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Old Jun 4, 2010, 4:00 PM
nicholebenson nicholebenson is offline
 
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Default American Airlines Mistreated My Family And I & Won't Respond To Requests To Fix It

This is a bit long, but after repeated attempts to reach executives at American Airlines, I decided to take this to the "streets".

At the time of the incident, my family was "handled" by 4 members of management at the airport. Everyone was extremely kind at that time. My main contact was Kirk Higaki who remained in constant contact with me-requesting complete documentation ot the incident for some weeks afterwards-that you will see below. Once I documented the incident, he did not make contact again. Now, he will not answer my calls (he gave me his his cell number on the day of the incident). And, I once had my mother to call him from another cell number. When he heard her voice, he hung up.

I eventually send a request for resolution to Kirk Higaki and the other executives. Since sending the request, I have not heard from anyone. I have emailed no less than 7 executives at American, including Gerald Arpey who is the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AMR Corporation. I have also sent two emails to aa.com customer service. No one has responded. I am mad--and this is my way of hoping that eventually someone at AA hears about it and cares enough to call.

Below, you will find a description of the incident, and copies of all of my email communications.


************************************************** *****************************
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INCIDENT

Friday, June 04, 2010
To: Kirk Higaki, Operational Supervisor American Airlines
P.O. Box 619047 Mail Drop 1193 DFW Airport, TX 75261
[email protected]
From: Nichole M. Benson, SPHR



Date of incident: 16 March 2010
Time: around 7:15a
Location: Baggage check stand outside of Gate A38

Please know that the conversations documented here are paraphrased but I’ve made every attempt to maintain the spirit in which the words were spoken.

This incident involved me and three family members. We were going from Dallas to Colorado Springs, CO to attend the funeral of a family member. Two of the parties reside in Dallas. Two of the parties live in Carthage, TX and had driven three hours the previous night to make the flight that morning.

Parties involved:
•Traveler 1 (T1)-Nichole M. Benson, frequent traveler-person submitting this statement, cousin of the deceased. African-American female wearing pants and a balding hair cut. I’ll elaborate more later on why my ethnicity and appearance are both of significance during this incident.

•Traveler 2 (T2)--Jessie B. Langley, generally travels about twice per year- This trip was the second in seven days. The first trip was to visit the dying relative, her niece.

•Traveler 3 (T3)--Altha B. Hatcher, second time traveler- This trip was the second in seven days. The first trip was to visit the dying relative, her niece.

•Traveler 4 (T4)--Sonja W. Rollins, first time traveler, cousin of the deceased.

•Skycap 1 -offending employee- was not wearing a name tag

•Skycap 2 -Mr. Crutcher (?)
Also present
•two TSA Reps
•Three separate families of travelers with children

As we arrived to the check stand, no customers were present. Skycap stood behind the stand to the far left (as I was facing the building). Skycap1 stood behind the middle check stand. The check stand to the far right was unoccupied.

Traveler 2 exited the vehicle (passenger side near curb) and walked to the trunk to unload the baggage. Traveler 3 opened the door (passenger side closest to the curb) to exit the car but had trouble getting out. She remained seated inside the car with the door open. Traveler 4 exited the car (driver’s side back seat) and to unload baggage from the car. Traveler 1 (driver) exited vehicle.
After T2 had placed about two bags on the curb, Skycap1 walked towards the car where T3 was still seated inside.

As Skycap1 approached the car, he said to T3: “Get on outta that car.”
She responded: “I’m an old woman so it takes me a minute.”
He responded: “Well, just get on out then.” He then turned and walked back to the check stand.

During this exchange, T2 and T4 continued to unload bags from the car. After all the bags were unloaded, the other ladies started moving the bags from the curb to the check stand. Skycap2 stood behind the stand and watched them move each bag.

When all the bags were there and the ladies were standing at the check stand, Skycap1 said, “I need a credit card.” He never asked for IDs or flight information from them.

It was around this time that I (T1) looked up and noticed that T2 was looking at me (still standing at the check stand), and T3 was picking up bags to head inside the terminal. I asked them why they were leaving with their bags and they told me that Skycap 1 had told them to go upstairs to check in because they didn’t have a credit card.

I went to the check stand to clarify why they couldn’t be checked in. Previously, I was prepping to drive the car to a terminal parking so I was actually seated inside the car. As I walked towards the check stand, Family 2 arrived at the checking area. Family 2 originally stopped at the designated waiting area. Skycap1, after all, was standing at the middle check stand with our entire party and multiple pieces of baggage in front of him. When I arrived at the check stand, Skycap 1 immediately moved to the unoccupied check stand and motioned to Family 2 to come up. They complied. He helped them right away.

