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!