Broken American Airlines Seats Forces Elite Flyer Next To Meth Head

I’ve written about the frequency at which American Airlines with seats out of service. They don’t want to delay or cancel a flight to fix the issue, and on full flights that means bumping passengers.

And fixing the issue requires parts, requires the parts to be where aircraft are, and it means getting their act together to work on the aircraft either overnight or have them ferried to a maintenance location and replaced in the schedule.

But when seats are consistently inoperative, I have to wonder what was the point in densifying cabins (adding seats to planes, taking away space from each passenger) in the first place?

Obviously that’s the most prominent thing in the photo, but my next question is… why does this self-proclaims AAdvantage Platinum Pro say they paid for a window seat, when their status should allow them to assign any open seat in coach at booking for no extra charge?

Poorly maintained seats on American is something I see in their social media feed, day in and day out.

This, though, is a separate issue entirely. The passenger claims that after being moved due to inoperative seats, their new seat opponent was high on methamphetamines “and stunk heavily of booze.” They ask, quite reasonably, how a passenger in that condition makes it past the gate agent and onto the aircraft?

We can’t say what happened in this case, but gate agents are asked to do more with less than ever before. During the pandemic, American moved to single agent boarding where narrowbody aircraft that are less than 80% full get just one gate agent rather than two. They have to make all of the announcements, deal with standbys and upgrades, check boarding passes at the gate, and also deal with gate checking bags. They’re supposed to do passenger breath checks, too?

And they’re going to get called in if the flight pushes back even one minute late. No time to notice if a passenger is high on meth!

American is clearing more standbys and upgrades automatically to accommodate reduced staffing for cost savings, but the one agent is also supposed to handle customer questions, seat change requests, and anything else that’s needed. I’ve written before about more passengers making it onto aircraft intoxicated, which can be a threat to the flight and to passengers around them.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — You “can’t say what happened here” but then call the guy a “meth head” without any evidence. Judge and jury.

  2. In defense of the tweaker guy, I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled with the guy moving into the seat next to him and I’m sure he was thinking, “oh great, a farter.” I can also understand him preparing for a flight on American Airlines with booze and drugs. The complainers are often not great themselves.

  3. So if he was so unhappy, he should have requested a different flight, which as a PPro he can do without charge. Would he have preferred to cancel the entire flight for 187 (minus the broken row).

    Dude I bet your PPro status is just from your card, if you actually flew miles you’d know what to do verses whiny on social media. Another person who just wants attention. Hope you enjoy your 15 minutes. . .they are up!

  4. @ Gary — OK, but you are still calling the guy a “meth head” without any evidence of that. Maybe you should launch an impeachment inquiry? 😉

  5. Apart from the obvious inconvenience that finding the seat you selected long ago inoperable on the day of flight is going to engender, I have always wondered at planes with obviously broken parts, and the perception that creates in the flying public’s mind – including my own. You are flying planes like THIS ? Has to make one wonder about the maintenance of mission critical & safety equipment. Of course, on the flip side, better one row of passengers be inconvenienced than to have an entire plane load of folks delayed hours to fix a single row of seats. I suspect the OP would feel the same. And here’s where the rub lies imo – AA does a terrible job of making PAX feel like it gives a hoot when something like this happens, when they could easily throw a few thousand miles or a $50 voucher this guy’s way. He’d probably still be able to say it sucked, but he couldn’t say the airline was completely indifferent.

  6. The problem w/ citing anything that is anecdotal in nature is that there is no basis for knowing in reality how common the problem occurs.
    AA might have more broken seats but Gary regularly notes the same thing about DL and UA – whether to the same extent or not.
    And the chance of sitting next to a meth user is increasing in the US because the number of drugs in the country is way up. I’m not sure that someone was wasted enough to flag the attention of anyone in the short amount of time they walked past a gate agent; there are substantial variations in human behavior even among people that are under the influence.
    Maybe the reduced number of gate agents is a factor but I doubt it.

    That said, AA has long spent more money buying new planes than they did keeping the ones they had in good shape; the fact that DL and UA have 767-400s still flying and were refurbishes while AA had younger 767-300ERs that it did not keep updated says alot about AA’s belief in buying new planes instead of maintaining what it has.

  7. Wow! The continuing saga of American’s pathetic maintenance program! I had a similar experience flying in FIRST on a 777 several years ago, to London. The flat bed was dysfunctional. The bursar could not verify if there was a record of the problem being been written up or any briefing from the previous on board crew!

