American Airlines: I Guess You’re Not Great Now

An act of bad customer service and overt cruelty by an American Airlines lounge agent at JFK on Saturday, November 26, 2016, costs the Airlines a valuable customer who will not hesitate in telling everyone about it.

Last week I put a face to something that has no place in society – let alone business. Cruelty.

This story begins two days before Thanksgiving in Miami, Florida. I had a house full of people in town to celebrate Thanksgiving.  While a dozen of us were sitting around the dining room table reminiscing, my father received a telephone call notifying him of the passing of a close relative. The news was as shocking as it was sad.  My parents live in New York and came to Miami for the holiday, but they were not planning on going home for several days after Thanksgiving.

The bad news changed that, and my parents and I made plans to fly up to New York the day after Thanksgiving to pay our respects.  I scheduled my return flight for the following day, right after the services.

We gave thanks on the holiday and traveled as planned.  We paid our respects and tried to comfort our family as much as possible.  At the end of the twenty-four-hour travel period, I was tired and looking forward to heading home.

When I reached JFK airport for flight 65 from New York to Miami on Saturday, I was still in my suit from the funeral services.  I arrived about three hours before my flight and surprisingly breezed through security in less than five minutes (it was Thanksgiving weekend).  Needing a clean place to change clothes, Wi-Fi access, and a drink, I decided to go the American Airlines Admirals Club. I had been a member in the past but let my membership lapse.

I got to the counter at the JFK Admirals Club, Terminal 8, Concourse B, at 12:30 PM. There were three people working the podium immediately off the elevator. When I approached the first woman, she said:

“Hello. How are you?”

“Great!” I replied with a smile as I gave her my passport and First Class Ticket.

“Really?”  She said.

“Yes. I’m going home.” I replied.

She punched some information into the computer and said: “First Class to Miami doesn’t get you into the lounge.”

“I know,” I replied. “I’d like to buy a day-pass.”

“No day-passes. The lounge is under construction.” Was the response.

Then, as I turned to walk away, came the imaginary punch to the gut:

“I guess you’re not great now…” This American Airlines lounge attendant said with a smirk.

“Nope, still great,” I said because I knew that was the last time I would ever have to fly American Airlines.

This woman did not tell me there was another Admirals Club in an adjacent concourse. She didn’t offer me any alternative or make any recommendation.  And if she had just said: “Sorry.” I would have thought nothing of it because this low level of service is what I’ve come to expect from most airlines.

But the cruel comment?

I do not care if American has me locked in because I live in Miami and they control 60% of the domestic gates in this airport, I will drive to Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, or even Orlando to avoid them. I travel 50 to 60 times each year. I always fly First Class and often fly on fully-refundable tickets.  American Airlines has lost me as a customer.

I can’t tell you which carrier you should fly when you travel, but you must avoid American Airlines at all costs – if you want to be treated like a human being.