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What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Miami, Florida
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What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

My wife and I had been loyal to #AmericanAirlines even throughout its problems and bankruptcy. We flew American almost exclusively when others abandoned the airline and chose to fly other carriers. Both of us have been Executive Platinum for many years. We’ve paid higher ticket prices and/or took less convenient flights because our loyalty had always been rewarded.

However, this is no longer the case. American doesn’t seem to care about our dedication; so the question becomes: why should we remain loyal to American?

Systemwide upgrades? NOT!

One of the best benefits of being Executive Platinum was getting those coveted systemwide upgrades. They allowed us to book economy tickets and upgrade to business class – a great perk, especially since we made frequent, short trips to far away places for my wife to do photo shoots. Now, although the website shows which flights have upgrades available, turns out it’s mostly for domestic or Caribbean routes or from business-to-first (no longer economy to business crossing the big blue ponds). Of course, we’ve now been informed we could go on the wait list. But, after all these years and all those miles, that is not an option for us. I’m not willing to buy a coach class ticket and HOPE they give us an upgrade.

What’s a frequent flyer to do?

So now that we can’t find flights that interest us to use the systemwide upgrades we already have, we’re just using them up on close-to-home flights and looking at flying other airlines for long-haul destinations. After all, if we are going to pay for business class seats, shouldn’t we just choose airlines that have more convenient schedules and better prices than American?

“Tell American!” We decided

It’s only fair to share our feelings with American. After all, they should have an opportunity to make things right. So, after multiple phone calls to the Executive Desk where no one was able to help, I located the name and snail mail address on last year’s EXP welcome package (this year’s has yet to arrive!) of the person designated as President, Aadvantage Loyalty Program. We wrote a letter, explaining our years of dedication and our recent dilemma. After nearly three weeks, we received the attached terse form letter from someone else. (see AA Response)

Dear Mr. Fitch,

Regarding AAdvantage® #******

We received your letter and are eager to respond as quickly as possible. Accordingly, I've taken the liberty of answering electronically, using the email address included in your AAdvantage membership profile.

Thank you for your long term loyalty to American Airlines. We are sorry you have had difficulty using your systemwide upgrades. Please know that it is not our goal to fly empty premium cabin seats, but neither can we turn away full-fare customers who wish to purchase those seats.

If you find you are unable to secure upgrade space in a premium cabin when you initially book your Economy Class reservation, please check back with the Executive Platinum Service Desk or your travel agent, closer to departure. Our dedicated staff of professionals will do everything possible to satisfy your request.

Still, it is unlikely we will remove capacity controls on systemwide upgrades. This action is necessary to ensure full-fare availability on short notice in our premium cabins. Capacity controls limit, but by no means eliminate, the number of seats available for systemwide upgrades.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond. We look forward to serving you in the future.


Susan Reed

AAdvantage Customer Service

American Airlines

P.S. Earning AAdvantage miles for car rentals is easy with Avis. Go to www.avis.com for more information, and remember to provide your AAdvantage number whenever you rent a car.

We were particularly tickled (not!) by the PS at the bottom informing us how we could earn more miles by renting from Avis.

Here’s the Irony

This past weekend we flew to Barcelona on American using 2013 VIPs and tickets we booked before the “New American” policies went into effect. Guess what? Many of the business class seats were empty. Both ways!! So, I guess their revenue stream looks terrific. And, we are working on our travel plans for the next five years where many of our trips will no longer include AA flights.

Note: I know we sound spoiled; it’s just sour grapes True. But, we’ve logged millions of miles with American. In the past three months, we’ve received nothing but cold, “who cares” type responses from most of the people we’ve spoken with EXCEPT cabin and cockpit crew. The ones we see and interact with directly are fantastic; it’s the ones hiding behind telephones and form emails that are losing the loyal customers.

Destination Expert
for Walt Disney World, Orlando, Antarctic Adventures
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1. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

womp womp.

Cala d'Or, Spain
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2. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Perhaps you were expecting to much from AA.

Previous loyalty is totally meaningless to large Corporations like AA. This is the faceless world we live in.

Destination Expert
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3. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing


I don't know that is call AAs reply terse.. I think it is/was quite candid and frank.

I think he's right - they, like all larger carries, have to balance between making award redemption possible and easy -- but also insuring that seats are available to those looking to pay* what really is "top dollar" for them ...