When Skycap1 started to help Family 2, I said “Sir, I’m going to pay for them to check their bags here.” He responded, “They don’t have a card. They gotta go get checked in upstairs.” He continued to check in Family 2. I said, “I can pay for their bags if you’d come and help us. Are you not going to help us?” He responded, “As soon as I see you standing there with a card in your hand, I’ll help you.” During this entire exchange, he never stopped tagging the luggage for Family 2.

I went to the car for my purse, and returned to the middle check stand where Skycap1 and started moving bags to the check stand where Skycap2 was stationed. By this time, he had finished checked in Family 1 and his stand was free. We continued to move our bags to the new check stand.

When Skycap1 realized we were moving our bags to the other station, we had the second interaction. I’ve documented the conversation here.

Skycap1: (walking towards his original check stand) I was going to help you right here with your bags, M’am.
Me: (standing at the check stand with Skycap2) Oh no. It’s ok. We can get him to help us right here. We’re good.
Skycap1: (pacing between his original check stand and the unoccupied check stand) I was going to help you right here with your bag…all I was tryin’ to tell you was that they needed to go inside ‘cause they wanted to pay cash.
Me: But I told you that I would pay for them. But it’s ok. There’s no problem because he’s gonna take care of us.
Skycap1: (standing at the unoccupied check stand, working with a Family 3) Oh! So I see you one of them, them-uh uh uh uh… One of them them them what they call INDEPENDENT WOMEN, HUH? A ****** can’t do nothing to help you, huh?

Stunned, and appalled, I immediately asked Skycap2 to get a supervisor.

Skycap2: I apologize for him, M’am. You have to forgive him. He’s having a bad day.
Me: Thank you, Mr. Crutcher (I think this is his name). But I still need somebody to get me a supervisor.
Skycap2: M’am, do you think you can just let this pass just this one time?
Me: I responded, No siree, Mr. Crutcher.
Skycap2: Well, you can go right up that escalator now and ask for a supervisor.
Me: Oh no! I need to see somebody now while it’s still fresh on my mind.
Skycap2: I know exactly what you mean M’am. I know I wouldn’t like it if he said something like that to my wife or my daughter.
Me: That’s it right there, sir. That’s why I need a supervisor.
Skycap2: Well, ok. Let me take care of it when I finish this. (He was completing the check-in process for us.)

I waited for Skycap2 to call for a supervisor. When he finished, he called out to the offending Skycap1, “(His name)! This lady wants a supervisor.” I said, “Huh?!?! Mother, I asked him for a supervisor and he goes and tells the other man I need a supervisor.” Skycap2 then explained that he worked for a different company.

Skycap1 walked over to me and said “Oh, so you need a supervisor now, huh? Well, let me just go get you one.” He walked into the terminal.

In your American Way magazine, Gerard J. Arpey states:

"The business case for embracing the diversity of our coworkers, customers, and suppliers — in an ever more globalized economy — is obvious. But my hope is that the business case for diversity fuels, but never obscures, the moral and ethical duty we all have to treat all those we encounter, whether coworkers, customers, or fellow travelers, as unique individuals worthy of respect, dignity, and appreciation. At AA, we value diversity, not just because it works, but because it is right, and because it is consistent with our greater mission of connecting the world."

Unfortunately, the interaction that I had with this employee proves that he didn’t get this message. Skycap1 failed his ethical and moral duty as a person and as an American Airlines team member. I was embarrassed and berated in front of my family, other employees and other customers. Neither I nor my family felt respected, dignified or appreciated.

Not one thing about our interaction with Skycap1 helped to make my experience a good one. Flying is stressful-even for those of us who travel frequently. Add the stress of bereavement, a turn-around trip for two, the nervousness of a first time flyer, and an employee who doesn’t value others; and you have a recipe for failure!

When someone treats you well, you know it. It’s easy to define. Exceptional service and kindness aren’t hard to spot. When anyone offers service like the service that Arpey described, it’s as clear as the nose on one’s face.

On the other hand, when someone is discriminatory and hateful, that too is clear. This man’s comments were unkind, hateful, hurtful, abusive, extremely insensitive and discriminatory. What’s hard to determine is the meaning behind his comments.

Perhaps his comments were his personal commentary about my ethnicity, as I am African-American. It’s quite possible that he was saying that I didn’t have pride for my race-or that I didn’t respect my race; or that I didn’t respect him because he too was African-American.

