US Airlines Really Could Provide Better Service With The Tools They Have. Here’s a Start:

Emirates has an ‘Invitation Only’ or ‘IO’ level, the same concept as Delta 360, American Concierge Key, and United Global Services.

What’s interesting are the inflight service standards that flight attendants are expected to apply to these members — and even to Platinums, the non-uber exclusive level you can earn in the Skywards program and to Golds as well.

I appreciate the service I receive on American Airlines as an Executive Platinum member, apart from the upgrades (I really do clear my domestic upgrades most of the time, and I appreciate that they do not release all first class seats in advance so I can still stand a good chance of clearing at the gate if I switch flgiths). When I’m in economy on a domestic flight, American comps me a drink and a snack.

Emirates goes legions farther.

  • The purser must brief the crew on each ‘IO’ member — including purser notes and observed preferences of the member. If time permits they’re supposed to do this for each Platinum member as well.

  • Platinums and Golds are supposed to be recognized by name on boarding, and checked on to make sure they’re comfortable. IO members are supposed to also be escorted to their seats and introduced to crew working around them. Their seats must be checked prior to boarding to ensure everything is working properly.

  • For all of these members, the purser checks preferences while inflight for preferred drinks and other special requirements.

  • Prior to starting descent, the purser is supposed to check on them and ask for their feedback on the flight (and document any need for followup, as well as update observed preferences so that future flight attendants can be more accommodating).

  • ‘IO’ members sitting in economy should be invited to a premium cabin for landing. They should also be escorted off the flight.

American gives their flight attendants tablets. Could you imagine being approached by an American flight attendant and instead of asking for a drink order they ask if they can prepare your drink?

At some level maybe it doesn’t make much difference. You still get the same drink either way. But at the same time it makes all the difference. These standards are regardless of cabin of travel. They make you feel like a welcome guest, something hotels strive for but almost never airlines.

A little bit of courtesy goes a long way to feeling like more than ‘self-loading cargo’. People appreciate that, in a way that US airlines don’t understand but that’s built into service standards around the world.

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. Never going to happen IMHO at AA
    American doesn’t even have premium bottled waters to serve onboard
    When you ask for Pelligrino or Perrier they bring you a warm can of club soda :(!!!
    American wouldn’t know what a premium experince was unless the food and beverage director was kidnapped and held hostage on a premium carrier so they could actually get it and experience what a premium experience is suppose to be

    Right now I’m far more concerned with the shrinking award inventory that is occurring on Eagle and the new Transcontinental service on the A321s in first
    other than one red eye in the entire month of May its looking really grim
    It appears as if they hold back AA metal and try and give a few crumbs of award on us airways connecting through Phoenix
    I’m not buying any more of their miles going forward and instead earning in international programs till I see an improvement in availability
    I’m also still thinking Parker and his cronies will devastate Americans program and customer service if us scare was any previous example
    At US Airways even first class check in was eliminated in some cities in favor of self kiosk check in and fees to redeem awards online
    I say my prayers and hope for the best but prepared for the worst of what’s coming down the runway

  2. In reality us based airlines are giving away to many benefits.. Make the f cabin a premium cabin, upgrades lists should not have 30+ people on them…

  3. AApples to US Airways Oranges. You’re comparing Emirates, an International Airline, with American Airlines domestic travel. By volume, AA surpasses Emirates 100 fold. Maybe compare Emirates domestic travel with American’s, and rest assured, you will have a different opinion.

    Comparing Emirates with American’s International service might be different. Or maybe Emirates hot flight attendants with American’s grannies. Or maybe Emirates has zero competition within the UAE, while American has tons both domestic and International.

    In the end, all fluff.

  4. The majority of flight attendants for US based airlines usually fall into two categories. The first is that they make more money than they would otherwise based on their qualifications. The second is that they have schedule flexibility they wouldn’t otherwise have in other employment.

    In other words, they aren’t there to have fun or to see the world. They’re there because they have no other choice. Naturally, having no other choice, doesn’t lead to the best service professionals.

  5. In business class, earlier this week, US 719 FCO-PHL, the flight attendant asked for my drink order with the prearrival lunch. “May I have a mineral water? San Pellegrino or something like that?” I asked.

    He looked at me blankly and said, “I have no idea what that is.”

    I ended up with a can of Canada Dry club soda. Sigh.

    It’s not just the will at the top of the organization that is lacking, though that’s certainly the case—it’s the cluelessness of (even the most senior among) the line staff.

  6. The U.S. carriers will NEVER be able to compete with the Asian & Gulf air carriers until they:
    First, get rid of all the “deadwood” clinging on to their jobs like roaches on a full trash can. Done mainly for the bennies. They are harder to terminate than a postal worker. This is the main drag on US carriers. They have not the drive, desire, or reason to approach their jobs with vigor and zeal. Who would after 30-45 years schlepping bags and drinks and forced smiles? All after being divorced a time or two, living in a crash pad for a quarter of that time, all to come home to an empty house with 2-3 cats that have been with you since deregulation or was that the air traffic controllers strike? That includes ground support staff as well. Strong FA unions have made most of these things possible. ***
    Second, put some money back into your product. Enough said.
    Third, get rid of all those overpaid, megalomaniacal, CEOs and higher management. See current United chief for the definition. For a better definition see United’s past premerger chief whom almost singlehanded.y ruined a legacy carrier.

    Many more too numerous to list.
    *** not all FA ‘s and ground support are old cranky, grouchy, sullen and neglectful. There are several who are ok and not road worn and weary.

  7. The last bit doesn’t make a whit of sense. If they’re so darn important that they’re supposed to be “invited to a premium cabin for landing” and “escorted off the flight”, then why the heck don’t they just upgrade these folks to begin with?

  8. IO privileges are far more. For instance, Emirates send in S class Mercedes for passenger pick-up/ drop off. If your plane is remote parked in Dubai, a limousine would pick/drop you off from the aircraft. IO member are guaranteed seats in Business class on all flights even if flights are oversold.
    But the best one is – when an IO member compliments/ complains/ provide feedback; it goes straight to Sir TIm Clark’s office with immediate response.

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