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Customer Service
COMPLAINT: dishonest and arrogant attitudes

 
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  #1  
Old Jun 25, 2008, 1:48 PM
[email protected] tim5521@sbcglobal.net is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
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The trip was planned over the last two years. Our immediate family of 10 plus spouses, kids and a couple friends (that were part of the family) were off to Ireland, where our family once came from, for over a week. My dad’s 83rd birthday celebration would kick off the festivities the first weekend. A priceless (as it turns out) once in a lifetime event, surrounded by everyone we love in a beautiful and friendly place.

Cost prohibitive for a firefighter and his family of four, but it was the kind of thing we could not afford to miss. This was the big trip. We had a rental car in Shannon to be picked up upon our arrival. We had a nice hotel room in Galway for the next evening, and we had rented a house in Clifden for the next 7 nights. With two years to prepare, we scratched last year’s vacation, and spent the vacation budget on American Airlines tickets from Chicago to Shannon for the big Ireland trip. I called American in August 2006 to book. My sister gave me some of her miles to help with the expense. American booked our four seats for June 28, 2007 departure for $2800.00 and 60,000 (?) miles. All was well with the flight and American sent a couple of updates throughout the next 10 months.

As our departure date approached, I had heard from Air Lingus, that the Air Lingus flight leaving at about the same time on the same day was a code share with the American flight, and that we should be on the same aircraft as several other relative making the trip. That turned out to be inaccurate. My flight was not part of the Air Lingus code share.

On the day of our trip, my wife Mindy, our 7 year old son Shane and our 3 year old son Ryan arrived at the American Airlines desk at O’Hare after a long wait in line. I presented the agent with the family’s passports and e-tickets. As she typed at her keyboard she shook her head. My wife asked why, to which she replied “Your flight’s cancelled.”
“OK, what do we do next?” I asked optimistically.
She told me I could go to the re-booking office and book another flight. I told her I am not interested in waiting in line and starting my reservation process over again, and that I was counting on her help to get us to our destination that night. My wife asked why it was cancelled to which she replied “Weather.” There was no bad weather.
Mindy is a veteran of the airline industry and challenged the weather excuse, pointing out that there may be a delay because of weather, but wasn’t it drastic to cancel? We also asked where were the other 200+ people that were planning on taking this cancelled flight. We appeared to be the only ones affected by this sudden dangerous weather. Another curious omission was that our flight was not to be found on the departures monitors throughout the airport.