(Note: some argue that the use of miles/points is payment - and I cede that from a reverse looking viewpoint it is- however in this context I use the term pay, to mean a current cash payment and not the use of a past-travel payment instrument)

I think the use of capacity controls is almost always going to be one of the tools that they use to help keep that balance in check.

As to the reality that on your last flights there are open premium seats - just like it is with lost/delayed bags or delays, you can always examine it on a micro-level like one or two flights, and that's how passengers usually see it (and I see why).

However, for the carriers who have to make polices that address their worldwide operations, unless they're going to have a mixture of policies that speak to only certain routes, seasons, type of equipment, etc, they've got to see it from the macro... and that does mean on some flights that balance of seats for sale versus seats released for upgrade, isn't met perfectly.

I would however expect them to be monitoring how this ratio pans out and make adjustments as the data dictates.

Carries do have a self-serving interest to allow miles redemption in that all those awarded miles are accounted for as a liability to the carrier, so until they're used (or expire) they do remain as a liability to them.

Travel Safe,

Edited: 07 February 2014, 17:44
Exeter, United...
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4. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Pay economy expect economy. Pay premium expect premium.

I go to the same supermarket all the time even though sometimes it costs more. When I buy a bottle of wine I don't expect it to be swapped for a bottle of champagne at the checkout.

Palmetto, Florida
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5. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

somewhat harsh dcweymouth.

The elite programs were creations of the airlines, with promises of extras to entice frequent fliers like OP. It's their game unfortunately, so they make the rules. Therefore, I am not sure what OP could do other than what he said, go elsewhere.

However, the bad news is all or most of these programs have deteriorated together. I am not happy with any of them right now :(((. Pretty much count on 10-20 min wait before you can talk to live person unless of course you are making reservations.

At least you got an email reply. Mine from first week of Jan to UA was acknowledged as received but never answered.

Portland, Oregon
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6. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Ah, the first "my beloved American has been ruined by US" whine. We've had a fair few of those about "my beloved United ruined by Continental" too. And all because there aren't so many free upgrades these days. Which begs the question, which airline are you going to switch to that gives anywhere near as good a FF program as American upgrade wise? Not United, certainly not Delta.

The US carriers have all woken up to the fact that they don't make money flying people in business class who've only paid for economy. If the business cabin is consistently empty, rather than upgrade Y pax they'll shut down the route, just as United did on SEA-NRT, and Delta likewise on SFO-NRT.

OP, like me with United (1K) you're just going to have to get used to flying in the cabin you paid for (as EXP you get extra legroom economy for free), or be smarter in planning your flights.

Edited: 07 February 2014, 19:13
New York City, New...
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7. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Previous loyalty is totally meaningless to large Corporations like AA. This is the faceless world we live in.


Actually with AA it isn't. They offer lifetime status (1MM for Gold and 2MM for Platinum, miles from all sources which is VERY generous) you also get the upgrade vouchers whenever you pass another MM threshold beyond that.

I think the OP is focussing too strongly on one aspect of the Executive Platinum perks and writing the airline off as a result. Yes the upgrades are an important perk but the unlimited domestic upgrades, first class lounge access on international flights, exceptional customer service and call handling (as a oneworld Emerald you get put through to the EXP desk) etc. etc.

Plus they have very good onboard product in premium cabins and amongst the best hubs in the country. It's all well and good having great perks but if the product isn't worth a damn then it doesn't matter.

If you're flying economy and hoping to upgrade and are in the "top tier" of status earning then AA is probably the best programme, particularly given you're flying out of an AA hub.

Exeter, United...
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8. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

I appreciate that my post may appear harsh but in this age of austerity any sense of entitlement needs to be put aside.

The US above all having given mortgages on properties without value appreciates that business models must be tighter for the business to survive.

Although very nice, the idea that regularity of patronage brings entitlement is outdated. After all in my supermarket example I too have my loyalty card, except the supermarket has not needed to merge to survive.

Brooklyn, NY
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9. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Not sure what exactly mortgages have to do with an airline, but whatever.

I think the OP is doing exactly the right thing: they're buying business class seats and going with whatever airline best serves their needs for that individual flight. They've let the airline know. The airline can decide whether they feel that keeping that loyalty is financially rewarding enough to change their policies, and if not, then everyone has made their own decision.

I see nothing to criticize about this letter. That doesn't mean that I expect American to change back.

Houston, Texas
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10. Re: What the #NewAmerican means…and it’s not a good thing

Another <What the #New[insert any recently merged airline name here] means…and it’s not a good thing> post.... Not the first, and I don't think it will be the last.