I was in the gate area waiting to board a flight from Tampa to Dallas in late February. The Tampa airport, like so many airports, has the absolute worst acoustics. Background music, crowd noise and competing announcements from several gates all echo and mingle together into audio chaos. This made it near impossible to hear the assortment of “more-special-than-me” groups being called out by the gate agent. We were all huddled under one speaker asking each other who was called and what was going on.
By happenstance, I received an email later that day from American Airlines outlining their new boarding process. It’s so simple that it’s brilliant. First class becomes Group One, Executive Platinum becomes Group 2 and so on. The first four groups are considered priority boarding and get to board through the lane marked, surprisingly, “priority.” General boarding is Group 5 and onward. I told you, so simple it’s genius.
The next day I received an email from Citibank explaining how my boarding group and status would be affected by the changes at American. I have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard. [There are several Citi AAdvantage cards and this particular card has the benefits and perks I find the most valuable (we can discuss those in another post). It comes with some great perks and one of them is priority boarding. I covet priority boarding, not because it makes me feel special to use the boarding lane that’s separated from the inches to the left of the general boarding line by a station, but because it usually guarantees I’ll get space in an overhead bin and not have to check my bag.] As an Executive cardholder I will be boarding in Group 4, remember this is the final group classified as Priority. Boo-Ya!
I get to DFW Airport later the next week for another trip and check-in in at the kiosk. As I headed to the TSA Pre-Check line I noticed I was assigned to Group 5. Huh.
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
From the Seinfeld episode, The Alternate Side
I waited for the line to die down and approached the gate agent to ask. I told the agent how much I loved the new boarding process and explained that I understood I would board in Group 4 but was assigned to Group 5 and asked if there had been a change to the new process. She said no and told me that credit cardholders were in Group 5. She pulled her cheat sheet out of the drawer to show me. I pointed to the Group 4 box that clearly said Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard. She looked baffled. She wrote Group 4 on my boarding pass and suggested I talk to customer service.
I called customer service later that day and was told, ” credit cardholders were in Group 5.” I referenced the boarding process page on their website. She had no response and suggested I fill out the form on the AAdvantage website. I completed the form and included a link to the boarding policy and a screenshot of the emails I had received. Customer Service replied a couple of days later to thank me for my inquiry and letting me know they would get back to me. It’s now mid-April. They never did.
I had two more business trips where the same thing happened only with the gate agents upgrading their response to eye rolls and, in the case of the guy at the gate at DFW two weeks ago, yelling at me. After he yelled I did what any sensible person would do- I called out @AmericanAir on Twitter. Boy do they respond quickly. They asked me to DM them and give them all of the details. I did . Explanation, screen shots etc. The whole thing. Two weeks later there’s no definitive answer from American Airlines other than I should check in for my next flight, see what happiness and then let them know if I’m not in the correct boarding group.
I don’t understand. You send me emails and post things on your website and then not only don’t follow through with them but don’t seem to care and don’t have a way to fix it. You can send tubes of metal at 500 miles per our whilst 40,000 feet in the air but you can’t manage the relational database behind your passenger profiles?
I don’t need to feel special, I just want you to do what you said you were going to do. I just want you to “hold the reservation.”
photo is my own taken at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.