By way of an update, after several emails I submitted the complaint in its entirety. Following some telephone tag, American Airlines offered an apology and compensation equal to about 25% of our ticket and expenses (over $2,000) due to the delay. They also indicated they were forwarding copies of my correspondence to the “appropriate management personnel.” While I still have my doubts that action will be taken against the offending employee, it’s a moral victory. Lesson learned: when you are abused, complain–calmly but forcefully. If possible, hit ’em in the pocketbook. Their hearts and minds may follow.
Several who have heard portions of the story have asked for details and posting here seems like a reasonable approach. I like to think I’m a reasonable person. Travel is tough–particularly air travel in today’s environment. Mistakes happen, things get messed up. I’m a former “road warrior” and experienced traveler. It takes a healthy dose of patience and perseverance to travel by air–especially these days. The emergency recent trip Janice and I made served as a great reminder of that. I have summarized a recent experience with the observation that security was not the issue.
Our recent return flights from Louisiana tested my patience for a number of different reasons–including the fact we returned home a day and a half later than scheduled. When I was traveling full-time you learned not only patience but problem-solving skills. Things were tolerable because airline employees were for the most part sympathetic and willing to treat travelers like customers.
Well, that’s changed. In the forty plus years I’ve traveled I met the rudest and most arrogant airline employee ever in Washington D.C.’s Reagan Airport. Her attitude would be unacceptable and unbelievable if she was a gate agent. I nearly fell over when she informed me she was a supervisor. I tried to write up the encounter only to discover that American Airlines only allows comments with less than 2000 characters. I’m posting the full version for those who are interested in the story. I’m reasonably certain American Airlines won’t be. If I’m wrong, I’ll let you know! (The portions in italics had to be left out of the American Airlines version.)
By way of brief background, we had missed a connection in DFW on Sunday, July 30. Special Services there booked us on AA3590 and AA4693 for Monday, giving us boarding passes with seat assignments and assurance that we were “confirmed.” When we arrived the following morning those boarding passes “didn’t work” and we were issued new ones. The ones from DCA to BGR did not show a seat assignment and the gate agent told us to “get them in DCA.”
Upon arrival in DCA, I attempted to do as instructed. The gate agent said the flight was oversold and asked if we would give up our seats for a $500 voucher each. We explained we needed to get to BGR. He said he was “working on seat assignments.” Knowing the flight was oversold, I checked with him several times while waiting and got the same answer.
When the flight was boarding it became clear we had not been given seats and were being treated as standby passengers. At one point, we were invited to board, only to learn that one seat had been assigned twice. Since we had to travel together, we exited the plane. That was my first encounter with the primary reason for this complaint. I did not know who she was until later when I discovered that in addition to being a supervisor she is the rudest and most arrogant airline employee I have encountered in over forty years of travel. She was standing in the jetway screaming at the woman who took the last seat available, “RUN! You have to run if you want to be on this flight.”
When we returned to the gate desk, the agent was clearly totally lost. He was still trying to find a seat for another passenger! I assured her she was not going to make the flight. I said to the gate agent, “I would like an explanation of how we became standby passengers and how you plan to get us on a flight.”
Your supervisor said, “Sir, we do know what we’re going.” I replied, “Obviously you don’t or we’d be on this flight and you wouldn’t be telling another passenger she might get on.”
The supervisor said, “You need to go to Special Services.” I replied that I would need evidence of my ticket (laying on the desk). She said, “We can’t give you those.” When I asked how I would prove my ticket, she replied she’d meet me there.
At Special Services the agent said I needed both boarding passes. As I approached to the gate, the supervisor yelled at me, “I told you to go to special services and I would meet you there.” I replied that was obviously not true based on where she was standing (and doing nothing). I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me “I AM the supervisor.” I attempted to see her name tag explaining, “Then I need a manager. What is your name?” She said, “I’ll give you my business card.” When I put my hand out for it, she said, “I’m not giving it to you now, we are trying to close out this flight.”
I reminded her that I am a customer and that in the amount of time she was spending arguing with me she could have given me both. She replied, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
I believe her name is either XXXX or XXXX. Your Special Services Agent quickly resolved the problem without the boarding passes or any assistance from your so-called supervisor. She also assisted me with meeting a manager who was quite gracious, but also insistent that she would “look into it” because “she is one of our best supervisors” and “we spend a lot of money on customer service training.”
Well, I’m a retired organizational consultant with a good crap detector. This is not a training issue—this is an employee with an attitude. I also observed her refusing to help an employee doing a wheelchair assist, sending her to special services. This is a short version since I’m only allowed 2000 characters.
So in the span of a few minutes, we went from being offered $1,000 to give up our seats to being treated like crap. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, don’t you think? And–for those who enjoy irony–when I booked our original flights, on one leg there were only “more desirable” seats available so I was charged extra!