Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Nightmare Flights

January 19, 2011

A copy of my letter to American's a long story of how they seriously messed up our travel plans.  I couldn't make this up if I tried.  It's like a bad movie... 
Dear Customer Relations,

I am writing to you regarding our recent flights from Edinburgh, Scotland to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina on the 22 Dec 2010.  The story is a nightmare, but first let me start by introducing you to my family so that you might perhaps see us as people and not numbers and dollar signs.

I was flying with my husband, Christopher, and our two children, Samantha (2 years old) and Eli (a 5 week old infant.)  If you have children, perhaps you can understand the difficulty of traveling with children.  We were flying home for Christmas so that we could enjoy family and everyone could meet the new addition.

With this in mind, please consider how your company and it's errors completely devastated our traveling agenda.

To start our journey, our original flight from Edinburgh was supposed to give us two and a half hours or so to make our connection.  It was canceled due to weather....fair enough, you can't help bad weather and snow.  Fortunately we were booked on a flight leaving an hour later, so we still had time to arrive in London and make our connection.

So we arrive in London on time.  As we come up the jet bridge, there is a man standing with a sign for RDU, our final destination.  We stop and check in with him.  He has our names on his clipboard and a walkie talkie radio.  We inform him that we are there.  He gives us Express Connection passes to clear security quickly.  One would assume the radio was for him to inform someone that we are in the airport, but as you will read, that did not happen.

So we rush on through the airport.  We hop on the bus immediately leaving for the next terminal.  No wait at all.  We clear security with no wait at all.  So we are very relieved when we arrive to our gate 25 minutes before our flight is to take off.

We get to the counter to board the plane and we are informed that our seats were given away.  What?  Given away?  How?  We had boarding passes.  We checked in with the man from our last flight.  How is it possible that our seats were given away?

We were told it was because we did not check in at this particular airport.  We had boarding passes where we checked in online for your convenience and ours.  We checked in with the man at the airport when we left the flight. So there was no need for us to check in with anyone else because we were going to make our connection.

And yet we were not allowed to board the plane.  There were no seats left on the flight.  The most unbelievable thing is that we stood there and watched another 15 people board the flight after our seats had been given away.  The only explanation is that they checked in downstairs.  How were we supposed to know that we needed to check in downstairs?  Why was this a need when we had boarding passes and had already checked in with an airline employee from our last flight and told we would make our connection.

The employees working were not able to get any one of us on that flight, so we were stranded.  I was in absolute tears holding my 5 week old son.  My daughter was exausted and crying and my husband angry.  No one could help us.  We were sent to wait in line.

It might have been forgivable if it were just this, but the saga continued like a bad movie.  The next flight to Raleigh was the next day.  But we could not be booked on that flight because your company had already oversold that flight by 20+ people, plus there was a waiting list a mile long due to the snow in London and flight cancellations.

Now mind you, we're stranded, as a family with children, with thousands of others, and now no one cares because they think we are stranded due to weather.  In fact, it was not due to weather at all.  It was because someone just decided to give our seats away, even though we were in the airport. ((I might add that our BA flight (which your company booked us on)arrived to London on time.))

So now we are informed we will have to fly standby...along with hundreds of others.  So we wait for a connection to Cincinnati.  We were not able to make that flight, but can I tell you that my daughter who should have been safely resting on our flight to Raleigh, gets tired, and when she gets tired, she gets clumsy.  She fell into a set of chairs and busted her two front teeth.  Bloody and dazed, we called for a paremedic.  It took about an hour for him to show up, but there was nothing he could do except give us some paracetomol/tylenol.  Can I also let you know (although this is not directly your fault) that those teeth have now turned grey and are likely to fall out, so she will be without them for the next 5 years.  I tell you this to help you understand that you should in fact be more careful in how you treat your customers and how you communicate within airports.  We are people, not numbers and dollar signs.

Of course, now we are shelling out money to pay for food because we have to eat and are waiting hours hoping to catch a flight home.  The next flight for us to standby for is leaving 10 hours after we were supposed to fly out....we would have been home in Raleigh before this flight is leaving.

