Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dear American Airlines,

American Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 619612 MD 2400
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9612

To Whom It May Concern:

My husband and I have been traveling with American Airlines (AA) for many years now. We have been quite loyal to AA and typically enjoy flying with your company. Recently, we took an American Airlines flight to Las Vegas to celebrate a milestone birthday. We then had our most unpleasant experience when we flew on Flight [X] between Baltimore BWI and New York JFK.

When we arrived at the gate in BWI, we learned that our flight would be delayed due to high winds in New York. We were concerned about missing our connection at JFK but knew that despite there being other flights to Las Vegas out of BWI, there was no way to get on one of them without an additional cost to us. After some time, the crew finally boarded us and eventually the plane taxied and parked on a remote corner of the tarmac. After a fuzzy message over the intercom, I walked over to the flight attendant to ask what was happening. Like I, she must have missed the incomprehensible announcement as well, because she was of no help—a fellow passenger who had managed to make out the announcement was able to tell me that we would be sitting there indefinitely. The impolite flight attendant told me to sit and wait and that I was not the only one worried about a connection.

About a half hour later, the Captain came on the intercom and said we would be departing as soon as possible; at which point the flight attendant began shouting at people to hurry up; buckle their seat belts and turn off their cell phones we were going to leave. There was a rush and slight panic on board as people tried to get themselves ready. Not two minutes later the Captain was back on the PA saying that we would not be leaving and that we could be sitting on board for about 3 hours. Meanwhile, my husband and I were trying to figure out what we were going to do. He called AA customer service but we could not get on another flight since we were trapped on this plane for hours. We had a hotel room paid for in Las Vegas for that night and it was beginning to look like we would not make it.

After waiting, trapped inside the plane for over 2 hours, we finally took off and made it to New York. Upon landing, we had to wait longer as there was no one to pull the jet-bridge up to the aircraft door. As we deplaned, we learned that our connection had already taken off. There was no announcement made about connections, or what passengers who missed their next flights should do; we were basically dumped in the JFK airport and left to fend for ourselves. This type of service is unacceptable. Why was there no gate agent there to help us? Why were we not automatically booked on the next flight out? My husband immediately called AA’s 800 number and I went to speak to an agent. The woman I found at a desk was unhelpful and rude and suggested we go speak to someone at the ticket counter. My husband was on the phone with an agent for over 20 minutes, which did nothing to further our trip. Therefore, we had to go to the front ticket counter where we waited almost an hour to speak with someone.

Needless to say, I was quite frustrated. While I understand that strong winds are not AA’s fault and that safety was a priority, this situation could have been handled much more effectively. There should have been an agent waiting for displaced passengers. The agents should have also better understood our frustrations and been more accommodating. We should have automatically been rebooked and reimbursed rather than feeling completely neglected by your company. I am extremely disappointed with the decline in American Airlines customer service.

We had planned to be in Las Vegas that night to begin celebrating my birthday but instead, we were waiting and waiting for AA to help us. The bright spot of the situation was [one AA Agent], working the counter at JFK. She was the first AA representative we had interacted with that seemed concerned. She helped us get on a later flight to Los Angeles, where we had to spend the night and depart the next day to Las Vegas. However, at this point we were not only out the money for our hotel in Las Vegas and a rental car, our vacation was cut a day short.

I have enclosed copies of the receipts for the expenses we incurred that were not our fault. I would like to be compensated $XXX, the cost of our hotel room in Las Vegas, as we did not arrive in Las Vegas on the night we were supposed to. We also had a rental car reservation that we had to rebook. We then had to take the only rental car available, which had not been cleaned and was at a higher cost than the one I originally booked. You will find our receipts attached for costs incurred or lost in this situation. In total, I expect to be refunded $XXX (USD).

As a frequent AA flier, I expect a much higher level of service from your company, and I am quite disappointed. Not only did I lose money on a hotel and rental car, but also my birthday vacation was cut short—through no fault of my own. On top of all of it, American Airlines’ representatives were primarily rude and uncaring. Before I book a flight on your airline again, I would like reassurance that you are addressing the service problem on your flights. I will be informing my friends and family about this experience.

I look forward to your response.
P.S. Perhaps they should read this book: