Yesterday I was scheduled to take American Airlines flight #76 which is a non-stop flight from LAX to Washington Dulles.  It should have been an uneventful trip.  After all what can be complicated by a 4 1/2 hour flight?  Yet as luck would have it something did go awry and American lost a chance to improve their image as a result.

First of all let me state for the record that I have flown enough to qualify for what is called Lifetime Plantinum status on American.  All that really means is that I don’t have to requalify every year which is nice and I get priority boarding and a better shot at upgrades like yesterday.

The trip started out just as it should with a smooth boarding process but that was the last thing that really went right.  As the time approached for take off nothing happened.  The captain eventually notified us that the plane had an electrical problem and that maintenance should have it fixed in a half hour or so.  Well that  30 minutes eventually stretched into 3 hours before we were able to take off.  Luckily for us we were still at the gate.  Unfortunately we were prisoners on the plane.

Since the flight was leaving at 9 am Los Angeles time it was a breakfast flight for those of us lucky enough to be in first class but the standard beverage service only in coach.

Here is my gripe and maybe it’s a small one.  We are trapped on the plane yet at the gate.  You would think that after the first hour or so someone at American would have thought to do something for the passengers like try to find some food for them, even peanuts or pretzels.  But of course no one at American can think like that and their solution was to give everyone in coach free headsets to watch the on-board program from CBS.  Wow, they gave the passengers a headset, which are really earbuds worth $2.  That was great p.r.

As for me. I did get a meal but as I said since it was a breafast flight I wound up with cold cereal being served three hours later than normal and now into the lunch zone.  That would have been okay but since the flight was late I arrived well after dinner and the only other thing they served on the plane was a chocolate chip cookie!

I realize that it could have been worse.  The flight could have been cancelled making getting home a nightmare and at least I received some food.   I also understand that the airline has limited options when it comes to arranging for food in these types of cases, but I do recall reading a story about a Delta pilot who on his own nickel bought food for stranded or delayed passenegers as gesture of goodwill.  The airline eventually reimbursed him since it has such a  positive effect on the airline’s reputation.

So why can’t someone at American just rustle up some food from a vendor in the terminal and bring it on board to help the poot starving coach passengers at least?  The goodwill the airline would have earned would have been far greater than the money spent on the food.

Airlines have become backward thinkers in most cases, by adding on fees and charges for luggage, frequent flier awards etc…  As a capitalist I think they have every right to earn a profit, but in these tenuous times all this does is make the flying experience more miserable and chases away the customers.  You don’t have a business if you don’t have any customers.

Wake up American!  I know times are tough but good customer service results in loylaty that is worth far more than a $25 baggage charge.

After a series of what can only be deemed as setbacks for frequent fliers, Continental Airlines announced a reversal of an impending policy change before it was to take effect.

The airline had sought to follow United, US Airways and Frontier airlines in eliminating the minimum mileage that passengers had been credited for their flights.  The airline standard has been to award a mimimum of 500 miles no matter how short the flight actually was giving some fliers some compensation for the many short haul flights that exist.  Now Continental will give all of their elite level OnePass members while those that don’t fly at least 25,000 miles a year will earn actual mileage.

As an elite frequent flier with American (lifetime Plantinum) I think this is a fair deal.  The idea of loyalty programs is to reward your best customers and who can argue that someone who flies at least 25 ,000 miles a year isn’t in the best customer category?

However that being said, I have to admit to feeling that with all the changes that the airlines have made in the last year that it has been hard to see what perks I am receiving for my loyalty to American.  Frequent fliers are in a bit of dilemma as flying is the most efficient method of travel in most cases , but with rising costs, additional hassles (like security), jam packed flights and diminishing perks the airlines are fast approaching a tipping point to where flying will be the domain of just a few.

So as much as I love my frequent fliers miles and my premium status I look forward to the day when most of my business can be conducted via a video feed eliminating the need to get on a plane.  At  the rate technology is moving that day may not be too far off which will be very bad news for the airlines indeed.