American Airlines sucks

I haven’t had a lot of luck with air travel of late. My flights always seem

to be delayed – and for some reason, when a flight is delayed more than

half an hour, it always turns out to be six hours at least. You lose a whole

day, your sleep patterns get completly screwed up, and, of course, any vague

hint of a bug you might have had getting on to the plane gets turned into a

full-on raging cold by the time you’ve spent 12 hours in a metal tube breathing

stale, fifth-hand, dry-as-dust air.

I’m in Argentina now, and my trip down here is a case in point. The kind of

people who say "you’re lucky" to someone with a terrible injury would

probably say the same thing about me: I was on the last plane out of JFK as

a major

snowstorm was blowing in to New York, and who knows when I might have been

able to leave had the flight been cancelled.

That said, however, the American Airlines experience left a very great deal

to be desired. On an evening when all flights out of the airport were significantly

delayed due to weather, they insisted on boarding us right on time, only to

sit at the gate… and sit at the gate… and sit at the gate a bit longer.

The announcements from the captain were mumbled, short, and unhelpful: something

about engines, power, de-icing, it was not clear at all.

After about an hour, finally a coherent message from the captain. The good

news: we were finally able to leave the gate. The bad news: a couple of standby

passengers who were meant to be on board turned out not to be, and so their

luggage would have to be removed. Of course, they had all the relevant information

an hour earlier, when we were waiting around twiddling our thumbs, but somehow

failed to act on it until the point when we were hopeful we might finally be

able to take off.

Eventually, the bags were found, the plane left the gate, and – I think,

nothing was made very clear to us – we started the first phase of de-icing.

Apparently there are de-icing "stations" at JFK: this is not a procedure,

like refuelling, that can be done at the gate. So various bits of the plane

got de-iced, and then we headed off to station number two, where the wings and

fuselage would get done. Except we never got there. What with heating and lighting

the cabin, and de-icing whatever they de-iced, they’d somehow managed to run

out of whatever battery power they needed to actually move the aircraft. So

we had to wait for another hour while someone could, in effect, give us a jump-start.

Then, the second phase of de-icing took at least twice as long as it should

have, for similar reasons to do with power. First one side of the plane got

de-iced, then the other, instead of them both being done at the same time.

More profoundly, the way we were running out of power created a big problem:

there now wasn’t enough fuel left to get us all to Buenos Aires. The captain

had three choices: cancel the flight, which no-one wanted; lose 60 passengers

to lighten the load; or refuel in Miami. In the end, the choice was made for

him: the crew had spent so long sitting on the ground that under union rules

they weren’t allowed to work the whole 11 hours to BA. So Miami it was.

It was exactly at this point that things really started to go wrong. Once the

flight had been sitting on the tarmac for a certain amount of time, Miami was

a certainty. In fact, the pilot more or less admitted we would have to refuel

there in one of his earliest announcements, while we were still stuck at the

gate. But let’s be charitable and say it took them a couple of hours to put

two and two together. The plane was meant to leave at 10:20, so by 12:20 American

Airlines should have been getting on the phone to Miami, organising a new crew

to replace the JFK crew, and generally attempting to ensure that we wouldn’t

need to spend any more time in Miami than we needed to refuel.

We finally took off, five hours late, at 3:20. The flight was fast and uneventful,

and we landed by 5:15. The crew, by this point, was very annoyed: rather than

working 22 hours New York – Buenos Aires – New York, they would

get paid for only nine or so, for the time spent idling in New York and the

flight to Miami. Still, they told us, not to worry: the American Airlines agent

would be waiting for us at the gate, along with the replacement crew, and we

should be on our way in no time.

Of course, when we get to the gate, there’s no agent there: no one in Miami

seems to have the foggiest notion what’s going on. Eventually, at 6:00, roughly

when we were expected to be leaving, an agent arrived, and seemed most surprised

to see us at the gate. After a bunch of scrambling around, it’s determined that

our nine-person crew from JFK is going to be replaced by a five-person crew

from Miami – they should be here any time. And, indeed, they all turn

up relatively quickly, except for the one who doesn’t. An extra crew member

must be found, which is likely to take an hour or so, and so at this point it’s

decided that maybe we should be let out of the airplane after all. We’d been

cooped up for eight hours, no one knows how long we’ll be stuck in Miami, and

the flight on to Buenos Aires is another nine: even American realised that it

might not be smart to make a 767 with more than its fair share of small children

stay in its seats for something over 18 hours at a stretch.

