AA JFK to EZE 777 [updated x 2]

I have unintentionally caused some offence with one of my statement in this post. You will see this reflected in the comments. I have updated it in an attempt to better explain what I clearly messed up saying.  I want to say on the outset that I am opposed to discrimination on any basis. I also unreservedly apologise to those people who were concerned I might be advocating age discrimination. My major feeling, which I have hopefully explained n a better way, is as a customer the attitude I have experienced from key personnel. Now read on and I hope you find the rest of the post interesting!

American Airlines are currently my least liked US airline. I dread flying with them normally. I continue to argue that it a toss up as to who is worse? American or United? I keep hoping my next flight with them will show some signs of improvement.

Booking- 6 out of 10

One of the annoying things about American is that they have removed the ability to make online bookings from any website but theirs. This makes it difficult to compare flights or have additional options, I can understand that it suits American but its not customer friendly. The American website itself is a little more complicated to navigate than I would like. Seat selection was straight forward.

Check in – 6 out of 10

Online check in required me to add all of my personal information. At the end of the process, the system advised me it could not check me in and I would need it to do it at the airport.

At JFK, a group of AA staff were animatedly chatting at the Check in desk . I was first in the Priority line but had to wait 3 or 4 minutes until I was noticed and called forward. She was very friendly and said to me as she laughed: “sorry about the union meeting“. I could not hear the details of the discussion but it was definitely very concerning for the group. I feel for AA staff. Whenever, I fly with them, they appear to be some of the most unhappy employees of any airline company. Check in, after that, was very fast. I received the seat I had chosen when I booked on-line which always pleases me.  I was not offered directions to the lounge.

 Lounge – 5 out of 10

The Admirals Club at JFK is big and the welcome was friendly. I was given a voucher for a free drink. (Being the USA, Tips are expected for a drink at a a bar).  I had a shower which was very refreshing. Free food consists of apples, biscuits (cookies). All other food is to be paid for and its not that great. Wireless was free and easy to access.


Boarding – 9 out of 10

The Boarding was very smooth. We got a warm welcome at the door.  On board, things were a little more chaotic. The woman sitting next to me was clearly a little disappointed that I had arrived as she had spread her stuff across two seats! The plane was fairly full and there was a lot of luggage! One woman simply abandoned her roll on  in the bulkhead row and went to her seat down the back of the plane. The flight attendants had  to search the plane for the passenger and make her carry her bag down to her seat area. She was very reluctant to do this. I have never seen this before.


On Board- 6 out of 10

American has a dreadful economy layout on their 777s consisting of 2 seats/5 seats/2 seats. Others, I know,  like it because most seats are only one seat away from the aisle. I just feel sorry for the people trapped in the middle seat.  Seat pitch in the 190 Economy class seats is a surprisingly generous 32″. Width 18 or 18.5″. I was in seat 20A in the front bulkhead row so had more leg room but an obstructed window.

A tiny pillow and a small blanket with headset was included on each economy seat.

The 37 angled Business lie flat beds offer  57 to 60″ and 20″ width while  First has 92″ pitch and 21″ width.

The flight attendants on this flight were actually very, very friendly and helpful.  One of the FAs confided in me that the average length of service on the flight was 40 years because of the way crew bid for flights. One of my major concerns is that my experience as a customer of some entrenched AA employees has not been a great one. Many FAs have come across to me as tired, frustrated and negative. I understand that they have not had a good experience of AA management and have held fears for their wages, benefits and pensions for years.  But the result on many flights I have been on has been a sense that the customer is resented. I mentioned to one once that I had retained my Platinum status for another year and he exploded: “I am sick of you platinums thinking  that you own us“.  I am not saying American needs to dump their staff when they reach 30 but I have concerns what message a negative long term workforce send to the public about the airline’s relevance, safety and contemporary-ness?

We had turbulence on the way out of  JFK and it hung around with us for most of the flight. The seat belt sign did not go off for a very large component of the trip.  My seat companion took her seat belt off fro most of the flight. Some people do not realise the impact a severe turbulence episode can have. Thankfully she didn’t fly out of her seat.

Entertainment 4 out of 10

American Airlines have an interactive entertainment system -of sorts. In theory I should be happy with it. However, the offerings are every sparse. The most extensive selection: Comedy had only one episode of eight different shows. The Action channel had only the first and second episode of Terra Nova. There were eight movies.

