Rookie Wednesday: Why booking 1st class is no substitute for elite status!

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

lots of AA American Air jets RenesPoints blog

I can not even begin to tell you the number of times I have had folks tell me they are fed up with whatever (be it Delta or another airline) and they tell me that the simple solution is to always book 1st class. That sounds good at first glance and has the mental impact of just stopping the conversation – after all unless you can always book and fly 1st it is hard to challenge that statement. But you really should and I will show you why.

aa flight late grr to ord

Yep – delAAyed a bunch.

My wife this past week was flying AA 1st class. I started the year with well over 1 million dis-Advantage miles and have to get rid of them. Points, unlike some fine wines, do not age well. These  points have been working well for hops here and there and even I enjoyed some time on AA recently coming back from the soaked PGA near LAX. But what if things start to go wrong with your trip? Will your 1st class ticket help you? Not likely.

First off if you have not looked lately AA domestic award space lately I can tell you it is almost non-existent at low levels. I was smart and did book my wife at low level but it required 2 connections rather than just one. Same Day Change was not an option because finding low level space is just about never going to happen (yes I really tried).

tweets to aa team no help

Non-elite? Don’t expect much help on Twitter!

But you see the weather was not the greatest last Saturday and by the time my wife’s first flight was ready to depart there was no aircraft at the gate. The first connection was tight but even with the updated delay AA would do nothing to help over the phone. AA on twitter was worthless and simply DMed me the normal contact number to call. Thanks. A lot. For nothing AA. I doubt I would have gotten that kind of service as an elite – see my point?

As the delays rolled and got worse and worse, even on a 1st class booked ticket, my wife was 3 minutes outside of the official “legal” connection in Chicago. Both the front-line phone reps and the supervisors would do nothing at all to help. If this had been Delta, holding elite status, I know in my heart they would have worked with me either via twitter or over the phone. If you need a rule bent by just a little status trumps your 1st class ticket any day!

By the time my wife finally got in the air the AA computers updated the delay yet again and she would have 8 minutes to make her connection in Chicago. Thankfully I was not in the air and could call and now that it was clearly impossible to make the flight the AA phone rep was willing to make the change to the flight.

Now I know some are saying all 1st class tickets are not created equal. Yes I know that and many tickets, like award tickets, have just as many restrictions as coach tickets do. Heck some 1st class tickets are even Y-UPs that is, a coach ticket that is instantly digitally “upgraded” to 1st class (most don’t know this because the ticket just says 1st class and whatever alphabet fare code).

But that is my point and the point of today’s rookie post. A 1st class ticket is not a “ticket to paradise”. It does not fix everything that can go wrong and it clearly does not give you any wiggle room for an agent to do something out of the ordinary to take care of you. This is why status matters so much no matter what class of service you are flying and need help from an airline. Always keep that in mind! – René

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  1. The only benefit to status is having access to telephone lines that have minimal waits, but if you have access to an admirals club, they can rebook you just as quick

  2. @Ryan – I, and my wife, have had very little success with Admirals Club reps. Again, even in the clubs, status matters most!

  3. I’ve been Plat on AA for the past few years and unfortunately, their customer service is rapidly approaching United’s in their post UA/CO merger days. I understand if they want reign in the “1-time exceptions”…i’ve been the beneficiary of about 100 of those. It’s the fact that the front line employees seem to have been instructed to say NO/give us more $$$ no matter what the issue is or who is at fault. You shouldn’t have to fight to get to your destination on-time when AA delays are the result of poor operational efficiency.

    I’m lucky Iive in Chicago. After AA getting all but 1 flight of mine (plus gf) last year (almost all paid discounted first & business), I’ve moved over to UA/SW/VX for several of my flights. Sure, irrops could still happen, but I feel I’d have an easier time getting help with zero status on those airlines than a Plat on AA. I don’t pretend to be a HVC, but if I was AA, I’m not a customer i’d necessarily want to lose either.

  4. ” I doubt I would have gotten that kind of service as an elite – see my point?”

    Rene – don’t shortchange American’s abysmal customer service. You likely WOULD get [short changed] – elite or not.

  5. Rene, as others have pointed out, this is an AA problem, not a non-elite problem. I went from no status to Platinum with AA and the horrid CS persisted (even with purchased first tix). They refuse to do anything helpful with your itinerary over the phone. “see a gate agent”…gate agent says to call…phone rep says see help desk…round and round…
    And yes, you still have to wait on hold as a platinum. Only 10 minutes vs 45, but I guess that’s something. I’m back to DL this year…

  6. So as someone who flies a max of 5 times a year and likes to do it nicely so uses miles and cash for first, what am I supposed to do? I will never have status. I love reading your blog, but it seems like saying “just have status” is not a solution for most people and a little short-sighted.
    If you have tips for what to do if this happened as I’ve seen elsewhere I would be most interested, but telling me to just get status helps me not in the slightest.

  7. @Beth – You make my point very well that is there is little anyone can do when the airlines say NO to a 1st class customer. The combo of 1st plus status is what can really move mountains.

  8. With weather delays most of the time you luck out as everyone is delayed by the same weather. I have watched my connecting flight doing holding pattern loops on the Delta app a few miles away from me. Then we both land and I can make the connection.

    But I have to agree that status helps. Even if it is to get ahead of everyone in the phone queue.

  9. Elite status (Diamond) is nice when you want to wait out delays in the Skyclub – something domestic FC travelers do not get.

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