American Airlines: Executive Customer Support Is Slower Than Our Handy Web Form

American Airlines thinks the solution to their customer service woes is a web form that limits submissions to 1,500 characters. Each submission gets a tracking number, which American Airlines executives mistake for a resolution. From the Star-Telegram:

“We don’t have a customer-relations phone number. We haven’t for several years because we found out it wasn’t a great process. Customers call and they have complaints and they get worked up. They’d call into reservations. Or they write to our executives. They fax. They do this and that.”

Web-based complaint forms are immediately numbered and tracked.

They also limit how much you can say: 1,500 words is the maximum. If you’ve got more to say, the e-mail form won’t accept it. “Keeping things concise simply helps us,” Wagner says.

He also says that when complaints come via faxes or letters, they have to be scanned into the computer system, “which lengthens the handling time considerably.”

“E-mailing one of our executives is even a slower method,” he says. These e-mails must be placed into the system, “and this requires even more routing time.”

Because each request is tracked, “nothing slips through any cracks,” he says.

American’s web form is notorious for spitting out useless form letters. Tracking numbers are great, but only when there is a progression of service worth tracking.

If you have a problem with American, sure, try the web form, but when it fails to satisfy, don’t hesitate to email customer service directly, or call for executive customer service.

The Internet — the only way to gripe [Star-Telegram]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Blueskylaw says:

    You can’t even tell us who hit you, you’re lying.

  2. Cowboys_fan says:

    I guess we have to ask ourselves whats worse, completely inept customer service agents promising to help but screwing up more, or no CS at all?

  3. homerjay says:

    Yeah, we wouldn’t want to inconvenience you by making you read a complete complaint. CLEARLY the fact that you admit you get far too many complaints than you can handle shows that you have no friggen idea how to run an airline. Just go out of business already and let someone else take over your terminals.

  4. Trai_Dep says:

    Fliers, redfaced, mad

    On American Airlines

    Become haiku fans

  5. snowferret says:

    People get worked up over the phone, when they only get 1,500 words to use we don’t have to listen to them bitch for so long. It’s a lot easier on us. Ah and ah.. don’t email us directly we don’t like that its…. slooooooowwww…
    You know what this reminds me of?
    “Justify you’re position here at the plant without using the letter ‘E’.”

  6. KillingGranny says:

    There should be a simple workaround: Disable Javascript after you open the window. I tried it, and sure enough, everything but the max character limit worked.

    I haven’t tried submitting the form, but if you need Javascript for that, then simply enable it and be sure not to type into the text field again.

    I used Firefox’s WebDeveloper extension to disable it easily.

  7. homerjay says:

    @snowferret: I’m a good…work… guy…

  8. ColoradoShark says:

    The quote from Wagner says they limit the comments to 1500 words which would be plenty. They actually limit it to 1500 characters which includes spaces. The average word is about five characters. This works out to maybe 250 words. Concise is good, but you really should have room for a few details.

  9. timmus says:

    I can sort of agree with the space limit. I’ve always been interested in disputes on some of the travel forums, but I kind of groan when I see a giant multipage writeup. I can only take pity on the peon at the airline that has to fish all the relevant details out of the tome.

  10. Televiper says:

    1500 Words is fair. When you allow people to write monster essays about a customer service complaint you end up with the Convergy letter we saw here last week. If you have a transcript of a phone conversation you add the important details and mention that you have a full transcript available. It’s probably to your advantage to make it as concise as possible with all the important details. You’re filing a complaint, not submitting a piece of gonzo journalism.

  11. homerjay says:

    I thought text boxes only measured characters and not words. Are you sure this isn’t 1500 CHARACTERS? Thats a LOT less.

  12. humphrmi says:

    Actually, when I’m forced to use a webform, I usually keep it to way under 1500 characters anyway. I summarize (and I really mean summarize) the problem, say what I want, and then finish off with “Please contact me for more details”. For an airline form, I’d probably include the flight number and date.

    Unfortunately, the ability to contact customer service any number of ways that is convenient for me, the customer, is a fading rule. But it follows the general degradation of customer service over the last five or ten years.

  13. EtherealStrife says:

    Yo folks it’s 1500 CHARACTERS, not words.

    “Characters Remaining: 1500” (from blank AA form)

    That is nothing when filing a moderate complaint against an airline. If they aren’t providing actual customer service, AA should make it clear to all passengers that this is the case and offer significantly cheaper airfare.

    (FYI the above comment was 319 characters. . . . )

  14. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Oh come on, I write more than 2500 in just a PARAGRAPH. Seriously, AA go out out of business already!!!

  15. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Nobody wants you around. Anyway yeah that’s definitely not enough.

  16. crankymediaguy says:

    “You know what this reminds me of?
    ‘Justify you’re position here at the plant without using the letter ‘E’.'”

    Here’s my non-E reply:

    “FUCK YOU! How’s that work for you?”

    See, no e’s.

    (That was a response to the “non-E” thing, not you personally.)

  17. hustler says:

    American is a joke. I work for the federal government and travel with them constantly. Its just a joke. I would never, ever consider booking a flight with them because their customer support is so poor.

  18. homerjay says:

    @hustler: Wait a minute… You would never book a flight with them but you fly them constantly?

  19. nidolke says:

    thats y if u have a problem w/ them, u just type like a 3rd grader to save space :)

  20. djreedps says:

    I had an ordeal in the summer of 2005 flying from Baltimore to Austin via Dallas on American. The flight from Baltimore to Dallas was delayed for 1 hour because the person fueling the plane overfilled the tank and spilled jet fuel all over. The flight from Dallas to Austin was on a broken plane where the air conditioning system wasn’t working. The outside temperature in Dallas that day was 104 degrees F! That was the all-time worst flight I ever took.

    I complained to American and got back a form letter apologizing for the delay. No mention of the hellish ride on an un-air conditioned plane. No voucher for use on a future flight. No extra frequent flier miles. Their “customer service” appeared to be done completely by computer.

  21. Anonymous says:

    People who abuse children (especially those with autism) ought to go to work washing cars, rather than making sure families boycott American Airlines forever, like me and my family intend to do. FIRE THE STEWARDESS AND THE PILOT!!!! (or assign them to wash the planes, away from people and real life!!!) Ann Roach in Ohio