  8. I broke a QSuite chair this year. The first time I ever flew one. There! I finally have the nerve to admit it. I laid the bed flat to sleep. When I put the bed back to sitting, there was this HORRIBLE screeching sound. It had eaten my shoe! There was a loud cracking sound, and a piece about 16”of the bottom of the base broke off. A small piece of plastic also hit my right glasse’s lens. There were other pieces of plastic on the floor as well. I put on the light to call the flight attendant. She was none too happy about it. I asked her if she would please move the chunks of chair base. I apologized profusely, and she never brought it up again. The thing that bothered me the most was thinking about the people scheduled to fly in that seat later. I was afraid the chair would get put out of commission. And it would ruin their trip. I was using an award btw.

  9. Oops, I forgot to note in my earlier send that I wrote a note to American complaining about the flat bed issue on my London flight. I did get an apologetic response laced with 50K bonus miles deposited into my frequent flier account! I wasted no time to let them know in return that they needed to get their act together to have onboard staff write up maintenance issues and have them act on those matters promptly. They are revenue driven and not certain if they waited until the regular maintenance cycle to get the problem fixed!

  10. We’re all called upon to do more with less nowadays. This isn’t an excuse for the poor, apathetic service that AA has become known for.

    I’m sorry. It’s not that hard to be a GA or FA and you will usually get what you give. Surly GAs and FAs on AS are more a rarity. They’re the norm on AA. To the point I’m shocked when I have a decent FA.

  11. wtf–truly click bait. You got me. I usually just scroll your email and delete. Hope it’s still worjing for
    The dive to the deep end of grossness continues

  12. Yet another clueless @gary article.
    First- do you know how many minutes you get to board an A321? 35 minutes. that’s 35 minutes to shove 189 people down a jet bridge, get seated and GO. that seems easy to do. But, it’s not. That timeline assumes every single passenger has a fully ready to go and scan BP and every single item that goes past the boarding agent is 100% compliant and assistive items are tagged already.

    None of that is realistic.

    So, what you’re left with is a gate agent who looks to see your info pop up on their gate reader, and IF they can tell easily you have the compliant carry on allowance.

    If you don’t stumble, or even speak we’ll probably never know you are -in your words- a meth head-. Remember, we can’t assume you’re drunk because you may have that specific type of Diabetes which is often confused for intoxication (hint, it’s in the ADA training we take yearly…)

    I’d really like to see you work a flight in the gate area and also diagnose your passengers as they board. get all bags and items tagged, questions asked AND keep the line going.

    oh- by the way, it’s not 35minutes boarding, door closes 15 prior to departure so your timeline just got accelerated and are already behind.

    You truly are clueless to your articles on how the business works. You have no actual industry experience except when you only travel on your terms to your location(s). I told you years ago to go get a job working at an airline at the airport. Go learn how the clueless policies airlines make force the customer to stress and strain. You seem to really care about how to make things better for the customer and there isn’t a front line employee who wouldn’t stand up and support that. So, take your interest and go do it. DFW is just down the road from you.

    So- people have this notion that length of ticket purchase should equal a better travel experience? No idea why. The bottom line is YOU chose that seat, it happened to be broken or whatever so they moved YOU. Not someone who else didn’t pick that seat, YOU. Your article is yet again, trying to claim that I didn’t know water is wet and that I somehow deserve better treatment because my ticket was purchased long ago and some nonsense.

    I bet, Gary, if you asked your beloved AA to work a couple days on the ramp, the club, the ticket counter, BSO and a gate. You’d find out the job is actually intense. You’d find that your articles bashing how flight attendants sit and read a book or “don’t serve” like recently and then show their face is actually pretty upsetting.

    99% of my colleagues do this job because we love the idea, the spirit and purpose of travel. But then people like you come along and find a way to take someone who is literally fulfilling their job duties as prescribed by their boss and turn it into some click bait.

    feel free to reach out to me via email if you want to learn a thing or two of how this industry really works.

  13. If you look at the first photo of the exit row seats blocked off (seats just in front of the exit row) AA has a problem on some planes were they have put the row of seats just in front of the door too far back and they block the emergency exit door (slightly). I noted this on a recent flight, and I suspect AA has been called out on their density seating going a bit too far in allowing for proper emergency egress. Don’t know in this case, but AA new cabins and density seating is not where I want to be if you have to get off the plane in an emergency.

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