We told the agent that other members of our family are flying Air Lingus from Chicago to Shannon within an hour of our flight. Since this weather was not affecting their plane, could she simply arrange for us to leave on that flight. She typed away some more and told us there were no seats on the Air Lingus flight. As my son started crying, the agent backed off the weather lie and stated sympathetically that they always overbook these flights. I persisted, “You have to do something.”
Mindy reached my sister at the Air Lingus desk on her cell phone and told her of the turn of events, and that we may not show up for the trip.
She typed away and told us the flights were completely full the next day and on Saturday. She offered the option of sending us on Friday to Frankfort Germany, where Mindy the kids and I could wait to fly standby to Dublin. “With the kids…? That’s a really bad plan.”
She found four seats on a flight to Shannon on Sunday (arriving Monday) and she recommended I reserve those. I argued that that is four days later than they agreed to fly us, and that we would miss a huge chunk of our vacation. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, she asked if I saw the woman in the grey sweater, because that was her supervisor and there is nothing she can do. Upon her advice, I let her reserve the four seats on the Sunday flight. I reiterated I wanted to speak to a supervisor, she recommended I go the rebooking office and wait in line. She also handed me a 2”X 2” piece of paper with the name of Greg Clark, Customer Relations Manager in Dallas. There was no phone number, just a fax number and an email address. Greg does not respond to either one. Greg and I are not pals yet, but I look forward to hearing from him. I asked again, ”There has to be something you can do for us before Sunday.” I demanded, “At least you will get us home somehow, right?” She replied “They won’t be able to help you with that Sir.”
We received a call back from the group at the Air Lingus desk telling us to come back the Air Lingus desk. My brother and sister had just purchased 4 seats for us on that flight.
The agent had lied about the dangerous weather and also about the status of the seats on the Air Lingus flight. American Airlines had absolutely no intention of getting us to Ireland as they had promised upon my payment.
Despite their efforts, we arrived in Ireland Friday morning, as planned, but several thousand dollars lighter. Friday evening from my Galway hotel, I called American Airlines’ Dublin office for help. I was optimistic that my treatment would be recognized as egregious and that the Dublin representatives would be eager to correct this situation. As the family headed out for dinner in Galway together, I stayed in my room and discussed the issue with airline representatives from 5pm to 7pm. I was disconnected at about 6:30, but was able to continue my conversation after calling back and asking for Line Supervisor Helen.
Helen explained to me that my priority at this point in my trip was to cancel the reservation for Sunday so that I would not be charged for that flight, and to book a trip home so that my family (of four) and I would not be stranded overseas. I was able to cancel my reservation from Chicago to Shannon on Sunday. Helen offered to cancel and refund my entire round trip fare, and to rebook my flight home on July 9th. I asked if I will be charged for the flight home. I thought that leg might be complimentary to make up for the breech on their end and for the lies tossed out to cover it all up. Helen offered to find the best fare possible for the return flight. I told her that my logic would put the return fare at half of the original round trip fare. She told me that would not be possible. Her reason was that I had changed the “country of origin”, therefore, she would have to re-book, and I would pay the same as anyone else calling that day for a flight home the next week. I was in awe. Who is the customer here? It was literally awesome. After being disconnected, I was able to reach Helen to re-book my flight home.
I was able to control my anger, but still in disbelief that no one in this organization would acknowledge the nightmare I had been through. I mentioned to one of the Dublin agents, that at some point, I expected somebody at American to notice my case and respond with an attempt serve the customer.
Helen quoted the fares for my return flight. I told her to reserve the seats (which were no longer my seats, since she had cancelled my original round trip). I told her I would look into fares to see if I could do better. I asked Helen to explain to me as if I were a child or very simple minded, how it can be that I gave her company $2800.00 last August, for seats on a flight. Then, when I arrived with my wife, two small children and luggage on June 28th to take our trip, her agent told us there is no flight/no deal. I asked if a reasonable person would think they broke their contract they had with (simple minded yet reasonable) me. Helen replied that since the Chicago agent was able to re-book us on the Sunday flight (that was four days later than the departure they had sold me), but that I had taken another flight (Air Lingus) on Thursday, that I was actually the one who had breeched the contract.
At that point, I decided the best thing for me to do was to join my family and get a pint of Guinness.
I have since returned from our trip, and I have followed up on two occasions to Greg Clark. Greg is the customer relations manager named on the piece of paper handed to me when I asked for the Chicago agent’s supervisor. I am not impressed with Greg either. He has never replied. I have read the AA customer service pledge on their website and have submitted my request to be made whole on the customer service comments section of the website. There has been no reply. My Visa account was recently credited for the original round trip fare. I remain out about $200 for the return trip fare, and over $5000 for the one way fare on Air Lingus.
There seems to be an acceptable culture within the American Airlines organization that it is okay to take advantage of customers. It is good for business to keep someone’s money even thought there is no flight. There is a culture of arrogance and confidence when American agents address a customer’s concern of their unfair bait and switch transactions. I can picture the mission statement in their break rooms and offices, “The customer is not right! Do not admit your errors! If you lie with a straight face, they will believe it.”
Perhaps there is comfort in the fact that our tax dollars will bail the company out if they manage themselves right out of business. The answer to poor customer service and betrayal of employees was to be CEO Gerald Arpey. However, I just read that Gerald has not really gained the loyalty of his people. Do you think they could pay Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) enough to take his place? I don’t think so either. I read American ended up with $18 million or so in bonuses in May, with which they could put to responsible use. Gerald strategically took $6.6 million of it… for himself. He did share the other $12 million, but only with four other executives. Maybe they earned it. What do I know about the airline industry? As they American agents say, “It’s complicated, Sir.”
Mr. Arpey has put himself in the position that he had to hire security personnel (that’s right, bodyguards) to protect him from his own employees at meetings. My question to you is, “Who is going to protect us?”

