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Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

London, United...
posts: 773
reviews: 26
Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

I don't normally bother posting negative travel experiences on TA other than if I've stayed in a rubbish hotel, but this was so terrible that I felt the need to share it, mostly to see if anybody else has had a similar experience with AA and how they react to customer complaints.

I was due to fly home to Heathrow from San Jose, Costa Rica, last Saturday (7th), flying with AA and connecting via Dallas. Obviously with the bad weather in Dallas, we were getting pretty nervous on the Friday evening - we couldn't get any up to date information about our flight, the AA website was still showing it as planned to leave on time, it had disappeared off the DFW airport website (not even showing as cancelled, just vanished) and similarly it had disappeared off our BA Executive Club profiles, where it had been showing previously as the DFW-LHR leg was operated by BA.

The AA website did, however, say that customers due to fly through Dallas on that date could change their flight in advance with no fee, so we decided it would be worth doing that for peace of mind that we would get home in time for work on Monday. Their Costa Rican office was closed so we tried the US office, which had a one hour wait for the call to be answered (I work with call centres and that is REALLY appalling) and wouldn't accept a non-US number for its call back service. So we were basically stuck with showing up at the airport and hoping for the best.

We got to the airport at 6am (flight was due to leave at 9.20am) and as we suspected, the flight was cancelled. We hadn't had any email notification of this from AA. At the check-in desk, the agent told us we had already been rebooked on a flight home via Miami the following day. Again, we hadn't been emailed to tell us that, and when we asked why nobody had notified us to save us showing up at the airport, she just shrugged and said "Don't know, it's nothing to do with me."

We asked if they could get us on a flight that day (there was a flight leaving for JFK at 9.45am which they had still been selling tickets for the night before) and were told in no uncertain terms that no, there were no other flights and we would just have to wait. After we said we really needed to get home on Sunday because of work, we were offered the opportunity to fly SJO-MIA, MIA-JFK and JFK-LHR, with a 9 hour layover in the middle of the night at JFK. We asked about whether they would help us out with a hotel for a few hours at JFK, or to contribute to our costs if we spent another 24 hours in San Jose, and were told (with absolutely no hint of politeness) "No, it's the weather, it's not our fault, you get nothing from us".

Eventually, we decided on the lesser of two evils and went for the flight the following day via Miami. The following day when we arrived to check in, we asked firstly if the airline would consider upgrading us as a goodwill gesture, given all the hassle we had had the day before and the lack of help in getting us onto an earlier flight. The check-in agent was incredibly rude and just kept saying "no" to whatever we asked for, including a request to change our seats so that we could sit together. Frustrated at his total lack of customer service skills, we asked to see a supervisor to see if something could be done, and he just shrugged and said "He's not here right now". At this point, fed up of being stranded thousands of miles from home and treated like a pain in the backside instead of a customer who needed some help, I told him I didn't care where his supervisor was, he should go and get him for us. The check-in agent's reaction was to threaten to call the police and security and throw me off the flight. Last time I checked, being annoyed with incompetence wasn't illegal, but hey ho...

We did eventually get checked in, but the upshot of it was that we had to shoulder all the costs of the extra 24 hours in San Jose (we do have insurance but I was astonished that AA weren't even willing to offer a hundred dollars or so towards the hotel as a goodwill gesture), we had to miss work without pay on Monday because they didn't want to foot the cost of getting us onto an earlier flight (they could have sent us via BA but would have had to pay for an upgrade), and we were basically treated like an annoyance by the airline staff who had absolutely zero interest in helping us. We are now writing a formal complaint, including specifically against the aggressive check-in agent who threatened us with removal from the flight for asking to see his supervisor. It was really the shoddiest customer service I've ever been on the receiving end of - I've never come across a service organisation before that was quite so eager to wash its hands of its customers, or that treated people it was inconveniencing with quite so much contempt.

Apologies for the long rambling post, but what I am interested in is whether anybody else has had a similar experience with AA and managed to get any decent response from them to a complaint?

Liverpool, UK
posts: 11,664
reviews: 23
1. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

The fact was that adverse weather at DFW would have impacted hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers and every airline would struggle to cope with that situation.

Edinburgh, United...
posts: 8,751
reviews: 17
2. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

The only issue I see is that lack of email communication about the cancellation. Everything else is you wanting something that you aren't entitled to and then getting upset when it isn't provided.

Leeds, United...
Destination Expert
for Leeds, Bradford
posts: 9,393
reviews: 130
3. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

The weather was quite horrendous across much of the USA last week so DFW won't have been the only airport impacted. It's probably no surprise there were long waits at the call centre due to the amount of passengers requiring a rebooking of their flights - it happens in any service orientated industry when major issues arise.

