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Back in July I wrote a couple of articles about why American AAdvantage is still a very compelling loyalty programme (at least from a redemption point of view), despite not being as generous as it used to be. You can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
All the points I made in those pieces basically revolve around the argument that American AAdvantage offers a lot of flexibility and is still pretty member friendly (if you know your way around it) compared to the alternatives. Policies include things like being able to put an award on hold for 5 days, 24-hour stopovers, and being able to change the date (and route) of awards – all for free.
These are all good benefits in theory, but last night I was reminded of the additional element that makes them REALLY useful in practice: American AAdvantage call centre agents are generally pretty good.
You may think that having agents who are ‘generally pretty good’ shouldn’t be seen as something hugely praiseworthy in itself – and you’d probably be right to think that – but the sad fact is that I would gladly take ‘semi competent’ a lot of the time from most other hotel and airline loyalty programmes. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you give Marriott a ring this week…
Obviously there are always going to be some bad apples within any organisation, but for the most part I find AA agents competent, clear, and clued up on how the programme works.
An example – last night I phoned with a request that, although simple enough in theory, could have easily taken ages to explain and sort. I had an existing booking on Etihad booked using American Miles and had noticed that Etihad was now showing GuestSeat award space for a feeder leg that I’d previously had to book in Economy, because there was no Business Class award space on that flight when I originally made the booking. Given that I had actually paid the Miles required for a First Class award, I was obviously keen to travel in Business Class (highest available cabin) on the feeder leg, if at all possible.
I assumed this would take at least a couple of explanations and probably a fair bit of being put on hold. Instead, the agent just asked for my record locator, instantly repeated back exactly what I wanted, found the Etihad Business Class award space within 30 seconds and completed the change. The whole phone call took 2 minutes.
From a UK perspective, the other hugely refreshing thing about calling AAdvantage (020 7660 2300, Option 3) is that someone usually picks up the phone more or less straight away. Compare and contrast that with the last time you wanted to ask BA Executive Club a quick question (my average wait time must be about 30 minutes).
It’s easy to moan when things aren’t great, but it’s also important to acknowledge the good work that goes on too. AA continues to offer some nice award policies, but the only reason those policies are actually useful in practice is because the call centre agents know their stuff. If they didn’t, those nice policies could quickly become a source of frustration for members rather than a positive.
Dear travel companies, please give your staff the training and support they need to do a good job – it really does make a big difference.