What is Better – Saving More with Deals or Getting Cash Back/Miles?

Loyalty programs are something that have always intrigued me.  Sometimes it seems like the sheep follow a little too closely instead of actually looking at the price of what is being paid.  For example, is it better to fly RT to a place you want to go for $199 on an airline you never really use, or pay $239 for the airline you always use just to get miles in your loyalty program?  I know people who are so loyal and determined to get the miles that they will (gladly) pay the extra $40.  Let’s say that trip is from DFW to ORD (Chicago).  Having flown that route about 150 times, I am very aware that it is 802 miles each way for the purpose of calculating FF miles.  Even if I am platinum, that is 3,208 miles.  If I am paying $40 for those miles ($.0125 per mile) I am valuing them at even less than the airlines do (they accrue $.02 per mile on their books).  To look at it another way, 3,208 miles is roughly 1/8th of a “free ticket”.  $40 x 8 = $320.  What could you do with $320?  Buy another $199 ticket to Chicago and have a really good dinner at Shula’s…gives new meaning to the phrase “Dollars and SENSE”.

It is Winter….

DFW Plane De-icingDallas enjoys relatively moderate temperatures in the winter.  Sure we get an occasional snow here and there (1″ or less usually).  I have flown in and out of Dallas many times during the winter and have never actually seen a de-icing truck used there.  Today the temp dropped to 32 degrees just after noon.  And the performance began.  So, I snapped this pic from seat 9B on American flight 1180 just to show that those trucks do get used. 

After watching the military-like  precision efforts of the ORD ground crews through the winter of 2004, I have to say this was like watching ice skating on carpet.  But, in the end, American provided a safe plane and a good flight.

American Airlines Delays Flights – It had to be done

With all the press this week regarding American Airlines and what they have had to undertake related to inspecting planes, I know they have taken a beating.  Having flown at least 400 segments in the last three years on AA, I am extremely happy that they chose to do this.  Does it disrupt people??  Yes!!  Just imagine the backside of this if the inspections were prompted by an aircraft that had a problem while in the air and something horrible happened.

To their credit, I received an aplogy from them tonight by e-mail.  Here is that e-mail — Thank you American.

April 11, 2008

Dear Mr. Strawbridge
As one of our most valued customers, please accept my apology on behalf of American Airlines® to you, your family and your fellow AAdvantage® customers for disrupting so many peoples’ lives with the recent flight cancellations related to the inspection of our MD-80 aircraft fleet.
As you can imagine, American’s decision to cancel thousands of flights this week was difficult, and it undoubtedly created concern among our best customers – even those who had no travel plans during the period.

If in your travels you were among the many who have been personally affected, I sincerely regret the inconvenience you have experienced. Our employees will continue to work around the clock to accommodate all who still need to reach their desired destinations. We anticipate returning to a full schedule by Monday.

While the media reports have documented the reasons why American took this action and the steps we’re taking to re-accommodate and compensate affected customers, I’ve also attached an explanation of the events for your understanding. It’s a bit complex, but at the end of it all, please know this:

First, your safety and the safety of our employees remains our number one priority.

Second, we will learn from this experience, and we will get better.

Finally, we wholeheartedly appreciate your loyalty to American Airlines, and we remain committed to earning your business each and every day.


Dan Garton
Executive Vice President

P.S. You may have already contacted us via AA.com® or by writing directly to Customer Relations. Let me reassure you that we will respond directly to your contact just as quickly as practical.



American Airlines MD-80 Fleet Inspections
Background: : In 2004, American Airlines was the lead airline working with Boeing to develop a Service Bulletin to correct wiring exposure and chafing in the MD-80 auxiliary hydraulic pump wire bundle. The concern was that exposure and chafing could cause fire in the wheel well. An Airworthiness Directive (AD) was issued in September 2006, giving MD-80 operators, including American, 18 months to address this issue. American completed the Service Bulletin in November 2006, followed by adjustments deemed necessary by American’s structural engineers to comply with the AD well ahead of a March 2008 deadline.In recent weeks the Federal Aviation Administration significantly increased its emphasis on monitoring the adherence to Airworthiness Directives that apply to various U.S. airlines. With respect to American Airlines’ MD-80 fleet, we had a detailed issue that we believed had to be addressed immediately to remain compliant with the FAA; if found in non-compliance, we would have been instructed to stop flying our airplanes.What is the specific nature of the issue?
The issue surrounds questions raised by the FAA about the way American implemented the Engineering Change Order (ECO) addressing the MD-80 auxiliary pump wiring Airworthiness Directive (AD). American fixed the item well within the specified AD timeframe. The work being done now centers on a need to change the way in which American complied with the AD regarding such items as the spacing of the ties on the wiring bundles and the direction of the retention clips and lacing cords. We are highly confident that this is not a safety of flight issue because the wire bundle is secure. It is a matter of how the work was done, not whether aircraft were protected from the threat of wire exposure and chafing that could cause fire.

Why ground the entire MD-80 fleet?
It became clear based on the number of questions the FAA raised that there would be a high percentage of aircraft that would not be found to be in full compliance of the Airworthiness Directive. Working with the FAA we were unable to find an alternative solution to regaining compliance – for example, a multi-day period to rectify the issues – so we had no choice but to ground the aircraft. While it has been a major disruption to AA’s operation, everyone recognizes the need to ensure that the MD-80 fleet is in complete compliance and is working to restore the MD-80s back to service as quickly as possible.

Who is completing the work and why is it taking longer than the previous MD-80 inspections?
There are three levels of American employees accomplishing the work. American has assigned a team of employees – aviation maintenance technicians, quality assurance inspectors, and engineers – to inspect the aircraft and ensure full technical compliance, as well as to make any additional adjustments. As our aircraft return to service, the FAA is inspecting those aircraft to ensure compliance.

What is the airline doing for customers?
We are doing everything possible to take care of our customers as expeditiously as possible while facing the fact that our resources have been stretched to their limits. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience and know that this kind of interruption of travel plans is unacceptable. While customers are dislocated we are providing meals, hotels and ground transportation; for those stranded overnight, we will offer vouchers for future travel on American Airlines. Customers who were inconvenienced with overnight stays can go to AA.com where a link will guide them to instructions on how to receive compensation.

What is the company doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
American plans to contract with an independent third party to review American’s compliance processes. This work will help ensure that all procedures strictly adhere to the technical elements of every directive so American can avoid this type of schedule disruption in the future.

©2008 American Airlines, Inc. All rights reserved.