So we’re told that we can stretch our legs for half an hour. No longer will

groups of no more than four people at a time be accompanied to the phone booths

and back; rather, we can all enjoy the splendours of the American Airlines departure

lounge in Miami at our pleasure.

The departure lounge is a pretty grim place, outfitted with little more than

a Nathan’s hot-dog stand staffed by the surliest people I’ve ever seen in Miami

(although the fact that they were working at 6:00 on a Monday morning might

explain that bit). All the same, it’s an improvement over the interior of our

airplane’s fuselage.

Actually, scratch that. The surliest people I’ve ever seen in Miami weren’t

the hot-dog vendors, they were the gate Nazis. What no one bothered to tell

us when we were deplaning (yes, they really used that word) was that once we

were off, they wouldn’t let us back on again until they were good and ready.

No, they never said why. For me, it was no great hardship: all it meant was

that I couldn’t read my book, which I’d left safely tucked in the pocket on

the back of the seat in front of me. But for others, especially one woman who

had just got up to make a phone call and who had left two children on board,

including a four-year-old, this petty decision had huge consequences.

Everybody was cranky, remember: it was now 7 in the morning, and no one had

got much in the way of sleep. An 11-hour flight is pretty hard work at the best

of times, but now that another seven or eight hours were being added on to that,

most of them spent on board the airplane, people were getting angry. No one

at Miami knew anything; the only thing they told us was that they’d simply arrived

at the airport at 6:00 and really had no idea what was going on, where the crew

was, how many of them there had to be, when we might be taking off, when we

might be landing, or anything else.

At this point, understandably, various passengers decided that they’d had enough.

They were in Miami, which has many flights down to Buenos Aires each day, and

rather than stick around this accursed airplane, they were going to hang out

in Florida for a day or so and then, somewhat rested, continue on to Argentina.

After all, for the elderly or the very young, an 18-hour plane journey is the

last thing you want, and if you can avoid it, you do.

I don’t know whether anybody actually got off at Miami, whether their bags

had to follow them, or what. No one saw fit to tell us peons what was going

on: all we knew was that the 7:00 deadline for us to get back on to the plane

had come and gone, and there was no sign of anything happening. Communication

was nil. The American staff started playing the sorry-we’re-clueless card a

bit too often: sorry, I don’t know. I don’t know anybody who knows. I can’t

help you.

On the plane, it was the same story: people who’d missed dinner on the grounds

that it had been served at 4 in the morning when no one wants to eat were told

that no, they couldn’t have anything to eat, and that actually, I, your flight

attendant, haven’t had anything to eat since last night either. Oh, and no,

I can’t get you immigration cards for Argentina or anything like that, because

the JFK crew put them somewhere and we have no idea where. And in general, sorry

if you have no service on this flight, but you have to understand: we’re very


On arriving at Buenos Aires, we just got the standard "welcome to Argentina

and thank you for flying American" message: no apology for being eight

hours delayed, and certainly no attempt to make things up to us.

This general unhelpful attitude is something I’ve come across before with American

(and I’ve only flown them on two other occasions). I had an American flight

from Los Angeles to New York once, which involved a change at Dallas-Fort Worth.

All flights in and out of DFW were delayed for some reason, but we were assured

that because everyone was delayed by pretty much the same amount of time, there

shouldn’t be any difficulty making our connections.

Of course the story changed when we got to DFW. Sorry, your flight to LaGuardia

has left already: for noise reasons, planes aren’t allowed to land there after

a certain time, so it got bumped up the list. Again, a failure of communication

from one airport to another: while on the Argentina flight it was New York not

communicating with Miami, on the New York flight it was DFW not communicating

with Los Angeles. Of course, if we’d known in LA that we wouldn’t be getting

to New York that evening, we would never have left at all, and rather spent

one more night in California, catching an early flight back to New York the

following day. But because of information failure, we were stuck in Dallas-Fort

Worth overnight.

It got worse, though: American decided/decreed that the reason we were forced

to stay in Texas overnight was weather, not general incompetence on its own

part, and that therefore they weren’t even going to put us up in a hotel. If

we liked, they could procure some army-style cots and maybe a blanket or two

and we could sleep on the floor of the departure lounge.

Cock-ups, of course, happen on all airlines, through their fault or otherwise.

