Review of American Airlines flight Miami San José in Business

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA 1561
Class Business
Seat 5A
Aircraft Boeing 757-200
Flight time 02:33
Take-off 25 May 13, 12:10
Arrival at 25 May 13, 12:43
AA   #53 out of 121 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 458 reviews
jetsetpanda
By 4859
Published on 7th February 2014
This report is from a short weekend trip to Costa Rica that I took back in May 2013. The previous day I arrived from SFO and stayed at my parent's house.

The following day I left the house later than expected and dropped off my rental car at the airport. During all my travels I never check bags but on this trip I had one to check and arrived at the AA Business counter at barely under 1 hr before dept. I accept the responsibility that this was late and I might not be able to get the bag with me on the flight. The ticket agent informed me that it was too late to check any baggage which I already knew. I said that I was willing to sign a release if needed. What she said next really surprised me. In a flustered tone she said that I had to either get rid of the bag and leave it with someone in Miami or rebook the trip for the following day because all the flights that depart later during the day were full in J and she couldn't confirm me on the later flight. I again asked about signing the release and she told me that they cannot do that. I then pleaded her to check me in and allow me to try to check the bag at the gate. After checking my PNR she relented and issued me the boarding pass, warning me that they might not let me pass security with an extra bag. With boarding pass in had I tried to go through the elite security line and was stopped because of the extra bag. The agent there said that if I was escorted with someone from AA they would allow me to go. Instead of going back to the F/J counter, I decided to try the regular intl counter at the other side since it was empty. The agent there checked to see if there was any later flights that she could confirm me but nothing was available. At that point, she said let me try one more thing so please follow me. She took me to the Flagship check-in area (reserved for intl F) which is a separate partition, talked to a concierge and walked me to the front of the security line with my additional bag without being questioned. Security was a breeze and once at the other side I proceeded to the gate.

I don't blame the first agent at the Business counter for doing her job and refusing to check my bag, but what I find unacceptable is the frustrating and apathetic tone that she used to address a passenger traveling in confirmed J who has elite status and was checking in at the F/J desk. I am not a Do You Know Who I Am type of individual. On the contrary, I keep a low profile and go by the golden rule of treating others as I want to be treated. In addition, I used to work for AA as an agent for 2 years at MIA right after college in 1990 so I can really sympathize with what front line airline employees go through. However, I find that this situation could have been handled better. For instance, the agent could have used a friendlier tone and offered to place me on the standby list for F at a later flight or escorted me through security since the counter was next to the Flagship check-in area.

AA 1561 MIA - SJO
EQP 752 - Seat 5A
Dept. 12:10P (Actual 12:37P) - Arriv. 12:43P (1:02P)


Once at the gate, I learned that the flight was delayed for 27 min. I believe that the slight delay was due to intl inbound and custom clearance. The gate agent was checking bags and tagged mine without any issues or problem. Once we boarded, pre-dept. drinks were offered and service was done in a somewhat hurried way. I have pre-ordered my meal through AA website and this was acknowledged by the flight attendant.

Push back

photo IMG_8848 (800x533)photo IMG_8850 (800x470)photo IMG_8852 (800x445)


Cayman Airways - an unusual carrier that is rarely seen around the world.

photo IMG_8854 (800x535)


Good bye MIA.




Somewhere over Cuba

photo IMG_8860 (800x522)photo IMG_8861 (800x533)


The service started with hot towels, followed by distribution of beverages with warm nuts.

photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (1) (800x663)


Big salad with olive oil & balsamic vinegar (only choice) served with a choice of breads.

photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (2) (800x557)photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (3) (800x600)photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (4) (800x584)


Main dishes were shrimps and scallops in curry sauce served with jasmine rice and vegetable ratatouille OR steak with potatoes. I ordered the seafood curry which was fine if not outstanding.

photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (7) (800x535)


Dessert was only chocolate ice cream with marshmallows and pecans. No cheese course offered on this flight.

photo AA 1561 MIA-SJO May 2013 (9) (800x651)


Arriving in SJO where nature dominates and vegetation is lush and green.




