Monday, October 19, 2009

The American Airlines Rant Continues

For those of you who have not been following my frustrations with American Airlines on Twitter, allow me to briefly bring you up to date.  Our daughter's wedding was this weekend. Her fiance' flew in from their new home in North Carolina, arriving Thursday morning - without his luggage. This was a one-stop flight and the bag contained not only his wedding clothes, but clothes for their honeymoon, too. He immediately filed a claim with American Airlines and was soon told that his bag had been located and was on another flight to Little Rock, scheduled to arrive later on Thursday. "We'll bring it to your location", he was told. Hours later? No bag; no contact from American Airlines.  Another call got much the same response - "your bag is on the way and we'll deliver it, no later than late  Friday morning. You're getting the picture now, right? Friday morning came - no luggage.  Now, American Airlines "customer service" people are saying that the bag somehow ended up in Atlanta (strange, considering the lone stop on the flight was in Dallas) and would be coming to Little Rock on a Delta flight. Hours later, with no sign of the luggage, more phone calls were made. This time American Airlines said they had no way to track the bag, since it was on Delta, but they promised to call Delta and get an update. Of course, that attempt ran into the same problems we encountered: no one staffs the baggage areas except for brief moments around a flight's arrival. So, American could not get in touch with Delta, or so they claimed. By now, it was obviously that the first responses that the luggage was on a flight to Little Rock were nothing more than blatant lies, designed to keep us off the phone. The next move was to try to get some type of compensation from  American, so the groom could replace at least some of his clothing. After being told to buy new clothing and bring the receipts to the local American Airlines desk, the local agent said he could authorize payment for only $200 of the $350 that was spent to replace the minimal clothing for the wedding and honeymoon.  He was told he could appeal to the company, but not to expect much in the way of a positive response.
If there has been one bright spot, it's that a local American Airlines employee happened to be searching through the US Airways baggage area and noticed a bag with a name he recognized from earlier communications - it was the groom's bag! When did US Airways get involved?  Nobody can answer that.  When was the bag found? AFTER the Saturday wedding. In time for the honeymoon, but still extremely frustrating.
Even more frustrating to me was a story that just happened to appear in our local newspaper this (Monday) morning; a story about how the low-cost airlines are doing a much better job of using Twitter and social networking sites to communicate with frustrated passengers than the major carriers. Particularly telling was this reference to American Airlines' philosophy: "American thinks that social media shouldn't be a replacement for existing customer service in which representatives respond to calls and e-mails from consumers".
Yessir - they respond.  With lies and bad information.  That's just a great way to run an airline. And, yes, I've tried giving them a chance to respond, directing Twitter posts to the lone account that seems moderately active.  However, most posts are promoting fares and activities in destination cities. Obviously, nobody who cares about customer service or who has any power to respond and make things right is reading.
Most of this post is personal, since our daughter's wedding and honeymoon were made more stressful by the horrid performance of American Airlines.  Some is professional. Our business, Station X, grew out of the realization that many businesses need help in managing customer service via social media. American Airlines, we need to talk. You have a problem and it's not going to get any better until you look around you and realize that you need to change.

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