Five Ways American Airlines Delivers BAD Customer Service

It was a normal travel day. I wasn’t expecting anything special, but I certainly wasn’t expecting anything bad. Luckily, we can turn around my bad travel experience into lessons worth learning.

Real World Story:

Here are the five ways American Airlines delivers BAD Customer Service:angry flight attendant

  1. Be a robot. I arrived at the airport at 5:40 am. I tried to check in using a kiosk, but got an error message telling me to go see a ticket agent. Naturally, the ticket line was extremely long, and I had only 45 minutes remaining until my flight left. I felt bad, but I stood in the First Class line, even though I wasn’t a first class passenger on this flight. The male ticket agent who called on me looked angry. I explained my situation. I didn’t want him to yell at me, so I was short, direct and to the point. He printed my boarding passes, and I left as quickly as possible.
  2. Criticize loudly and in public. At the gate, a female agent who was checking in people looked scary. To anyone who had more than two bags, she would scold very loudly, “You’re going to have to check one of your bags, and the fee is 25 dollars.” It felt like the Seinfeld episode about the soup nazi. When it was my turn at the gate, the agent was about to berate me. She took a double look at my bags and allowed me through – whew! I didn’t realize that flying was supposed to make one feel so bad.
  3. Demand, don’t explain. I’m sitting in the last row of the airplane. Two ladies next to me decide to watch a movie on an iPad without their earphones. This didn’t bother me, since it was so loud on the plane anyway. Not one passenger around us complained or even gave us “the look.” However, one of the flight attendants later told them to turn the volume down, which they did. Then, moments later, a second flight attendant said, “I will not allow you to continue to watch your movie without earphones.” It was very strange. There was no apology. No explanation. Just a rude demand. (By the way, the flight attendants had no idea that these two ladies had been waiting around at the airport for two days trying to get a flight home. They simply needed and wanted some light entertainment.) This certainly didn’t make them feel any better about their ordeal — that’s for sure.
  4. Treat customers like they are an interruption. During a 1.5-hour layover in Chicago, I sat near my next flight’s check in gate. During this time, I observed two female gate agents at their counter. They were happily talking to each other about personal things. Every time a customer approached their counter, one gate agent would stop smiling and look at the customer as if he were an interruption. When the boarding process began, the second gate agent checked in customers while continuing to talk about other passengers to her colleague. I wanted to ask if I could get a better seat assignment, but I didn’t feel like dealing with these two disinterested women.
  5. Don’t offer to help. Since I’m one of the last persons to board the plane, bin space is now sparse. I put down my big bag, and I talk to other passengers to see which of their bags I can move, so I can fit my bag into the overhead bin. During this search for space, a flight attendant from the back of the plane comes up to me and, instead of asking, “How can I help?,” she says very abruptly and sounding annoyed, “What’s going on here?” Once again, I felt like I was being reprimanded.

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Greet all customers with a smile and act as if they are the only person in the world. Even if you have to fake it.
  2. If a customer violates a policy, gently, quietly, and kindly explain the policy and offer options.
  3. Explain, explain, and explain some more.
  4. See #1
  5. If a customer is struggling, offer to help.

Remember: The final destination is not about How Organizations Deliver BAD Customer Service, but the Strategies that Turn it Around. And above all else, “Blow their mind, just be kind.”

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to reading about your experiences.

4 Responses to “Five Ways American Airlines Delivers BAD Customer Service”


  1. 1 Lucie December 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Great entry Barbara! I’ll be sure not to book my next flight through American Airlines. Sounds like it was a nightmare!

  2. 3 skin care consultant August 11, 2014 at 11:22 am

    This site truly has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


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