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Is Anyone At American Airlines Actually Doing Any Thinking?


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For the past few days, I’ve been drafting a blog post which was going to point out something that I found interesting. American Airlines, the airline that has done a superb job of destroying its loyalty program, making its aircraft increasingly uncomfortable and generally annoying as many of its customers as possible, appeared to be negotiating the current crisis with a rarely seen level of skill…at least as far as customer service goes.

United Airlines has shown itself to be a pretty deplorable airline to do business with on a number of occasions over the past couple of months, Delta hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory when it comes to refunding customers promptly, and the less said about JetBlue and its policy of lying to customers the better…but what about American Airlines?

Yes, you could argue that the recent changes to award travel charges will negatively impact a lot of travelers in the future, but these changes will also benefit some flyers and, far more importantly, most people don’t appear to have had many (if any) issues getting American Airlines to issue refunds when their flights have been cancelled in recent months.

At a time where people clearly need as much cash in their pockets as possible and at a time where airlines like JetBlue, United, and Lufthansa are outright refusing to issue refunds and when airlines like British Airways are making it as hard as possible to request a refund, American Airlines should be taking a bow for being one of the few carriers not to blatantly flout the rules and for treating its customers in a professional and courteous way.

But American’s decision-makers really can’t help themselves sometimes.

At a time when American should be standing up and shining the biggest spotlight it can find on how it has been one of the few airlines in the world (not just the US) to treat its customers properly, it has chosen to do something else. It has chosen to shoot itself in the foot.

In a week when taxpayer funds are dropping into American Airlines bank accounts and at a time where all US airlines (not just American) need as much positive publicity as possible, the airline has decided to increase checked-bag fees on Basic Economy fares on a variety of routes that it operates (HT: JT Genter via AwardWallet).

With no notice at all and with immediate effect, all Basic Economy fares booked from 21 April 2020 (for routes to/from Europe and Africa) will now come with a $75 checked-bag fee (up from $60). That’s a 25% increase.

Why? And Why now?

Some have argued that with no one flying right now no one will really notice the increased charge and by the time people feel confident enough to book travel this will all be water under the bridge…but I don’t buy into that.

Airlines are under a lot of scrutiny right now and everything they do is being noticed by a lot more people than usual. The whole travel world has ground to a halt and with thousands of people still fighting various airlines for cash that’s rightfully theirs, and with airlines receiving billions of dollars of free taxpayer money while small businesses go under, people are going to notice when articles start appearing in newspapers about airlines increasing fees that people already detest.

Sure, the overwhelming majority of regular people will not read this blog and most won’t even read the bigger blogs that have written about this news, but they will read this news when it starts appearing in the bigger newspapers and, with not all that much to write about in the travel world right now, it’s only a matter of time before we see the bigger publications highlighting this fee increase.

The optics of this move are just terrible and I cannot understand who at American Airlines would ok this move at this particular time. Who sat back in their chair and decided that it was a good idea to go ahead and increase an already unpopular fee at a time where airlines are under such scrutiny and at a time when airline popularity has hardly been lower?

There must have been more than one person in the decision-making process that led to American Airlines increasing a checked-bag fee this week so I have to wonder if anyone is actually doing any thinking over at American’s HQ?

Bottom Line

At a time when American Airlines should be shouting “Look at us! We’re the airline that’s treating customers properly during this terrible crisis” and getting as many people to believe that it isn’t a money-grabbing behemoth that usually treats passengers as self-loading cargo, it’s managing to make itself look just as bad as everyone else. That’s both disappointing and amusing on so many levels.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Who cares?!!! Quit the AA bashing. This is ONLY for International basic economy which no one is forced to buy. Just pay for regular economy. Viola! Problem solved.

  2. Maybe they were playing beer pong at HQ before driving home and someone accidentally slipped in 18% beer to use in the game. Suddenly the idea sounded a lot better.

    Sigh. Jokes aside, this is impressively stupid. They could have waited until the ink was dry on the contract that handed them billions of dollars before making such an ill-considered move.

  3. I flew AA once in the early 2000s. I lived in Atlanta. It was an MD and the plane stunk of a lavatory. As did most major carriers. I loathed Delta during the period too. They turned around their program quite a bit during the late 2000s. Then I moved to Philly in 2016 and was forced to fly AA. It’s terrible. Flight attendants treat passengers as if we didn’t pay to fly. The city and airline celebrated the arrival of power outlets in 2018ish and average time to deliver bags from gate to belt was 1 hour plus. Oh yeah despite being home base the planes rarely leave on time. Not surprised by this move. Your welcome for the bailout using tax payer dollars.

