I hope you are well and staying safe!
I’m writing this article to share my experience with you as a former loyal customer. I loved American Airlines, and I liked spending money on them. However, I started seeing downward trends in the past few years of what American offered in customer service, passenger experience, loyalty program, and the value in general.
In this series:
- Introduction: New Year 2020 In The South Pacific
- Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Los Angeles to Istanbul
- Turkish Airlines Business Class 777-300ER Istanbul to Manila
- Malaysia Airlines Business Class 737-800 Manila to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Satellite Terminal – Kuala Lumpur Airport (KUL)
- Jewel Changi Airport
- Qantas International First Lounge – Singapore Changi (SIN)
- Qantas First Class A380 Singapore to Melbourne
- Qantas International First Lounge – Melbourne (MEL)
- Qantas Business Class 737-800 Melbourne to Christchurch
- Doubletree Chateau on the Park – Christchurch, New Zealand
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Tour Around the City
- Getting Lost in the Countryside: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
- Air New Zealand Domestic Lounge – Christchurch (CHC)
- Air New Zealand (Premium) Economy 787-9 Christchurch to Auckland
- My First Impression of Auckland, New Zealand
- Adina Apartment Hotel Auckland Britomart, New Zealand
- The North Island Must Do: Hobbiton and Rotorua
- Fiji Airways Business Class A350-900XWB Auckland to Nadi
- Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa – Nadi, Fiji
- Fiji Airways Premier Lounge – Nadi (NAN)
- Fiji Airways Business Class A330-200 Nadi to Singapore
- Malaysia Airlines Business Class 737-800 Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
- Malindo Air Business Class 737-900 Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu
- Shopping Spree in Thamel – Kathmandu, Nepal
- Cathay Dragon Business Class A330-300 Kathmandu to Hong Kong
- 16-Hour Delay on my American Airlines, with a Happy Ending
- Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to Los Angeles
- Fin: Final Flights and My Closure with American Airlines – It was Good While It Lasted
I might not be a top-dollar customer, but I would do business with American. In other words, I’d pay more on airfare or taking longer routes or more connections on American, even if its competitor offers cheaper fare and a more convenient schedule — I was that loyal. But clearly, what they care about is the bottom line. Inevitable, my loyalty started to fade away.
The whole thing started when American merged with US Airways. In 2017, the AAdvantage program became revenue-based. I knew that was coming. It was expected and inevitable because the travel industry is evolving. I’m not a business traveler, meaning I travel on my dime. My mileage earning was significantly less with the revenue-based business model, but I continued flying with American Airlines and Oneworld partners, averaging 100k-150k EQM annually.
There were few things why I valued American Airlines and the loyalty program over its competitors:
Oneworld Alliance and Airlines Partners
Arguably, Oneworld airlines are among the best. I love using AAdvantage miles for award redemptions on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways. Being able to redeem miles on Etihad Airways as American’s partner is also a sweet spot.
Systemwide Upgrades (On Discounted Fares)
Unlike its competitors, using a systemwide upgrade on discounted economy or business class tickets is an excellent value.
Complimentary Upgrades on Domestic and Regional Flights
As a former Executive Platinum member, clearing complimentary upgrades 96 hours before the departure wasn’t uncommon. I don’t have the exact number, but I’d say 90% of the time, I cleared the upgrade list.
All of the above were great, and I truly missed them. Unfortunately, I could no longer justify myself spending another dime on American Airlines. In 2019, I decided to give up on American and switch to Star Alliance finally. These are the top reasons why I quit American:
This is probably a major one — I did notice the level of customer service gradually and eventually plunged over the years, especially after the two companies merged. I got “there is nothing we can do” way too often lately. The problem is, some of these agents didn’t even try to help. I miss the culture where I got, “I can certainly help you with that!” Or “We will be more than happy to help, let me see what I can do”
Systemwide Upgrade Availability
American slashed the Systemwide Upgrade earning from 8 to 4. I wasn’t happy about it, but even with 4, I could barely use them. There was a point where I searched the upgradable inventory on particular routes every single day until the end of the schedule and found none.
Reduced Premium Cabin
In recent years, American Airlines have been retrofitting its wide-body fleet, reducing the number of premium cabin seats. In this case, upgrading using Systemwide Upgrades became harder and harder.
In 2019, I flew to South America, and for some reason, the miles didn’t post correctly. While the mileage earning on a revenue-based model can be confusing and complicated, I’ve flown a fair amount and am familiar enough. I am confident that my math was correct. Despite multiple requests for a review, they stated that the miles were posted correctly. They said the decision was final and refused to review the case further — no explanation or calculation breakdown was provided. Up until now, they still owe me a few thousand miles, which wasn’t a big deal — but it’s the principle. I deserve the miles I earned. So, that was really the turning point for me.
I loved American’s AAdvantage— I think it stood out among other loyalty programs, and I think it offered a great value. Unfortunately, things have changed over the years, especially after American Airlines and US Airways merged — primarily its culture.
In 2019, I decided not to re-qualify Advantage elite status and spend my dime elsewhere. That said, I will continuously review and reevaluate my spending and loyalty over time and may consider American Airlines again in the future when things change in the right direction.
It was good while it lasted.