Saturday, January 27, 2007

American Airlines...Doing What They Do Best...Irritate Customers

It's official. There's just no way around it...American Airlines continues to frustrate me, and I am at my wit's end. I received their latest response to my THIRD letter of complaint last week. It took me a whole week to stir up the energy to compose letter FOUR. This response came from a customer relations supervisor and she's moving in the right direction, but in my opinion, it's too little, too late.

We've received your most recent communication and I understand that a resolution was not accomplished. Because we, too, remain dissatisfied when we can't reach an agreement with a customer, we follow a practice of turning such matters over to a supervisor -- in this case, me -- to see if an exception can be made. I've reviewed the entire situation in great detail and it gives me no pleasure to inform you that this fresh look has confirmed the original decision to deny your request for a $250 transportation voucher. I am sorry. However, I am happy to address your additional concerns.

Our seats are standard in size and are designed to comfortably accommodate our customers. Of course, our customers do come in all shapes and sizes. If we are aware that customers are too large to sit in a coach seat, we do what we can to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation -- for everyone concerned. Additionally, our seats widths are listed on If a customer feels they would be more comfortable with two seats, we do offer this option to them. Unfortunately, we aren't always successful in preventing the kind of inconvenience you described and I am genuinely sorry that the comfort of your flight was diminished as a result.

I can understand your decision not to say anything. However, this is not a situation which would warrant a transportation voucher in the amount your requested. Nevertheless, I can understand how you must have felt while aboard and again, I am sorry you were uncomfortable. Therefore, I am willing to exchange the bonus miles you received for a $100 transportation voucher instead. Just let me know if you would prefer this option. Like AAdvantage miles, a transportation voucher may be used toward the purchase of a ticket on American or American Eagle. However, the voucher is valid for 12 months only.

Also, you may locate information regarding what you should expect when traveling with American Airlines and our related responsibilities on

- Visit to view our home page
- From the menu listing on the left, place your cursor over 'About Us'
- From the sub-menu, select Customer Commitment and click on the Conditions of Carriage link

Also, you may write to Mr. Arpey at the address below. However, he has delegated the responsibility of responding to customer concerns to our Customer Relations personnel. In turn, we keep him well-informed about customer issues. This designation allows Mr. Arpey and other senior management to devote their energies and attention the daily operation of our airline.

Gerard J. Arpey, President and CEO
American Airlines
PO Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Please feel free to drop Mr. Arpey a line on my behalf. They won't even let me keep the miles; I have to exchange them for the voucher. And just what situation would have warranted a reasonable voucher? Did I need to be smothered before they take appropriate action? It's utterly ridiculous. Here is my response:

You people are not experts in customer service. You are experts in wearing people out. WHAT IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THIS SITUATION? I PAID $700 FOR A TICKET ONLY TO BE SAT UPON BY A MORBIDLY OBESE MAN FOR 3.5 HOURS. THE INTENSITY OF YOUR SORROW DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR ME. The fact remains that your people DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Your “fresh look” into this situation seems to have “overlooked” this. You say that your policy is such that “if we are aware that customers are too large to sit in a coach seat, we do what we can to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation -- for everyone concerned.” Well, guess what. The ticket agents and the flight crew of flight 1002 did NOTHING to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation. Did your “fresh look” reveal the fact that a ticketing agent took one (1) ticket from a morbidly obese man? Did you discover in your “fresh look” that the flight attendant had to provide this man with a seatbelt extender, which should have clued her in to a potential problem? The fact of the matter is that your employees WERE aware of the situation and THEY DID NOTHING. They did nothing for him and they did nothing for me. And YOU continue to ignore and cover for their incompetence.

I’ve now had to write FOUR LETTERS TO YOU PEOPLE CONCERNING THIS SITUATION AND YOU STILL DON’T GET IT. My time and my money is precious to me and I’ve wasted both on American Airlines with your pathetic offers to make amends. You keep saying how sorry you are, but then refuse to compensate me in a reasonable manner. Actions speak louder than words, and your actions in rectifying this situation are insulting. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT YOU SCREWED UP. HOW CAN YOU NOT AGREE WITH THAT? HOW CAN YOU NOT AGREE WITH THE FACT THAT YOU LET A MAN WEIGHING AT LEAST 400 LBS. ON A PLANE WITHOUT MAKING THE PROPER ARRANGEMENTS TO ENSURE THAT ALL PASSENGERS WERE SEATED COMFORTABLY. THAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, NOT MINE.

I do not believe a $250 voucher is an unreasonable request (by the way, your “great detail” of research failed to uncover my original request for a $292 voucher, the minimal cost of a round-trip ticket to Chicago as advertised on your website). I could have gotten off the plane that day to receive a $300 voucher, which you offered to three passengers that morning due to overbooking. I would have gladly given up my seat and taken a $300 voucher had I not been on my way to my grandfather’s funeral. How is it that you can give me a $300 voucher on the day that I fly, but can only give me $100 now? You intentionally overbook flights and compensate passengers who are inconvenienced by having to take a later flight. I did not have the luxury of waiting for a later flight, but I WAS NO LESS INCONVENIENCED.

Your website currently advertises one-way tickets from Tucson to Chicago departing on Feb. 20, March 20, or April 20 starting at $129. Your offer of $100 doesn’t even cover a one-way flight. I am not trying to take advantage of the situation; I just want to be compensated in a reasonable manner. A $100 voucher or 5000 frequent flier miles IS NOT reasonable. It’s insulting and my patience with you is gone. You have given me absolutely no reason to ever use your airline again. And I will go to great lengths to share about your mishandling of the situation to everyone and anyone who will listen.

I have compiled a detailed account of my experience and am sending a copy of it to Mr. Arpey. I’m not in the practice of running major corporations, but it seems to me that providing great customer service should be the most important factor in the daily operation of your airline. In your handling of this situation, you have failed miserably. If you have no passengers, you have no business. I think your CEO and senior management would do well to refocus some of their attention on the customer.

I'm really getting tired of all of this back and forth, but the only thing they excel at is in pissing me off. I should get a response from them again sometime next week where they'll piss me off again, and I'll tell them to go to hell and never fly American again. We'll see.


the battered ham said...

Hmmmm. I seem to have struck a nerve with my latest post. I received an anonymous comment from someone who clearly didn't have a complete understanding of my situation and chose to launch some cheap shots from the cheap seats, an easy and cowardly thing to do. I will not publish such comments. It's OK if people disagree with my position, and I'm happy to engage in a healthy discussion that focuses on the issues without attacking the individual. However, I would ask that you at least have the dignity to identify yourself, otherwise any comments you make will end up in the trash. Thanks.

Anonymous said...