Monday, November 14, 2005

American Airlines Rocks

In stark contrast to my experience with US Airways on Friday, American Airline really understands what customer service is all about. Since I used to only fly American, perhaps that is why I was so frustrated with the people at US Airways the other day. I have to fly to DC this week as I mentioned, but Kristie and I also have a flight to Miami on FRI where we will spend the weekend visiting my grandfather and friends (yes, South Beach on SAT night till 5am, but let me get to the point here)

Now that my meeting is THUR afternoon in DC, I don't want to be flying back across the country on TH night only to leave for Miami on FR morning. But since the ticket we have is international, I realized that I would never make it to Jamaica if I missed the opening leg of the flight. So I got on the phone with American Airline's customer service. When the agent initially looked up alternatives to rebooking the flight through DC onto Miami on FR, the initial cost was $1,800 (approx $1,400 more than original ticket, plus the $100 change fee). WOAH! Way too much, I thought I might not be able to make it work.

But get this, she says to me "Hold on for a moment while I take this upstairs to see what they can do." I did not even need to ask, she did not try to get me to buy that $1,800 ticket or anything. While waiting on hold, she checked back in with me every minute or so to let me know she was still waiting to get this resolved and to reassure me someone was working on it. How cool and nice of her - am so bummed I did not get her name.

After about 4 minutes or so (yes that is right, 4 minutes, not 40), she came back on the phone with me and told me they would be able to change my itinerary around and it would only cost $350 for the 2 new legs plus the standard change fee - this is actually less than what I had priced it at online for the same flights for SFO-DCA-MIA. I gave her my credit card and everything was done in less than 15 minutes!

Almost forgot one of the best parts - a real pet peeve I have is when entering my customer data for the CSR's (or when they take it over the phone) most companies do not pass this to the next person providing service. American did just that. I verbally gave their computer voice input system my frequent flyer number, which was handed to the first rep and then on to the international desk. When she answered, she new my name and my number, making the whole thing that much easier.

What more can I say except American Airlines rocks and will always be my carrier of choice.

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At Thursday, January 04, 2007 8:20:00 PM, Blogger Naahm Deplume said...

Wow, someone had a positive experience on American? Just so the blogging public gets both sides, I won't fly American and here's why.

Our tale of woe stems from our attempt to fly on December 21, 2006 from Hayden, CO to Chicago-O’Hare, then on to Philadelphia, PA. Severe weather affected operations at Denver International Airport and Chicago-O’Hare (but not Hayden) that day. The gate personnel at Hayden were not particularly well-informed about goings-on outside of Hayden; in fact, we got updates automatically on our cellphone and had information well in advance of the agents, information that often contradicted theirs. Further, the only person qualified to handle most inquiries was Gert, the sole manager in Hayden. I do not fault her demeanor that day–she had to deal with all manner of disgruntled passengers, but our attempts to work the system to craft a solution for our return to Philadelphia was not well received by her. Eventually, after being informed that we could be in Chicago for three days awaiting a flight to Philadelphia, we agreed to fly to Washington-National on a flight leaving around 6:15 a.m. the following morning. When we asked about travel from National to Philadelphia, we were curtly told by Gert that travel beyond Washington was “on us.” Further, Gert informed us that American had no responsibility to fly us beyond Chicago due to the weather, and that the flight to Washington was arranged as a courtesy to us! This infuriated my wife, an experienced air traveler, who informed Gert that other airlines were more cooperative. Gert wanted to know which airline that was (USAirways) and invited us to fly it next time (I did). As it turned out, after arriving in Chicago, we learned of a delayed flight to Washington-National that was leaving immediately, and we were able to get on that flight.

When we arrived in Washington, we were on our own. We rented a car at 2 a.m. and drove to Philadelphia. Now, we were able to fill three seats on American that would have gone empty, and freed three seats on a flight to Philadelphia that we are certain American filled with other fliers. This undoubtedly conferred a benefit on American. From our perspective, we felt as if we were penalized for taking an active role in helping American try to fulfil its contract to deliver us to Philadelphia with “reasonable dispatch.” A good deal for American but not for us.

With respect to our baggage, this was another story, and one that added considerable insult to injury. While at the gate in Chicago, passengers in front of me started complaining about the baggage handling that they observed from the plane. While I watched, I saw some of our bags came down the belt, whereupon the baggage handler looked at the tags, then threw them over the belt and on to the rain-swept tarmac on the other side of the belt truck.

When we arrived in Washington, early on December 22nd, I went to the baggage office and asked about how to get the bags redirected to Philadelphia. The baggage agent took the tags, made several entries in his computer, and informed me that the bags were redirected to Philadelphia. He further instructed me to make a claim in Philadelphia, not there in Washington, so that Philadelphia would deliver the bags to our house.

The following morning, my wife went to the baggage office to make the claim. The office was locked. Later that day, I went to the same office, where I was informed that they could not accept a claim because it was not timely. I recounted what I was told in Washington, but it was of no moment. Further, they disputed my wife’s account that the office was closed when we first came by. She told me that I had to deal directly with American’s baggage phone representatives. She also gave me some numbers that corresponded to each bag–she called them “reference numbers.” She assured me that they were called “reference numbers” within American.

I called the 800 number, waited the phone queue, and informed the representative that I wanted to make a claim. Based on the responses received, I thought that I had initiated a claim and given American instructions on how to deliver the bags. I thought wrong.

Over the next few days, my wife made three calls and spent approximately six hours in phone queues. Each time, she was informed that no claim had been opened, the bags were in Chicago awaiting instructions, and each time she gave new instructions. Finally, exasperated at the lack of progress, she asked me to take over. I made one final call to the 800 number and informed the representative that I wanted assurances that a claim would be opened, and asked for confirming information. She provided me with a “file locator” number that she said was a single number for all of the bags. When I compared this “file locator” number to my notes, I noticed that it was the same as one of the “reference numbers” for only one of the missing bags.

Finally, on December 25, we received a message from “Jennifer” in the Philadelphia baggage office. The message (which we retained) informed us that our bags were there, and that we would likely have to pay to have them delivered! When I called her on December 26th, she told me that only three of our six bags were there, and that, yes, once again, there was no open claim and three bags in Chicago had no instructions. I gave her explicit instructions on handling and informed her that I would be there the following morning when I flew into Philadelphia (on another airline).

I visited Jennifer on the morning of December 27th and observed that 5 bags were now in Philadelphia. I also refused to pay for delivery. Because I had to go immediately to work, I left Jennifer instructions to deliver them after 7:00 p.m.; they were delivered at 11:30 that night. The final bag was delivered the following evening.

You think that is the end? Oh, no.
Here is the ultimate insult to injury--my wife was foolish enough to put good jewelry in her checked bags and, guess what? The jewelry was stolen while the bags were in American's custody for that week. And American, naturally, says its too late to file a claim.

That is why I will never fly American.


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