Trip Review of American Airlines DFW/EWR Part 2

Let’s get on with the second part of this trip review:

American Airlines Flight 1905 (EWR – DFW)
Scheduled Departure Time:  05:05pm  Actual Departure Time:  Cancelled
Scheduled Arrival Time:  08:10pm  Actual Arrival Time:  Cancelled

Yes, it was cancelled.  Here is the actual flight:

American Airlines Flight 2705 (EWR – DFW)
Scheduled Departure Time:  07:10pm  Actual Departure Time:  07:49pm
Scheduled Arrival Time:  10:05pm  Actual Arrival Time:  10:24pm

I was monitoring my flight status from the start of the day as well as the flight status of several family members.  My flight suddenly showed cancelled at around 1pm of that day and I had to call AA to find out what was going on.

After spending yet another frustrating 10 minutes fighting through the goo that is AA’s voice activated system for determining what you don’t want to do, I got a reservations agent.  After a couple of minutes of working with this agent, she determined that she couldn’t help me because the trip was booked on AAdvantage Miles.  So I got transferred to a new agent.

I did not find this funny.  To battle an automated system for 10 minutes and then to work with a reservations agent for another 10 minutes only to be told “please hold while I get you the AAdvantage desk” is just not amusing.

The next woman indicated that I had been re-booked on the next flight out.  I was OK with this since it meant I was still departing the same day and just  a couple of hours later.  I wasn’t amused by the fact that my seat had changed from 10A to 25E.

Me:  “Let me get this straight.  You’ve cancelled the flight and think I’m happy with sitting in seat 25E which is in the back of the aircraft and in the middle?”

Res Agent:  “Sir, it isn’t in the back of the aircraft.  It’s actually in the middle of the aircraft.”

Me:  “I’ve flown the MD-80 aircraft since you guys put it into your fleet.  Seat 25 is just a couple of rows from the rear galley and a middle seat isn’t amusing to a man who is 6′ 2″ tall and 270lbs.”

You be the judge.  Here is the SeatGuru map. I’m just going to note that row 25 has 24 rows in front of it and 7 rows behind it.  But apparently AA thinks it is in the middle of the aircraft.

After an interesting exchange between myself and the AAdvantage agent which involved holding for a while while she checked on things, I got Seat 12A offered to me.  Much better.

Arrival at EWR (Newark Liberty International Airport) found me once again stepping into the swirling mess that is AA right away.  The gate agent found it difficult to print 2 baggage tags for my bags because, at first, she couldn’t find me on the flight at all.

TSA had a Priority Access lane that, once again, didn’t save me any time at all.  Particularly so when TSA is permitting people left and right to claim imminently departing flights and by-pass the line.  After several had done this, I began to suspect that locals have figured out that this is the real way to have Priority Access.  I can’t prove it but I do suspect it.

As I arrived at the gate, I checked my flight status app on my phone and saw that the flight had a new flight plan filed for a delayed departure.  I approached the gate agent and asked about the delay and was told that I didn’t know what I was talking about and of course the flight would leave on time.

Roughly 10 minutes later, maybe less, this same agent was announcing that there would be a delay in the departure because the aircraft suffered a bird strike on the inbound approach and had to be inspected prior to going back into service.

It was another 25 minutes before I saw any mechanics go out to the aircraft to look at the airplane.

Once we boarded, the exact same Dance of the Privileged Passengers took place.  In fact, it was as if I was back in Dallas leaving for Newark 2 days earlier.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on what it means to carry your luggage on to the aircraft.  I am an ardent supporter of checking bags on flights.  Baggage doesn’t go getting lost with any meaningful statistical frequency.  I have been flying since 1968 and in all of that time my baggage was lost exactly once.  I’ve guessed that I have traveled roughly 3 to 4 million miles in that time.  It isn’t worth taking your life’s possessions on board, it really isn’t.  I can’t tell you how often I arrive at an airport, wait for my bag at the baggage claim and then find myself walking past those who didn’t check bags as they wait for their rides curbside.  This makes you people look silly.