Perhaps his comments were his personal commentary on what he perceived to be my sexual orientation. I do wear a short, shaved haircut that men traditionally wear. He may have been saying that I’d rather not have a man (his word: “nigger”) to help me because he thought I was gay.

What is also clear is that the interaction that I had with Skycap1 was a horrible testament to how people should treat each other. I felt insulted and humiliated. His words were hurtful and were magnified in a type of discrimination and abusiveness that I have never witnessed or felt personally.

The discriminatory behavior and comments and lack of service that Skycap1 exhibited rested smack dab in the middle of issues such as harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, verbal assault and battery, and defamation.

I do appreciate all Kirk Higaki, Cynthia (I’ve forgotten her last name) and all the other Managers and Supervisors who moved so quickly to listen to my family’s concerns at the time that the incident occurred. I do appreciate the time taken to investigate and remedy the situation so as not to subject another person or family to such outrageous behavior. I do appreciate that there are those within your organization who are working hard to prove that someone does embrace the values that Arpey spoke of in his article in American Way.

************************************************** *****************
THIS IS THE EMAIL THAT I SENT TO KIRK HIGAKI ONCE HE STARTED TO IGNORE MY PHONE CALLS:


Mr. Higaki,

I decided to contact you based on our last conversation. My experience on 16 March 2010 was horribly memorable. I wish that had gone differently. It did not. I’d like to put some closure to that awful experience.

Here is what my family and I would like as a resolution:

1. We’d like to know the outcome of your investigation. Our first wish is for the employee to no longer have any affiliation with American Airlines in any capacity. American Airlines should not WANT him representing the organization. At minimum, he should receive a formal reprimand and suspension without pay.

2. We’d like the staff-in that area especially-to receive additional diversity training and a customer service refresher. And we’d like to know that that training will be a part of the hiring process for future hires.

3. We’d like there to be a policy/procedure in place for the Skycaps who are NOT AA employees to communicate with Supervisors and Managers of AA in situations that require additional assistance. Once that procedure is in place, all Skycaps should receive training.

4. We would like to have a formal, written apology.

5. We would like to receive compensation for the lack of service and for the gross behavior of the employee. This can certainly be in the form of flight credits or Frequent Flyer miles as your organizational procedures allow. We won’t actually know if anything was “fixed” until we have the chance to travel with you again.

As always, I appreciate your attention to this and your help achieving resolution. I look forward to hearing from you.


AS OF TODAY, I'VE RECEIVED NO RESPONSE FROM ANYONE AT AMERICAN...that's why I'm hotter than fish grease!
  #2  
Old Jun 4, 2010, 5:14 PM
mars6423 mars6423 is offline
 
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I'm awfully sorry that you had that experience, it shouldn't happen at any company or anywhere against anyone

I'm not defending American airlines in anyway but you won't find out the results of any investigation, that wouldn't occur in any business as it is an internal issue that companies don't disclose

Should he work for American airlines? Maybe that's not for us to say it's for them, but they should at minimum remove him from customer interaction activities and send him to ethical training so that he can understand what is acceptable and what isn't

I guess the only way you can find it out is if you see him again at the airport working

I'm sorry that the event happened and sorry that you lost a family member
  #3  
Old Jun 4, 2010, 5:47 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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Have you also talked to the airport management? Often that's who the skycaps actually work for. If this is so, then there's where you should file your complaint. If they skycaps are not employed by the airport, then you have at least eliminated that possibility.
  #4  
Old Jun 4, 2010, 6:08 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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You should consider these possibilities:

1. Contacting the EEOC
2. You should certainly contact the DOT
3. You should also consider contacting your local Representative.

Whether he worked for AA or not is irrelevent. He was acting as an agent for AA. This was discriminatory on the basis of his perception of you as gay. It is also irrelevent whether you are gay or not. If he perceived you to be gay and treated you in a discriminatory manner, then he is guilty of discrimination.

By the way, your handling of this matter was exemplary AND your email is a model of clarity and tone. You may also wish to consider involving the media, as AA appear to have adopted the strategy of ignoring you.

In terms of what they can say to you, the privacy of the employee may be a consideration in the detail that they can provide you. They can however tell you if they have acted on any of the other very sensible remedies you suggested, such as diversity training and a full apology. They could also indicate that they have taken appropriate measures to ensure the incident is not repeated.

