American Airlines Has Been Rated 5* By APEX For The Second Year

Last week it was announced at an awards ceremony in Los Angeles that American Airlines (AA) was given a five-star rating by APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association). According to American, the ratings from APEX are “based on feedback by more than one million customers in five categories: seat comfort, cabin service, food and beverage, entertainment and Wi-Fi”. Based on all the less-than-stellar news coverage we have on American, its a little bit of a shock, but lets look into what the rating is all about.

American Airlines hangar concept
American Airlines is the largest airline in the world in terms of fleet size, revenue, passengers carried. Photo: American Airlines

Five stars

According to Yahoo News, American Airlines joined over 20 international carriers in receiving the five-star rating. The 2020 APEX Official Airline Rating awards, is based on voting by more than 500,000 passengers from all over the world.


The passenger experience is based on five categories:

  • Seat comfort,
  • Cabin service,
  • Food and beverage,
  • Entertainment,
  • and WiFi.

One Mile at a Time reports that more than a million flights were rated by passengers, who collectively flew on 600 different airlines from around the world between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.


Furthermore, OMAT also reports that the best in-flight entertainment innovation award went to American for their partnership with meditation app ‘Calm’.

Internet disbelief

“I fly American Airlines all the time and I can tell you there’s not a chance any passenger would give it 5 stars unless the ranking was out of 10 stars”. –Johnny Jet

There are more than a few frequent flyers reacting with disbelief with these ratings. Travel bloggers and aviation writers from sites like One Mile at a Time, Travel Codex, and Johnny Jet are just some of those that have a little bit of skepticism upon hearing about this award.

I would include myself in that category as well. In fact, my shock is based on constantly seeing negative press regarding the airline. I personally had to cover the story about AA removing a man due to a dog allergy, the time one of their flight attendants made some racially-charged threats towards passengers, as well as the airline’s role in leaving some unaccompanied disabled children stranded overnight. All of that happened just this summer.

American Airlines is part of the oneworld airline alliance. Photo: American Airlines

Clearly stories like the ones above don’t normally pair with a five-star airline. Travel Codex did some digging and found that APEX doesn’t capture the whole picture:

“APEX excludes any customers who are dissatisfied with the carrier and decline to travel with them anymore because these would not be ‘verified’ passengers…APEX excludes any passengers on a delayed flight because that negative event might impact their experience.”

For the sake of comparison, TripAdvisor reviewers give AA an average of three out of five across nine categories. SkyTrax reviewers show even more dissatisfaction, giving the airline two out of five across five categories.


To be fair, public reviews that have been aggregated and posted online tend to be skewed towards the negative in my opinion. An uneventful flight – which is the majority of experiences – usually goes unreported. However, a negative flight experience does more damage. A flight delay or cancellation might generate hundreds of angry passengers looking to vent their frustration somewhere.

What is your honest opinion and experience with American Airlines? Should APEX be called out on a misleading rating or is their approach acceptable? Let us know by leaving a comment!

American Airlines tail fin
American Airlines flies to over 350 destinations in 50 countries. Photo: American Airlines

We reached out to American Airlines for an official statement (beyond their Twitter post). They haven’t responded yet but we’ll add anything we get to this article if it comes in!


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Apex sounds like one of those online universities promising you a masters degree. hardly worth the paper it’s printed on…


I think the more realistic question is: How much did AA pay Apex for the rating? If not that, then obviously someone at AA is buddies with someone at Apex! lol


I know one person can’t speak for everyone, but I fly AA quite frequently as my home airport is a hub and aside from weather delays or cancellations which of course the airline can’t control, I’ve never had a negative experience with them.

Negative stories about any given company/product tend to overshadow the people who are generally pleased. Again, not saying AA is the best, but given what data APEX is looking at to come up with their rating, this isn’t that shocking..


I also fly a lot from an AA hub and have good to great service 9 times out of 10. I can same the same m the DL and TWA hub cities I lived in. There are just some blogers (who I still question if they have ever stepped on a plane) with egos or an ax to grind that find something negative to say about everything. Yes, bags get lost, planes are late and sometimes they aren’t as nice as you would like, but neither are we. I think most would agree with the rating. DL got 5 starts too and while a lot of people think are the best US airlines, I could find others that disagree.

Good job AA, yes, there are things you can improve on but I am happy your my airline of choice.

Tim Lyle

I am one that falls on the shocked side of the fence. I’m sorry, 5 stars? Maybe 3 stars if that, but no way 5 stars. My overall opinion is based on: Timeliness, comfort, cancellations, pricing and customer satisfaction, among others things. Here are my top 3 reasons:

1. Flights delayed/canx more often than not.
2. Customer service is terrible. Most of their Flight Attendants are rude and couldn’t care less about you, your comfort or your experience with their airline.
3. Most of their airplanes are old and outdated, or if they’re newer ones, the configuration is cattle car central. Yes, I know that term is usually saved for Southwest, but Southwest more than makes up for it with their customer service and the attitude and positivity of their employees. I have friends who work for American. They have always been concerned more about the almighty dollar than the comfort and flying experience of their customers, or the well being of their employees. In other words, they think their blank doesn’t stink.

Have to agree with Dennis, wonder how much they paid Apex for that rating. I don’t wish anything bad on any business or their employees, but I’m just not buying it. In my opinion, American has a lot of work to do on their customer service skills and passenger comfort and well being.

Here’s a great link to a Money magazine article. Gotta say I mostly agree with their rankings. The way they break everything down makes sense in more ways than not. Here you go:


This is from The Onion I suppose because this cannot be real. 5 out of 5 stars? In what world. Only airline I’ve ever given 5 starts to was Alaska. I don’t compare international…just domestic. Can’t compete with carries who are propped up by countries and oil money. But for domestic flights AA is not 5 stars.


While I think this is one of those pay to win awards like consumer’s digest, it is possible to have a decent experience on AA. It almost seems like the airline is still two. If you manage to fly one of the former America West / US Airways A320s out of a former US Airways hub, they actually have really good seat pitch and room. If you get the AA half, it can be miserable, with there extremely low seat pitch. I’m surprised there’s no consistency, especially since you would think the America West/US Airways model would win out.

Harry Chan

AA sponsor APEX…enough said! It is disgraceful APEX think people will believe claims these are “verified, validated, certified”