April 04, 2006

Dissed by American Airlines

So I just returned from a business trip, and I had a pretty big complaint for American Airlines. It failed to respond, so I feel the need to punish it. I was gentle in the letter - didn't mention, oh, yeah, by the way, I'm 7 months pregnant and you treated me this way.

Greg Clark
Managing Director
American Airlines Inc.
Customer Relations Dept.
P.O. Box 619615/MD2400
DFW Intl Airport, TX 75261 9612

Dear Mr. Clark:

We were given your name as the contact who handles customer inquiries and dissatisfaction. Yesterday, your airline exhibited examples of both excellent and hideous customer service. You should know of both.

Flight 597 out of Raleigh/Durham to Chicago on 3/30/2006 was late in arriving (and therefore leaving) due to earlier maintenance problems. Many passengers on this flight were set to connect to other cities for their final flights, and when the gate agent learned of the possible delay, she notified the passengers congregated around the gate and booked us on the Chicago fight to St. Louis the following morning as a pre-emptive measure. She was pleasant and even at one time brought one of us water from the American Airlines cooler because the water supply was subjected to construction and therefore not advisable to drink. She instructed us that vouchers would be available should we need to spend the night in Chicago and that it would actually be prudent to plan this course of action.

In flight, the pilot was very pleasant and communicative. He managed to have us on the ground at 9:45 p.m. or thereabouts, and there's where the nonsense began. Though O'Hare was aware of our imminent arrival, no logistics had been planned to accommodate the plane at a gate. The connecting flight was at 10:26, and had passenger dispersal commenced at a normal pace (use Southwest as an example of how to expeditiously put passengers into an airport), I have no doubt that we would have connected with our flight, which was scheduled to depart from three gates away.

We waited on the runway for more than 30 minutes. The pilot kept us apprised of the status of the situation and was both obviously embarrassed and highly apologetic.

And it only got worse from there.

Not only was the gate not prepared for our arrival, but the customer service gate agents were neither friendly nor accommodating. A member of our party had to become nearly belligerent in order to secure us vouchers for a hotel in the evening. We were not allowed to get to our luggage. We were essentially treated like cattle – not a way to win customers in an industry where your competitor Southwest shines in customer service. The hotel at which we were placed was 20 miles away, and the shuttles to the hotel were few and far between at this time of night. One member opted to stay in the airport to avoid further hassle.

None of this is acceptable. While unplanned maintenance is a fact of life, the handling of same by professional staff makes all of the difference. American's professionalism in the whole affair was absent save the RDU gate agent and the communicative pilot.

You now have unhappy customers. Your flight attendants constantly remind passengers that they have a choice in air travel. Yes, we do. The remainder of your staff should be enlightened of that fact.

Disappointed passengers:
(list of 3 of us)

It's April 4th - birds they are a chirpin' on a response.


Posted by hln at April 4, 2006 01:34 PM | Praise and Blame | TrackBack
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