We were flying from LAX to MIA, and a passenger on board had a minor medical issue. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the plane's first aid kit had to be opened. Also unbeknownst to us (at the time), once the plane landed, it would not be able to take off again without an intact first aid kit onboard.
At MIA, we circled the airport, unable to land due to bad weather. Our fuel ran low, so we were forced to divert and land at West Palm Beach instead. THIS WAS NOT ANYBODY’S FAULT. If it had ended there, I wouldn’t be angry right now.
As soon as we touched down at WPB, our plane was grounded until a new first aid kit could be obtained, but none of the crew members thought about this. Instead, we were told to just sit tight and wait out the weather. We’d head back to MIA just as soon as it cleared.
We sat on the tarmac at WPB for close to two hours. Finally, the pilot announced that the weather had cleared and we were about to take off. A few minutes later, he came back on the intercom and retracted his statement. Somebody had remembered the first aid kit issue, so he explained the problem and said an employee had been sent to see if a fresh kit was available somewhere.
It was an honest oversight, but it was one that cost 120 passengers hours of valuable time. Had the opened first aid kit been acknowledged from the start, steps could have been taken to have one delivered, a bus could have been on its way to rescue us, or, worst case, passengers could have been released from the plane to start planning their own onward travel. As things happened, we waited first for news that no first aid kit could be found, then we waited again for a gate to open so the plane could be emptied.
We were done.
After being misled for hours - however unintentionally - a plane’s worth of passengers were stranded. An announcement informed us that a bus was being sent to transport a selected few to Miami, but it wouldn’t arrive for over an hour and it could only carry 50 people. The other 70 of us were on our own, forced to arrange our own transportation at our own cost.
My mother and I needed to catch a connecting flight out of MIA. We were already arriving a day late at our destination due to a mechanical error on an earlier plane, and if we missed this connection, we would be TWO days late and miss visiting four of our sponsored children in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. With little time left, I had to rent an SUV with my phone while enroute to the baggage claim area. I left my elderly mother to deal with our 250 pounds of luggage (gifts for 23 sponsored children) so I could rush onto a shuttle and pick up our rental vehicle. By prepaying for a tank of gas and speeding along toll roads, we made it to MIA in time to catch our connection. So what if we missed both breakfast and lunch? Nutrition is overrated.
After reading other peoples' horror stories, I feel like my experience wasn't so bad after all considering that we made it onto our next flight. Had I visited this website first, I would have known what the company is like, and I would not have bothered reaching out to American Airlines. Now that I have, I only feel worse.
I was misled by my GOOD experience when I contacted Alaska Airlines about an unrelated issue with one of their flights on the same itinerary. The rep I spoke with was sympathetic and made me feel like a valued customer. They compensated me to the best of their ability - not much - but I was satisfied just to have my grievances heard and to be respected.
My customer relations experience with AA was very different. I didn't ask them for anything, and I would've settled for just about any token gesture of apology on their part. Instead, I got canned, disingenuous responses, along with an absolute insistence that bad weather was the ONLY reason why our plane could not take us to Miami. The entire tone from AA was “We’re covering our own ***** at whatever cost, even if that means telling lies and dismissing our customers’ concerns with a derisive sneer.”
I went back and forth with customer relations for days (via Twitter direct messaging), even going so far as to submit evidence that other AA flights had been successfully landing at MIA during the same period they claimed that “bad weather” had prevented our pilot from taking us back to the correct airport. I was told that didn’t matter; our plane’s situation was different. Yes, it was different! There was no first aid kit onboard! The compromised first aid kit was the only thing holding us back once the weather cleared, AA doggedly refuses to admit that. The closest they would come was to say “We understand that there were some other concerns that attributed to your delay, but…”
AA’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge that their staff share any responsibility in causing 120 passengers to sit for hours inside a plane that they should have known would never be able to continue on its journey is more frustrating than the original incident that began my dispute. It proves more than anything that American Airlines cares only about profit margins and not about their passengers. It’s a short-sighted approach, because happy customers are returning customers, but this is their business model and they are sticking to it!
Although I imagine that other people have had their problems, I’ve never felt undervalued by Alaska Airlines or Southwest Airlines - the two companies I frequent for my domestic travel. I’m pleased to see that current AirlineComplaints.org statistics reflect this same sentiment:
American Airlines - 1,276 complaints
Southwest Airlines - 250 complaints
Alaska Airlines - 91 complaints
Even given that AA probably operates more flights than the other two airlines, these numbers are quite telling. AA has significantly more complaints on the website then their two closest competitors, United and Delta.
Time to step up your game, American!