Might I also add, that no consideration was given to the fact we are flying with 2 small children.  No one seemed to care and our position on the standby list was only based on amount of time traveled.  What kind of screwed up thinking is that?  If it had just been my hubby and I, we could make the most of it and get over it.  But children cannot adapt to such things so easily, especially young children.  This policy seriously needs to be rethought.

So by miracle, we are able to get on the flight to New York/JFK.  Then we would have to change airports to La Guardia (a cab ride) to fly standby the next day and hopefully get to Raleigh.  We would have to spend the night in New York (a hotel cost).

We get to JFK and recheck with a ticket agent to hopefully get something confirmed to get home the next day.  She rebooks us on a confirmed Delta flight the next day.  She gives us a voucher for a cab to change airports.

The saga continues....

The cab agency that they called and gave us a voucher for was Avenis (or something like that I don't exactly remember the name.)  What I do know, is that when this company shows to pick us up, it is in a Jeep Cherokee with no cab company markings.  There is no car seat for my 5 week old or 2 year old.  There are no working seatbelts in the back seat at all.  No signs marking taxi anywhere in the car, but because an AA supervisor called the taxi for us, we thought it would be ok.  The driver was nice enough, but his driving was absolutely scary.  He weaved in and out of lanes (not traffick mind you as it is after 10pm in New York.)  Forutnately we arrived to the airport with no accidents.

Of course, our flights were not until the next day.  And since AA did not offer us a hotel (which would have seemed fair for a family of 4 traveling with small children and stranded due to the inefficiency of your company,) we had to spend the night, with our children, in the cold airport.  We went down to the luggage collection area, found a luggage cart where my husband tried to sleep with our two year old and our baby while I slept in a chair.  It was absolutely freezing.  Thank God we kept our jackets with us and did not put them in our checked bags.

The next day we finally arrived in Raleigh over 40 hours of travel with little sleep and little to eat as we could not afford a hotel or a lot of airport food.  (We booked with you because it was cheaper at the time...big mistake.)

But the saga still continues...

We get to Raleigh, but our luggage did not.  We filled out a report.  It was about 5 days later when we received a call from a lady who found our bag in New York.  The air travel sticker had been removed and she found our number on our luggage tag and called.  The bag was brought to our home, fair enough.

The second bag arrived to us about 7 days later, but our third bag has still not arrived.  No one can seem to find it.  So we are to fill out a claim with Delta for our lost bag.  File with delta even though the bags were lost by American Airlines.

This third bag was the only one of value.  It had my clothes and my jewelry (which will not be replaced apparently because lost luggage claims will not cover jewelry.)  I firmly believe someone from your company stole the things of value and conveniently lost the bag to cover it up, but who knows.

So that is all for now, though I just read on the Delta form for lost luggage that it was supposed to be filed within 21 days. I had been giving it time hoping the piece would be found, so they may try to not even cover the loss.  So much for my faith in you to recover my bag.

I want you to know that this flight was purchased and began in Edinburgh, Scotland and I plan to do all that is possible to recover our loss and receive compensation according to the Passenger's Bill of Rights.  I intend to even consult with a lawyer should this become necessary.  I am also copying this letter to the following places...

The Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division
400 7th Street SW, Room 4107
Washington, DC 20590


The Aviation Consumer Action Project
P.O. Box 19029
529 14th Street NW, Suite 1265
Washington, DC 20045

Now we are looking towards having to fly back to Edinburgh with American Airlines even though my faith in your company has been completely violated.  We can't afford to get a flight with another airline as we spent close to $3000 purchasing these flights. 

We make this flight path about twice a year.  Unless something is done regarding this matter, you can be assured that we will no longer be flying with your company for this trip (or any other for that matter.)  The incompetence that we encountered is just ridiculous.

Please carefully review this matter and consider our family and what your company might do to restore our trust in American Airlines.

I do have the flight numbers and baggage claim ticket. I would include them here, but now we are away from home in Kentucky (where we flew Delta, not AA.)  I will send them on to you when we arrive back home on Monday as I am sure you will need this information.

Kathrine Renea Gill

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