American Airlines: Boarding of the Fittest


How bad has air travel in the U. S. become? We all know about the delays, canceled flights, germ-laden air, 12-hours-on-the-tarmac and all the rest. But the story my friend George shared this weekend is, I fear, a chilling portent of what’s ahead.

He and a colleague were flying back from a business trip (Baltimore to St. Louis) on American Airlines. Of course the flight was over-booked (by three people) and the gate agent offered vouchers for anyone willing to give up their seat (I think he said it was $200).

A little while later they made the announcement again, including some reference to not being able to depart until the oversold problem (now down to two) was resolved. Still no takers.

A few minutes later the agent came back on the PA and made an announcement that George recalls as:

"Ladies and gentlemen. We are still oversold and we can’t delay departure any longer. Please line up for boarding… the last two people in line will not get on this flight."

George couldn’t believe his ears. Everyone in the departure area looked at each other for a second and then stampeded, pushing and elbowing trying to insure they wouldn’t be at the end of the line.

This might just be the most chicken-shit thing yet from an airline. The gate agent could determine the last two passengers to book the the flight and break the bad news. Instead, they made the other passengers fight and claw like animals to get on the plane.

What about the infirm or women with babies, I asked. "No pre-boarding of any kind."

Yes, maybe this was an isolated incident. One gutless gate agent. But
can you imagine if this is –or becomes– standard procedure?

3 thoughts on “American Airlines: Boarding of the Fittest

  1. I hate American Airlines! It all started when I was afraid to board AA plane after 9/11. It seems like their service is horrible. I have only taken AA once since 9/11 and I honestly regret even boarding the plane. It was the worst experience ever! They lost one of my luggages. I had to submit a claim in order for them to extend the search on my luggage. They never recovered my luggage and so I had to file another claim and wait an additional 12wks (after waiting 6wks) to have them deny my claim for reimbursement. This was just absolutely ridiculous. I really hope they go out of business. It really sounds like they are since they are the first airline to start charging for carry ons. Not to mention they have laid off so many employees. But unfortunately I do have to agree with a comment that was posted earlier. Airlines in other countries, even airport service in other countries is a pain in the ass. They have no clue about “customer service” like us Americans are so used to that is has now become an expectation. I think airlines need to step it up because a lot of them are pretty crummy. I still to this day prefer Southwest. I have heard great things about Virgin Airlines. I will need to check them out.

  2. Illegalize overselling!
    Survival of the fitte$t pricing, oversold flights, slashing the frills and cattle call BS are more examples of how the US is lagging behind our European counterparts.

  3. Steve, that is just about what it’s like to board aircraft at some airports in Europe when you fly discounts carriers like EasyJet. You wait in a terminal, then a bit later you go down a jetway ’til you’re in a holding area with glass doors to the tarmac. There is no assigned seating and people just rush the plane. If you’re like me, you’ve paid something like $15 additional to be the first area which is released. On the two flights I took in March of last year (one from GB to Paris, the other from France to Venice), there were fewer than a dozen people in that “special” area to board first. In one instance I recall there were a handful of Japanese tourists and a family with a baby in a stroller in the cue with us (the Americans). I think there is at least one low-fare carrier in the US which does not have assigned seating either and there is a mad dash for seats.

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