But if you insist on carrying your luggage onto the aircraft, observe the rules.  For instance, one personal item (purse, briefcase, etc) and one bag means that.  It doesn’t mean, for instance, a purse, an oversize rollaboard that doesn’t fit and 2 large boxes from Macy’s.  And, no, I won’t remove my small briefcase and light jacket from the overhead bin so you can park your possessions in various places throughout the aircraft.

American Airlines:  If you’re going to have rules, you’re going to have to enforce them.  Or remove the rules and let the games begin.  I actually think you would earn more revenue and experience fewer delays if you charged someone $25 to bring their rollaboard into the aircraft.  Seriously, charge *those* people for carrying luggage.  You’ll stop the chaos in boarding and earn more money, I would wager.  Offer one free checked bag, charge for additional checked bags and charge for a carry-on.

After the flight took off, we had another Chatty Captain who described in painful detail how we were going to fly the entire route and that we would be pushing against the jetstream the entire way so we would likely run very late.  In fact, the return trip took about 1 hour longer than the one going to Newark.

The truth is, my trip back to Dallas was very similar to the one to Newark.  Right down to lethargic flight attendants doing a beverage service.  Out of sheer curiosity to find out what would happen, I asked for a sandwich again.  This time, I did get one (Roast Beef) but only after taking the chance to remind the flight attendant I had asked for one when she leaned over my seat to reach the person behind me.

The sandwich was . . . OK.  Nothing special but I could taste meat and other items and it was filling enough.  About what I expected for my money.   I was satisfied with it and would argue that a better sandwich would, in fact, require a higher price.

Arrival at the airport found us disembarking from a gate that was inexplicably many, many gates away from an open entry/exit point in Terminal A at DFW.  While walking towards the indicated open exit point, I asked some service agents how much farther did I have to walk to the exit, 6 or 7 more miles, and they just laughed heartily.  What is annoying is that I checked the gates near the open exit point.  All but one were empty.  In other words, AA could have parked their aircraft near an open exit point and prevented a long hike late in the evening.

Once I had my baggage and walked past those who had carried all theirs onto the aircraft, I was able to flag a Parking Spot van immediately and get to my car in just 8 minutes.  I was home just 50 minutes after arriving at the airport and I live a great distance from DFW airport in the Metroplex.


  • Boarding experience:  B-
  • Flight Crew experience:  B- (hey, I got my sandwich)
  • Onboard Seating experience:  D (Because there is no reason for this discomfort on a airliner today)
  • Departure / Arrival experience:  C+  (routing your flight through the jetstream was just stupid.)


Final thoughts:

On both flights I was struck by one thought over and over again.  I don’t ever experience this kind of poor attitude, poor behavior, and awful service when I fly Southwest Airlines.

Nominally, when you fly American Airlines you are supposed to be flying a full service airline.  When flying Southwest, you’re supposed to be flying a cut-rate airline.  In fact, the opposites are true.  Let’s compare:

Aircraft Quality

Southwest has clean, well maintained and fairly new 737 aircraft.
American Airlines has some new 737 aircraft but after having them for over 10 years, I’ve yet to have flown on one.  I am always on a MD-80.  That isn’t chance, that is because they can fly them from DFW to just about all points in the US and because AA has a stranglehold on the DFW O&D market, they know they can impose this condition on its customers.

Aircraft Seating

Southwest has extremely comfortable leather seating with more average seat pitch than just about any legacy or SuperLegacy airline.  Yes, they’re updating their seats to fit more on the aircraft and I will say that time will tell if these are as comfortable.  They could be and I do have some faith that SWA knows it’s wise not to diminish the seating experience for their customers.  American Airlines on the other hand just has the most outdated, uncomfortable seating available.  It’s that simple.  There might be some seats on the 737s or 777s that are better but that doesn’t describe the vast majority of the fleet.

Service Staff

Southwest’s staff tends to be moderately friendly, fairly interested in solving a problem and ready to help.  Onboard, their flight attendants are usually the right combination of “in charge” and “service oriented”.  Yes, they’re only serving a minor snack and beverage but they somehow make it seem important that it be done timely and right.  American Airlines service staff are surly, resentful and fairly uninterested in solving a problem or even having the correct facts about a flight.   Flight attendants onboard tend to be very senior and very resentful of passengers and their situation.  They are clearly uninterested in serving beverages or food.  I’ve had more than one scold me with “We’re hear primarily for your safety!”  No you aren’t.  You’re there to be in service of the customer and to act in the event an emergency requires strong supervision of passengers.  98% of the time spent performing your job is to keep the passenger happy.


