the next day to travel (or the other choice of putting an un-air-worthy 763 in air), who knows the story.

    Finally, Y in 763 is just as bad as a 757, they both suck unless you’re in J.

    Better luck next time, or maybe fly a different airline.

  15. #15 by David Thomson - April 7th, 2010 at 15:33

    As an AA Ex-Plat, I probably fly and have flown a lot more than you in the last few years…..and if one can give you a word of advice (which seems doubtful as your mind seems made up) you should really stop bitching so much. If anything, your travel experience seemed pretty good. I have no idea where it says or why you and many others get the idea that upgrades are a must. I enjoy them and am loyal because of them, but if I want to be garanteed a first class seat, I know I must book in first. Now I dont do that because the price is ludicrous, but then I dont come around crying because I had an equipment change and couldnt keep me upgrade. I find that when I was plat and now as ex-plat, the positive has far outweighed the negative. I suspect that is your case as well, if not, why keep on flying American? You are free to change airlines
    BTW, you might want to check your facts before so much blabbing…..The 767 you wanted to fly on is actually an OLDER plane than the 757 you were switched to…. AND, that version of 767 actually has LESS seats in coach than the 757…..

  16. #16 by Charles - April 7th, 2010 at 18:25

    Well, let me just point out two glaring errors that really make you look stupid:

    1) The 757 that operated your flight, N680AN, was built in 1999. The 767-200ER that was supposed to operate your flight, N334AA, was built in 1987.

    2) The 757 has 188 seats. The 767-200ER has 181 seats. Your plane was actually upgraded in terms of passenger capacity.

  17. #17 by Dave - April 8th, 2010 at 20:16

    WOW, what a “Prima Donna”. Just reading your tales of woe are giving me an attack myself. Of nausea. Just how high of a pedestal do people like you need to be placed? I have been a commercial airline mechanic for nearly 22 years with UAL. And before the insults hurl towards my company, allow me to offer this about most domestic airlines. Yes, the equipment is getting old. Yes, all aircraft are showing signs of age. Yes, we occasionally have to take an aircraft out of service because we do not feel it is safe enough for flight. Yes, it is an inconvenience to your sorry ass, and you do not get your first class upgrade. NO, I am not sorry. The ability to keep these aircraft safely in the air is dictated by the control maintained by the pilot. It is up to thousands of certified airline mechanics in this industry to help them maintain that control. Our jobs are the toughest we have ever seen. Everybody wants cheap fights, and even though we all accept an increase in the cost of maintaining our cars, nobody wants to accept an increase in the cost of a ticket for the maintenance of these older aircraft. The Airlines are turning towards new alternatives to save money. Purchasing cheaper materials, or turning towards less dependable vendors to overhaul the parts, also take a toll. Consider this. Those free bottles of water, special meal, and that “free” drink ticket at the Admirals Club you got during your travels could have purchased a new seat recline assembly. The cost of all those “free” first class upgrades may have purchased the part to keep that 767 on schedule? Besides a lack of parts, airlines are turning towards cheaper maintenance as well. After 22 years, I find myself on the bottom of the seniority list and wondering if I my job too will be outsourced soon. Should that happen, I would expect even more delays and problems for you. Airlines are turning towards vendors more these days than ever before. While the average UAL mechanic has over 25 years experience working on our airplanes, many of the vendors overhauling our aircraft are NEW companies. (AA, fortunately still does most of their own work in house. Kudos to them) But while our job security is a major distraction, the greatest frustration to all of us is in the lack of parts, materials, and manpower needed to maintain a controllable, and dependable aircraft. The bottom line, everyone wants something at a lower price, and the less you pay, the more free perks you expect. May I simply suggest Mr. Heuer, the next time you want the perks of a first class ticket, PURCHASE one. That would be a benefit to us all.

  18. #18 by Chris Heuer - April 20th, 2010 at 19:06

    Its really sad what a low view the airline industry takes of itself. Some people actually said (besides calling me an idiot for not knowing the 757 is techinacally older then the 767 despite the fact that the cabin has never been remodeled in one and has been in the other) that we should just be thankful the metal tube flies to get us to our destinations.

    And are you guys seriously going to whine about your job and the industry as a whole to me when you accuse me of whining about getting my ticketed upgrade on the new flight rescinded (which I agreed to pay $180 for, its not a free perk – geez, you would think these experts who know everything would know that)

    Whatever. I am closing comments on this post. If you want to say more, please do say it on your own blog.

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