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American Airlines: How do I loath thee? Let me count the ways.

  • Mar 29, 2011
Travel fail doesn't even begin to describe my most recent ordeal and frustrations with American Airlines (and no, I'm not even accounting for that one time when my one hour layover turned into a ten hour one at LAS and passengers were given no information the entire time other than to wait).

Earlier this week, I had lamented to one of my best friends in Tampa that the weather forecast for San Francisco showed gray skies and endless rain and cold weather for every day of the week.  Instead of telling me to build an ark, she had a more fun suggestion -- go visit her in Florida.  Working and playing in a warmer environment with one of my best friends?  That's not a bad idea.  So off I went on kayak.com to look at how much tickets would be for such a last minute trip.  My mind was made up the instant that I stumbled upon an incredibly reasonably priced last minute fare on American Airlines.  Unfortunately, this is when all my woes started.  Here in chronological order, the failings of American Airlines:

Price Hike in the Middle of a Reservation
The minute I discovered those incredibly low fares, I started entering in my information to purchase.  When I hit the purchase button a few minutes later, I was informed that they had a new price which was considerably more than the original quoted price, nearly more than twice than what I'm used to paying to fly from SFO to TPA.  So wrong, but I guess business is business.  I halted my reservation session to think it over and to talk to my friend about my little quandary, to which she very generously offered to cover part of my ticket.  So we were back on again. 

Accidental Ticket Purchase
When I went back to the web page where I had halted the reservation, I noticed something odd -- it had a record locator number and the status said, "ticketed".  Did I just buy a plane ticket without intending to?  I received no email confirmation, so I had to call customer service to find out.

Unhelpful and Rude Customer Representative
I waited for a customer representative for about ten minutes, when a sour sounding lady answered my call.  All she could do was tell me that I had booked a flight.  She was so not in the mood to talk to me or answer my questions about how this could have happened or about the price change.  Not helpful at all except in telling me that I had indeed purchased a plane ticket.  Since I had already kind of had my heart set on going and my friend was going in on the ticket with me, I kept it, but I can't help but wonder how or if I could cancel if I didn't want to keep it.  I definitely did want to find out with this particular customer representative.

Buggy Website
I consider myself pretty technologically- and web-savvy, yet I managed to accidentally purchase a plane ticket.  I could have sworn that when the AA site alerted me of the fare change, they asked me to confirm whether I accepted or not, which I definitely did not do.  I'm one of those people who reads all the fine print and double checks all info before confirming anything, no matter how frivolous the purchase is, so no way did I confirm this purchase.

They Booked Me On a Full Flight
I was able to pick seats on all but one of my flights.  The one flight that I could not get seats for appeared to be completely booked.  Instead of calling them back, listening to their hold music for 10+ minutes only to deal with another rude customer representative, I braced myself for being unable to fly on the day I selected.

The Email Confirmation That Arrived 16 Hours Later
I didn't receive an email confirmation for my flight until a full sixteen hours after I had initially purchased.   Fail again.  Fortunately, I was able to email my itinerary to all relevant folks and to myself through their website.

Phone Calls At Odd Hours Of The Night
A bit over a day before my flight was scheduled to take off, what I had been dreading came true -- I received a recorded phone call from AA telling me that they were going to schedule me on another flight.  This was especially confusing because they called me at 4:30 AM.  Was it really necessary if my flight wasn't going to be for another 24+ hours?  They could have at least waited till 8 or 9 AM PST.

AA Assumes That People Have Time For Their Clownery
A few hours later at 10 AM, they called with another recorded message informing me of the new flight information that they had assigned for me.  Thank goodness I'm easy-going and my schedule this weekend was pretty flexible, because who has time to deal with this airline drama?  They didn't even confirm that this was okay with me.  They also didn't give me any explanation of why this happened, nor did they send me any emails about it.  I later found out through Googling that there was a fire at the Miami airport (my layover) and that they halted most of their flights in Miami due to this, not due to the flight being full.  A totally reasonable explanation that I would have appreciated hearing from them.

They Don't Know How to Text
Why are they calling me anyways?  I purposely signed up for text message notifications so that I wouldn't have to get phone calls..  I just logged in to checked my info and it even explicitly says that I signed up for text message notifications and that carrier charges will apply.  Apparently, text messages to them mean recorded phone calls.  This fact was confirmed when they called me at 6 AM and woke me up to tell me that my 10 AM flight was going to be on time.  I had planned on sleeping for another hour.

No Apologies or Compensation For My Inconvenience
They shaved off and wasted an entire sunny and gorgeous weekend day of my trip, with no explanation, no apology, and no compensation.  In contrast, Virgin America (check out my review) was so apologetic when the inflight entertainment system didn't work on a 45 minute flight that they kept apologizing on the plane, and they even gave me a $50 voucher for future travel, as well as sent an email of apology.  If only VA flew to more destinations because they have great prices and great customer relations.

Tap Water
To top it all off, they don't even have bottled water on their planes.  Whenever they wheel their drink carts around and someone asks for water, the flight attendant asks, "Is tap water okay?".  I'll just have a hot tea, please.

