Breakfast Table Convo: Just How Bad is American Airlines?

I’ve had a rough go of it recently with Delta, swearing off of them for a while (or more) because of multiple delays and late flights, including an 8-hour maintenance delay in Columbus a few weeks ago that landed me in the thick of a bad customer service experience. The long and short of it is that it sort of insults me when I’m offered a $50 coupon as an “apology.” So to accept Delta’s apology and give them a chance to show me that 8-hour delays are not typical of its service, I have to spend two to three hundred more dollars? No thanks.

I’m not much of a complainer for the most part, but sometimes you have these experiences and you just want to bang your head against the wall. It’s somewhat comforting to know that I’m nowhere close to alone when it comes to bad experiences with air travel: A recent report indicated that U.S. carriers are still struggling to be on-time, running late more frequently overall this September than they did in the same month last year.

In total, only 83.3 percent of all flights were on time, down from 83.9 percent in September 2011 (an improvement from 79.1 percent in August 2012, however).

But a closer look at the numbers reveals that American Airlines is without question bringing down the bunch with its pathetic performance. How much so? To quote the AP’s report: Only 58 percent of American Airlines flights arrived no more than 14 minutes behind schedule (in September).

To me, that is just an absolutely stunning statistic. Weirdly worded, indeed, yet very telling. It doesn’t mean that 58% were on time – it means that 58% were either on time or kinda-sorta on time.

According to the Associated Press, American “has blamed its poor performance on what it called an illegal work slowdown by pilots unhappy that the airline used the bankruptcy process to cut their pay and benefits in early September.” Yikes. With those kinds of numbers and internal politics, it seems like it’s officially a question of when, not if, the company will have to simply discontinue its services after filing for Ch. 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

Being on time 83% of the time seems like sort of an inefficient operation all around for the industry, although I wonder how many of those late flights were due to weather as opposed to at-fault tardiness (such as a maintenance delay). Those flying in and around paradise seem to be having a good go of it: Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance at 96 percent, the statistics no doubt helped out by the airline’s short flights and nice weather in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

Morale of the story: Don’t fly American Airlines, pack a snack when flying Delta (being frustrated and hungry is the worst), and take very large, deep breaths when your flight is inevitably delayed regardless of the carrier.


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