Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Lot of Good, A Little Bad, and Now the Ugly

In my last post, I wrote that I had more to say. As to what really happened, I don’t know exactly. We were told that some kind of pipe overheated, and there was no actual fire. That’s not a lot of information, and I would like to know more. I want to know what actually did happen, why it happened, what they can do so it doesn’t happen again, and what they can learn from this whole experience to help people in the future.

The big “they” in the room, of course, is American Airlines. As I mentioned earlier, I cannot find enough wonderful and positive words to describe the flight crew. Now, let’s walk down the hall to Customer Service, shall we?

Our flights were rebooked for the next day, and we were given rooms for the night in a downtown Peoria hotel, that fortunately had a bar that was still serving. We appreciated that. Depending on which agent helped us, we either got a food voucher or we didn’t. I got one. The others didn’t. (Huh?)

Three of us had been rebooked on a 10:30 a.m. flight through Chicago the next day. We got back to the airport, and we’re sitting at the gate for a while, when we learn our flight has been delayed. We did not learn this from the airline, mind you. We learned it from another passenger who had received a text message. There was no one at the gate from American Airlines, so there was no one to update us, rebook us, or in any way assist us.

While this was happening, a friend of mine who was also flying from Peoria to Houston, came and went……on Delta. We continued to wait.

By the time the agents finally did come to the gate, it was questionable whether two of us would be able to make our connecting flight to Houston from Chicago. We were assured, however, that we could.

Fast forward finally to Chicago. We landed while our connecting flight was boarding. My new friend, Marlene, had to wait for her gate-checked bag, so I hurried out to the arrival gate to have them call ahead to the departure gate to let them know we were coming. There was no one from American Airlines at our arrival gate (are you sensing a recurring theme here?). So I hurriedly limped on ahead (remember the ankle) to the departure gate, perhaps a five-minute walk, to tell them Marlene was on her way. I got to the gate, and you guessed it, there was no one from American Airlines at the gate. The plane was still there, but there was no one from American Airlines to help us.

Another gate agent walked by, and I told her we needed help, and she said there wasn’t anything she could do. American Airlines employees, it appears, have no modern ways to communicate with each other.

Marlene arrived at the same time the gate agent came out of the jetway, and we pretty much knew at that point, we were out of luck. The agent told us we couldn’t get on the plane because it had already left the gate. I said, “We were on another one of your planes. Couldn’t you see on your computer that we were only minutes away??” She said yes, but they don’t hold planes. Now, I know I have been on planes, more than once, where the plane was waiting for people to get there from a connecting flight. I know this has happened, and I have waited a fair amount of time. We are talking minutes in this case, and they knew that, but they chose not to wait.

Soooo, we had to get re-rebooked. (I think I just made up a word.) They told us there was one seat on the 3:30 flight (we were originally supposed to be in Houston around 2). Marlene, bless her, said to give it to me because I was trying to get to a conference, and she was just trying to get home. Let’s further remember this was on our second day of travel with American Airlines, and I probably don’t have to remind anyone reading this that the day before we were breathing nasty smoke in one of their planes because of one of their faulty pipes and we had to make a very scary emergency landing, and…..ok, no, I probably don’t have to remind anyone of that.

Marlene was finally able to get booked on the flight also, and she learned there were two first-class seats. So she asked (as I stood there in awe of her) if we could be upgraded to first class because of all we’d been through. The Gate Supervisor told her she’d have to call Phone Customer Service because Phone Customer Service apparently has more authority than Gate Customer Service. She talked to someone at Phone Customer Service, she was told her request was approved, she was then put on hold for many minutes, and she was then disconnected. When she called back, she was transferred to three different people, and she then insisted she be connected with a Phone Customer Service Supervisor who had the authority to make decisions, and she was put on hold for another long amount of minutes. When she finally did talk to Phone Customer Service Supervisor, she was told she needed to talk to Gate Customer Service Supervisor because Phone Customer Service does not, in fact, have more authority. When she finally found the Gate Customer Service Supervisor, she was told, and I am not making this up, we could not be bumped up to first class because they can’t upgrade everyone who is affected by “mechanical difficulties.”

Mechanical. Difficulties.

We thought we were going to die in a crash landing on one of their smoke-filled jets that was caused by their airline, and they referred to it as “mechanical difficulties.” Ohhhh, American Airlines, you shouldn’t oughta have done that.

I have previously made it clear that I know very little about aviation. Well, this girl does know Customer Service, having spent 20+ years of my professional life working in that capacity. Let’s just cut to the chase here. The one thing you never do, as a human being, but certainly as a business, is minimize a bad experience your customers had, especially if the bad experience involved a terrifying, life-threatening event caused by your company. If you’re wrong, you own it, and you do what you can to make it right. It is not rocket science, and frankly, if they had thrown a decent amount of miles or a voucher my way and said how sorry they were for what I experienced, or even, if they didn’t want to admit fault, if they had said how happy they were that I was ok, I would not have a strong need to pursue this. But, they didn’t.

In fact, I have heard nothing. We were told their Legal Department would be in touch. Not even the Legal Department has attempted to contact me. It has been more than a week, and no one from American Airlines has bothered to get in touch with me at all. That’s ok, though, because I will be getting in touch with them…..

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