But where other airlines seem to genuinely want to make things better, American

seems to be as unhelpful as possible. Virgin once gave me a voucher for being

delayed, even though they’d phoned me in advance to tell me that the flight

was late and I could turn up a few hours later. Even the low-cost airlines in

Europe, like Buzz, or in the US, like JetBlue and SouthWest, are known for their

customer service. But American seems to have a completely different mindset.

I think that the problem could well be the aftermath of September 11. American

has been inflicting wave after wave of job cuts, and evidently a lot of the

lost jobs have been the people coordinating its different operations around

the country. I worry, too, that others have been in more vital areas: I don’t

think it’s coincidence that the Rockaway

crash happened so soon after September 11, when morale in the airline industry

was at its lowest and thousands of jobs had just been cut.

People are nervous about flying these days, and maybe they ought to be, although

their reasons for nervousness (war, terrorism) are, I think, misplaced. The

chances of an airline passenger being the victim of a terrorist attack are minimal.

But the chances of the same passenger falling victim to incompetencies which

are a result of downsizing following general nervousness about a terrorist attack

are much greater. It’s almost as though being scared of a flying is a self-fulfilling

prophecy: the more people that are scared of flying, the fewer people flying,

the more layoffs the airlines need to make, the less safe flying becomes, and

the more justified a fear of flying is.

Still, I’m going to continue to fly American, just because of their leg-room.

I’m telling you, once we were airborne, I actually managed to stretch out and

get some sleep – in economy! That doesn’t mean I like them, though.

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279 Responses to American Airlines sucks

  1. Dana Brown says:

    I am a platinum exec on AA, I hate this airline. I have to learn that they are very good at 1). putting you on hold when you are roaming in a forgien country costing lots of cell phone $$$$ and 2). passing the buck “Oh, I wasn’t on that conversation so I don’t know why you were told that”.

    How can they send luggage somewhere, when you have cancelled that part of a trip becuase of delays, and they send the bags there anyway without you on the plane. talk about an opportunity for a bad guy! Let me see, I will pack some “bags”, cancel part of the trip, I know the bags will be in the belly of the plane and continue to the desitination I canceled, I will not be on the plane but the bags will be – unbelieveable. How is the FAA condoling this????

    I love it when people that do not travel much blog like they travel 125K miles + per year – like they have even the slighest notion/clue of what can, and often does, go bad.Over and over again.

    I want to know how many flights AA cancels because the flight is not full, makes it passangers wait for the next flight, and have the balls (opps, that implies they have some to begin with) to blame it on – let’s see, excuse #1 – weather, #2 – mechanical, #3 can’t find a flight crew or some other bulls__t reason. Why doesn’ the FAA monitor that little secret??

    I have learned in the past 24 hours how bad this arilines can be.

    While waiting at O’Hare in the baggage service counter in line near Claim area #5, the black (nothing intended here, it is what it is) young lady takes 25 minutes to help one passanger while a line of 15+ people grow, I am next, and she announces promptly at 9:00PM, “I am going home, goodbye”. And leaves. How bad is that!!

    I am sick of AA not helping, lack of any kind of caring about thier customers, boy have they gone down hill.

    I agree, let’s see them go bankrupt. No more business from me.

  2. AAsteals says:


  3. Trebor says:

    Oh, you are a frequent flyer on AA, but can’t even write the status correctly??? !!! The status is called Executive Platinum and not Plat Exec. …. so much to your knowledge. and of course, as you checked in at your DEP airport you had know already, that you will cxl a leg of the trip because of a delay. If the bags are labeled to the final destination, it is quite hard to get the bags back before that.

    About the roaming. It is not the fault of the airline, if you are not able to get the local phone number from the country you are right now. On the AA page, they offer nearly every country in the world a local phone number. Try reading!!!

  4. Mystified Ramper says:

    Reading through this post has been eye-opening sometimes, and all too familiar at other times. I do work with alot of good people who really do care, but then I also work with alot of people who could care less … The single recurrent theme I saw in this post (from the coherent posters) was not anger at cancelled flights, lost luggage, delays, maintenance problems, etc … its one simple thing, and I’ve seen it play out over and over in front of me at my job with other employees.

    The uncaring employee.

