Rare Praise for an Airline (… oops)

December 31, 2019 at 6:48 pm (By Amba) (, , )

How often is it that you have anything good to say about your experience with an airline’s customer service?

I have flown to Chicago on American enough times to have enough miles for half my trip to Miami and back for the jazz cruise to be award travel. But the AA website’s page for booking award travel was hopelessly byzantine. It looked as if I could only use award travel for roundtrip, and in that case, either fuhgeddaboudit or “buy miles,” which has always seemed to me to cancel out the whole point. Why would you do that?

With a sinking heart I called the 800 number, expecting to speak to someone reading from a script in a call center half a world away. Now, I’m glad for that person that they have a job. It’s their turn to be the middle class. I can see without too much rancor that someone benefits from almost any situation someone else objects to. (For example, if Trump does win the election—which I don’t think is a done deal by any means—I’ll at least have the consolation of knowing that a few friends of mine, like Mike Castellaneta, are happy. And then I’ll have the consolation of Schadenfreude when things go deep south. 😜) When I’ve had time and patience, I’ve had conversations that were little windows opening on Manila or Bangalore. But when it comes to making a domestic U.S. plane reservation, it’s hard to imagine that that person can begin to imagine what goes on here. Any question that’s not on the script, and you have to ask for a supervisor. I often start out asking for one.

But, no. It was a smooth and gracious-voiced all-American, who spoke like an idealized 1950s air hostess. She sounded blonde. We chatted; turned out she had grown up in New York City and is now in Raleigh. She was extraordinarily efficient, friendly, and helpful. She said that under today’s circumstances she was grateful to have her job, and loves it—loves solving people’s travel problems. She was certainly good at it. With her help I could indeed book half my trip as award travel and pay for the other half. The outcome was that it’s costing me $150 roundtrip to fly to Miami.

I could hardly believe it. What a smart corporation, I thought, focusing on human, homegrown, interactive customer service. What a pleasure. They’ll beat the pants off their competitors with this approach.

Gradually it dawned on me that she was on the elite award travel desk. She must have dealt all day long with Platinum Club members. I was just getting crumbs from the rich people’s table.

That said, American is pretty good. They don’t punish you for flying “Basic Economy” the way United does. You get a free carry-on AND a personal item.


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