This is the letter I sent to AA
I am writing to give feedback on our truly horrible experience on AA2240 Miami to LGA on 4/25/17. I was flying with my two children ages 6 and 11.
Our flight was delayed due to weather and had been scheduled to take off at 5:07pm. It actually took off at 7:40pm. This is not an unusual delay and my issue is not with the delay but rather with how it was handled.
First of all, for some reason we could not reserve seats when we booked the flight, nor could I try to secure seats next to my kids when I called the day prior. I was told I could pay extra to buy certain seats that were together but when I agreed I was told they were in an exit row so I actually couldn’t sit there w my kids. I was told they could help me at the terminal.
At baggage check in I asked and was assured AA would never separate a mother from a young child, especially after I explained that my child has behavioral issues and I need to sit next to her to comfort her and modulate behavior.
At the gate the flight was overbooked so even though we arrived early, there were people lined up and rather than focusing on finding us seats together, the staff was focused on paying people to get off the plane and on checking carry-ons since there was no room for them.
When they finally sorted out the overbooking they no longer had seats together. The gate agent gave me boarding passes for seats separated and told me to ask people to switch however even the Flight attendants were unable to find people to switch, at which point they should have just informed some other adult guest they had to move to accommodate a family with children.
Once on the plane we learned of the delays. The temp in the plane felt like it was over 80 degrees. We were told they could not run AC or there wouldn’t be enough fuel. We were also told there was a problem w the engine and they would have to use one engine to start the other. But that this was normal.
No one offered us water in the 1 1/2 hours we were waiting and we quickly ran through what we had. People were red faced and shiny with sweat and people were begging for some air. When a woman across the aisle felt ill, finally half cups of water (about 4 oz) were distributed but we were told they couldn't give us ice because they would run out once in flight. Another 1 hours passed in the plane and people jokingly started calling the plane the scalding tube of death. By now it felt close to 90 degrees. Thankfully my kids had brought headphones but the flight attendants had none to give out or sell so many people’s kids were crying and fussing in a way that could have been prevented if there were headphones on the plane to give out.
Eventually we went back to the gate because we were told there was a technical problem with one engine and the plane needed more fuel. At this time it might have been a good idea to stock the plane with more food water ice etc. Apparently all they managed to stock at this time were headphones.
The flight crew announced people could leave the plane at this time. But their message was so unclear that no one could tell if that meant we could take a break and cool down in the terminal (maybe buy some water and snacks) and would be called to re-board when the plane was ready to leave? Or did this mean that if we de planed we were giving up our chance to get back on the plane once it was ready to take off? People were panicky and feeling unwell and MANY were eager to get off the plane but didn’t understand the implications of doing so. We needed more information. So I asked a flight attendant as she walked by. In an extremely petulant manner she stated “if you get off, you have to take your belongings”. I told her yes, I understand, but would we then be allowed to re- board? I also asked if we were in the terminal and the flight became ready to take off, would they make an announcement or how would we otherwise know? Again she infuriatingly repeated “well that’s why if you get off, you have to take your belongings”. This failed to provide any useful clarification to me, the Orthopedic Surgeon across the aisle and the other 5 people gathered around for info, so we were all left confused and still not knowing if we dared to get off of the 90 degree plane.
Finally the plane was ready to take off at 7:40pm. By now everyone was drenched in sweat. I was feeling lightheaded and really needed water. A woman across the aisle was feeling faint and was attended to by the Orthopedic Surgeon sitting next to her who, in the absence of water, gave her some of his own Diet Coke.
The flight attendants told us once we reached altitude they would be able to provide water. But once we reached altitude I too was feeling very ill. My pulse was 100 and I was feeling dizzy so I pressed the light for an attendant and no one came for over 30 minutes until 8:30. I noticed that many other lights were on ( approximately 7 of them) and no attendant was coming.
I search of water I went to the back and found the same flight attendant who had failed to clarify the de planning option (a 20 something year old woman in a Miami heat baseball hat) on her phone in the rear service area. I am not sure why she is allowed to be on her phone in flight when the rest of us are in airplane mode, but that, plus her incredibly unprofessional manner did not help the situation. (This same flight attendant had been face-timing with her boyfriend before takeoff complaining about the flight and using obscenities talking about how she hasn't eaten Mc Donald's in weeks. (“Can you believe I haven’t F—ing eaten F—ing Mc Dinalds in like 3 weeks?”) My kids had to listen to her cursing while they were in line for the bathroom.) I later asked her for her name and she wouldn’t provide it and turned around her plastic ID tag around her neck.
We asked her for water and she told me it was too bumpy to serve drinks. I told her I was feeling ill and needed water and she told me once the bumpiness stopped they would do a beverage service. The beverage cart didn't come until 9:15pm. So basically people were in an 80 degree plane on the tarmac for 3 hours with one half cup of water, then in the air for 2 more hours with no water. When the cart came at 9:15pm they had no snacks but only had cookies. They were out of pretzels and out of veggie chips w hummus so there was nothing to give kids that wasn't sugary and they hadn't eaten since 3pm. All the ice had melted.
Because we could not sit together, my daughter was seated next to another young child who was laying across his mothers lap screaming and kicking and because she was being kicked repeatedly and the poor mom really couldn’t calm her child, and was doing things like trying to change a diaper in the seat, I wound up switching with my daughter. It certainly would have been nice to be seated next to my children and not have to negotiate their needs and safety and comfort without yelling over rows of seats to ask strangers to help my daughter with her seat belt or to open her snack or to assist her with the TV controls.
When a 6 year old has to use the bathroom they are not likely to tell a stranger to find their mommy and I was not able to sit next to my daughter. So when my child yelled back over the seats that she urgently had to use the bathroom and couldn’t hold it I had to take her to the restroom during the worst part of the turbulence. She was not able to make it on time so she was dirty and wet and we no longer had our carry-ons to change her because we had been told we had to check them. When I opened the bathroom door to see what was taking so long (because the turbulence was bad and I wanted us back in our seats) I found her in the bathroom drinking un-potable water from the sink because we were all so thirsty.
So much of this could have been avoided. When a flight that was supposed to leave after lunch and be back in NY by dinnertime is delayed until 10:30pm, thus making kids miss dinner, why wouldn’t they put more snacks on board? Why would they not send more water and ice to a plane stuck in the heat on the tarmac for hours? What’s the sense in being stingy in rationing out water to people in a 90 degree plane so that they wont “run out later in flight?” Medically speaking, and I am a doctor, they should give out plenty of water and during flight people can have juice or soda if water runs out. Why would they not have headphones? They are so cheap and yet such an important customer service maneuver to help people, especially screaming kids wait patiently and quietly.
And finally, to repeatedly fail to provide an opportunity for a mother travelling alone with 2 children, one of whom has a NEED to be attended to in flight and the other who is 6 years old is absolutely unconscionable. This could have been prevented at about 6 different points in the timeline above. I doubt you even allow unaccompanied minors to fly at the age of 6 for exactly this reason, but my daughter essentially had to fly unaccompanied by an adult caretaker, was thirsty enough to drink from the sink in the bathroom, was hungry enough to eat sugar cookies for dinner, and had to sit in soiled clothes, getting urine on your seats for hours.
I run a business in Manhattan. As such I understand that customers need to be kept abreast of changes, that they need to be made comfortable, and that caring gestures go a LONG way towards keeping them content when adverse conditions strike. American Airlines handled this situation so incredibly poorly. I assumed you would want to know.