On Middle Age Miles, our airline coverage tends to be American Airlines-centric, given that Philly and I are based in the DFW area and are largely wed to AA whether we like it or not. Sometimes I’m terribly unhappy with AA, but I also like to give them credit when it’s due.
Philly and I few overnight from DFW to London Heathrow (LHR) on AA 78. We were ultimately 2.5 hours late departing and 3 hours late arriving.
Over the course of several announcements, AA told us of two reasons for the delay:
- First, after we had fully boarded, we were told that the maintenance log was not signed, that the person responsible for signing had left, and that he was returning to the airport to sign the log so we could depart.
- Second, we were told that the plane had a broken windshield wiper that must be replaced before we could depart, which would take about 2 hours. At that point, we were told to de-plane. We waited in the terminal for about an hour and then re-boarded.
We were also further delayed in-flight as we had to stay in a holding pattern for quite a while on approach to LHR. This is fairly common for LHR arrivals. I don’t think I’ve ever flown in to LHR where we didn’t loop at least once. Today, we flew 6 or 7 loops before we were cleared for final approach and landing.
I’m going to grade AA in two areas on the delay – communication and customer service. On communication, I’m giving them a B+. But on customer service, I’m giving them an A.
Communication was actually pretty good during the delay, but not perfect. After we boarded, we sat at the gate for a few minutes and ticked past our scheduled departure time of 8:30 pm. Given AA’s focus on on-time push-back, this was concerning. It took a few minutes past 8:30, but the pilot then told us of the issue with the maintenance log. At that point, he expected departure around 9:15 pm. At that point, the AA website was showing 9:00 pm, which then moved back to 9:10 pm.
A little after 9:15 pm, we were still at the gate and hadn’t heard anything. Then the AA website moved our scheduled departure back to 11:00 pm. That seemed like very bad news. Within about 2 minutes, the pilot was back on the intercom telling us about the broken wiper blade and setting our expectations at an additional 2-hour delay. He mentioned that they were also looking for another plane to take us – but that seemed very unlikely. The chance of a 777-300 sitting around DFW unutilized and in a position to be put into service and fully catered within a couple of hours seemed very low indeed.
Oddly, once we de-planed, the AA website reverted back to showing a 10:00 pm departure time. This obviously wasn’t happening, as we were fully de-boarded and it was already after 9:30. And it caused a lot of confusion for the passengers. Fortunately, a gate agent made an in-terminal announcement that the website was wrong and it would be at least 11:00 pm before we departed.
I assume that the wiper blade issue was fixed quickly, because we began re-boarding just before 10:30, and we officially departed at 11:02 pm.
I thought AA did a pretty good job at communicating with us. The pilot’s announcements were reasonably timely, and he did a good job of explaining and setting expectations – with the slight glitch that it seems like they should have known about the broken wiper blade issue in the first instance. And the AA website was a little late in updating, as usual, plus it had a significant glitch when it mistakenly showed us a 10:00 pm departure.
As I said, I’ll give AA a B+ for communication.
I don’t necessarily think of AA as having the greatest in-airport and in-flight customer service, but this time they nailed it.
First, although we weren’t in this boat, it appeared that AA was doing its dead-level best to accommodate passengers who were in danger of missing connections. There was a British Air flight departing DFW at 10:00 pm, and it appeared that AA put people on that flight until it was completely full. Beyond that, I don’t believe there were any other great re-routing options.
Second, AA brought out a huge cart of sandwiches, snacks, and drinks – all complimentary for people on our flight. There was a variety of choices, and there was enough for everyone, with food and drink to spare. I thought this was a tremendously nice gesture. And it was especially nice that everyone could pick up goodies leisurely and not have to worry that all the food and drinks would be gone.
And third, Philly and I each received emails from AA Customer Service apologizing for the delay and saying that they would give each of us 5,000 AAdvantage miles as a courtesy for our inconvenience. The emails arrived quickly, about an hour after we landed. Here is the full text:
About your Recent Flight: A Message from American Airlines
November 29, 2018
Re: Flight 78 DFW LHR 11/28/2018
Although only a small percentage of our flights are delayed or canceled, I’m sorry you have been inconvenienced. We sincerely apologize for your disappointment when your flight was disrupted recently.
To encourage you to give us another opportunity to prove that we can do better, we’ve credited your AAdvantage account with 5000 bonus miles. This adjustment should be reflected in your account very soon where you can see it at www.aa.com/aadvantage.
Please give us another chance to fly you to your destination and get there on time! We will look forward to welcoming you aboard American again soon.
The next time I looked at my AAdvantage account, which was less than 3 hours later, the 5,000 bonus miles were already there:
I don’t know if others received a similar bonus – or if it was just Executive Platinums, just business class passengers, or some other distinction.
With all that, I’m giving American a very solid A for customer service. Frankly, I would have given them an A even if they hadn’t proactively credited us with bonus miles. I thought the way they provided a bountiful cart of goodies was a top-notch reaction. And as I said, it appeared that they tried to accommodate connecting passengers to the best of their ability. It may have helped that we appeared to be the last international departure from Terminal D that evening, which made it easier to give us more special attention. But I could see that cutting the other way if the remaining AA employees had been ready to call it a night and get home.
As I’ve said before, we have a love-hate relationship with AA. Even recently, it seemed like they had tremendous difficulty handling a situation on one of Middle Age Miles daughter Katie’s flights, which resulted in her being delayed about 8 hours – and no one sent her an apology email or offered her anything in compensation. But this time they got it right, and I appreciate it.
Do you have recent experiences – good or bad – with AA’s communication and customer service when faced with delays? Please share with us in the Comments!
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