La Paz Waterfall Gardens is an attraction consisting of five waterfalls accessed through paved trails in the rainforest. It is located about 1 hr from San Jose on the way to Poas volcano. The road there can be a bit convoluted and at some points one can see landslide damages sustained during an earthquake in 2009. Once you get there, you will be surrounded by nature and the waterfall is an impressive site.




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Verdict

American Airlines

7.5/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Meal/catering7.5

Miami - MIA

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.5

San José - SJO

8.6/10
Efficiency9.0
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

An average flight on American. The ground experience was a let down except for the agent that was kind enough to escort me through the Flagship line. I admit that I share part of the fault for arriving late, but a paying passenger flying in business class and with elite status should be accorded more leeway and consideration.

On board, the FA's did their job in a hurried way without much acknowledgement and extra attention. As a matter of fact, when it came to taking the orders of the meal, the FA asked a teenage guy sitting behind me for his choice and he declined the meal. The FA then said out loud the young one does not want to eat while walking back to the galley and I was able to hear her from my seat.

Arrived at destination with about 20 min. delay which was not too bad.

Related

25 Comments

  • Comment 98975 by
    marathon GOLD 9566 Comments

    The place somewhere over Cuba is on the south coast is off Zapata Swamp NP (Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata), north of Cayo Largo del Sur.
    Thanks to Statler for giving me enough time to identify the place and to the author for this FR ;)

  • Comment 98989 by
    lagentsecret GOLD 12443 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR

    The ground agent was obviously not empathic enough : it's a shame

    The catering seems decent for such a flight (less than 3 hours) and an US company ;)

  • Comment 98992 by
    Caribel 113 Comments

    I can only imagine your disbelief at how the desk agent threw the rule book at you. Regrettably, after the AA bankruptcy, most senior and experienced staff took the early retirement buy-out. What remained is demoralized and inexperienced staff. Supervisors are no-where to be found and avoid decision making fearing to loose their jobs.

    Regarding the hurried cabin service, that comes from the pressure the new timed service standards AA imposes on FA. Business travelers demand quick, impersonal service to stay glued to their computers. FA's respond by treating everyone with that outlook.

    MIA has some of the best catering. Your lunch had very pricy items such as: artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, sea diver scallop and shrimp.

    I would be interested to read the reaction of AA customer services if you write your experience. Great sightseeing pictures!

  • Comment 99002 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5305 Comments

    Wow...I would have given that agent a piece of my mind. Like you, I used to work for an airline (several actually) and yes, you absolutely CAN sign a limited release waiver if you arrive late--the DOT mandates that this, so in fact the agent was wrong--most are. Airlines have been fined for not allowing this in the past due to DOT complaints. Luckily you found a good agent to help you out, which makes up a little bit for the crappy service from the first agent. I don't consider myself a DYKWIA either, but when I get bad service, I do not hesitate to make my disappointment known.

    Great pics of Miami Beach on takeoff from MIA. I would have liked to see some pics of the cabin itself, but I'm guessing that it's just a normal domestic F cabin sold as J since it's Mid-haul Latin America? I'm really not familiar with AA since I'm a DL Elite. I have been thinking of doing a status-match challenge with AA because of the constant devaluations of the DL Sky Pesos program, but this FR is not giving me the warm and fuzzies for AA. I have several AA-loyalist friends (all ExPlats) who looooove AA, but I think having been ExPlat for a while and not really knowing other airlines too much makes you a little bias so I'm glad to read AA reports to be able to form a better opinion and make a decision as to whether it's worth changing my loyalty. Being a French expat with a love-hate relationship for AF and longtime DL flyer, it's a tough decision for me to leave SkyTeam, but DL just keeps screwing its Elites (though probably not as much as UA). DL does have the best service of all US airlines IMO which makes it an even tougher call. Being that you have status with AA, what do you think?

    • Comment 287801 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2294 Comments

      I did not want to pursue the matter further with the first agent since time was working against me and all I wanted to do was to get through security. God forbid if she would have decided to retaliate and put a comment on my record. I believe that there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you ever fly out of MIA, you will know that lines can sometimes be long and the process to get to the gate area can be lenghty. At least I got her to issue me the boarding pass which in the beginning she hesitated.

