AA, the worst business in the world? Is Enterprise the best?

Just before Christmas I flew with American Airlines to the UK in economy or whatever designation AA give to the cheapest seats. I was in one of two seats at the back of the aircraft where the fuselage begins to narrow. For some bizarre reason, this meant my seat was not properly aligned with the drop-down tray that passengers use to eat an  airline meal or work off. Additionally, the screen for films and TV shows was also off kilter. Before I go any further ………………..I must say………………..this situation did not lead to personal pain and only slight discomfort. However, I did think it was slightly unfair that everyone else was operating with the expected norms for cheap airline travel and I was not!!

I pointed this out to the first flight attendant who brought the pre-dinner drinks. Their response, ‘This is an aircraft not a restaurant!’ The attendant who brought dinner was more accommodating and suggested I should get on AA.com and ask for compensation. Her suggestion, not mine.

The wonders of modern air travel allowed me (at a cost) to email AA during my flight to share my displeasure. The theme of my email was, the seat was uncomfortable for eating, working and watching and that my drop-down tray overlapped into the personal space of the traveller next to me.

An automated reply came back almost immediately saying I was in ‘good hands’ and someone would come back to me soon. They did with the following – Thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry to hear about the issues with your seat alignment with the seat in front of you. As a traveler myself, I can definitely see how this would be inconvenient.

Our office not only responds to the needs and comments from our customers, but also shares those comments with the appropriate management teams. This method has proven very successful. That being said, I have forwarded your comments about that particular seat to the appropriate personnel. 

For future, we also have out Preferred Seats and Main Cabin Extra seats available. With the Preferred Seats product, customers have the option to purchase seat assignments favorably located throughout the aircraft. With Main Cabin Extra, customers can purchase seat assignments in the front of the Main Cabin with up to six inches of additional legroom to stretch out and relax.

Still, I understand you and your neighbor were inconvenienced and I sincerely regret any difficulties you experienced. Despite this recent experience, I hope you were able to enjoy your time in New York and it will be a privilege to welcome you aboard soon.

I was more frank with my reply. Given that I had probably paid at least the same as everyone else, should I not be entitled to compensation as I was not receiving the same service?

The AA response came back.

Thank you for writing back . I am sorry to hear you are still upset with us. That’s certainly not how we want our customers to feel.

For each flight, seats are made available at different prices based on a number of things including seat location, availability, day of travel, cities you are traveling, season, etc. Please be assured, all your concerns about this situation have been taken very seriously. We’re truly dedicated to making certain that our customers have a pleasant experience when flying with us. We’re also always looking at ways to improve and your constructive criticism gives us that opportunity.

While I know you didn’t have the best experience with us recently, I do hope you’ll give us another try. We look forward to having you onboard an American Airlines flight in the future.

Organizations are rightly wary about seemingly giving something away every time someone complains. My concerns could have been easily checked and it was an AA employee who suggested asking for compensation. In the big picture of AA’s financial operations, it would have been nothing to them to offer me a modest voucher towards a future flight. They were not prepared to do that and as a result my company will not use them again for transatlantic flights, I have told this story to other travellers and friends. In relative terms they have lost. The refusal to offer a little compensation has cost them thousands of dollars.

Compare AA’s attitudes to Enterprise the car rental group. Last October I flew into London Heathrow and there was a fault with the first car Enterprise gave me. It delayed me for about ten minutes. While they changed the car, fifty pounds was taken off my bill! At Rochester airport in December, I was overcharged by Enterprise for some fuel, a genuine mistake. All fuel charges were removed. With both of these events there was no prompting by myself. It was Enterprise who made the move. AA need to look at all the research on consumer choice. Will I use Enterprise again, of course? Will I use AA……………………??


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