Look, Southwest isn’t “cheap” anymore.  That said, they are competitive on price and when you consider the experience, the convenience and the ability to get someplace on time, they’re high value.  They don’t charge for checking bags and what they do charge fees for makes sense and are priced appropriately.  American Airlines is just bad.  Their fares are high, their service value is the worst around presently.  It’s that simple.  There isn’t a value proposition to flying AA in my opinion unless you’re burning unused air miles.

Tomorrow:  A suggestion for investors in American Airlines

8 Responses to “Trip Review of American Airlines DFW/EWR Part 2”

  1. Have you perhaps thought of changing your blog’s name to “The Whinging Anti-AA Complainer?” It is inexplicable how some of us rarely if ever experience even some of the conditions you describe (despite flying AA regularly) and yet you manage to blame AA even for the jet stream! Perhaps they could route the flight via the South Pole so as not to slow you down, or perhaps AA loves burning extra fuel for the fun of it? And on it goes……]
    Please, if you are writing a blog, try and show some integrity and dont let your bias show through so easily! So you had a bad experience with a few aspects of your flight? It happens! Grow up and get over it!

  2. You are absolutely correct in my distaste for AA product at this point. Being a long resident of the DFW area, I’ve flown the airline since the 1970’s. My frustration with the airline began to grow around 2000/2001 and has never stopped. There is a lot to poke at them and this is an airline that shoots itself in the foot over and over again. And that’s part of what I write about. When I have a good experience, I write about it. When I have a bad one, I write about it.

    It’s notable that the comments I get regarding my criticisms of AA are generally “me too” comments. Or worse tales. For instance, go HERE and take note of the reader comments made.

    If you think I’m the only one who isn’t impressed, take a look at THIS CrankyFlier trip report which involves a segment on an AA flight. He was lucky in that he got a 737-800 but his service experience models my own.

    That said, if you are having a different set of experiences, then let’s hear about them. I honestly welcome the opportunity to hear someone describe a positive experience with AA and particularly so in their domestic service. If you wish, I can contact you off-line. Just signal me with such a request by posting another comment here.


  3. Greg, I appreciate your reply. Having flown nearly 800k miles with AA, I believe I have some experience with them. For over 15 years, I have flown on every aircraft type they own, every class of service, seen many strange FAs, had many different flights but in all, my experience with AA is extremely positive, even today. My criticism of your blog post is not in that you may have had an unpleasant experience which you obviously did, but that in both this post and the previous one where you chronicle your outbound flight, you basically claim that everything with AA stinks. There is no good to be found there at all! In this last post, you apparently use ESP of some kind to argue that AA chose a DFW gate for your inbound flight just to make you walk more, when a closer gate was empty, with no real knowledge of why this was! You whole post comes across as that of an entitled whinger, which you probably did not intend. AA Flight Ops apparently also decided, just to spite you and the other flyers, to burn as much fuel as possible, and fly directly into the jetstream. Apparently you believe the planes can fly wherever they choose, there are no flight paths, and that the jetstream is a small 100 yard squared area in the sky. Then there is the Captain! He’s too chatty! You now have a certain amount of time allocated to him so as to not disturb you! I wonder what would your comment would have been had he barely spoken. Probably, that he is too rude and uncaring! And so on and so on! This is clearly a biased piece of work. I am glad you posted a link to Cranky’s blog today! Yes, AA has problems and Brett wasn’t too impressed with some things, as I wouldn’t be either! But it wasn’t all doom and gloom and it wasn’t AA’s fault if the Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end of if you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas.
    I agree that an Airline with older aircraft, in bankruptcy, with jaded staff, not knowing if there will be a merger, will have problems. You experienced some no doubt.
    I agree that AA’s boarding process lacks quality control, as does their carry on policy, as does some of their older FA attitude towards customers, yet I find these same problems on most of the US carriers.
    But world poverty, gun control and the fiscal cliff are not AA’s fault. Please place more balance in you reporting.