      Mexico and Central American flights use the same domestic F cabin configuration. Catering tend to be a bit better thought because it is an intl flight and at least AA offers ice cream for dessert on lunch flights while on the equivalent domestic lunch segments you get a baked cookie instead.

      I have been elite with AA for a few years and honestly I can't complain. Catering is decent and I think that the two U.S. airlines with the best premium catering were American and then Continental. DL has been making a lot of improvements and supposedly has the best premium cabin on transcon flights. Their J on JFK-LAX/SFO has a great menu and a TUMI kit is even provided. I have thought about switching to DL, but their award availability using Skypesos has kept me away. On AA, the award redemption has been very good. I don't have a problem using award miles and as a matter of fact last November I was able to change 2 J seats to F on CX within a week of departure. Upgrades based on elite status have also been good in my experience. One year when I was ExPlt, my success rate was 100%. As a PLT, it is about 75%.

      DL shows signs of improvements and although not perfect, they are taking steps in the right direction. The only big negative with them is the poor availability of award seats in premium cabins. That is one important factor with me and I will stay with AA for the time being. Hopefully they will not follow US stinginess. Time will tell. UA has fantastic award redemptions through their MP program, but the nasty crew (although there are a few gems that are far and in between) and deplorable catering have kept me away. The new enhancement of charging more miles to redeem for partner's flights is one more reason to stay away. If you can get a match with AA, you don't have anything to lose and I encourage you to try it. A lot of elite members who came from UA are very satisfied. Then again, it seems that it is not hard to impress former UA elites. Have you thought of AS? They have a good roster of partners and seem to treat their top flyers very well.

    • Comment 287824 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5305 Comments

      Thanks for that very comprehensive answer! I think I will try AA, like you said, I have nothing to loose (except a few thousand bucks as I fly the 30K miles for the ExPlat Challenge). I have thought about AS, but being an East-coaster, their routes are not convenient for me and they have very low upgrade priority on DL metal and none on AA metal (the two most convenient airlines for me)...actually UA is the most convenient with the IAD hub, but I avoid them like the plague (though my company has them as a preferred carrier so I may have no choice, gasp). AS Mileage program is great though. DL is definitely very stingy on awards. It's very annoying as it is basically impossible to find two J-awards on the same flight, which is worthless for me as I often travel with my partner. For single J-award redemptions I've had to be very flexible and had to reserve last minute when inventory suddenly pops up. I think because Delta runs such a great operation, and makes so much $$$$ they know they don't need to attract business with their mileage program so the result is that it stinks.

    • Comment 287826 by
      NGen92 55 Comments

      Hi Kevin,

      I agree with you saying UA has the most awesome loyalty program. As a longtime UA Silver status MileagePlus holder, I had been awarded twice with free return tickets to Hawaii and several times being upgraded to Business while traveling in Eco+

      Nevertheless, I will moderate my statement since they've merged with Continental's... You require more qualified flights to credit your records and I also notice they have setup more black dates for awarded travel... at that point I'm actually wondering if I should swap to OneWorld (also be AF-KLM SkyTeam FB cardholder but I hate that program!)

    • Comment 287827 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2294 Comments

      I forgot to mention one more advantage of AA vs DL program. AA (along with UA and AS), allows the redemeption of one-way awards and does not require round trips unlike DL and US. Sure, DL says that it allows one-ways on their website but at the same rate as round trips.

      So you are coming to the dAArk side? :)

    • Comment 287843 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5305 Comments

      @Jetsetpanda...Your AArguments are very compelling and tempting me to try the dAArk side :-)

      @NGen92: UA mileage plus program is definitely good for redemption, as you mention, but has been greatly devalued lately, as have DL Skymiles. The new PQD spend requirement has made a lot of UA Elites angry and I have several friends who left UA before that took place mostly because of all the operational and intergration issues with the merger. It seems that before the merger both UA and especially CO, were decent airlines. I had expected that because CO management was mostly running the new UA, that service levels would rise, but it appears the opposithas happened and financially, UA is lagging the other US airlines (although still trning a profit which is great to see). Like I said earlier, with the UA hub here at IAD, it is a natural choice for me, but I just hear too many negative things about UA vs. DL or AA. Maybe it's hyped up, but still would prefer to play it safe and avoid them for the time being until all the kinks are worked out. AA, on the other hand seems to be ahead of the curve with the AA/US merger and taking a page out of the DL playbook. I have a feeling things will go relatively smoothly in the years following the merger and at least the AAdvantage program will remain intact for a little while longer. I also agree with you about AF/KL FB...AF Fréquence Plus was a good program, but FB started out bad, and then got worse. I dropped it years ago in favor of DL which had worked out well for me until recently. Living in the US, it didn't make much sense for me to stay with FB anyway. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)

