Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further while traveling in comfort.
I have been a member of American Airline's AAdvantage loyalty program since I was three years old and have fond memories of visiting the cockpit, getting wings from flight attendants, and flying between The Bahamas and Miami on turboprop airplanes. This loyalty extended into my adulthood, when I started traveling frequently for leisure my airline of choice continued to be American Airlines. Not only did I have a long history with the airline but it was the largest carrier at my hometown airport Washington Regan National (DCA). This meant more non-stop flights and plentiful options when a connection was required. As a result of this loyalty I attained Gold elite status with American Airlines which I have held for over two years. I have flown over 107,000 lifetime miles with American Airlines as of January 2020. As I sit here on the day my Gold status ended I have had enough of the flying experience with American Airlines and Christina and I are ready to say farewell, and here is why.
Admirals Club Food and Drinks
What I value most about having lounge access is complimentary food and drinks and on this front the offerings from the Admirals Clubs are sad. With the exception of the avocado toast I find the vast majority of Admirals Club food and drink options to be either uninspiring or tasteless. I have often found myself buying food before going to the Admirals Club to make sure I don't go hungry.
Flying from DCA when a non-stop is unavailable or unaffordable I often find myself connecting in American's big east coast connecting hubs Charlotte (CLT) and Philadelphia (PHL). These are both legacy U.S. Airlines hubs and I find connecting through these hubs to be an unpleasant experience. CLT is poorly laid out for connecting flights and does not have an airport train. Christina and I have often found ourselves running to make connections when changing terminals. I have found PHL to be in a constant state of disrepair from missing ceiling tiles to a water main break which left the bathrooms in disgusting shape and the Admirals Club closed. To make matters worse American Airlines also concentrates their older legacy US Airways planes in the CLT and PHL hubs which can lead to a poor experience on these planes and significant inconsistencies on the same aircraft across the airline's fleet.
Seat Back In-Flight Entertainment and Power
One area where American Airlines is sorely lacking is seat-back in-flight entertainment on narrow-body planes and in-seat power plugs. American's narrow body planes can be assigned to transcontinental flights some of which are six hours or more, however, many of these planes never offered seat-back in-flight entertainment. To make matters worse American has focused on removing seat back IFE from planes that have it and instead requires passengers to watch streaming entertainment on personal devices. With less space on American Airlines planes using a personal device further restricts space and increases the importance of functioning power plugs. However, this is another area where American is sorely lacking. On many planes American Airlines has no in-seat power plugs even in First Class. On other planes the power plugs exist but are so loose that they are barely functional. I believe these dual problems show that American Airlines rush to streaming IFE on narrow body planes is misplaced.
Our experience with American Airlines baggage handling has been very poor. At DCA we have waited up to 30 minutes for our bags at baggage claim and we have had similar experiences waiting around at multiple airports around the country. On one trip with American Christina's checked luggage was so beat up that it was barely usable and we had to file a claim. The airline eventually replaced the piece of luggage ending an annoying situation. On another trip we had a wait around the airport for two hours since Christina's luggage never made it onto the flight. Flying American Airlines with checked luggage requires waiting around the baggage claim and feels like a gamble as to whether your luggage will make it on-time or in one piece.
Business and First Class Food
Christina and I have had numerous opportunities over the past two years to fly in American Airlines First and Business Class. We came away from these experiences disappointed with the quality of the food. We found some of the meals tasteless while other meals were barely edible. The quality of food served on American Airlines domestic and Caribbean First Class flights is truly embarrassing and significantly detracts from the First Class experience and the value of First Class upgrades for elites.
The most important reason of all that we are leaving American Airlines is the terrible customer service. The experiences are too numerous to list in this post but I will share with you some of the lowlights. At our home airport DCA we rushed to Priority check-in area and ended up being one minute past the cut off for checked baggage. The check-in agent refused to check our bag and we ended up sitting in the airport lounge for hours until the next available flight. To make matters worse she tried to charge Christina for a checked bag when she was entitled to a free checked bag. The agent wasn't apologetic and stopped assisting us for several minutes at a time to chat with her co-workers. When American lost Christina's bag there was no apology or compensation and instead the baggage agent gave Christina attitude. On our flight to London the flight attendant told me off for using the Business Class bathroom despite being allowed to do so by American Airlines policy. These poor customer experiences also extended to Business and First Class. On numerous occasions we were not served a pre-departure beverage on our flights and we were offered no blankets. On one flight our dirty dishes and glasses sat uncleared for almost an hour while flight attendants chatted in the galley. While there are certainly good employees at American Airlines who provide strong customer service, including on our flight from BCN-JFK, too many of the employees we have interacted with do not have a customer centric attitude and make it seem as if flying with them is a privilege.
After decades of loyalty and two years of Gold Elite status with American Airlines it is time to say farewell. Because of American’s dominance at DCA we may not be able to avoid the airline completely but Christina and I plan to actively avoid American Airlines and purposefully did not re-qualify for elite status. The convience of flying out of DCA, and fairly regular First Class upgrades are outweighed by the many negatives including our terrible customer service experience. Christina and I would rather be treated well in economy than poorly in First Class and that is why it is time for us to say farewell to American Airlines.