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Ok. So here we are again. And I welcome everyone to our second installation of Abay’s American Airline Adventure. Once again, I provide the disclaimer that this is a pretty long note, but it is provided for your entertainment. For those who are unfamiliar or have missed the first episode, please refer to the following link for a recap:

Worst Flight Experience Ever- You Cannot make this up.

 

Episode 2 , “Are you serious? – Nah… You can’t be serious”

On January 8th 2009, I received an email from * Russell (AA Customer Relations) notifying me that 15,000 Customer Service Bonus miles have been added to my AAdvantage® account as an apology for the disruption in my travel plans. 15,000 Miles?? 15,000 Miles??? Really!? Just to put it in perspective, 15,000 Miles is equivalent to ONE CLASS UPGRADE on ONE (1) flight. What the hell am I going to do with that if I’ve decided never to fly AA again? This pittance of credit serves more of an insult that fueled my displeasure than an apology. But in the defense of the Mr. Russell, maybe the 15,000 miles is a standard for the usual cases of flight disruption and maybe he had no idea of the turmoil I went through. But after your read this letter, you can see why I may be leaning to the contrary.

Well about a week ago (Feb 6th 2009), I sent my official complaint letter addressing the horrific experience I had while attempting a return trip from POS, Trinidad to Detroit, Michigan. In this letter, I tried to make it as concise as possible but including the more important aspects (And yes, I did include the late night partying crew). The funny thing about AA Customer Service Division is that there is no direct way of contacting them (i.e. by phone or email). One has to either go through the automated online system, or through ground mail or fax. And in their online system there was a limit of 1500 characters that one’s letter should fall under (everything else would be truncated). And even though my letter was a shortened version (bullet points of incidences) there was absolutely NO WAY my letter would have fit within the tiny limit. 1500 characters is cool for ordinary cases, but as you may have read, my case is anything but ordinary. So, I attached the following note in their note field and was assigned a case number:

To Whom It May Concern,

I’m writing to report multiple incidents that occurred during Flight 1818 on December 29th 2008, Flight 1818 on January 4th 2009 , and Flights 1577 and 4466 on January 5th 2009. I have always been a loyal patron of American Airlines and its partners and I usually do not file this sort of report, but these recent incidents, which involved multiple delays, a cancellation, and poor customer service on numerous days has spurred me to file a formal complaint and obtain some form of monetary compensation for my grievances.

Please find an abridged account of my experience in the fax that will be accompanying this email.

In the fax, I made sure to attach the following requests. And if they do not reply by the 17th February 2009, I will report this incident to the appropriate agencies (The Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Department of Transportation c/o Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75 and the media).

The requests are as follows:
As a true sign of apology and good customer service I believe I am entitled, but not limited, to the following:

  1. The sum of $288.00US ($18/hr * 16hrs) as compensation for the two days of work missed.
  2. The sum of $203.00US as reimbursement for the multiple cab/taxi fares.
  3. The sum of $25.00 ($5.00 per delay for food expenses – since I was only offered one at the time of the incident).
  4. At least one (1) round-trip ticket first class ticket voucher to anywhere AA flies as a sincere gesture of goodwill and to encourage me to continue traveling with AA (valid for the full 2009 calendar year with dates of travel to be my choice).
  5. Additional forms of compensation for my accompanying grievances (i.e. hotel accommodations and food expenses during the one –week period, stress caused by the entire ordeal and the huge inconvenience caused by the multiple disruptions in travel plans).

In addition I would like a formal letter of apology addressing the poor service given to me and the assurance that nothing like this would happen to me again if I were to fly with this airline.So this is where the fun starts. And by ‘fun’, I mean ‘corporate bullsh*t’, and by ‘start’, I mean “begins to piss me off”.

 

On February 10th 2009, four (4) days after I sent my complaint letter and fax, I received an email (with no reply email or contact information of course – all system automated garbage) from * Jackson, Customer Service. The letter begins with the generic, “Thank you for contacting us and our customer’s satisfaction is important to us…” blah blah blah… “That it is clear from my email that I’m upset with them” and “It would certainly seem, based on your experiences, that we have not done a very good job of satisfying your travel needs between Port of Spain and Miami, and I apologize. I can appreciate how frustrating your experience has been.”

Great, I thought to myself. Let’s skip all this crap. They are are going to give me the apology I so rightly deserve and the compensation that I asked for. right? – WRONG. The letter goes on with more of the generic filler:

Although we work hard to provide dependable service, there will be times when flights are delayed or even canceled; you happened to hit on two on the same route in a short period of time.

We wish we had it in our power to guarantee that planes would always arrive on time and that delays and cancellations just wouldn’t happen. Unhappily, we don’t – but what we can and should do is make every attempt to minimize the inconvenience for our customers whenever we do encounter operational problems. I am sorry that we didn’t do a better job of making the situation a little less trying.

