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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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Misadventures in AA travel.

So, for those who haven’t heard, I was back home in Trinidad this December/January vacation to spend some time with my family. The time spent was great and the rest was much needed after freezing my proverbial butt off in Michigan. So, not to make this note any longer than it has to be, I’ll start off where things get interesting.

The first sign of my impending travel trauma was on my return trip to the United States scheduled for 8:00 am Monday 29th December 2008. As a side note, anyone who is familiar with international travel, knows that a person is required to arrive at the airport at least 2 hrs before departure as to get through ticketing and security checks. With that being said, I arrived @ 5am (3 hrs in advance) as to avoid any unnecessary confusion. But I was in for a surprise the likes of which I cannot even begin to describe. All the events that follow are completely factual and I have recorded most of my conversations with the flight crew/ staff and the notices made from the pilot if anyone would like evidence.
I reiterate: You Cannot Make This Stuff Up.

So after I got passed the check-in points and security, we finally board the plane @ approx. 7:15am. After the usual in-flight safety demonstrations by the flight attendants, we were ready for lift off – Or so I thought… 8 o’clock came and we were yet to taxi out of the terminal. 8:15… nothing, 8:30…. Nothing. At approx. 8:35 am, pilot comes on the plane’s loudspeaker and says that the plane has a flat tire and a spare is needed. First of all, I thought a flat tire on a plane was a bit strange, but such is life right?? Cannot get worse right?? I’ll be back in Michigan sometime later today right??? WRONG..

At 8:40 the pilot once again resumed his in flight announcements, this time with worse news. Apparently, in the Trinidad and Tobago airport, there were no spare tires for the aircraft, so AA will have to contact the neighborhood Caribbean airports to find a spare and have one flown in. Well, the only problem with that was that in the entire Caribbean (including Puerto Rico) there were absolutely no spare tires for this aircraft and one would have to be flown in from MIA. This would mean that the next flight to arrive in Trinidad from MIA @ 4:00 pm would have on board our needed spare tire. So while some people were scurrying to re-schedule their various connectors, I was not too worried since my outgoing flight to Detroit left @ 9pm that night. I had more than enough time to make my flight. At approx. 11:00am, the passengers of flight 1818 to MIA are hit another devastating blow. Flight 1818 has been cancelled. This is due to the fact that the crew is only given a certain window to fly and if the flight was delayed for anytime passed that window they are no longer authorized to fly.

At that time, some people tried to get on the 4:30pm flight leaving Trinidad that day (some with success others not so lucky), others were pushed back to the following morning on a standby basis, considering that all flights were booked solid and oversold. Others complained and argued about the service and others got placed on another airline. I on the other hand opted to avoid the stand-by option and opted to return to Michigan on Sunday 4th Jan 2009. The reason for it being so late was the earliest confirmed arrival for me into Michigan would arrive at 2pm New Years day- which to me didn’t make any sense and I much preferred to stay the extra week with y family and enjoy bringing in the New Year there. Anyway, I was now confirmed on the AA flight 1818 with my same schedule but on Sunday 4th 2009. (A week extra in Trinidad sounds good… right??)

After my additional week in Trinidad, I once again returned to the airport Sunday morning @ 5am to catch my 8am flight to MIA. After standing in the long line for about 40 minutes, we are told that this flight has been delayed until 12:05 noon of that day – The quoted reason being that the plane arrived late this morning and was not ready yet. So I finally got to the counter and checked in my bags and given my one and only meal voucher ($5.00 US) enough for a sandwich and a glass of juice – and left the airport to once again return @ 11:00 am to make my midday flight.

On my return to the airport, we find out that the flight has been delayed again for another 30 minutes. (Not too bad considering, but it only adds to the story) So through security I go. Ready again to board the plane and leave the country. While on board the aircraft, the pilot gives us the REAL reason why the plane was delayed this morning. Apparently, the flight crew, including himself, were out at a party that night which lasted until 4 in the morning and because of this did not get enough rest. So, in other words, the crew needed rest due to a night of late night/ early morning partying. (WHAT?) The more I say it, the crazier it sounds, but the official reason as stated by one of the flight attendance is “crew rest”- so let’s go with that. You would think that is the end of the story right??? WRONG…. VERY WRONG.

