I really wasn’t going to write this post but on the advice of some colleagues and friends in the industry, I decided to go ahead and share my experiences with American Airlines. Here’s my story:
Last week I booked a last minute ticket to Hawaii; the flight departed Thursday and I booked it Wednesday evening. It was just one of those spur of the moment things that I decided to do. I was scheduled to be in Hawaii Thursday evening and return to San Francisco on Monday morning. I had a stressful week and was really looking forward to finishing up some things in Hawaii and relaxing (as conferences and speaking gigs were coming up). Here was my schedule:
- Leave SFO on Thursday and fly to LAX on American Airlines
- Catch connecting LAX flight to Maui on Thursday evening (left just over an hour after the previous flight was supposed to land) on Continental
- Depart Maui on flight to LAX on Continental (overnight on Monday/Tuesday)
- Catch connecting flight from LAX to SFO on United and arrive Tuesday morning.
My flight on Thursday from SFO to LAX was delayed for an hour and 15 minutes. Once I found out about the delay, I went to the ticket counter and told a lady there that I had a connecting flight on Continental that I might miss and asked her what I should do. Her response (and I kid you not) was, “I have no idea.” I asked her if there were any other flights they could put me on because if I was going to miss my connecting flight (and I was only going to be in Hawaii for a few days), then I would have rather just canceled everything and not have left San Francisco to begin with. The lady at the counter said, “fly to LA and then we can help you from there.” Granted, I’m not the smartest man on the planet but as I sat there trying to work through her logic, I couldn’t help but go cross-eyed. Someone from American Airlines told me I should fly to LA 400 miles away to get help for a problem that I was having in San Francisco. I told the lady that I didn’t want to fly to LA in case I got stuck there without a flight going anywhere. Again her response was that she can’t help me and that there is nothing she can do. I had no choice but to board the flight hoping that I would arrive just in time for my connecting flight. Before I go on, take a break, play with a Rubik’s cube or read something intelligent because the stupidity only gets worse from this point.
I boarded the flight and we were ready to go but then we had another 15 min delay because a crew member had a problem with his headset (at this point most people on board were quite irritated). I was most likely going to miss my connecting flight on Continental. I asked the stewardess on American Airlines if I could be the first to leave so that I can run to try to catch my other flight. Her response was that I could leave AFTER the first class passengers left. My response was, “but the first class passengers aren’t late for a connecting flight.” She turned her back and walked away. When we landed in LAX, the first class passengers (most of them) stepped aside and let me get off the plane first since they heard that the stewardess wouldn’t let me off (yes, even the mighty first class passengers thought this was absurd). I asked the stewardess where I should go for the connecting flight. She had no idea and said I should check the screens when I got off the plane. I asked if someone at Continental had been notified that the American flight was delayed and she said she had no idea.
We landed. I ran to the Continental gate and my flight was gone. I went back to the American Airlines gate and they re-booked me for a flight the following morning and gave me a voucher for a hotel and a whopping total of $25 that I could use to cover dinner AND breakfast the next day and that could only be used in that terminal (are you kidding me?). The next day I arrive at the airport and go eat at Chili’s-to-go (it was either that or Burger King since you can’t use the voucher in any other terminal). I then went over to a News Stand to pick up a few protein bars (I’m a bit of a health nut), and sadly the vouchers couldn’t be used for those protein bars, but I was told I could use them at Starbucks. So I headed over to Starbucks and waited in line for around 15-20 minutes. I figured I could at least get some fruit and some almonds/cashews/other snacks for the road. I waited in line and when I get to the front the lady tells me that the American Airlines vouchers don’t cover anything that I picked up; only pastries and tea/coffee. By this point I was already livid so I purchased my tea and gave the remaining balance to other people in line. Starbucks was right next to the gate that I was supposed to be at and I saw a large group waiting around so I figured that boarding hadn’t started yet. I go to the gate and instead of a flight to Hawaii I see a flight to DC…a bit confused I ask the lady at the gate where my flight went. Apparently the gate was changed and everyone on my flight already boarded, I was the last person on board and almost missed the flight again.