Safety Briefing 8 out of 10

The video showing the safety procedures was repeated twice and started a  third time. Crew accompanied it for the first time.

Meals 3 out of 10

We were offered a drink followed by meal service. Choices were Tortellini or Chicken, I chose the Tortellini. The meal was was very salty.  It was accompanied by dry bread roll, a salad which was almost entirely wilted brown lettuce and a little tomato, crackers, cheese and an okay caramel brownie.  Meal service was interrupted by very sever turbulence. Meal service was discontinued. It resume after a short while.

Breakfast was of course woeful.

For a $1400 airfare, a little more effort  could  be made. Have a look at Emirates? One of the things that impresses me about Emirates  (my favourite airline in the world) is their amazing meals – both quality and quantity wise. Assuming the cost difference between a terrible meal delivered by American and a very good one delivered by Emirates is $15  – that would work out at around $3000 per flight. If they increased the fare by that $15 and wowed customers with the food, what would that do to their reputation? Surely that payoff would be worth it?


We had a very smooth landing almost half an hour early into a grey Buenos Aires. I was off the plane and into the terminal in a record time.


The Verdict

My rating: Overall 60% (3 out of 5)- my overall rating of  American Airlines flights: 3.0 (based on 46 flights)

Skytrax Rating of American Airlines: 3 star

Positives:   Safe arrival, early arrival, friendly staff,

Negatives: Meals, Lounge, Entertainment, Check in

Would I fly them again?  Reluctantly

My last trip ReportApril 24th, 2012 Virgin Australia A330 Per – Syd Business




  1. I don’t see how age has anything to do with safety. One could just as easily argue that experience (as a result of time working the job) would be more valuable in a crisis than a pretty face and slim waistline.

    Grow up.

  2. Don’t worry about those “Old Mammas” on AA. If they need to evacuate for some reason, those old broads know the most effective ways to move your tail, tossing you down the slide if necessary. That’s why they are there and, according to them, the ONLY reason. As for service, it is kind of like Lilly Tomlin used to say about the telephone company in the 70s, “We don’t care! We don’t have to!” AA may not be the world’s worst airline, yet. They are doing the best to earn the title, one customer at a time.

  3. I agree, sadly, that you do get some real Lily Tomlin situations. Though this crew was better than many AA crews I have had. I think AA staff have not had an easy time with their company’s management.

  4. I really struck a nerve on this one
    No I dont but I would like to see US airlines stop stealing their employee’s pension plans so their employees can retire! It would be good to see a mix of employee ages.

  5. I am not actually attempting to be sexist. I didn’t specify the gender of the crew. This was a mixed gender crew. My apologies if I caused offence. Its more a reflection on the state of American Airlines and its labour relations and HR deployment.

  6. I’m a Delta flyer first, US Airways second. I haven’t flown AA in 7 years, this Thursday will be my first time since then. Based on your story above, looks like not much has changed…

  7. On the contrary of your preference, I would choose an “aged” crew, I prefer experience and skill learned through time, pilots with ability, instead of your “contemporary” fresh out of flight school twenty year olds. (Colgan Air Flight 3407, 24 year old first officer vs Captain Sully @ Hudson, age 61)

  8. Sorry Martin, you’ve really messed up here. Ageism remains one of the most accepted forms of discrimination in society. And in today’s econmic climate older people are suffering more than most as they are the ones who, when made redundant, rarely find another job precisely because they are not seen as ‘relevant’ or ‘contemporary’.

  9. Thanks Jason. I am somebody who is actively committed to engaging all people of society so its a shame that I seem to have messed up with my comments. Thank you for noting the concerns re age discrimination. I was not meaning to be ageist but it concerns me when I see only one demographic in any workplace.

  10. Martin,

    I understand completely what you are saying. It isn’t about “looks” or “slim waistlines”. There is a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the international (and granted older) crews on most US carriers these days. I travel the Atlantic quite regularly, and alternate carriers often. It seems (to this uneducated soul) that there is much more energy put into the job (particularly in the back of the cabin) by the younger European staff. I don’t care how old the person is, I just would like to see a smile on the face, and not get yelled at when I stretch my legs in the rear galley.

    Ultimately, I think it is the fact that these guys have gone through some seriously bad stuff over the last 10 years, and don’t “love” the job anymore (yes, I realize this is a generalization, but if you are a pax and not crew you find this is more likely the case). So yes, I agree it is a workplace issue, and not age. The fact is, these people have lived it.

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