Bloody Seat on American Airlines Flight

Yesterday I flew from New York to Los Angeles via Columbus, Ohio. I flew on American Airlines flight 1265 to LA and as I walked into my row I saw a big smear of blood on the wall just over the armrest on the window seat that was supposed to be my seat.
American Airlines, blood on my seat
At first I wasn’t positive that it was blood although I was pretty sure just by sight. Upon closer inspection, there was a blood soaked napkin and some other garbage on the floor beneath my seat; which confirmed my suspicions. I was thoroughly disgusted and wasn’t exactly sure what to do.

My first instinct, and in a sign of the times, I took a picture and tweeted it to American Airlines. They responded relatively quickly saying they were sorry and would refer it to the cleaning crew-whatever that means; essentially brushing it off and ignoring by placating me as you can see.
twitter screen shot with AA
The more I thought about it, the nastier it became. It was blood. Now I am not a germaphobe nor am I a doctor but I know I don’t want anyone’s blood on me, dried or not. It could’ve been infected with something like Hepatitis or even Ebola for all I know. The point was I didn’t want to be near it. So I was finally able to grab a flight attendant to bring it to her attention as the plane was boarding so it wasn’t the best time.

The flight attendant I spoke was named Kamaal and she was awesome. She was disgusted as well and understood exactly where I was coming from. That said, she didn’t even bat an eye and went to get some disinfectant, napkins and cleaned it pretty thoroughly. She also grabbed the bloody napkin and other garbage under my seat.

I found this to be exceptional on her part as her job is not to be a maid. The airlines have dedicated cleaning crews. Their only job is to clean planes in between flights, even on turnaround flights. That’s their only job and they blew this one big time, both on the wall and on the floor.

Kamaal also said she’d try to find me a new seat or someone to switch with me. There was no way I could sit there after having seen that, as I’d be thinking about it all flight, 4.5 hours. The flight was full but I fortunately found someone that was willing to switch with me.

As the plane took off and I thought about it more and more I got really annoyed at how American Airlines totally brushed it off via Twitter. Now of course I know, the social media team is not the decision makers of airlines but they are increasingly important for customer service through receptionists at So we exchanged a few tweets as you can see.
Twitter, AA
Apparently, I finally got my point across as they said a customer service specialist was going to contact me directly-whatever that means. We shall see if that actually happens and what it is that he/she has to say other than sorry.
Twitter, DM, AA
So that brings me to the interesting thing…what do I want to come out of this?

The truth is I don’t want anything. I don’t want a free flight or miles or a refund or anything. All I want is for American Airlines to take some responsibility, acknowledge the mistake and really apologize in a non-insulting manner. I don’t want anyone fired or anything but blood can be dangerous and putting someone in a health danger is unacceptable. So I want American to acknowledge this. As I said in my private tweet, it’s blood, not cookie crumbs.

If you follow me often, you know I have many issues with the US legacy carriers, American chief among them. In fact, just Friday I did a FOX Business segment about how American raised fees for unaccompanied minors. I used to fly them religiously and earned millions of frequent flyer miles. However, after dozens of customer service issues I finally decided to leave. Leaving an airline is tough because it basically means starting over status-wise etc. but American Airlines’ customer service was so poor, that I finally had it.

The only reason I flew them this time was because I found a miles flight for only 12,500 miles from NYC-LA. I certainly don’t see myself flying them ever again unless they potentially make this right. But again I don’t know what that is. I guess I just hope they do something. Show that someone over there actually at least sort of cares.

That’s the problem with big companies that have you by the balls such as airlines and cell phone companies. There are only 3-4 options and really they all suck. Changing is a pain so people put up with poor customer service unlike they would with any other types of businesses.

The airlines are arrogant and they are greedy and they spin everything toward our safety first. They nickel and dime people to death and it will only get worse. Therefore, it is our responsibility to take them to task when they screw up: especially something potentially dangerous like this.

So that’s why I am writing this post. I feel like this was a microcosm of American Airlines in general. They simply don’t care! Their PR spin on the ‘New American’ is BS. Just because you paint some planes doesn’t make you new. I have been flying them since 1999 and they are abysmal. Sadly, this USAir merger gives us one less option in the skies and it will only get worse. We need to take little victories where we can and remember that our voices can matter.

For more on this, check out some of the banter on my Facebook page.

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  1. Are there any airlines that make you feel like they truly care?

    • When you’ve flown as much as I have then you’re going to have issues from time to time and yes I’ve had airlines, all foreign airlines, go so far above and beyond customer service that I forgot what the major issue was. Again, not looking for anything here, just want US airlines to take some responsibility instead of always just claiming great customer service and customer first but never delivering.

    • Roni, Virgin is a great example of an airline going above and beyond customer service for me.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Lee and hope AA sees the bigger picture here. I am rather invested in the American Airline’s FF Economy, but slowly transitioning away from it. They have been great for the past few years, but all airlines are changing drastically and are turning into one big monopoly where customer service just is not a top priority anymore. Who do you recommend for international flights from the US to Asia?

    • That’s exactly the problem…the airlines have developed cult followings with the FF programs which make it tough to stomach leaving because you’ve amassed status and miles. But remember they are much less valuable now and will only get less valuable the longer you hold onto them.

      There’s no better airline to Asia than Singapore Airlines…Cathay Pacific is also quite good as are many of the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

  3. Spot on Lee! Imagine if you did not tweet it out to American? Imagine if it was someone without “status” with American or who was not in the public spotlight? Would they even care? You received the standard response so novice travelers would have no hope of being heard.
    Thank you for bringing it to national attention.
    I used to feel that Continental cared about its customers, but have lost faith since the merger with United. It’s about a 50/50 hit rate on having caring, positive flight attendants now.
    Keep reporting from the friendly skies for us!

    • Thanks Priscilla and yes that’s the exact reason I felt obligated to write this and tweet them etc…we have to take airlines to task as they do to us on a daily basis because unless we want to walk across the country, we must use them and they know it

  4. Absolutely shameful on AA. That blood could have contained HIV or worse; you never know and can’t play that down. Good for you for calling them out and using your platform. It will be interesting to see what they say/do. But it will probably be nothing.

  5. I am not surprised by this. I knew when the USAir executives took over AA that customer service would decline. USAir does the minimum possible and if you have a problem you better be prepared for a long fight. I am starting to fly Southwest a lot more and it is so much better. I only wish they flew internationally.

  6. Tom Pecena says

    I stopped flying AA 12 years ago. On my last 12 flights with them, they damaged my luggage 14 times….more than 100% chance of damage. And it was never their fault. The handle is missing…well it protrudes so it isn’t covered. The hinge is broken….well it protrudes so it isn’t covered. The leather is ripped….wear and tear.

    The last and only time they offered to repair it was the worst. I had just finished a 3 week trip. British Air to London…..No problem. Bellboys, taxi drivers, & porters throughout the UK…no problem. Loaded and unloaded on QE2…no problem. Taxi, bellboys etc in NYC…no problem. A short flight JFK to DFW….two severely damaged bags. If I wanted it repaired I’d have to leave the bag right then and there. I asked how I was going to get my clothes and such home. That isn’t their problem they said. Maybe one of the fast food places could get me a trash bag or old box was the best they could offer. And then they told me that if they couldn’t repair it at a reasonable cost then they would send me something similar. When asked about that, I was told I would get a suitcase somewhat the same color (maybe) and about the same size (perhaps). I decided then AA would not get another dime from he. HORRIBLE & RUDE CUSTOMER SERVICE

    • I think most of us who travel can relate. That is the main reason why I refuse to check bags. The airlines are trying to make us so they make more money but that gives them more opportunities to lose our stuff. It’s enraging!

  7. While I don’t think anyone wants to sit next to dried blood you really should educate yourself about these viruses and how they are transmitted. ‘Some sick person with HIV’ honestly – do your homework before you post comments like this!

  8. Gil Darnell says

    Merging two large airlines with horrible reputations for customer service did two things:
    1. Created the largest airline in the world with the worst customer service in the country, and…
    2. Made CEO Doug-The-DWI-Guy very, very rich.

  9. Lee,

    Trust me, I completely agree about AA is at the top of the list for customer service. I once wrote a 4 page description of all that occurred to me when stranded at Heathrow and how they handled it and all I got back, mind you after like 10 tries contacting various emails and phones to get a follow up, $150 in credit for a US flight. This did not even help me since I live internationally and it would expire before I would go back! I surely do not fly as much as you do, but I will never fly AA unless I have to! And I tell that to people which I talk to all the time! Avoid AA as much as you can!

  10. Sorry for the mini-rant but just have to let this out. While this incident is unbecoming of any kind of service provider, the US airline industry has effectively become a victim of it’s own “success”. For all sense and purposes, American, Delta and United are oligopolists in a domestic US market place where they overwhelmingly dominate the landscape. They now set the standards as to how people fly, how much the pay and what service they get in return, and the other smaller players, JetBlue, Virgin, Southwest and Spirit can barely make a dent or influence the practices of the Big 3. Poor service and customer dissatisfaction are no longer drivers that feed into management’s decision making process, these issues are just “collateral damage” and a relatively insignificant drag in the grand plan of profit generation. Safety is number one, profit is number two and there is no number three. (Interestingly, all three of them are going to report gangbusting operating profits for 2014 never dreamed by each of them before). What the airline industry has created is exactly what the Federal Trade Commission aims to avoid, having monopolistic practices by a few dominating players. Customer satisfaction and service standards that are arguably the lowest in the global airline industry and the “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude towards passengers has taken the US air travel experience and service to a level so low which foreign airlines refuse to stoop to. Complaining about poor service to the Big 3 is largely a waste of time, the airlines have toothless customer service departments who are given few meaningful tools and decision making capacity to alleviate passengers issues or provide relief. Their social media arms are just propagandists that act as damage control teams more than anything else. The focus of airline senior management appears to be primarily compliance with Federal regulations and making sure they do not fall foul with regulatory authorities which may end up with fines being paid. Until law makers see through the façade of “vibrant competition” that airline executives claim to operate in, this situation of monopolistic behavior will only get worse with the Big 3 colluding with one another in substance to game the market to their advantage. Eventually, down the road, the reality of this situation will become so unpleasant and inescapable that Congress will consider forcing the airlines to breakup.

  11. I flew “Frontier” from Chicago to LA last Thursday, April 30th. There was blood across all three seats. A teenager asked what happened on the last flight that they’re not telling us… like a murder! It was nasty! They moved the passengers but left the mess for us to be around for the 4 hour flight. They knew about the blood before we left the terminal, but chose to keep the flight on time versus providing a clean area for us to be around.

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