Needless to say I made it to Hawaii and had a good time (missing a night there already), that is , until I went back to the airport to try to fly home…
I get to the airport and go to Continental (which is the airline I was supposed to take to get from Maui to LAX, and then I would United Airlines back to SFO). I try to check in and am told that I am no longer in their system. Interesting. I go American Airlines and I am no longer in their system either. Finally I go to United and they tell me I’m not in their system either. So here I am with a fully purchased flight to get back home (in just over an hour) and none of the airlines have me on record. By this point I’m seriously losing my mind. After explaining my situation to all three carriers they all start blaming each other and passing me around. My flight was leaving in under an hour by this point so I went to all three airline counters, grabbed someone from each airline (since they kept blaming each other and passing me around) and brought them physically together to ask one simple question, “WTF is going on and how do I get home?” The manager at American Airlines said there is nothing she can do and turned her back and walked away. Apparently United had control of my ticket somehow, so I went to their counter. The man at the counter said he would try to help me, he disappeared for 20 minutes and came back and said all he could do is put me on standby with Continental because all the United flights were full. I asked what would happen if that didn’t work. I was told that I would then need to spend my own money on another flight and hotel (to fly the next day). Keep in mind that I already paid for all my flights to get to Hawaii and back home to SF. Now I was being told to buy ANOTHER flight and get ANOTHER hotel on my own dime. I thought I was in the twilight zone.
Meanwhile, Lorry Thomas (not sure on spelling) from Continental was paying attention to everything that was going on (I was updating her). After being shunned by American and a failed attempt to get United to help, I turned to Continental Airlines. I approached the counter and literally said, “Hi Lorry, I’m fucked.” Lorry and Robert Pierce (the supervisor from Continental) tried for 20 minutes to do absolutely everything they could and finally after a few phone calls and throwing around some ideas, they said they were going to “force me on their flight” (apparently they had some way of making it work) so that I could get home. Continental was oversold, yet somehow they were able to get me on their flight and into a seat. The problem was that I had around 20 minutes to go through security and run across the airport (literally) to get to my gate. Robert escorted me to security and I sprinted for dear life to make it to the gate. I got there pouring in sweat in my slacks and dress shirt (I was going straight into a conference when I landed in SFO) and stressed out of my mind. Just as I got there I hear my name on one of the employee’s headset with Robert’s voice that says, “we have Jacob Morgan sprinting to the gate, he’s on his way, please try to help him when he gets there.” The employee responds with, “yep, Jacob just made it.” Robert responds with, “wow, that’s record time.” After running across the airport with my luggage I finally made it and Continental got me to LAX where I was able to take my connecting flight on United to SFO (I can’t remember the last time I was so stressed out. I’m usually very calm but was on the verge of missing my flight, conference, and business meetings).
I spoke with both representatives from Continental and United, both of them told me that since my American Airlines flight was late and that my itinerary was changed, that all resulting flights were canceled. American Airlines (from what I was told) was supposed to fix the problem by either re-booking me or doing something to fix the situation. My vacation turned into an extremely stressful event for me and my entire trip to Hawaii was ruined. Instead of coming home relaxed, I came home under more stress than I had been under in a long time.
To make matters worse I was on Twitter the whole time pleading with any airline to help me (especially American) and received no response (until recently). American Airlines never even said “sorry” up until I received a DM from them on Twitter which said “sorry for the negative experience.” To which I replied, “a negative experience is when you order a steak well done the comes rare, what you guys put me through was hell.” I was promised a resolution but up to this point I was promised someone will contact me but have heard nothing yet.
I am now using this example in several of my presentations on Social CRM (I’m not going to explain all of that here, but it is very applicable and timely). I am going to avoid flying American Airlines whenever possible, and encourage everyone that reads this to never fly American Airlines again. I have tweeted and updated my Facebook status during the course of the ordeal talking about the disaster and how much I hate American Airlines. What’s funny is that I have had several people respond to me on Twitter and Facebook telling me about their awful experiences as well.
Continental stepped up and made sure that I got home. They fixed a problem that they didn’t cause and for that I thank them and will try to fly them when I can. Still no resolution from anyone American Airlines; the most I got from them where a few tweets saying that they will look into it, ya I won’t hold my breath.
Something is clearly broken in this system which has truly left me feeling that…
American Airlines Hates Its Customers
Google, “American Airlines sucks” to see some of the horror stories. Also try searching for that phrase in Facebook as groups have already been created. Have an American Airlines horror story you want to share? What do you think of what happened to me? Anyone in the airline industry have some perspective on this? Please leave your thoughts below.