Their One Saving Grace
GoGo Inflight Wifi, but only on some of their planes.  

In terms of their planes, they aren't spectacular by any means, but they're a budget airline, so I can deal with that.  What I can't deal with, though, budget airline or not, are all of the failings that I mentioned above.  I got to Tampa eventually, but with way more of a hassle and much more inconveniences than I've ever dealt with on any other airline or ever want to deal with again, and I used to fly a lot, too.

American Airlines -- most definitely not my airline of choice and I'm only going to use their services when I really absolutely have no other options, and after this experience, I would suggest the same to everyone else, too.
American Airlines: How do I loath thee? Let me count the ways.

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January 13, 2012
Ugh....I just had my own AA nightmare and I REALLY wished that VA flew to more places, too! Never again will I fly AA. Sorry you had such a horrible experience!
January 13, 2012
Oh, sorry to hear! You'd think they'd be buttoning up their service department post-bankruptcy filing, but apparently not.
December 28, 2011
I've always loathed AA. When I lived in Dallas and had to use DFW I always did everything I could to fly any other airline and hat was many years back. Sad to see that they never resolved their customer service issues.
December 28, 2011
I think I may have flown them once or twice before, but this experience was horrid. I feel bad that they had to file for bankruptcy (as I would for most companies who have to do so), and I can't help but wonder if their horrible customer service played any part in it.
April 13, 2011
I loathe American Airlines. LOATHE. I was able to get a full refund after I sent them a clear, concise strongly worded letter that I snailed mailed to them, explaining their error and my situation. If you haven't done this step, Devora, I highly recommend you do!
April 13, 2011
Hmmm... I tweeted my grievances to them, but perhaps snail mail would be wise seeing that they're technologically inept ;) Was your experience more egregious than mine? I didn't even get offered a partial refund, so I'm not sure I'd be offered a full refund, but that's awesome that you were able to get one!
April 13, 2011
I was in North Carolina and needed to take an emergency flight home to be with someone gravely ill. They charged me something like $800 for my one-way fare, misinformation about weather, delays, no communication, flight switches without telling me, me having to rush Fort Worth Dallas (not fun when you have cardiac problems) getting separated from my luggage, tricky luggage delivery system and overall just craptastic. I'll never fly them again. I say give it a go with snail mail. I was pleasantly surprised that they not only refunded me what I requested - the charge for flying home - but the full fare from my initial booking.
April 04, 2011
Good gravy, you have plenty of reason to hate them! I don't fly much, but I have flown American only once that I can think of. I have to say that, while I wouldn't have trashed 'em in any way, I just didn't think the experience was memorable in any way.
April 07, 2011
Good gravy? Ha, I like that expression! And my flight back wasn't pretty either, but that was mainly due to weather and not AA's fault. I'm definitely trying another airline next time.
March 31, 2011
Oh, poor you, went on the double A circus! I steered clear of this airline after they conveniently deleted my mileage without even informing me ahead it's time! I'd have screamed "murder" if I'm in your situation! In general though, domestic airlines in the US are not for the faint hearted, LOL...
March 31, 2011
Yup, that I did :P And wow, how did they manage to delete your mileage? So wrong!
March 29, 2011
March 29, 2011
I know!
March 29, 2011
This is a horror story!!! I only have one bone to pick with you and that is you are kind of letting them off the hook by calling them a "budget airline" which they are NOT, they are one of big airlines and should act like a grown up company. If I were you, I'd write their corporate complaint department and send them a link to this review. They should be alerted to any of these complaints individually; the fact that they ALL happened to one person on one trip is something that needs to be handled at the top. How was Florida though? :)
March 29, 2011
Haha, well, price-wise to Tampa, they're always one of the cheaper ones, plus by their customer service and the looks of their planes, I had always thought of them as a budget airline. And good idea, I'm tweeting this to them! FL is lovely, thanks for asking. Thunderstorms when I arrived, but so full of sunshine now that I've taken my laptop outdoors to Lunch by the lake :D
March 29, 2011
great review! sorry about your ordeal, I don't usually need to fly often but when I do I take southwest or united (not that they're a lot better). No apologies? OMG! That should be common practice....
March 29, 2011
I know! Not a single apology during the phone call, check in, email or flight, etc. I'll have to look at other airlines next time :P
March 29, 2011
Just let me know, you can borrow my F-14 Tomcat anytime... ;)
March 29, 2011
I might just take you up on that! ;)
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About the reviewer
devora ()
Ranked #4
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more
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American Airlines, Inc. (AA) is a major airline of the United States. It is the world's largest airline in passenger miles transported and passenger fleet size; third largest, behind FedEx Express and Delta Air Lines, in aircraft operated; and second behind Air France-KLM in operating revenues. A subsidiary of the AMR Corporation, the airline is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, adjacent to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. American operates scheduled flights throughout the United States, and flights to Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, the People's Republic of China, and India. The Chairman, President, and CEO of AA is Gerard Arpey. In 2005, the airline flew more than 138 billion revenue passenger miles (RPM). 
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