    You know the ones I mean; the ticket agent who tells you “well that ain’t my problem” in response to your request for help; the baggage agent whose only answer to lost baggage inquiries is “I wouldn’t know about that”. (I won’t pick on flight attendants because in all fairness, most FA’s really are a dedicated and professional lot under trying circumstances) “I don’t know”, “I don’t care”,”it’s not my problem” … oh, and a lack of simple words, like “please” and “thank you” said with some sincerity.

    My job doesn’t bring me in direct contact with passengers most of the time, but the few times I do interact with passengers I’ve found that it really isn’t that hard to make people happy. Two steps …

    1) Listen critically to the complaint

    2) Open your mouth and start with “Here’s what I can do to help you …” and offer a solution that addresses the problem.

    I’ve seen many passengers who were stranded overnight at a major hub who would have been happy with paying a “distressed traveler” rate at a motel rather than being told, “I’m not giving you a free room and theres nothing I can do to help you”. The only theory that makes any sense to me is that the employees are angry with management (whether rightly or wrongly) and seek to take it out on the passenger. I think theres an academic term for that – isn’t it called biting the hand that feeds you?

    Wish I had a simple answer to solve the problems .. I really do.

  5. dfw sucks says:

    Mystified Ramper, stop stealing the panties out of our luggage!

  6. Tired of it all says:

    How many times can you kick the dog?

    Your right, those of us at AA really dont care any more! It has been 15 years of management greed and taking. Since my 32% paycut in 2001 and imposed work rules eqivilant to a sweat shop, American Airlines management have given themselves 3 rounds of bonuses. There is no future here, so instead of taking it out on passengers – as yes I still try to be professional – I went back to school, got a degree and am moving on. Soon you will see, if not already the same people working the drive thru at your local fast food establishment as your crew.. good luck there.

    Because really, you want it all for $89, right?

    And where are all the agents? Extra Flight crew when weather or legalities happen? They have all been layed off. Staffing is at a minimum…

    Because really, you want it all for $89, right?

    Why isnt the airplane clean? Well the same people who are unloading your bags in the cargo, are the same people who come and clean the airplanes. Again, more cut backs, more lay offs etc. Not to mention those of you who pee on the floor and puke on yourselves. Lovely.

    What was that internet airfare again? Oh yeah, $89, right?

    You complain about the food when you had it, you complain about the food when there is none… $89 airfare.

    Speaking of food, pardon me if I dont seem happy, Ive had 4 hours sleep in some rat trap airport hotel while in the middle of working 2or 3 16 hour days. I assure you my employer is not providing me with any nutrition what so ever, and I am feeling the effects of hypogylcemia. I am not rude, I am malnourished and exhausted. fatigue, fatigue, fatigue. The FAA turns its head on that too. Kathy Lee treats her employees better.

    You WONT make your connection when you buy a ticket with less than an hour connection time. Yes I know the airline offers you these tickets, but take some resposibilitie for your self and dont buy them! Even if they are $89 !!!!!

    Now I shouldnt go on and on about the $89, after all you are consumers, your being offered these fares… PLEASE have no expectations however, you get what you pay for!

    And thank you all for this enlightening website. I will remember your comments which now further enforces my lack of dedication to you and American Airlines.

    Flight Attendant

    Miami, FL

  7. ecook says:

    Left San Juan this 11 am arrived Tampa to find American baggage handlers had opened and poured duty free dark rum and other liquors all over wifes clothes and contents of case. They also kept the security locks. In the other bag they stole a bottle of liquor and replaced it with a cheap bottle of rum. Both Bags were only in their possession after clearing customs. Must zall be in on the vandalisms and thefts or no supervision. Either way no more AA.

  8. FilthyPuertoRican says:




  9. Don says:

    I sat on an aircraft yesterday in Dallas that could not dock because of lightning…within 21 miles of the area rule…so they left us on the plane,, and there we sat for two hours in the middle of the tarmac…lightning all around us, no potable water, the plane was rocking in 60 mph winds like we were flying in extreme turbulence and several tornadoes reported in the area…..bad management.

    And there were a few lawyers on the plane passing out business cards

  10. Don says:

    I sat on an aircraft yesterday in Dallas that could not dock because of lightning…within 21 miles of the area rule…so they left us on the plane,, and there we sat for two hours in the middle of the tarmac…lightning all around us, no potable water, the plane was rocking in 60 mph winds like we were flying in extreme turbulence and several tornadoes reported in the area…..bad management.

