I usually don’t like to mix with business with personal stuff, but I needed a place to post this, so I am using my blog. Many of you followed my recent travel exploits to Argentina via Facebook posts of what was happening. If you want all the details below is the complaint letter that I sent to American Airlines, which has been basically ignored as you will see in a second post which is their reply. The letter is kind of long, but you may find entertaining!!
Here is my complaint letter:
Flight and passenger information for following complaint:
Our original reservation was made through LAN so we do not have an American record locater.
Our first flight was 4M 6331 operated by American, leaving Chicago 12/26/15 at 13:25. Scheduled connection to 4M 4521. Destination Buenos Aires via Miami. Dates of travel to Buenos Aires 12/26/15. Return to Chicago 1/6/16. LA 442 connecting to LA 502 connecting to LA8286 (AA 1018).
Passengers: Bernard Rosen, Susana Trias
I have also submitted this complaint via e-mail which has the copies of the charge slips for additional costs as outlined below.
Dear American Airlines and Mr. Parker,
I want to thank you for successfully getting me and my girlfriend safely from Chicago to Buenos Aires this past December 26-27. You accomplished your basic mission of safe passage. Other than that it was the worst travel experience I have had in my over forty years of flying both domestically and internationally on hundreds of flights.
The plan was simple enough. Transport us from Chicago to Miami on flight 1085 on December 26. Leave at 1:25 pm. Arrive 5:30 pm. Connect to LAN flight 4M 4521 at 8:10 pm non-stop to Buenos Aires. Well the trouble began in Chicago. Shortly after boarding we sat on the plane for at least 30 minutes going nowhere. No one provided any information as to why we were waiting. Finally, we were told there was a mechanical issue. Something about two panels missing and some bent metal. Maintenance was on the way. I thought that shouldn’t be a problem as we have 2.5 hours to connect. Well I was quite wrong.
We were delayed for 2.5 hours in Chicago and as a result missed our scheduled flight to Buenos Aires. Your records will show we got into Miami at approximate 7:30, but by the time we got off the plane we were greeted by a nice gentleman with a One World jacket and our name informing us there was not sufficient time to make the connection and that he would see to our rebooking. Probably just 15 minutes less delay and we would have made the flight and avoided the rest of the ordeal about to unfold.
We were rebooked on American flight 931 scheduled to leave at 10:30 PM. Given the situation that was not too bad as it would only be a few hours after the original plan. Then the adventure began.
We were assigned to Gate D21. We arrived there around 7:45. At that gate was a flight scheduled to Madrid at 8:30. Our flight was next at 10:30. The next thing we knew both flights had a 2 hour delay. Then around 8:30 they sent the Madrid flight to another gate. There was a plane at the gate so I thought good they are moving them and then we’ll get this airplane. Wrong again. I heard the gate agent say something about taking that plane out of service and the next thing I knew was they gave us a 1230 AM departure.
The situation continued to deteriorate. I worked at an airline in the past so I knew things were going on behind the scenes that were not being communicated. The next plane available that could go to Argentina was in Dallas. They told us we were waiting for that plane. One major problem. Dallas was now having severe weather – tornadoes! So next we were told we’d have a 2:30 departure as that plane was en route. Also at this time they began to blame the delay on the weather when in fact the underlying cause was the plane taken out of commission for maintenance. But now they could start to play the it’s not our fault it’s the weather game!
Around 2:00 AM the story changed again. We had a gate change to D28. The plane that was coming from Dallas to take us to Buenos Aires was now going to Madrid! Good news for them. Bad news for us. We get to D28 where there is quite the scene of angry passengers. There were several Miami-Dade policemen on the scene. But this group got happy when they were told to go to our gate for immediate departure. We are now told we have a 3:15 AM departure although I did hear a gate agent mutter something that would be best case.
Well that wasn’t to be. 3:15 became 4:30 and then somewhere between 1 and 2 AM we were told it would be 8:00 AM the next day for our flight. Needless to say our passengers became upset, particularly those traveling with small children and once more the police were summoned to the scene.
It became a scene out of the movie A Clockwork Orange. Anyone who slightly raised their voice was threatened by the police. “You’ll be the first we take away.” “Do you want to go to jail?” I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. I didn’t think we were even in the United States anymore. That’s for a separate complaint to the Miami authorities. But you might want to look into it as well. The officers involved were O. C*****, Ruperto P**** (more on him later), and F. R******.
As for your airline the story continues. We were told at 2:00 AM the reason for the move to 8:00 AM was the crews were no longer allowed to fly. Obviously this was known all along! I find it near impossible to believe that this issue would not be anticipated given what was happening.
This is what upset so many of the passengers. I especially felt bad for the families traveling with small children. I also believe you took advantage of foreigners who aren’t likely to make further claims against you. And for some reason you did not do the right thing and get everyone to a hotel at a decent time. By the time you made your decision for the last delay we were told no hotel rooms were available due to the season in Miami etc.
What was a constant throughout this whole ordeal was the lack of timely and truthful information. Passengers were receiving phone messages from the airline and the I Phone App was updating the delay information before your gate agents knew what was happening. That’s a disgrace. It makes them look like fools when the passengers know more than they do.
The other misinformation was the gate agents kept saying the problem was weather which really wasn’t completely true. The problem was the plane that went out of service resulting in an equipment scramble. The weather then became an issue in getting to Miami but it was not the original problem.
Also what was amazing was the total lack of management personnel on site or coming to the aid of the gate agents. They had to call multiple times and one male manager seemed to run away when he couldn’t do anything. I didn’t catch his name. No one said they were sorry for what was occurring, but also no one knew what to do. I’m sure this is not a rare occurrence and I would think staff would be better trained on how to proactively respond. No one took control of the situation and said here’s what’s going on and here are your choices.
