Lets begin with this: I have been a happy, satisfied elite frequent flyer on US Airways for a number of years now. And lets remember that I have flown US and Star Alliance exclusively for that time. And now lets explore how my first international trip on American, as part of the much ballyhooed AA/US merger takes place.
My trip began from RDU to ORD on AA1620. The flight itself was fine, and the flight crew were great. However, my first experience stepping onboard the 737 and finding my seat in MCE was a row littered with popcorn. Did they not bother to clean the aircraft? Likely not, it had a fast turnaround. The row behind me was similarly littered with half-drank bottles of juice and baby food, according to the passenger behind me in that row. I shutter to think what the rest of the cabin looked like. But I sucked it up and gave AA the benefit of the doubt, everyone has an off day. So onward and upward to ORD.
My next flight was ORD to PEK (AA187) on an apparently far older than it seemed 777. One again, the flight itself was smooth, and the flight crew were great. Even after dumping another passenger’s half eaten salad on me, the FA profusely apologized and even bought me a scotch from Business which was awesome. Again, I’ll say this, American has ONE good thing going for it, the Flight Attendants are all seemingly awesome, and they must be given how apparently poor American Airlines is.
So lets talk entertainment. The flight from ORD to PEK was between 13 and 14 hours. We were 20 minutes or so delayed for “Maintenance Paperwork”. We’ll discover what that means shortly. The first thing I noticed was that the entertainment system on this 777-200ER was so antiquated the last time I saw one was on a 40+ year old 747 flown from NRT to TPE. The screen was small and blurry. The movie and tv selections were abysmal. We’re talking no more than 12 movies (I’m usedto flights that offer well over 30 selections for long-haul fights, usually with a lot of very good foreign films, new releases and classics). Of the 12 movies on offer, I watched the only two I cared to see on the flight over, so I am looking forward to NOT HAVING ANYTHING TO WATCH ON THE FLIGHT BACK.
In addition to the expected uncomfortable Econ seats, I could not even use the arm rests to, you know, rest my arms. Some DESIGN GENIUS put a damn phone and console remote control in the armrest, EXACTLY where any average person would rest their arms. So this meant every time I tried to get comfortable, I would inadvertently hit one of those buttons and mess up either my meager “entertainment” screen, or my neighbors. She had incredible patience because I am sure I hit hers many times. Sorry patient neighbor.
So, 14 hours with no use of the arm rests, limited video choices on a nearly unwatchable screen. Sounds triff once you combine it with the typical airline economy food that made me instantly UN-Hungry just by smelling it. Thank goodness I had the forethought to buy food in Chicago and carry it with me.
So with nothing to watch for the rest of my flight to PEK, I thought, “Hey, I’ll read a book.” Nope. Cant do that either. Remember that “Maintenance Paperwork” I mentioned before? I am guessing that was because NONE OF THE SEAT READING LIGHTS in my section worked. None. So my options were cut even further, I couldn’t even read my book on this long-haul trans-Pacific flight.
I finally arrived, sore and irritable from the long, boring flight, starved because the food was unpalatable, and really just ready to get away from American and never fly with them again.
Then I had the brilliant idea that I would buy myself a better return trip home. Sounds reasonable. I fly a lot, I have miles banked, I should use them of something, right? So tonight, I called from CHINA to American Airlines to use miles to buy an upgrade to Business class with the hopes of better food, a more comfortable seat that lays flat and lights that freaking work. And I am pretty sure that AA186, the PEK – ORD return flight will be on the same crappy 777-200ER that flies that daily route back and forth anyway.
As soon as the polite agent on the phone found out I was a US Dividend Miles Elite and not an American AAdvantage flyer, I was thus shut out. You see, Unlike with Star Alliance which is huge, flies EVERYWHERE on more airlines than I can count and which allows me to use my Dividend Miles to buy seat upgrades on SA member flights, which I have done on this US – Asia trip before to my delight, I am apparently not permitted to use my US miles as a One World Sapphire member to buy an upgrade on American flights. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? What the f*ck are all those miles and the whole Alliance thing for if I can’t use them across the alliance?
So Strike Three American Airlines. From a filthy plane to one that made me want to rip my eyeballs out to treating me like a second class citizen because I’m not an AA Elite, you have really gone out of your way to make me want to start flying somewhere else. United is a Crappy Airline[tm] but at least they are still in the Star Alliance which treats Elites with respect. I had my doubts about this whole AA/US merger, and I am sad to see that so far my personal favorite airline is going down the crapper with all this happy-happy joy-joy talk from American about just how great it’s going to be.
And buying that upgrade for 25,000 miles and $350 out of my own pocket? The AA rep I spoke to said that the ability to use my hard earned Dividend Miles to buy upgrades on American would be the absolute LAST thing that would happen as part of this merger.
It would be awesome if there was some way for American to redeem itself, but I am reasonably certain that all that would come of it is more empty apologies, promises of “Great Things To Come With Our Exciting Merger” and lots of “Thank you for your patience” comments on Twitter.