    • Comment 287844 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2294 Comments

      AA was always considered a premium carrier in the U.S. For example in the 1990's they used to provide Hermès toiletries in their F amenity kits. I think there is some pressure on US management for this merger to go smoothly. Remember that AA is based in TX, a state with a market base that is very wealthy and used to things done in big ways. There is always WN for those with more limited budgets.

  • Comment 99033 by
    pititom GOLD 10706 Comments

    A week-end at SJO on AA sounds like a tier points run to me ^^

    The agent at check-in clearly tried to get you off an overbooked plane by any mean nacessary...but obviously (and luckily) failed !

    I guess we share the same POV about AA....something stable around the 7.5, making the job done and nothing more...but usually nothing less either.

    Thanks for this FR !

  • Comment 99035 by
    NGen92 55 Comments

    Hi there!

    My guess is may be you were expecting too much from a short-haul flight... ??

    The dump desk agent who were dealing with your late check-in issues had respected AA new standards as Caribel mentioned and I'm afraid she couldn't help more!

    Now I disagree with the rude and crappy FA onboard [notably with the young passenger], her altitude was not professional and intolerable and my point is you should complain and escalade to the flight purser...

    Amazingly, despite the poor service you were experienced, you had granted a good record for the entire flight...

    Awesome pics over Miami beach and San Juan bay area! Thanks!

    • Comment 287830 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2294 Comments

      Glad you enjoyed the pics and thank you for visiting.

      Personally I think that the check-in agent that I encountered was one of those that couldn't think outside of the box and saw things in black and white only. When you are assigned to deal with premium passengers, you need to have a flexible mindset. I don't think it is expecting too much when you pay more for a ticket and expect better service. Business class passengers should be treated the same at the first point of contact, whether you are taking a 1 hr domestic flight or a long intercontinental one.

      Sometimes it is not the message but how it is delivered. She could have said no with a smile and not put the stone face and act all flustered. She definitely could have handled it better. One way to do it is by allowing me to sign a release form for the extra luggage and release AA of any liabilities if the baggage do not show up because the bag was checked late. Another way is by refusing to check my bag but still escorting me to the security checkpoint and have the gate agent deal with the issue. Extra bags can always be checked at the gate in the USA. As I mentioned above, the security agent said that if I was escorted by an AA agent, they would have let me pass with the extra bag without a problem.

      The inflight service was not the most professional, but it did not offend me. I think the young man was the only person who had the right to be offended by the loud comment and complain about it. If it didn't bother him why should it bother me? The FA served my meal and brought whatever I asked efficiently so I can't complain.

    • Comment 287840 by
      NGen92 55 Comments

      OK I get it. Thx!

  • Comment 99199 by
    KL651 TEAM 4492 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    Wow what a bad attitude from the check in agent. Offering you to rebook on a flight the following day just because of a bag when you're a confirmed J ticket....
    The food onboard looks pretty good, I guess that was the highligh of that trip.
    No matter what the commercials say about the new AA I still find this airline unattractive when it comes to the friendliness of the staff.

    • Comment 288025 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2294 Comments

      People used to complain that with all the modern technology and automation, the human touch was lost. It's funny because when it comes to travel, I try to minimize any contact with agents in order to avoid disappointments.

      Long time ago, airlines used to staff the premium class counters with seasoned and knowledgeable employees because you wanted the best to take care of your most valuable customers. That is no longer the case as Caribel has stated above.

      With the exception of this incident, my interactions with AA employees have been good for the most part. I have found DL to be the most professional of all the US carriers when it comes to employee interaction. What has kept me with AA is the decent catering, good frequent flyer program and fairly easy upgrades for domestic flights.

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