American Airlines Is in Shambles, Says Pretty Much Everyone

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Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal's veteran (and Dallas-based) travel reporter, recently offered a word of advice to the literate public: If you or a loved one is considering stepping onto an aircraft in the foreseeable future, make sure it's not one operated by American Airlines.

"American's operation is in shambles," McCartney writes. On Sunday fewer than half of American flights arrived on-time, a quarter were at least 45 minutes late, and 92 flights were canceled. Monday was even worse. It's competitors had no such trouble. United, Southwest and US Airways all got the vast majority of their flights to the gate on time.

The reason for American's abysmal track record of late is, of course, the ongoing bankruptcy of AMR, its parent company. Pilots are not taking kindly to pay and benefit cuts recently imposed and are calling in sick, grounding flights for minor problems and just generally doing things slowly, all the while denying any coordinated effort to do so.

Denny Kelly, a former pilot and aviation expert, told NBC the same thing. And a recent consumer satisfaction ranking by airfarewatchdog.com ranked American ninth out of 10 carriers -- and that was before the recent surge in cancellations and delays.

Also: American Airlines hates both Disney World and 5-year-old girls, since it charged a family extra to sit together during a recent trip there. And do you really want to fly on an airline that hates Disney World?

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41 comments
TexOHara
TexOHara

Flying American these days is a hit or miss proposition.  Sometimes the flight attendants are great; sometimes they're crabby.  Sometimes the gate agents don't ever explain why the plane's not at the gate on time; other times they give a great explanation of why that storm system over Chicago threw a monkey wrench into the entire day. 

 

If there's one area I grade American dead last in consistently, it's the baggage claim time at DFW Airport.  The delay is always at least 30 minutes.  Why, American, why?

 

From having friends who work for AA in management and as union employees, my personal observation is that while both management and union say they respect their customers, and I think they both really mean that.  But they can't stand each other.  I mean . . . really, really, REALLY can't stand each other.  Union employees think management is screwing them and running the company into the ground, and management blames the unions for all of the company's ills.  I think that mutual animosity, which has been aggravated by the bankruptcy, trickles down to customer experience.

halldecker
halldecker

Last time I checked,  the only AA Board member who knew anything about objects flying through the air was Staubach.  Not a single outside member with any background in the industry.  I understand diversity is needed,  but nobody who knows how to run the railroad?

AA ran Braniff out of business.  Frank did most of it himself,  AA did their share of knocking off the first Continental.  Legend?  AA moved their loudest planes to Love,  rattled the roofs.   The minute Legend was in Chapter 7,  AA moved back to DFW.  AA did that multiple times.  

Wanna talk about all the times AA flooded the market with cheap flights anytime competition moved in?  And as soon as it was driven out,  extra flights and low prices quickly cut.

It's a tragedy for AA employees,  but AA as a company is getting exactly what they deserve.  Their arrogance is finally being paid back.

I'm forced to fly them occasionally,  on dirty,  stinky,  oil-smelling contraptions that were state of the art in the late 70's.  Every time I walk to the counter,   the experience starts again.   Like walking into somebody's house after they've just had a knock down,  drag out yelling and screaming match.  "And what the Hell do you want?"

 

SunnyVanderbeck
SunnyVanderbeck

@mikeorren best quote in the article was in the comments "AA, my airline of last resort"

Cheve
Cheve

For the past couple of years I've been flying back and forth to DC every couple of months. Every single time I've flown American, there has been an issue that was dealt with very poorly. In March, it was so bad that a gate agent in St Louis literally slammed a door in a passenger's face when he was merely trying to get some information. They are my airline of last resort at this point.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

AA management and its employees have been at each others throats for decades now.  Both sides continually play a game of "gotcha".

 

Maybe it is time to drive the proverbial wooden stake through the heart of AA and toss in a silver bullet to the head.  Perhaps the best thing to do is just to bury this mess and let someone else either move in or start from scratch.

 

As far as charging for the family to sit together, this is old news.  For quite sometime AA has been charging for seat selection.  If you don't pay, you get the middle seat.

 

My general experience with AA employees is that they act as if dealing with their customers is an imposition and an undue burden.

anon
anon

Am I the only person in Dallas who likes American (as much as anyone can like can airline anyways)? They fly me direct to my destination 9 out of 10 times rather than making me stop twice like Southwest (or once like Delta/NW). They are usually reasonably priced (Southwest is almost never significantly cheaper - I could sometimes save by taking another airlines and putting up w/ a transfer but I seldom do). And they've always been good to me when flights were delayed significantly, even when it was because of the weather. After a near-tornado shut down every outgoing flight for about 12 hours, they still managed to get me to Dublin less than 15 hours later than scheduled. Their policies and employees are no more annoying than most airlines. Southwest gets better marks for service, but I also can't stand having no reserved seat. Once Southwest can fly direct outside the Wright zone I will reconsider, but for now, I fly American exclusively. 

