Travelling around the world we were bound to come up against some transport issues. What I didn’t expect was that these would begin with American Airlines. Here is my review of their online processes and inflight service.
Having learnt from our trip to Vietnam on Emirates last year (which in all other ways was a great flight on a great plane), we knew that if we wanted to sit together on our long flights, that we needed to chose our seats online in advance, regardless of the fact that we were on the same booking.
Logging into American Airlines 4 months in advance, I managed to select seats for our London to JFK leg without a problem.
I attempted this for the JFK to Rio leg, clicking the “chose seats” button and was taken to a page telling me that this action could not be completed.
Frustratingly, there was no message saying why (is seat chosing not open yet? Can you never chose seats in advance for this flight?) Just a case of computer says no.
Untrusting of the fact that the action that I wanted to complete on their website just couldn’t be done, I checked back regularly to see if the “chose seats” button would evoke a different result. Negative. The last time I tried was just before we left the UK.
One day before we were to take the JFK to Rio flight, I thought I might check again. This time the “chose seats” button took me to a page where I could, in fact, chose seats. However, pretty much all the seats had gone. There were around 3 non paying seats left for selection in the whole plane, and there were no two non paying seats together at all.
Now, It’s a long flight. Add the subpar inflight entertainment system that we enjoyed on the London to JFK flight (low resolution TVs with only a couple of flims rolling throughout the flight, plus the Disney Channel) and I really wanted to sit next to Ollie and his Google Nexus of films. Fortunately there was one seat spare next to one seat that you had to pay $90 to reserve. So we did it, paid $90 to sit next to each other on top of our £2,000 round the world ticket.
But I felt annoyed that i’d missed that date when seat chosing opened and so thought I’d test out American Airlines’ social customer service team:
Yes, they responded very very quickly – I imagine that they have some stringent KPIs in place there – but their responses are very unsatisfactory. What this says to me is;
I couldn’t really care less about the comment that you’ve just made or the customer need that you’ve just highlighted. We’re happy taking your money, have a great day!
So, so far:
- Bad user experience when choosing seats for flights
- Social media strategy that doesn’t involve listening
- Have a great day
- Seats were very small and narrow. Pretty uncomfortable for a 10 hour flight. I’m not exaggerating to say that the only available option was to flight for the arm rest as there wasn’t room to put your arms down without them digging into the plastic.
- Table tray was pretty dirty, and had lettuce stuck to it:
- Inflight entertainment was in a worse state than the London-JFK flight. Not only did the plane lack on demand, but there weren’t even individual TVs, just a big one at the front of each cabin as per the 90s. (This is why Ollie’s isle seat in row 3 was charged for, not due to extra leg room, it definitely didn’t have that, only that he had a greater chance of being able to see the TV)
- I refused food from one flight attendant as we’d eaten at the airport and busied myself with my personal technology, until I realised that the aggressive “CHICKEN, or PASTA” that I could hear shouted from the other isle was being directed at me. A second flight attendant had become visibly irritated that I wasn’t taking the food. How was I to know they were coming at me from both isles?
- In the morning, one of the toilets in the cabin had been closed due to there being no toilet paper or paper towels, leaving an enormous queue at the other.
- When I got to the front of that queue, that toilet also had no toilet paper or paper towels. I raised this to the flight attendant who confirmed that there was none spare on the plane. Hygienic.
I’d like to think that I was just unlucky to experience all of these things on one flight, but i’m not sure I want to test my theory. Having flown long haul a fairly decent number of times, flying BA, Virgin, Emirates, Monarch, Air Sri Lanka and Jet Airways to name a few, I have to say that American Airlines is by far my least favourite. I would even go so far as to say that I will do my utmost to avoid flying with them at all on future flights, until I have confirmation from a trusted source that the company has upped its game.