  4. David, I get that you don’t like my dour outlook on AA. However, my experience and the experiences of many other regular travelers on AA prove this to be the norm rather than the exception. I detail the many flaws to make a point which is that the cumulative effect of this kind of behavior on the part of an airline does not speak to that airline having truly cleaned up its act. The truth is that I am as jaded as they come with respect to what I might expect from an airline. The primary criteria being that an airline A) departs and arrives reasonably on time B) it provides a service experience that simply achieves goal A with minimal impact to me, the customer. I don’t think that we deserve 38″ of seat pitch in economy and a hot meal served on a flight anymore. Airfares aren’t capable of sustaining that kind of service.

    So let’s take your criticisms one by one:

    1) I know that flight ops is aware of where they put the aircraft because they made the baggage claim for that flight next to the open entry/exit area. Had those gates near that exit / entry point been occupied or mostly occupied, I certainly would have understood the reason for parking an aircraft approximately 13 gates away. Regardless of that, while the airport is significantly less busy at 10:30 at night, it’s still a fairly busy place all in all. We are talking about AA’s biggest hub, after all. An additional open entry/exit point would have been more appropriate. Since you are a customer of AA, it would seem that you are likely familiar with DFW terminal arrangements and would therefore be aware that DFW is not friendly to the need to walk to different points in the terminal. That is a negative impact to a customer.

    2) Having some contacts with AA pilots, I’m aware that dispatching has fallen to a new low in many cases resulting in flight plans that ignore weather conditions because dispatching is overtasked most of the time. The fact that dispatchers are overtasked isn’t really my problem. It is the airline’s problem and indicative of how they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Being aware of things like how a jetstream can significantly impact flight times and particularly so in the winter, I actually do look to see if a flight plan has been filed against the jetstream since it can cause delays that aren’t reflected in the flight updates. It’s notable that of the United Airlines flights I took the time to check for the same day had flight plans that went west and then south to avoid flying directly in the jetstream. I just checked today’s flights between EWR and DFW on both AA and UA and find that, once again, the same thing is happening today. Also interesting is that AA’s aircraft have been flying at sub-thirty thousand feet levels whereas UA flights are flying at or around forty thousand feet in altitude. Today’s current flight times are roughly similar but would you care to guess on whose passengers are enjoying a smoother flight and which airline is saving money today in the form of reduced fuel costs and less punishment on the airframe?

    3) ChattyCaptains are indeed a pet peeve of mine but only so at night time. There is no reason to point out landmarks that we’ll be passing in the pitch dark and certainly no reason to carry on about them for a long duration. A nearly 8pm departure calls for a brief announcement and then quiet. Most people are settling in attempting to rest in peace.

    4) AA’s boarding policies would be fine, at least in comparison to most other legacy airlines if they actually enforced them. The lack of enforcement creates a chaotic service experience and contributes to a delayed departure. A delayed departure has follow on impacts throughout a system and even an impact on the crew servicing the flight.

    5) Flight attendant attitudes at American Airlines have been incredibly hostile towards customers for years. Again, this has an impact on the airline and does affect its ability to be profitable. In writing this blog, I write about the airline industry and its participants. One very significant element of AA’s bankruptcy is that the focus has been entirely on cost without any attempt to address the revenue side which is directly affected by the service product. You can have an inferior network and a strong service product and survive. It’s very difficult to have an inferior service product and a strong network and survive. The perfect example of that being AA through most of the 2000’s when it arguably had one of the strongest networks in the US but had ever declining revenues.

    6) Airlines are dynamic animals. They change and I have frequently advocated that making an airline choice based on an experience more than 2 years old is not wise. I was not an advocate for using US Airways in 2008/2009, for instance. However, US Airways has cleaned up its operational at considerably and I do advocate that they are a wise choice if they offer a flight going where you need to go (mainline operations only). Their service product is improved and while they, too, make no bones about services fees that they charge, they also are very direct in positioning themselves as an airline that is going to A) deliver the basic product and B) charge you for extras. They set expectations and then deliver. My chief criticism for AA is that they position themselves as a full service airline but not only don’t manage to meet the expectation that they set, they fall below airlines that nominally promise less but at least deliver.