Then there was your Miami manager named Mica. I did not get her last name but she says she’s been working there for 25 years. She took control of the situation finally and told us our choices. While she started off helpful shortly later she started yelling at my girlfriend accusing her of saying she lied when she never said that as several witnesses attested to. She did not say lie but she and several other passengers said Mica and the customer service people knew this was the situation that was developing and did nothing to inform us earlier. Missing the chance to get us hotel space and now we were all stuck sleeping at the airport.
At the same time the previously mentioned policeman Officer P**** threatened my girlfriend while Mica was yelling at her for no reason. As other passengers defended my girlfriend Officer P**** threatened them and insulted them. Saying they were acting like children. He told one person to go lie down and have some milk and cookies! Several other officers continued to harass and assert their authority on any passenger who even asked a question saying they were being rude. Again it was unreal. Again my reference to A Clockwork Orange.
But back to you. You offered us $100 compensation which we refused, some meal vouchers, and if you wanted a cot and some water and granola bars in some airport auditorium to sleep. That was it. If you wanted more compensation they gave us the web site information to send in a complaint which I am doing. We later heard the auditorium was cold and no blankets were provided to those people so I’m glad we stayed in the gate area even though sleeping on the floor was not all that comfortable.
The saga continued later that morning. I thought with 8:00 AM being the first flight out in the morning there shouldn’t be a problem. Well sure enough there was more to come. You still had to scrape together a flight crew. They came one by one much to their credit as I sure they weren’t happy about losing their weekend off. We finally left around 9:30 AM.
I will say one nice thing here. On both segments the flight attendants were very helpful and understanding. On the Chicago-Miami segment one forewarned us that even though there was 30 minutes there was no way we’d make it due to the gate logistics.
So how do you compensate someone for missing a day of their vacation, the hotel bill for the time missed, and the aggravation for the travel, also to my girlfriend’s elderly mom who was scrambling on the other end to find us drivers etc when we arrive.
I forgot to mention when I got on the plane there was someone with the same seat assignment.
All I can say is that every department at your airline failed to deliver on this trip. Mechanical problems that could not be fixed in timely manners, rude gate agents, uninformed gate agents, rude customer service people, rude management people, schedulers who couldn’t get crews where they needed to be, gate agents doing multiple seat assignments. Unbelievable!
The above was drafted on the airplane to Buenos Aires so I wouldn’t forget. Little did I know more inconvenience waited. To get right to the point our bags did not arrive with us. When we checked with baggage at Buenos Aires they said the last information they had was the bags were last scanned in Chicago. They filed a claim, told me I could check it on aa.com and gave us a toll free number to call so we could provide them with a contact phone number and an address which we didn’t know at the time. We tried to call the toll free number once we had the information but we’re on hold forever and gave up. Checking the web site there was no information there either. So now we can add a useless toll free number in Argentina to the list of operational issues.
In desperation we called my sister in the US to see if she would have more success reaching someone. Fortunately she did and provided them with the phone number. That person told her the bags never left Chicago and they had no idea when we would get them due to all the other issues the airline was having due to the bad weather. Reading instructions on the web site we purchased some clothing this morning to have as we now expected the potential of several days of waiting. I spent 1140 pesos ($88.39 on my credit card) and my girlfriend another 1096 pesos (84.98 on her credit card). I have attached an itemized receipt I got and my girlfriends charge slip as her itemized receipt got lost in all the shuffle.
When my sister tried to get more information wait times were over two hours to get an agent and the web site showed no new information.
When we reached our destination on the afternoon of December 28 we got the call that the bags were in Buenos Aires and on their way to us. The expected arrival time was 8:00 that night. Naturally at 8:30 we were still waiting again being inconvenienced as our dinner plans had to be put on hold waiting for the late bags.
The bags arrived at 9:30. They were an hour and a half late because the driver couldn’t find the house. He tracked down a local cabbie that brought him to the house. Plus we had to pay the cab driver and the driver who brought the bags expected a tip! Another $10 out of our pockets.
The driver told us that Alejandro from the Buenos Aires office was very instrumental in expediting the luggage to us so thanks to him.
Later that day I received an email with an apology and saying 15000 miles were credited to my account. What’s that? 1/4 of a free trip by the time you’re done with all the restrictions? And, assuming I’m excited to fly on your airline enough to even get more miles? In addition, you did not provide the same to my girlfriend’s account. Why not? Her name on the ticket is Susana Trias but her Advantage account is under Susana ****. Her account number is *******.
Personally at the very least you must compensate us for our out of pockets costs for the delayed baggage. That claim I will file upon my return. Obviously from our perspective additional compensation should be considered. Significantly more than the $100 per person offered at the airport. You were offering people $500 in Chicago that day to resolve overbooking situations and those people were volunteering and would still get to their destination in a timely manner and with their bags.
I can be called at 262-389-****. I can also be reached at ******@yahoo.com.
P.S. On January 7 we arrived in Miami to return to Chicago. While waiting to board our flight I heard an announcement about flight 931 to Buenos Aires leaving at gate D3. Recognizing the flight number, I decided to check my AA app and sure enough that was the flight from the prior night delayed 12 hours with an estimated 10 AM departure. Their delay was even longer than ours. I’m sitting here shaking my head and wondering if they had the same ordeal as we suffered and were sleeping at the airport. Regardless, twice within ten days the same flight had a similar occurrence. Makes me think it happens quite frequently.
And our last flight was also delayed. As we were supposed to be boarding our flight 1018 to Chicago we could not board on time because we were told there was no power on the plane. We had been sitting there since 7 AM along with the plane visible at the gate and at 9:20 they figure out there is no power and we can’t board!