Please keep us posted on the outcome. The conduct of this skycap is outrageous and your account highly credible.
  #5  
Old Jun 4, 2010, 6:13 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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Jim, where it makes a difference who he worked for, is if he is going to be disciplined. If he works for the airport, then AA can't do anything about him. If any complaints are filed with the organizations you listed, and if he is an airport employee, AA will still not be liable, and the complaints will have to be re-filed.

If a travel agent books you on AA, and it all goes wrong because of the travel agent who was also acting as an agent for AA, will filing against AA help you at all? Nope.

Best to find out a singularly important fact before going off in the wrong direction.
  #6  
Old Jun 5, 2010, 12:07 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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The analogy with the travel agent is not simply not comparing like with like. If AA sub-contract their check-in, these people are acting on behalf of the airline and they are responsible for their actions. The initial treatment received by the customer is testament to this... as the supervisor was initially supportive. The airline clammed up later, I am sure because they can smell a lawsuit. AA are firmly on the hook here.
  #7  
Old Jun 5, 2010, 11:57 PM
Gromit801 Gromit801 is offline
 
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You seem to intentionally want to disregard anything that you can't pin on the airline. Again, the skycaps either work for the airport, or a private contractor. You can complain to the DOT, consumer affairs, anyone you want about the airline and it will do no good. The airline is not culpable. The skycap's direct employer is liable. Argue all you want with me, it's irrelevant. The OP will have to file a complaint against the skycap's employer, the one who signed his paycheck.

My main point, to find out exactly who that employer is, because it's a 90% chance it's not the airline.

Sorry if reality intrudes on your anti-airline vendetta.
  #8  
Old Jun 6, 2010, 9:18 AM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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Quote:
Employers are also liable under the common law principle represented in the Latin phrase, "qui facit per alium facit per se", i.e. the one who acts through another, acts in his or her own interests. This is a parallel concept to vicarious liability and strict liability in which one person is held liable in criminal law or tort for the acts or omissions of another.
Quote:
For example, the case of a bank, performing a repossession of an automobile for non-payment, the lienholder has a non-delegatable duty not to cause a breach of the peace in performing the repossession, or it will be liable for damages even if the repossession is performed by an agent. This requirement means that whether a repossession is performed by the lienholder or by an agent, the repossessor must not cause a breach of the peace or the lienholder will be held responsible.
Corporations can be held liable for the actions of their agents.
  #9  
Old Jun 22, 2010, 1:18 PM
nicholebenson nicholebenson is offline
 
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jimworcs...thank you 1000 times for your quotes about the liability. and thank you for the suggestions about where to go next. although AA DID finally respond---they actually contact me about 15 minutes after i posted this information on my FaceBook page---it was NOT was i expected at all and i am in no way finished complaining about it.
  #10  
Old Jun 22, 2010, 1:32 PM
nicholebenson nicholebenson is offline
 
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gromit801, thank you for taking the time to read and respond. please know that your conclusion that post results from an anti-airline vendetta is completely wrong. i posted to this site because it's called airlinecomplaints.org---seems to me that this is a place to go to COMPLAIN.

The primary definition of a vedetta is:
  1. A feud between two families or clans that arises out of a slaying and is perpetuated by retaliatory acts of revenge; a blood feud.
One must take long hike up a very large mountain to get to that conclusion-even based on the tone of this complaint. If you can contort this post as a vendetta, then I want to assure you that your inference is completely wrong.

Because I referenced the offending Skycap1 as an "employee" AND the fact that I specified that Skycap2 worked for a different company, you might have made the leap (a very short leap) to the conclusion that the offending Skycap IS/WAS a direct hire for American Airlines.

Finally (what you surely whould not know) is that I have "grown up" in the airline industry. My 69 year old father worked for Braniff Airlines for 27 years before coming home from work one day to find that he couldn't go back the next day. Right now, he works as a Skycap for Southwest Airlines. The airline industry paid our bills, our mortgage, put me through college, and provided benefits and insurance for us all.

Thanks for allowing this!
  #11  
Old Jun 22, 2010, 5:27 PM
jimworcs jimworcs is offline
 
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I think you may have misunderstood; I think Gromit thinks I have a vendetta against the airlines. (I don't, but have no respect whatsover for the legacy airlines anti-consumer and anti-competitive behaviour).
  #12  
Old Jun 22, 2010, 7:02 PM
nicholebenson nicholebenson is offline
 
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thank you for clearing that up...clearly i did misunderstand. and i totally agree with your stance..."anti-consumer" is a good way to put it.
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