    As an airline industry “watcher”, I would like to see all airlines relatively healthy and very competitive with each other on both price and service product. Largely because it benefits me, the consumer. The reality is that airlines rise and fall and I accept that that is the case. However, I also advocate to readers that when an airline begins to decline and the cumulative effect of its many smaller faults leads to a repetitively bad experience, it’s time to change airlines. The definition of insanity as an airline consumer is choosing the same airline over and over again expecting a different outcome.

    As a resident of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, I’ve had to fly and cope with AA’s dominance in this market for 30 years. The first 20 of those years saw an airline that delivered a very competitive product. The last 10 have found an airline with ever declining fortunes led by management teams that have focused almost exclusively on cost with little attention to the service product. This isn’t a uniform problem among legacy airlines. Other legacy airlines have regrouped and gotten their act together very successfully over and over again. Continental did it through the latter half of the 1990’s and kept it until the last two years. I heartily advocated for Continental for a long time. Now that it is United, I don’t because the airline’s service model has declined significantly and not just in legacy United hubs.

    Delta was doing abysmally earlier in the 2000s with an exceptionally poor on-time record for mainline operations. It’s been fixed. Fly Delta. US Airways (EAST) was horrific, got taken over and even the US Airways (EAST) ops are exceptionally improved.

    Seniority of service staff isn’t the determining factor. SWA flight crews are very, very senior people who work very, very tough schedules and perform very, very well as a rule.

    While age of aircraft shouldn’t be a factor in airline choice in my opinion on the basis of age alone, it is a factor in the kind of service product being provided. Again, AA is an excellent example of an airline that has largely ignored its cabins for a long, long time. Yes, they’re working on that but not nearly fast enough and my measure for that is based on what other airlines have been able to achieve much faster. AA has clearly worn out many of their MD-80s. Too many of these aircraft are suffering engine problems for instance. The cabins haven’t received any updates in seating, etc in more than a decade. They could be much, much better. Delta, for instance, is using similar aircraft that are offering a much better experience. It’s a valid criticism of AA that they’re offering a captive market a significantly inferior service product at this point.

    If I ignore the service product differences between AA’s offering on that route with other mainline flights, there is still the issue that this airline is flying 25 year old aircraft with significantly more expensive seat costs against far newer aircraft that enjoy far lower seat costs.

    Finally, this blog isn’t reporting. A blog is opinion based. The opinions expressed are my own. When someone gets it right, I’m thrilled to say so. When someone gets it wrong, I’m equally thrilled to say so. When bad things happen out of airline’s control, I’m happy to point out that someone had to make the best of a bad situation. And when I get it wrong, I’ll own up to that, too. I do use a fair bit of hyperbole in my last trip report and do so intentionally. For AA to be claiming to have largely fixed its operational problems and to be nearly ready to exit bankruptcy as a profitable entity is disingenuous at the least based on both my own experiences as well as those reported to me (credibly) by others. I’m rather frustrated by this because AA’s PR spin on itself often reminds me of the leadership of the USSR in the 1980s just before the fall of the government.

    So, in closing, I repeat my question: Have you any experiences (recent) with AA domestic service that provide contrast to my own assessments? I remain very interested in hearing any positive experiences with AA as it might indicate, to me, that something is getting addressed in other bases which I may be unaware of.

  5. I suspect you won’t be hearing anything further from your friend “David,” who is no doubt an employee of AMR.

    (AA Must Die)

  6. Seems that even holding traveling federal employees hostage for decades with their mandated AA contract didn’t save AA from itself.