    And there were a few lawyers on the plane passing out business cards

  11. neal says:

    I know a couple of Antisemtic AA pilots. They live in Delray Beach, a make nasty remarks about Jews. Do you want their Names, and telephone numbers?

  12. neal says:

    I know a couple of Antisemtic AA pilots. They live Delray Beach, a make nasty remarks about Jews. Do you want their Names, and telephone numbers?

  13. nINE ELEVEN says:










  16. Deb says:

    Yesterday was the AA topper of the year. What should have been a 50 minute flight from New Orleans to Dallas took 6 hours and 38 minutes.

    We circled Dallas for 2 1/2 hours until the plane ran out of fuel. Then we went to Austin to refuel where we sat on the runway for over an hour. We finally got back in the air and they decided they weren’t going to let us land…again. We circled for more another 2 1/2 hours. We saw two movies on what should have been a 50 minute flight.

    When we finally got on the ground, I called AA to find out what my connecting flight would be. He told me, and said sarcastically “Make sure you don’t miss it.” before hanging up on me.

    Because of that one stupid flight, I missed my son’s senior music recital.

  17. Deb says:

    Oh I forgot. I am AA Platinum, for about 6 years now.

  18. Trebor says:

    …. than drive the nxt time …. idiot ….

  19. RAUL says:


  20. Deb says:

    Hey Trebor…

    That would be “THEN drive next time…” Idiot.

  21. aasucksmynuts says:



  22. charles k samuel says:

    Dear sir


    My name is charles kaudodi samuel

    I am very keen to work in the{ SHIPPING NAUKRI COMPANY} I am willing to start at the bottom and work myway up within your organization. I am therefore applying for a job as a DECK HAND OFFICER to work, i have my interenational passport and yellow book and seaman book and discharge book and certiaficate of compances and AB ticket all with me to work on board.

    Sir i have 5 years experinces in my feild of work

    Sir i have my MARITIME SAFETY STCW”95 certificate obtain

    Sir i am very good in my feild and the best

    Sir i have the ability to work with full interest to the satisfation of the company

    Sir i will be degelentful grateful if this opportunity will be given to me

    thanks and god bless

    charles k samuel

  23. dick says:

    Deck Officer?

    If you are looking for a job at AA, you must be a DICK OFFICER!!

  24. daryl says:

    wah wah wah ….. if whine were oil you people could supply the the world*s energy needs for years to come ….. ya know … contrary to popular belief aa does not control the weather .. also .. planes are machines and now matter how well they*re maintained …. sooner or later they *will* break down unexpectedly …. now i know you all feel aa should have spare parts/planes/and employees at each and every station around the world to care for all you whiners but that*s difficult to do when as it is you start crying as soon as the cost of a ticket goes above a dollar ninety nine …. if the employees are cranky …. maybe because you are the ten thousanth beligerant/obnoxious/know it all aviation expert that*s been in there face that day ….. maybe if everyone tried being the kind of person they would like to face we could make day to day life a little more enjoyable …. for everyone ….. i know the airlines don*t serve much food anymore …. but i*m sure they*d be willing to serve you some cheese with that whine

  25. TOM says:

    Heard about the personal threats and thefts AA employee at Manchester UK was involved in – October 2006 (and not for the first time)? $512,000 law suit had to be issued issued in England. It only takes one real bad ass like this to make working life hell for honest AA employees, notwithstanding the loss of business. AA’s attitude – much as it was in the days when they were mob connected in their Miami hub prior to moving up to DFW. When are these gangsters going to be put out to pasture? Those of us in the business have long memories. Not much point complaining these days – a bad ass this bad needs taking to a dark place for some serious attitude adjustment.

  26. ERIC says:

    Airfare is to cheap!!!! That’s the problem. Over the last several years fuel costs have gone up 70%, while ticket costs have increased very little. It has become more economic to fly rather than drive long distances. Therefore you have an overloaded system operating understaffed to remain cost effecient. Financial analyst agree that ticket prices should be greatly increased thus limiting the number of people who can afford to fly.The remaning travelers will recieve far better service and revenue for the airline will remain the same due to the fact that there customers will be flying on full fare tickets and not some horse shit they got off orbitz for $159. What you broke ass complainers need to realize is that when the airlines start providing everything your crying about you won’t be able to afford to fly.

  27. Delayed says:

    The flights are being delayed on purpose. Employees are getting back at the airlines

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