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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?
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.