James080
James080 topcommenter

The pilots seem to be staging an illegal work disruption....with a wink-wink..nod-nod.."we didn't formally plan anything...." I hope the bankruptcy judge holds the APA in contempt and fines the hell out of them. I agree AA is a poorly managed airline with used up and ragged planes. AA's management and the APA deserve each other......

Mantikos
Mantikos

They have the crappiest planes...OLD as hell and nasty...horribly maintained too...you can see shoddy workmanship everywhere

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

1. With the problems American has been having involving labor and bankruptcy, I would not fly on them. I would choose any other airline but them.

2. I hate Disneyworld (called by some employees Mouseschwitz) too, but I still wouldn't fly on American.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

This story has been written about every single major airline.  they all went through bankruptcy and had the same issues.  It just so happens that now its AMR's turn.  As an AMR family member, it really is a joke.  Even though my wife's work group approved their new contract with tons of cost savings to the company, they immediately announce the next day they were farming out flying to other airlines.  Talk about a slap in the face, its no wonder the work groups hate management so bad.  But, in the end she is happy to still be employed and flying, unlike the rest of the country who write blogs and comments wishing for the death of the airline and all the jobs it provides

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Eric, yet again you toss in some unnecessary, misleading snark at the end of a pretty decent piece. Maybe the 5-year girl has a really nice, rare Power Wheels parked at her preschool that you can run a picture of.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @TexOHara Bag time sucks at DFW because it was built before all the fancy schmancy new technology came out.  Terminal d has great bag times even with all the international traffic.  As they renovate each new terminal, the bag systems are being updated too.  I honestly cant remember though the last time I waited more than 10 minutes for a bag

planecrazy
planecrazy

 @anon

 I tend to agree with you anon.  Even with their latest problems, I fly with AA quite often and haven't experienced any of these issues.  Seems like a media witch hunt, particularly with the kid/family story.  While it was a scheduling change, it was resolved.  Obama/Romney snipets anyone.  Anyway, the AA employees I've dealt with have been stellar given their working situation.  I feel for all AA employees and DFW as a whole.  Just hoping for a solution to keep as many people working.

joe.tone
joe.tone moderator

 @anon I fly American almost exclusively and generally have a decent experience. Plus they have Gus Garcia-Roberts and Wilonsky in their in-flight mag. But I don't fly enough to get a representative picture.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

 @anon I usually fly every other week, mostly American, and do not understand the hate. The vast majority of the idiot behavior I've experienced in by passengers. You have to accept the fact that flying nowadays is much like taking the bus.

 

And yes ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul is absolutely correct, for whatever reason "AA management and its employees have been at each others throats for decades "

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@anon The Wright amendment restrictions on Southwest were created at the behest of lobbying by AA and DFW airport. Blame them, not SW. AA has been irreparably broken into shards for over a decade. They are my absolute last travel choice.

jerry_leeper
jerry_leeper

 @anon It's not exactly like you have that much of a choice.  It's a scandal that American has 80+% of the flights out of DFW airport.  Try flying somewhere Southwest doesn't fly and American's prices start getting outrageous.  I used to fly American when checked bags were part of the price of a ticket, but since then I've taken Southwest if I could.  

 

I hope the bankruptcy means AA has to get rid of some of their gates and more airlines start offering more service to DFW.  There really isn't one major airport that is so locked in to one carrier, and that has made AA rather greedy.  

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @anon no you are not the only one, the saber rattlers are always louder than the the majority of the pleased public.  

James080
James080 topcommenter

 @Mantikos 

 

"OLD as hell and nasty...horribly maintained too..."

 

You're referring to the flight crews, right?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Tim.Covington if you wont fly them now, why did you before?  Its the same employees as before, and they will be the same ones after.  Lest you forget the labor trouble at USairways now, continental, delta and northwest when they were in bankruptcy.  its not like all of sudden these people cant do their jobs

 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @ScottsMerkin The single biggest strain on the Airlines are gas prices.  Higher top marginal rates and higher cap gains would discourage that sort of speculation, while the depreciation of capital intensive firms like AA would be far more lucrative.  Further, higher top marginal rates would have reigned in the executive's profligacy.  The stockholders and the common man get screwed, and the execs make off with the booty

planecrazy
planecrazy

 @ScottsMerkin

 One more rant: Damn the people who took the bailouts, yeah to those who didn't...circa 2008.   Damn the people who didn't take the bailouts, yeah to those who did...circa 2012.  Welcome to America.  We're fucked.

planecrazy
planecrazy

 @ScottsMerkin

 What's really a sham scotts is that AA was the only airline who didn't take a bailout during the '08 crash.  They had too much pride.  The employees did too.  They were all for one and one for all.  Problem?  Yeah.  While all the other airlines had bankruptcy protection and forced the unions to reasonable contracts and were relieved of debt, AA tried to do it the right way and is now paying the price for being the single honest player.  You can't win when the deck is stacked.  I give my hats to all AA employees.  You did your best, but this was never meant to be.  The only failure by management was they should have taken their ass beating in '08 and declared with everyone else.  Now, they're just pieces of shit.  So sad.

todd
todd

 @Scruffygeist "As a mother, I couldn't imagine letting my child fly next to a stranger..."  Simple solution, you sit with the kid, husband sits with the stranger, $60 stays in your pocket where it belongs. 

ceepee
ceepee

 @Sotiredofitall  @anon Why? Why do we "have to accept that flying nowadays is much like taking the bus"? This is bullshit. 

 

First, the bus doesn't charge you to check your baggage in its bladder like AA does, so there is more room on the bus than there is in the cabin of an AA airplane. You are correct however, that passengers are idiots, especially when they bring oversize bags that don't fit in the overhead compartments and then act like assholes when the plane lands, running around to wherever the hell the flight attendant found room to squish it into. SWA doesn't put up with it and they will flat-out MAKE you check your stupid rollie bag. For free. Something that AA should have been doing all along. 

 

I took the Greyhound from Dallas to Houston last month and paid the express price of $18 but it stopped in four other cities along the way, making the trip four hours and 45 minutes. Then I took the Megabus back up, express fare was $6, it stopped nowhere in between and was a flat four hours between 3pm and 7pm, so we went through rush hour somewhere with no problems. And the internet was better than Greyhound.

 

Megabus was cleaner, bigger, more comfortable, cheaper and faster. And the internet was better. They didn't waste resources on printing tickets and baggage tags and make us stand in a "claim" line like Greyhound did. It was exactly like the difference between SWA and AA. Greyhound had redundant, costly and cumbersome procedures, whereas Megabus just looked at my confirmation number on my blackberry and took my bag.

 

So I would say that I'd agree with you as long as that bus service in the sky is not Greyhound's service, but rather Megabus's. And I would liken AA to Greyhound, and for a $500 round-trip ticket from DFW to St. Louis, then it should be better than that.  

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @Sotiredofitall  @anon It is interesting to compare the management/labor relations at SWA and AA ... it is literally like night and day.

 

I think what will happen is that the AA pilots will get their desired work conditions, but the sad part will be that they will have no planes to fly ...

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @jerry_leeper  @anon 

Its not a scandal, SW very easily could have come over to DFW and been free to fly wherever it wanted however it wanted.  But why would they when Love field was losing money by only charging them .55 per 1000lbs for landing fees.  That was nearly 3.00 cheaper per 1000 lbs. Dont put all the blame on AA for owning most of  the gates over there either, The Airport chose to lease the gates that way.

ceepee
ceepee

 @ScottsMerkin  @anon And here is was going to reply that no, she's not the only person in Dallas likes AA, but perhaps the only person in the country...

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

 @ScottsMerkin I didn't fly them before. I worked at DFW at one time and knew to many American employees for me to ever fly on them.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @ceepee southwest isnt considered a major/legacy carrier.  They are a LCC so suck it, i wasnt talking about their segment of the industry

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@scottindallas @ScottsMerkin AA probably does not have the credit to hedge fuel effectively.

TexOHara
TexOHara

 @todd  @Scruffygeist Separated families can always work it out with fellow passengers, so long as they don't ask someone already in an aisle or window seat to exchange it for  a middle seat.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @ScottsMerkin  @jerry_leeper  @anon The difference in landing fees ought to give you a clue as to how bloated DFW operations are.

 

Love Field does not lose money.  The City's Aviation Department actually provides money to the general fund.  If anything, the landing fees at Love have subsidized the other city owned aviation facility for years, you know Red Bird Airport, now called Executive.

anon
anon

 @ScottsMerkin  @jerry_leeper  @anon Don't burst his bubble. People like to think Southwest is some charity when really they are just pursuing their own version of maximizing profits like everybody else. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @Tim.Covington Im curious, what did they do to scare you from flying them.  If its that serious, one thinks you might want to let the FAA know

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

 @primi_timpano  @scottindallas  @ScottsMerkin Its not necessarily about the credit, it about betting on the market correctly.  For a long time SW beat the market by hedging, and when fuel sky rocketed they were genius', but alas they began missing on the hedged fuel, and they too have succumbed to fuel eating away at its profits

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