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  #2  
Old Oct 9, 2008, 3:34 AM
airhead airhead is offline
Former Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 228

I am sorry to hear about your experience. I am afraid I don't have much information for you but I will give you everything I got.

Maybe the weather excuse was true, maybe not. The weather may be good between your departure city and the arrival city but the aircraft being used for that flight may have be stuck in another city due to weather.

In my own experience, when I clock in and head to that counter. I am not aware of what is going on with every single flight out of the airport. I may ask a coworker who may tell me, "that flight is canceled because of weather." You see, the computer does not always tell us why and I have to take that person's word for it. Someone somewhere else, who really knows, has to input that information for us to know, but that person my be too busy dealing with other urgent issues. I agree that that is not always right. It is frustrating for me too. I want you to get where you want to go on time, if not in a timely manner.

As far as the ticket itself. You should have been able to get a full refund for the whole trip if you were not happy with times available. Or you could have asked to be booked on another airline to get you there sooner, if something else was available. If all else fails, ask another agent. Many of us are not trained properly since that "costs too much money." I know it is frustrating! Try going to work everyday with that hassle and trying to learn as much as you can the hard way is very challenging.

It would have been a good idea to book your travel at least a day earlier. You have to keep in mind you are asking a company with limited human resources to fly you halfway across the globe. So many things can go wrong and no flight will depart unless it is "for sure" safe. And to add to it, hundreds, if not thousands of other passengers are competing for seats too. Always allow "breathing room" for what you have planned.

At the beginning of the letter, you mentioned 10 plus people traveling in your party but the story was focused on only 4. That is confusing for most people who are trying to understand the situation. (I understand though) Also, you mentioned that award points or a certificate was used to pay for part of the fare. The use of those type of tickets strictly limits the agents ability to rebook. Those type of tickets only allow agents to rebook in certain fares. In other words, if those fares are not open, then they can't be booked. It says so on the back of the certificate in that small print. I am sorry to be the one to point that out.

I hope my information helps you in the future. If you still feel like you have been wronged by the company then I suggest you file a complaint to the Department of Transportation. Make sure you include only the facts.

I know how frustrating it is when things go wrong. I hope this letter did not come across as condescending. I am here to educate and help wherever I can. I wish I could provide more information for you. Good luck to you.

http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/problems.htm

I would like a link or a sources to the story about Mr. Aprey's bodyguards. His decision making for the company continues to embarrass me.
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  #3  
Old Oct 30, 2008, 7:22 PM
countrynewsman countrynewsman is offline
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I don't believe what I read in that last post. "It would have been a good idea to book your travel at least a day earlier. You have to keep in mind you are asking a company with limited human resources to fly you halfway across the globe." Good Grief! The guy planned the trip two years earlier...not the day before! That comment about asking a company with limited resources,etc. etc., is saying that AA was going out of their way to do this guy a favor! WHO'S THE CUSTOMER?
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Old Dec 3, 2008, 3:42 AM
airhead airhead is offline
Former Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 228

Yes, I know who the customer is. And yes, I realize he booked far in advance but he didn't leave enough time between flights to consider the margin of error on the airline's part. I am advising that adding more time between flights is a good idea because things do go wrong (sometimes). And it wouldn't have hurt to reserve to get their a day earlier since the event was so important. He is flying nearly halfway across the globe after all and I still think my advice is sound and valuable for others out there reading this. The customer does come first, but safety is priority.
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Old Dec 3, 2008, 4:39 AM
countrynewsman countrynewsman is offline
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I went back and re-read the original post and the reply. My apologies...now I understand what you were saying. If I absolutely have to be somewhere at a particular time, I do not book trips that are scheduled at that time. I always book earlier to give some room for problems. At this writing, I am taking a trip in two days, but don't really have to schedule it for another day. In January, my wife and I will fly to connect with a cruise, but will spend an extra day at our destination before boarding the ship. Besides being the prudent thing to do, it will keep my blood pressure down!
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