  4. I try to avoid US carriers as much as possible. Most of them are horrible and overpriced, since I travel most of the Time International its a no-brainer to don’t even try to use any of our airlines. The time is over where customer was the King and companies respected to keep customers. In those days big decision makers can’t even build a new airplane, what can you expect then for the service

    • Same here whenever possible avoid any US Airlines for international travel. Absolutely NO CUSTOMER SERVICE compared to other airlines.
      Except now with their Alliance one is FORCED to travel on them at least till into Europe, then change to another if travelling beyond Europe. So to get international Airline all the way, one might have to go to certain Airports to get them.
      They Suck!

  5. Try walking in an AA employee’s shoes for a while before you write your vitriol. We are doing the best we can to stay afloat.
    I have given back hundreds of thousands of dollars and miles in the last 3 weeks. I have encountered the kindest or the most dismissive, entitled, rude members. I’ve been called compassionate by some and a ******* ***** by others. And we will all be looking for jobs by the end of the year. I’ve taken cuts in hours (they cannot fire us), and the hours I’ve worked been verbally abused by members quoting sites like yours til I simply cried. AA isn’t all suits and management. It is mostly uniforms and worker bees.

    • Oh give me a break. No one is criticizing front-line staff in this post and there are numerous mentions of how AA is doing well with refunds in it so stop trying to paint it as a post attacking all AA employees.
      Being rude or obnoxious to anyone is totally unacceptable but criticizing a post about those at the top of the AA food chain by quoting non-related issues faced by workers a lot further down the chain is essentially saying that AA shouldn’t face any criticism at all.

      I’d love to know what the fact that you have given back “hundreds of thousands of dollars and miles in the last 3 weeks” has to do with anything? Are people supposed to be grateful that you’ve returned what’s rightfully theirs? Are they supposed to forgive corporate greed and stupidity because AA didn’t rip people off like other airlines have done? Following the rules shouldn’t be praiseworthy – it should be expected. It’s a sad indictment of the industry you work in that I have to point out that AA is one of the few not trampling all over customer rights at the moment.

      As for you “all looking for jobs at the end of the year” – that’s simply not true. American Airlines isn’t going anywhere and it has just been handed over $5 billion dollars in taxpayer money – most of which will never, ever have to be paid back. Try telling all the self-employed and small businesses who cannot even dream of accessing that kind of help just how tough life is now. They’re the real ones who are most likely not to have a job or business at the end of this year and who don’t have a union or Washington lobbyists to fight their corner.

      I’m genuinely sorry you’re having a tough time right now but I’m not going to stop highlighting corporate greed and stupidity just because airline front-line employees are having a similarly bad time to a lot of other people. Airlines aren’t special and they don’t get a pass when they screw up. If you want someone to vent at try looking to your bosses – they were running AA into the ground long before anyone had heard of Covid-19.

    • Writer talked about international flights Not local flights. Trust me International flights aren’t cheap. And they choose international because they won’t notice and Not complain like local flights. But its a strategy to phase the increases in….by the time it gets to local US Flights, the local flight prices will be back. Its low now only bse of cut back of travel dur to COVID-19. Watch!!

    • So because a change may not come into effect immediately or affect people immediately it shouldn’t be written about? Do you have any idea just how utterly stupid that criticism is?

  6. I care! Unconscionable that these vultures are raising cost during one of the most devastating times for people in human history!!! Even more repulsive is that these airlines have received billions of $ to keep them afloat during this crisis. This greed is beyond ???. American airline where is your conscious….your morals! We need to push back!! They clearly need to be exposed. Are there any regulations or constituents we can get involved

  7. I have noticed some bags that are heavy AF with the weight not written down on the “I’m Heavy tag” and require 2 people to lift that bag with messed up handle points. Must be a survival kit or everything I need for a month???? IDK what’s in that checked bag, but maybe should have been sent to cargo???

  8. American Airlines is a complete embarrassment. Nothing more than a bunch of blood sucking vampires who never should have received any kind of bail out. SOBs should have been allowed to go under which is still better than they deserve.

  9. I have booked a return flight to Amsterdam on the 31st of May from DHW. Not sure whether it is still on?

    If I cancel they may not pay my money back?

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