Although only a small percentage of our flights are delayed or canceled, I can understand how your recent experiences would cause you to question our dependability. I’m sorry you have been inconvenienced and can appreciate how frustrating the events you described were.

After all this you would think that we are going somewhere with this, but we weren’t. The apology that was attached was acceptable and letter continues that “when hiring employees who will serve our customers, we work hard to look for those applicants who demonstrate a warm and friendly attitude. Our training programs emphasize to all our employees, new and experienced alike, the importance of an individualized, caring approach even in the face of the unique difficulties that only an airline can experience. I’m at a loss to explain exactly why you weren’t treated with courtesy during these experiences.” I thought- LIKE SHE HAS NEVER BEEN TO TRINIDAD??!?!? Trinidad’s Customer Service is Deplorable (And I say this with no remorse). The Absolute worse. When I’m ordering food in a fast food restaurant, the employees of said establishment act as though I’m bothering them and I should “hurry up” or they are under the impression that an incorrect order is somehow MY FAULT and I should take it and cool it.. LOL… Kix yes. But I digress.

The letter continues that it is not AA’s usual policy to issue complimentary tickets to specific points within our system or to “anywhere we fly.” However, as a gesture of goodwill, they have made arrangements for an eVoucher for me to use towards the purchase of a ticket for travel on American Airlines or American Eagle within 12 months from the date of issue. Sounds Good right? I thought so too. We were finally getting somewhere. But before I got all excited, they snuck in a little disclaimer. (Sneaky, sneaky bastards).

“Mr. Israel, while the compensation issued is not what you requested, I hope our gesture helps make amends in some small way.”

(Ok, so it wasn’t in tiny text in the email, but that’s how it felt.)

The eVoucher was for the sum of $400.00US. At first, I was like… ok, not too bad. But then I thought to myself. Wait nah! Wait nah… That’s not enough for a first class ticket. Not even close. NO WHERE in the vicinity of a single international round trip flight (in coach- first class? HA!). And what about my loss in wages? And my expenses??!!? HOLDDDDDDDDDDDD ON!! Did they even look at my requests? Are they trying to Low-ball me? Are they trying to test the waters, as though they are throwing me a proverbial bone to see if that would shut me up? Really AA? This is NOT what I asked for. And in my opinion, I was being extremely fair. I could have asked for a WHOLE lot more. (But it has never been my intention to extort anyone. I just wanted to be placed back at the level I was before this awful experience). But if they wanted to play that game, let’s play.

The Following is the follow-up letter I faxed to * Jackson, Customer Service yesterday February 13th 2009 [Happy Valentines Day] – (Please note that I blanked the case number in this note for security reasons):

Dear * Jackson (Customer Relations),

Thank you for your speedy reply and your efforts in case R2009/02-*****-00***-001-00. Your email on the 10th February 2009 was well received. While I appreciate the apology and coupon offered as a gesture of goodwill, I have to say that there are numerous questions that now arise.

Upon reviewing the eVoucher value, I have to say that I am a bit concerned considering that it was a great deal less than what was requested. After multiple visits to the AA website, I was unable to find a single domestic flight (seated in first class as requested) for the sum of $400 (eVoucher value) or below – and an international flight (at first class) is absolutely out of the question at that price. Considering that the international portion of the flight was one of the major contributors to my unpleasant episode, an eVoucher that covers an international flight (at first class) seems very fair and the coupon’s value should reflect this.

I do understand that it is not the usual policy to issue complimentary tickets to specific points within our system or to “anywhere we fly” as per my request, but I am willing to accept an eVoucher that is equivalent to my request. And I do not believe that this has been issued.

It is my sincere wish that you can provide me with the metric in which this value was calculated and with accommodating reasons why my requests were not honored.

I believe that my request was fair and should have been used as the bare minimum measure for compensation. It seems clear that the fact that I missed two (2) days of work and had numerous expenses incurred during the period were not put into consideration while calculating the coupon’s value. Also, the various additional experiences and expenses after I arrived in MIA were not even mentioned in the letter. This leads me to be even more concerned.

In my previous letter, I wrote an abridged version of my experience during the period and maybe the full picture was not accurately portrayed. For that, I apologize. I have attached a more detailed listing of the events and I hope that upon second review of this case, a more appropriate resolution could be found.

Thank you again for your assistance in this manner.
Abayomi Israel

The fax included a full account of the experience with bold highlighting on the most incredible parts. Total number of pages = 5 (single spaced). I made no mention of recordings, but I did include that I can provide names of persons [if requested] who were on some of my flights and would gladly act as witnesses to the events.

Knight takes Bishop. [Check]
Your move, American Airlines.

Or, Why so cheap?

Or, Why so cheap?

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