  7. R, (obviously nameless as trolls tend to be) I am not an AA employee nor any other airline employee nor ever have. I am just a hardened road warrior who doesn’t think that means being down on everything if things don’t go my way.
    Greg, I have no problem with your dour outlook on AA. That;s fine and your opinion, based on your experience, I get it. I agree on many points with you , I don’t know if you actually understood most of what I wrote
    BUT to go from your position or the balanced piece Cranky wrote on his AA experience to blaming AA for everything is just silly. AA has not emerged from bankruptcy yet, we don’t know if the merger is on or off yet. When AA finally comes out or merges or not, then you will be able to see if the airline is what you expect, and if not, by all means punish them by taking your dollars away! Easy fix.
    As to your points:
    1. Gate placement of aircraft depends on a number of factors and you have no proof other than a situational observation as to the reason for it. Was it done to inconvenience you because AA employees cant be bothered to care? This is conspiracy theory gone wild.
    2. I’ve flown against the jetstream transcon on all the legacy carriers. I’ve never suspected dispatch or the captain of doing this on to inconvenience me and if I did, would hope some kind soul suggest I get professional help. Whether your experience was just because dispatchers wanted to inconvenience you and finish wrecking the MD80 you were on is out of my jurisdiction. It just seems highly unlikely……BTW, I see you didn’t complain when you the had the jetstream for you on the outward leg. One would think that by your argument, if AA WAS out to inconvenience you they would surely have not used the Jetstream outwards……That at least would be the logical conclusion to you hypothesis.
    3. Agree. If your chatty captain interrupts the flight all night it sucks. But is this symptomatic of all that is wrong at AA???? I must say I have never had one on a night flight. I do MIA-LAX-LAX transcon (often redeye on the LAX-MIA leg) at least once a month and after the little “Intro to Our Flight” have had all go quiet till we begin our descent into our destination.
    4. I already agreed with you that boarding policies ARE not correctly enforced! Add to that the lone Gestapo carry on enforcer who is often now showing up at the gate or even the jetway to make some people (normally not all) stow their carry on in the hold. Of course AA can improve here and a lot.
    5. My experience just must be different to yours. AA’s flight attendants seem aloof, rather uninterested and going through the motions, but I have personally very very rarely encountered an overtly hostile one. I’d sack everyone and replace with people who understood what customer service is really all about if I could, but alas I cant. With this said, I find no difference between the AA FA’s and those of the other legacy carriers. They mostly have a 9-5 attitude and that’s it. I agree that that is not acceptable but I find its the sense of entitlement a lot of passengers have nowadays that causes friction with the FA’s.
    6. All industries need to be open to change and dynamically do so, or all will fail, not just AA! I know of no true Full Service Airline in the US. They may call themselves this but you will only truely find them outside the US. Have you ever flown LAX-SYD on United? Disgusting and revolting is a nice way of putting it, when you compare to QF, NZ, let alone the Asian Carriers. AA is merely floating along at the same level other carriers are in the US, and as long as people keep flying with them will have no real motivation to change.
    7. MD80s are old and decrepit? Certainly, and finally the new airplanes are on order and all the old ones will be replaced. But until they arrive what do you suggest they do? Just stop flying the MDs or do a massive interior retrofit good to last a few months?
    8. Finally, have my recent experiences been different? Sure have. Last AA flights were LAX-MIA beginning December 2012. No elite status at present, and yet got a customer service rep to put me in 9A exit (757, old as the hills as well, but still a nice plane IMHO)row free of charge, with a smile on her face. Flight left on time arrived early. Packed to the gills, boarding experience the same as you, but decided the last to board would arrive in MIA at the same time the first to board did so relaxed about it. Saw the Gate Gestapo agent rightly refusing an entitled woman from carrying on an enormous bag. FA’s courteous or at least normal. No one was hostile or obnoxious. Beverage service twice during the flight, also asked for 3 extra cans of Coke during the flight and was served them with a smile and no one getting upset.
    If you would like a complete trip report along with my FF number I’d be glad to oblige, and you can post it as a guest entry on your blog, which BTW, may be about your opinion, but if you want to be respected at all, needs to be balanced. I may well not agree with you but can certainly respect your position more easily like this.
    Now, could they do better? Sure! And they must if they are to differentiate their product. But is worldwide poverty, HIV and bird flu their fault! Probably not.

  8. Yes, I mostly travel from American Airline and I like the service they are providing. I always get American Airlines Deals which make my trip cheaper and now both price and service product is just amazing.

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