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Really poor web programming at AA.com

September 25, 2012 1 Comment

I travel a fair amount on business, though it can really vary from year to year and even during a given year. As it happened, I traveled a lot last year, requalifying for Platinum status on American Airlines. My wife traveled with me a lot as well, and she actually ended up with Gold status, the first time she’s had elite status in about 15 years.

So, tomorrow I’m flying to New York, and my wife is coming with me, the first such trip we’ve taken together this year. My tickets (as always) are coach, but I always put in requests for upgrades to first class, using electronic upgrades that I purchase, and as it turns out, we were upgraded to first class for the leg from Denver to Dallas-Ft. Worth. But when I went to check in this afternoon (in advance, in order to be on the upgrade waitlist from DFW to La Guardia), the AA.com website wouldn’t let me, saying that I didn’t have enough upgrades in my account.

Hmm. I log onto AA.com and see that, yes, in fact, I actually have about 3 times the number of upgrades needed. So I call American Airlines, explain the problem, and get passed to the AA.com help desk. The guy I’m talking to knows immediately what the problem is: both I and my wife have an ‘elite’ status, and so the website doesn’t know whose account to take upgrades from.

Full stop #1: Really? You have a single reservation with two people with elite status on it, and you have no code to handle the high-likelihood situation of both being upgraded to first class for an on-line check-in? Even solving for the general case — M people in a single reservation of which N have elite status of which P have upgrades in their accounts — shouldn’t be that hard.

I then ask the nice man (who was apologetic, probably because he goes through this any number of times per day) if it would help if I bought upgrades for my wife’s account. The answer: no.

Full stop #2: Really? If A and B are traveling together on the same reservation, both have elite status and both have sufficient upgrades in their accounts, you can’t simply take the requisite upgrades for each person from that person’s account for an on-line check-in? The answer: no.

The nice man (and he was nice) then tries a solution: he removes my wife’s FF# (and thus, in theory, her elite status) from the reservation and has me try to check in again. No, that doesn’t work, probably due to some leftover state in there (e.g., it may still think she’s Gold status even though her FF# is no longer in the record).

He then recommends that for future travel, I not put my wife’s FF# in when I make the reservation, but instead have it added after I have checked in.

Full stop #3: Really? That’s actually counter-productive, because we only get upgraded to first class if both of us are upgraded, and the likelihood of that is higher when we both have elite status. (At least, I assume that’s the case; if it’s not, then what’s the point of elite status?)

Now, you may ask, what’s the big deal if you check in on-line ahead of time vs. checking in at the counter? Well, since we live in Denver, most of our American Airlines flights go through either DFW or Chicago (O’Hare), with a 2nd leg to my/our final destination. And once the check-in window opens, a new waitlist of upgrades is created among those passengers who have checked in. I/we have to be checked in to get on that waitlist for the 2nd leg. So I’m now delayed 18 hours or more before I can get onto that waitlist.

Beyond that, I suspect it also means that we’ll have to check in at the ticket counter rather than via the skycap, for exactly the same reason (that is, determining which account to take upgrades out of). However, I’m going to buy some upgrades on my wife’s account and see if it at least solves that problem.

The irony, of course, is that none of these problems occur if my wife doesn’t have elite status. And, yes, I could book my wife’s flights as a separate reservation, except that causes all sorts of problems with seating, upgrades, flight changes and cancellations, and so on. Been through that before, don’t want to go through it again.

All things considered, I’m generally happy with AA.com; I use it (and the AA apps for iPhone and iPad) to book and manage all my American Airlines travel. But this is just plain sloppiness/laziness on someone’s part. In effect, AA has given me disincentives to travel with my wife while she has elite status.

That’s just not smart.  ..bruce..

 

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About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates LLC. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 720.895.1405 or at bwebster@bfwa.com.

Comments (1)

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  1. Malc says:

    Hi, Bruce…

    I do agree that there are a number of ill-conceived things about the AA system (and they’ve just got worse with the “new” AA.com), BUT I can answer one point for you:

    If you (PLT) and your wife (GLD) are traveling on the same reservation, only your status (PLT) counts. If only one seat was “on offer” and you and your “+1″ were next on the list, then neither of you would get a confirmed upgrade and the seat would be left to be “filled” at the gate (where you can decide whether to pass, upgrade one, or what).

    The only downside is that if this happens at (say) the T-72 hour time point, and I book a ticket at the T-48, then my EXP would see the unallocated upgrade and grab it from under your nose, whereas had you been traveling alone, you’d already have the upgrade and I’d be SOL in seat 29E. Again.

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