Fort Lauderdale...
posts: 6,758
reviews: 130
4. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

Looks to me as though AA has covered their tracks very well:(from the AA.COM web page)

Cancellations

AA undertakes to use its best efforts to carry the passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch, but no particular time is fixed for the commencement or completion of carriage. Subject thereto AA may, without notice, substitute alternate carriers or aircraft and may alter or omit the stopping places shown on the face of the ticket in case of necessity.

AA may, in the event of a Force Majeure Event, without notice, cancel, terminate, divert, postpone, or delay any flight or the right of carriage or reservation of traffic accommodations and determine if any departure or landing should be made, without any liability except to refund in the original form of payment in accordance with involuntary refund rules any unused portion of the ticket. As used in this rule "Force Majeure Event" means:

Any condition beyond AA's control (including, but without limitation, meteorological conditions, acts of God, riots, civil commotion, embargoes, wars, hostilities, disturbances, or unsettled international conditions), actual, threatened or reported or because of any delay, demand, circumstances or requirement due, directly or indirectly, to such condition; or

Sorry to hear the Ticket Agent wasnt pleasant or helpful but from what Ive read I wouldnt expect much in return from AA.

Dubai, United Arab...
posts: 3,473
reviews: 14
5. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

I don't think you can blame AA for the bad weather. You have been offered another schedule, which you refused. As the weather is outside of the control of the airline you received no compensation. So far I see nothing negative.

I do not understand why you insisted of receiving something you were clearly not entitled to.

I was obviously not there, but I assume that a warning about escalating a situation to the police is not just done to avoid talking to a customer.

When dealing with unruly pax in the cabin, they also receive a written warning and most of them see this as a threat. Other see it as what it is, a warning. For few it is a promise.

Elk Rapids, Michigan
Destination Expert
for Lanai
posts: 8,744
reviews: 39
6. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

"Apologies for the long rambling post, but what I am interested in is whether anybody else has had a similar experience with AA and managed to get any decent response from them to a complaint?"

Nothing you have related entitles you to anything other than an explaination of why no notification. Possibly they did and it is in your spam folder.

London, United...
posts: 18,774
reviews: 23
7. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

You need to claim on your travel insurance, it's one of the things it's for, I'm surprised you did not take this route first.

AA in terms of their position was not in the wrong here. The only complaint can be about rude customer service and this is subjective ie we would have had to have seen both sides of the conversation and if you were also being rude as you were not getting what you wanted. I do find that agents tend not to threaten police and taken off a flight as a first reaction though, it's usually in reaction to a badly behaved customer.

I'm not sure either I agree that by the airline not giving you more than your entitlement ie the hundred bucks towards a hotel was in any way wrong or surprising. So many people being impacted this could end up costing them a huge amount of money, so I understand why front line staff don't have the authority to do that. It's a business, not a charity and the weather was in no way their fault, so why should they provide the goodwill, when your insurance would cover it.

As said, the airlines position, and not necessarily their manner of speech, was correct and your route for recompense is your insurance not the airline.

It might also be worth remembering that staff in these situations can be put under a huge amount of strain by demanding customers, and although they should remain professional throughout, sometimes you can understand why they may be snappy, I've always found treating them with politeness and respect results Ina more favourable outcome.

Sydney, Australia
Destination Expert
for Sydney, Bargain Travel, Food and Travel
posts: 19,289
reviews: 58
8. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

I'm not going to comment in either direction, I think it's pretty much been covered.

Just in regards to finding out other people's experiences, it's something that is commonly asked, whether it be airline, hotel, travel agent. I have a question for you - is it really going to help your situation? More often than not, it just prelongs the experience, and beyond what you're already likely to do (Im guessing youll contact the AA office to complain), do you gain anything?

Surbiton
posts: 1,427
reviews: 51
9. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

I told him I didn't care where his supervisor was, he should go and get him for us. The check-in agent's reaction was to threaten to call the police and security and throw me off the flight.

====================================================

I wonder how many other passengers were queuing behind the OP at this point. Most people, I imagine, would leave a buffer of a couple of days between their return home and going to work. Just in case of problems.

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 8,246
reviews: 51
10. Re: Horrendous experience with American Airlines - never again!

I told him I didn't care where his supervisor was, he should go and get him for us. The check-in agent's reaction was to threaten to call the police and security and throw me off the flight. Last time I checked, being annoyed with incompetence wasn't illegal, but hey ho..

________________

If you spoke to them in the manner in which you've written the post I'm not entirely surprised. You've badgered them for an upgrade because of the weather and come across as a bit of an @rse with that particular quote of sorts.

Claim off your travel insurance and fly another carrier next time if you so desire. Life goes on.