Wanderings, travel, photographs and skiing…

American Airlines – do they know the meaning of customer service?

By on January 24, 2010 in USA

Here is a fair question: Does American Airlines understand the concept of customer service?  I would have to say NO.

The Story

The Flight Out: On the way out from London to Boston my original flight was cancelled.  No reason was ever given, and I was transferred to a flight 6 hours later.  The result of this was instead of arriving in Boston at 3 pm local time I arrived at 9 pm, by which time Alamo, despite a phone call to tell them I would be late and to hold my car, no longer had the car I ordered, and I had to pay for an upgrade.  As an added bonus American Airlines had lost the bag containing all my ski gear, which is pretty impressive when you consider the fact they had 6 hours to get it on the right plane.

The Car Hire: On arriving at Alamo at Boston Airport I discovered they didn’t have my car, an intermediate SUV (cheapest car with all wheel drive – might need all-wheel drive in the snow!). I was then offered a free upgrade to a people carrier. This I was not happy with as it looked like a van, and I was not sure if it was all-wheel drive…

Finally, they came up with a Chevy Tahoe for an extra $15 per day. I took it as it was now late, and I had a 3-hour drive ahead of me (by this time I hadn’t really slept for 20+ hours).

Now, this is the question. Was this a con? Is this the modern equivalent of selling you extra insurance at the car hire desk when you don’t need it?

The Lost Bag:  The tale of the lost bag is almost beyond belief.

When American Airlines loses one of your bags, they give you a form, a unique number, and tell you they will call and let you know what is happening.  They never called….

What I had to do was phone a help number every day (I usually called morning and evening), and to get the status of the bag they had lost.

Now, two problems I had were I was moving around quite a bit and not staying very long at anyone address, and the trip was short….

However, this is how the game played out:

Tuesday: Bag lost.

Now the calls:

Wednesday morning: the bag located in the UK, and was en route to Boston

OK, so no ski gear. I called my travel insurers, American Express, who OKed the purchase of some replacement kit (ski trousers (pants), socks, some thermals, gloves and goggles (I had a hat in my coat pocket)).

Wednesday evening: the bag located in the UK, and was en route to Boston – so, no change since the morning.  What had they been doing for the last 8-hours?

Thursday morning: bag located, and still en route to Boston.  How was this back getting to Boston? Ship?  It has now taken the bag two days to get to Boston from the UK.

Thursday evening: the bag was now with FedEx, with an estimated delivery of 2 working days…  Two working days!!  What was FedEx doing with it?

Hang on, where was the call telling me this was happening?  Plus, in two working days (Friday and Monday)? I would be back in the UK before the bag got to me. I did have a FedEx tracking number, but when I called FedEx, they said the package didn’t exist.

I called American Airlines and finally got hold of a human (the secret is when you call you need to press 0 (zero) four or five times and ignore the menu system) who transferred me back to the automated baggage system – I hung up.

I called American Airlines again, no joy, no one could help me.

I called American Airlines again, and finally got someone who seemed to know what they were doing.

We got the bag recalled from FedEx and returned to Boston Airport for me to collect on my outward flight.  They also logged the reason for the return into the American Airlines system and called Boston to explain what was happening.  Success?


On the Friday American Airlines Baggage Service at Boston called to ask why the bag had been returned!!!!!

The Flight Out:  I arrived at the airport, collected the bag, checked all the contents were there, and that nothing had been added.  I asked about compensation such as a free upgrade to show good will, nothing.  Not a thing. Thanks, American Airlines.

I went to check-in and was told I was two bags over the limit (I now had three bags:

  1. clothes
  2. new ski gear – which I had to buy to replace the lost gear
  3. the original, lost ski gear

After some haggling, American Airlines decided not to charge for the new ski gear bag (as I pointed out it was their fault I had gained a bag), and to only charge $60 of the lost bag.  After some discussion, during which I pointed out that I had flown out with two bags the charge was waived.

Total Compensation from American Airlines:  None. Nothing.  Not even an apology.

To finish things off nicely the flight back to the UK was delayed for  2-hour.

So, can American Airlines do customer service?

Simple answer: No

Can American Airlines run an airline?  Doesn’t look like it….

I will avoid flying American Airlines in the future.

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Nick's continued wanderings can be followed on Twitter: @nickswanderings.
Photos from this blog are available for purchase via Shutterstock and Eyeem

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