My AA experience this week

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Another blog post by Mr. Deals…

I’m not going to lie, usually I have quite enjoyable flight experiences. I’m rarely delayed or have any major issues on flights. It’s pure luck and it probably helps that I don’t do crazy business travel so my chances of having issues are lessened.

If you have been reading the blog you know that Mrs. Deals and I fly a lot on American Airlines. So when I travel for work, I obviously try to stay loyal when possible. I mean I do have to get Gold status right (don’t make fun of me executive platinum types)? Anyway, just recently I had work trip to LA that had me flying AA. Now JFK to LAX was painless. I took the first flight out and was in LA before lunch. In fact, I think that’s one of my favorite domestic flights, wide body plane, typically not full, I’ll take it!

My leg back to the east coast was a different story. I was on a flight to Logan Airport so the plane sucked. It was a 757 with no wifi and the 3 and 3 cramped setup. It was packed, but it was a Friday so you can’t avoid that. We boarded and as the door closed we got an announcement that one of the toilets was busted. Sweet, 5 hour plane ride and 1 less toilet. We weren’t done there, apparently there was no clean water on the plane (aside from bottles), so that meant no coffee and no hand washing. NO COFFEE! Oh wait, I don’t drink coffee, but it sounded like half the plane were really bummed.

As we pushed back from the gate, the plane shut off. Ok this was a first for me. Everything failed and we got an announcement that “the APU failed.” Sure whatever that means. Anyone know? Well we were going back to the gate and the thing just turns on again. With no announcement we just start moving. The pilot gets on the speaker and says we reset the route and are taking off. Ok great, a partially broken plane that just turns off is going to take off. Instills a lot of confidence in an already somewhat paranoid crowd.

Well, we finally made it but not before I shared joking conversations with the two folks next to me about how airlines can get away with this stuff. We discussed asking for a partial refund because part of the plane was broken. And the “complimentary” beverages are not “complimentary” when you pay an arm and a leg to fly. So maybe they should gives us a couple of bucks back for that lack of water for coffee. The guy next to me said he’s never had problems like this on United and loves flying United. Yeah, I’m confused too.

The poor girl in our row had been flying since the prior day (she was from Australia). When she found out they didn’t serve food on the plane she didn’t know what she was going to do. Welcome to America, where you can fly 5 hours with not even a bag of pretzels. She was able to laugh it off though and was a bit more concerned about finding vegan food in Boston after 10pm at night. I don’t think that’s possible, is it?

So with that we made it east and I have been asking myself how an airline can operate like this. Should I write a letter, get some points out of it? I think that would be more exciting to Mrs. Deals than getting her a diamond. Maybe I’ll take that route. What do you think?

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  1. My 77 yo mother & I flew back from Lima, Peru on AA/LAN code share in August. The AA flight from Lima was 2 hours late out of the gate & we missed our connection in Miami. To make matters worse, we asked to upgrade and after they told us yes, gave us a price,(using some of my miles & mummies bucks)the agent said she couldn’t book it because it was a code share. (We had tried to do the same thing earlier at check-in at the LAN desk, but they told us the same thing!) It is difficult to understand how the money-strapped airlines mustered the gumption to turn away our cold, hard cash that night.

    On the flight, they ran out of meat-free dinners right before they got to Mummy & me. So we just pulled our masks down and tried our best to sleep while sitting upright.
    After we finally got home and unknown to me, dear old mummy wrote a letter to someone at AA.
    About 2 weeks ago mummy forwarded a $200 evoucher in my name from AA. Apparently she got one too!

    I would advise that when flights are not up to minimum standards, it is a good idea to let the customer service team know. You don’t get anything if you don’t ask.

  2. APU is auxiliary power unit. Tiny engine whose sole purpose is to run a generator to power electrical systems. Many modern jet aircraft the APU is what gives you the juice to start the main engines. Back in the early days there would be a separate cart that had to be trundled up to the plane to start main engines. No good for TATL flight operation, engine flameout where’s the cart to restart the engine!

  3. The APU stands for auxiliary power unit. It powers the plane when the engines are not on so it has no effect on the plane’s flight or performance. Ditto the coffee machines, restrooms, seats, reading lights etc. So the plane was not partially broken.

    Having said that, it never ceases to amaze me how the American public will put up with such a shoddy product as long as it’s $0.10 cheaper and the agents order the customers to have a nice day

  4. As NB says, the APU is the unit that powers the plane when the engines are not on. It is not uncommon for a plane to come in with an inop APU. Just means you have to hook up ground power to it and if it is hot (or cold) the AC or heater (aka ground air). If a plane has an inop APU, this is when the rampers bring out the big tank of compressed air and do an air start on the engine. Pushing compressed air really fast into the engine via a hose hooked into usually the belly of the plane. Once that engine is started, you now have power.

  5. I recently had the exact same APU failure experience on a DL flight from SAN-ATL. First time that happened to me as well, it failed just as we pushed back from the gate. Everything just “shut off”. The captain came on the speaker and said they’d need to be towed back to the gate because we were “stuck there”. A few minutes later the APU came back on, and we taxied out to the runway and took off without the first mention of anything to the passengers on a completely full 757. To your point, how do airlines get away with providing a crappy product at such a high price? At least DL had some food for purchase on the plane. Lots of people complain, but nothing is done about it. The flying public are married to these airlines whether they care to admit it or not.

  6. I would definitely write a letter. AA is usually very generous with compensation in the form of miles or voucher (unlike CO dba UA).

  7. @Ryan, @NB

    It’s great that some folks know all of that – but wouldn’t it be helpful if the pilot learned to speak plain english rather than making announcements that leave most passengers confused at best and worried at worst?

    I would also suggest an aircraft with no potable water about to start a 5 hour flight (that could easily be 7 hours before the doors open) is definitely broken. How much bottled water did they have?

  8. Compared to the other legacies, I think that DL’s Y product is a lot better. Many more refreshed planes with AVOD, WiFi, a nice selection of complimentary drinks, and still offering free snacks in Y (hello Biscoff). And their food-for-purchase options are also decent. Each of the few times that I’ve flown AA/UA/US, the planes have been dingy and old without WiFi or AVOD (and I was in F).

  9. Guess I might be the one that wouldn’t worry about it. Seems as if the rest of the flight went without issue. The APU was not working, they were able to troubleshot it, and it worked. The only other issue was the potable water system. If you drank coffee, sure that might be a minor issue, but you don’t. Potable water from an airplane is not exactly something I ever drink in the first place. Would gladly fly with these very minor issues, rather then take a (possibly long) delay to fix them. Wait until scheduled maintenance and fix it then.

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