So at 11:30am, on board the plane and after sitting through the pilots attempt at humor after make the entire passenger list pay for his late night revelry, one would think that it would be time to taxi- Nope. At 11:46:25am the pilot came back on the loudspeaker with the announcement that something was wrong with the airplane’s relay system and after trying numerous things (including shutting off the plane and restarting it) could not get it to work. This meant that due to the minimum fly requirements the plane was un-flyable. Un-Be-Lievable .

After deboarding the plane, we are told that this flight will now be leaving @ 12:00 am midnight. And we should come to the counter to arrange our connecting flights. So after doing so, I was given a new flight with AA scheduled to leave MIA at around 11:30 and arrive in Michigan around 2pm Monday 5th January 2009. Or so I thought.

I returned to the airport once again at 11pm and went through security with very little hassle. I arrived at the counter to confirm my connecting flight and to find out exactly what time I will be arriving in Michigan. This is where I got another surprise. Apparently, the previous attendant did not confirm me for that flight and I would be travelling standby for it and it does not look good considering the flight was already oversold. The earliest flight I could get confirmed with AA would be a direct flight to Michigan leaving 10am Tuesday 6th January 2009. The other option would be to fly would be to issue another ticket with another airline. So after weighing the little options I did have, I chose to go with the other airlines (Continental and Northwest to be exact with a connecting flight in Newark NJ).

I arrived in MIA around 4am and got through immigration pretty easily, and ran to catch my flight with Continental at 6:45am. When I arrived at the continental counter I was told that the fly that I was apparently booked on did not exist on that day and I should go back to AA ticketing counter. So I ran back to AA’s counter only to find out that I was never confirmed on any flights and I would have to be reissued another ticket. So the attendant at the ticketing counter did so and I was now confirmed on a flight to Chicago scheduled to leave @8am and take the connector to Michigan @1pm Chicago time.

So I waited in the airport- all this time hungry and tired, and quite irked by the whole ordeal *(I mean, how could you put me on a flight that DOES NOT EXIST!)* But anyway, I digress. I got onto my flight @ 8am to Chicago and I heard the familiar sounds of the pilot/ flight attendant addressing the passengers. So I immediately started recording the message. The message went like this : “…I can get the captain to give you all the technical details, but unfortunately it’s not going to help at this point……The aircraft is being taken out of service and we have just notified operations.” At this point I just had to laugh, because I was sure that I was on a hidden camera game show or something. This cannot be really happening. But anyway, we get off the plane and are guided to another terminal where the flight is now scheduled to leave @ 10:05 am. We board and take off at around 10:20am due to the mass of people trying to arrange their connecting flight information and we arrive in Chicago @ 12:48 Chicago time.

As stated earlier, my Chicago connecting flight was scheduled @ 1pm so I had just enough time to run off the plane to the terminal to make it. Luckily I made it as the attendant was making the last call statements, but I lost my boarding pass in all the running. This was not a big deal, as all was required was my ID and I was issued another boarding pass – but it does add some more flavor to my story.

On the flight, I was exhausted and sweating because of my sprint to the gates. Additionally, I was more than ready to go home. But it seemed like there was one more trick the Airline gods had to play on me. While on this flight, the pilot once again took the microphone and I started my recording protocol. All passengers had to deplane due to a FLAT TIRE. YES! ANOTHER FLAT TIRE! – I told you; You really cannot make this stuff up. We were transferred to another plane eventually and I finally arrived in Michigan @ 5pm Monday 5th January 2009 after a week long bout with AA.

I know this has been a long note, and for that I am truly sorry, but I hope my misfortune gave you an interesting read. I am in the process of writing a formal complaint to AA and both in an email form and a certified letter. I feel like I was treated like a piece of old luggage and I believe that the service given to me was awful. This is not what I paid for when I purchased the ticket and I am going to make sure the heads at the AA customer service desks hear about my horror story. I have missed work because of this airline’s incompetence and if I incur any financial penalties (ANY) I may have to take legal action. I discourage all of my friend’s from travelling with them. AA is # 1 on the DO NOT FLY LIST.

I know some people have airline horror stories, but I dare any of you guys to beat this one. Imagine this, every single flight I got on, I had to deboard. There was something wrong with EVERY SINGLE PLANE. And the only compensation I got was one $5 voucher.

-Abay

Why fly in style, when you can fly out of it.

Why fly in style, when you can fly out of it.

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