The last time I flew AM was in the late 90's from LAX to MEX and it left me with a positive impression. I recall friendly and engaging crew members, great ground agents and an elaborate meal with two set of menus being distributed (one for meals and the other one for wines). AM had excellent catering and the desserts were memorable.
When I came across a business fare of $550 total from LAX to SJO a few months back, I had to take advantage of it to visit my relatives and at the same time I was curious if the AM that I remembered was still alive in this post 9/11 era of cost cutting. Unfortunately my experience with AM this time proved to be a big disappointment. Incompetence, disinterest, bad catering, overcrowded lounges and inflexible rules are some of the factors that contributed to this new impression. My first taste of the new AM began when I received an email about a schedule change that would create a misconnection on my return from SJO-MEX-LAX. For some reason the MEX-LAX segment would now depart 3 hrs earlier, so when I called about my options, I was told that they could put me on a later flight the same day (about 9 hrs in MEX and a force overnight in LAX because I would miss my connecting flight from LAX-SFO on UA which is a separate tkt), or confirm me a day earlier so that I wouldn't miss the UA connection. When I called later to be protected a day earlier, I was told that they were sold out of J inventory so I ended up taking the later connection on the original return day. Good thing that I requested to go over the seat assignment and at that point I noticed that the agent booked me in Y instead of J. When I inquired about the mistake, he put me on hold and after 5 min. he came back and fixed the reservation without much of an apology.
The flight on UA from SFO-LAX was on time and uneventful. At the AM counter in LAX, I was told that I could only bring 2 carry-ons (I had two plus a small bag from a store). I managed to fit the small bag inside the carry-on but now it was about 3 lbs over. I asked if they could allow me to just bring it onboard and the agent just looked at her co-worker and shrugged her shoulders, so she handed me my boarding pass and lounge invitation wishing me a pleasant flight.
AM uses the Air France Business lounge @ LAX T2 and from previous reviews I did not expect much. Security had a long line but it moved quickly. Once inside I lined up for the elevator and this took forever. Upon entering, I was greeted by the polite clerk and my first impression was that this lounge was a bit small and not as stylish as the other AF lounges. There was an acceptable selection of snacks and cold sandwiches, wraps and olives. In addition there was a ramen noodle station and hot soup (Minestrone was today's soup du jour). The lounge had good views to the tarmac and a decent selection of reading materials.
Entrance to the lounge
Snacks & beverages
View of the tarmac from inside the lounge
I then headed to the gate an hour before departure. At the gate, I witnessed an interaction that was the complete opposite of what customer service should be. An agent was chatting with a flight attendant at the podium when a young guy approached her and asked a question. The agent completely disregarded the passenger and continued chatting with the FA. A few seconds later another agent motioned to the pax to come forward and answered his questions. Wow!
Boarding was orderly and the purser was positioned at the door greeting passengers. The overhead bin for seat 1A was blocked with equipment and I had to use the ones on top of row 2 behind. Pre-departure beverages of water and orange juice were offered. Once we took off, there was no hot towels nor menus. A FA distributed immigration forms and the purser asked if I wanted to have lunch. The meal onboard was a warm toasted turkey sandwich served with salad and a tiramisu cake. As the only legacy Mexican carrier, you would think that AM would put some efforts to maintain a certain standard, especially in J. After the meal trays were cleared and I rang the call button to ask for a duty free catalog. About 5 minutes later I rang the button again and no one answered. I then turned it off and rang it one more time and still no one came. In the meantime, there were FA's passing by the aisle with the call button unnoticed. I finally had to ask one verbally for a catalog and she quickly brought me one. Towards the end of the flight, the purser made one last appearance and took our drink orders. She served the drinks with a ramekin of nuts which seemed a bit odd. Why not give the nuts at the beginning of the lunch service?
On my way to MEX
Air France - KLM Lounge
Los Angeles - LAX
Mexico City - MEX
The best thing about this flight was the on-time performance. While the crew was polite, I felt that they could have been more attentive. There is no excuse that a call button should not go unanswered after three times, especially in business class. Lunch was extremely disappointing and catering is a shadow of what it was before 9/11. With the demise of Mexicana, its main competitor, AM is now the only legacy carrier in Mexico. Instead of providing a truly premium product that solidifies its position as the premier carrier in its country, it has chosen to rest in its laurels and follow the cost cutting behavior of its U.S. counterparts. They say that competition is good for the customer and this saying is specially true in this case.
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