Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bye Bye AAmerican Pie

American Digs The Knife in and Twists It

(Rant Alert)

Thirty five years ago American Airlines hit upon an amazing marketing plan. It created a frequent flier program and called it American AAdvantage. The program was a way to recognize and reward the airline's most loyal customers.

The wildly successful program eventually enrolled over 60,000,000 members and went on to add various tie-ins such as an AAdvantage credit card.

But members soon came to realize that points earned today were simply devalued tomorrow by an airline that constantly increased its award levels. Road warriors all know that cashing in points requires skill, patience (and maybe a Ouija board?)

This morning, however, I knew something was afoot. 

As a 2 Million Miler with Lifetime Platinum status I periodically get e-mails from American. They are never good. I call them "spin" grams because they always arrive just before they announce some new way they plan to crap on their passengers. Today's message announced major changes to the AAdvantage program. The changes focus on abandoning everyone except their "Best" customers. After three decades of rewarding all of their loyal passengers, American will now switch pretty much to rewarding passengers who spend the most money. To the new American Money = "Best".

The spin gram also announced the addition of a new elite status level. Which (for me) was another slap. You see, for a brief moment a few months back, I found myself flattered to learn that my 30 years of loyalty was being recognized by lifetime Platinum status. Platinum is a very good place to be.

Soon however Platinum will become the new "Gold" level with the addition of a "Platinum Pro" level. "Platinum Pro", doesn't that sound more like the brand name for a condom than an airline elite status level?

After so many years of this declining service I had a premonition this was coming and back in October  / November I decided I'd quit automatically shopping for flights on American's website and would begin exploring my other options.

Happily I am finding there are some good ones!

I now begin each flight search using a macro site like Orbitz or Fly.com. I begin by unchecking Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant (they are too awful to consider at any price) and then I see what turns up.

For my most recent Trans-Pacific flight (after reading negative SeatGuru.com reports) I opted against American and United and chose Singapore Airlines (in their new Premium Economy class). What a great airline!

For my Trans-Atlantic flights I now opt for Emirates (another truly amazing airline). I am also a big fan of Air France, Virgin and La Compagnie (that little airline flying 757's entirely configured with value priced business class). Air Berlin is pretty darned good as is British Air, Lufthansa and SAS.

Need a last minute (i.e. high priced) domestic flight? Check Delta. I've been finding Delta frequently offers last minute first class fares for less than coach on American or United.

For west coast travel I now always try to fly Alaska (they fly consistently beautifully maintained / clean aircraft, offer friendly staff and still have a great frequent flier program).

I'd use JetBlue more if they just offered some real flight options from Phoenix.

My experiment has also disclosed some serious roadkill. My old friend Southwest? I've found it to have serious on time issues. It seems to be evolving into mediocrity in khaki. Of my last seven consecutive flights on SWA, 6 have resulted in delays and 1 in a cancellation. No more SWA for me.

Media reports inform that "Satisfaction' levels among the traveling public have steadily risen. I remain unconvinced. 

I believe passengers have simply become so desensitized that they just accept poor service, long TSA lines and endless fees, knowing that government consumer protections have largely vanished due to airline lobbying. Unless a traveler does a lot of homework, they have little real recourse. Big airlines in the US now just operate using computer models that precisely calibrate the sweet spot where profits are maximized through the delivery of as little as possible.

Today's e-mail from American is proof. So I'm responding the only way the airlines understand, I'm flying pretty much everyone else.

Hey American!


Roadboy's Travels © 2016

No comments: