Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Class...isn't.

In a previous post, I discussed the (lack of) service in Northwest Airlines' first-class section. Over the Christmas holiday, I put my wife and myself in American Airlines' first-class from IND to SMF...and found it was also lacking.

As I've mentioned, I fly first-class from time to time for the space AND the service. Maybe I'm old-school, but I expect to be treated well when I'm spending top dollar, whether that's in cash or frequent flier points. However, AA fell a bit short on two of four segments we flew, and dramatically short on a third. Only one of four -- 25 percent -- were what I'd call truly "first class."

What do I mean? To me, First Class means being greeted warmly by the flight attendant (F/A). That was the case on three of our flights, but on a fourth, the F/A was more interested in gossiping with her fellow F/A than greeting us.

First Class also means being fussed over. OK, I'll admit it: I like that. That means taking my coat, offering me a pre-flight beverage, and calling me by name. Sadly, all these things happened on only one of four segments.

I wrote AA to point out the inconsistencies, and got this rather non-committal reply:

I'm sorry we did not provide the quality first class service you expect and we want to deliver. Our goal is to provide a gracious service that is pleasing to the most discriminating customer, and I am concerned that we disappointed you.

Thank you for your valuable feedback. We are eager to demonstrate the on-time flights and high quality service you expect and we want to deliver. Please travel with us again soon. We look forward to welcoming you aboard.

Sincerely,

Stephen R. Jeffery
Customer Relations
American Airlines


I wasn't out for any recompense like a refund of miles; I just wanted AA to know -- and acknowledge -- that their service was not up to par.

The food was pretty good. In any case, it was a diversion from the long, tedious, coast-to-coast flight, so all was not lost. And we did enjoy the legroom. But if U.S.-based airlines are to survive -- and even thrive -- they have GOT to pay more attention to good, old-fashioned customer service.


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Photos by Carl Dombek
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