American Airlines / wors airline service
July 31, 2008.
Last June 30th, we flew with American Airlines to Europe. I believe it is only fair you know what we went through.
We bought the tickets since February and in April, we called AA to confirm the flights and reserve our seats. When I did it, I asked to be in the first row, no problem. The fly left from Miami, on time, the food was great and the flight attendants were nice.
Later, AA decided to cancel our flight back from London, so you do all necessary to contact us and notify us about it. We got a mail letting us know about the inconvenience and asking us to let you know where we would stay at London, to send us a cab to take us to the airport as a compensation for all the problems AA knew caused the fact that we had already paid the taxi to the Airport.
The day we flew back from London, the cab arrived right on time and took us to Heathrow Airport, where the driver took our baggage to AA desk while we were informed that because all the trouble AA caused we would get upgrades.
By now, I’m sure you can’t believe things happened as I say, because you know how AA really is. And you are right, this is what it would have been like if AA were a real airline, but it is not even close to it.
These are the facts about AA. First of all, the name is wrong; the correct name you should have is American Sorry Airlines, ASA.
As I say in my fantasy, it is true we got our tickets since February and confirmed the flight and our seats in April. But, when I asked for the first row, ASA staff said that ASA policy is to assign them only at the departure gate.
The day we flew from Miami, we were at the gate the first in row, and when we asked for the seats in the first row, the woman said they were already assigned. No, they are not, we are first in line and they are assigned here, how can it be? And the magic began then; the answer was: SORRY! I insisted, -how can it be? - It is against ASA policies, and again the answer was SORRY. At that same moment, I asked ASA staff if the seats and flight for our trip back from London were Ok. She checked, and the answer was: yes, everything is Ok, you do not have to do anything else.
The flight did not leave on time as in my tale, but with a 90-minute delay, the food was terrible and, unfortunately, the attendants were far from nice. Finally, we arrived to Paris and after a long wait, we got our luggage, and one of our pieces of luggage, the new great case we just bought for our trip to Europe, was literally broken by half! We had to discard it at our Paris hotel.
We contacted ASA personnel on this matter and again magic: we are SORRY! Who is going to pay for the damage, I asked, and the answer was: SORRY, I do not know.
I was really upset at ASA and only prayed that was the last problem, how silly of me. I have to mention at this point, that 3 out of the last four times we have flown with ASA, we have got at least one broken piece of luggage. The two other times, we made our claims but got the same answer.
In the way back, from London to New York on July 27th, we had a scheduled departure from Stansted at 10:15 am on flight AA12. We hired a cab in advance to take us to the airport for £65. Try to imagine my reaction when we arrived and could not find the ASA desk. Finally, only Swissair Airline helped us. They suggested we go to the airport information desk, but the only helpful thing they have to say is that ASA has not flown from Stansted for the past two months! However, they fail to provide a phone number to call ASA, at our expense, on a mobile phone from Mexico, and there is obviously not a single ASA employee in the airport to provide any sort of assistance.
Ironically, Swissair actually helped us; they found an ASA phone number and confirmed that ASA was leaving from Heathrow. Without another alternative, we took yet another cab to Heathrow at a cost of £117!
On the way to Heathrow, I called the two numbers we had. In the first one we got a message: “On Sundays we start at 8:30am”. It is correct, who cares about passengers flying early in the morning, they deserve to have problems because they chose to fly early on Sunday. The second number, mentioned the same and a 800 number. I dialed it, and it was in USA! I paid the long distance call, remained in line for almost 10 minutes waiting and there were no available operators, who can believe it, it was 2am in NY!
Finally we arrived at Heathrow, and then, it happens, the driver shows us what a service attitude means. He parked, turned off the engine and go out of the cab running, to pickup two carts for our luggage, I was amazed, it was a clear example of service attitude. ASA clearly does not know about this a bit.
When we finally were at the ASA Customer Service desk, the nightmare continues. The woman in charge, informed me our flight was simply canceled and changed to Heathrow. Well I say, really upset, we are here, and still on time, so please give us our boarding passes. And then, the worst, she informed us that ASA canceled also our reservation without informing us and without my consent. It was clear at this point, that ASA is absolute incapable; you do not have an idea about what service means.
I was of course very angry. The woman informed me she would put us in standby and confirmed for another flight, 6 hours later! I had a very important meeting in NY at 5pm. Of course, ASA did not put us in the flight even after you cancelled without my authorization our tickets, we spent £182 on cabs because of ASA irresponsibility and when I asked to the ASA personal who was going to pay for it, the answer was (guess): we are SORRY.
We finally left from London at 4:30pm, got the same very bad food and scarcely better attendants. I missed a very important meeting in NY because of your poor service.
It took us 45 minutes to go trough customs and 90 minutes after landing we were still waiting for our luggage, because every time we asked ASA staff why other passengers had gotten their luggage and we hadn’t, the answer was: yes SORRY, it will come. Every ASA employee at Luggage Service was very, very impolite and finally, after I was really angry, they checked and found one more ASA incredible error: our baggage was left at London! (I now realize, at this point I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, considering what I had already been through). No excuses, ASA is totally unable of managing an airline.
With a very bad attitude, ASA staff accept to make a report. At this moment I realized what was going on. ASA is cutting expenses and is doing it with two main actions: hiring undertrained people and not training them, leaving the customers to supervise them. So I started. I checked twice the report; it had errors –both times- and was incomplete even when I was giving all the information. I had to request to be printed twice to make absolutely sure it was complete and correct. I was informed the luggage would arrive during the night and would be sent to our hotel. Then I asked, who is going to pay for the clothes and clean items we have now to buy, and of course, the answer was SORRY, we do not know. We spend over $100US on clothes and toiletry items.
As I’m sure, you now know what happened next day, the luggage did not arrive, as offered, to our hotel. I called the 800 number and start my supervision activities once more. I inquired about my luggage and was informed it had just left London and was going to arrive at 14:44. Problem again, we had tickets to Mexico with Mexicana at 6pm. We went to JFK airport to supervise the staff more closely.
As we arrived, I went to the Luggage Services desk and asked for my luggage, it was 3:00pm. Answer: we do not have it yet, do not worry, leave to Mexico, we will send it to Mexicana. Answer: how could it be that I knew the time and flight my luggage was arriving in and they did not (or at least they said so)? I insist, and the answer is: get out of the office and come back later!
3:15pm, enough! I went in again to the Luggage Services office. As soon as the woman sees me, she took her bag, jumped over the desk and left saying: some one will come, wait! That is the attitude, I remembered immediately the taxi driver at London. As I was responsible for supervision and was aware of the office, I walked to the storage room to find some one. There I found one of the only two employees I would not fire. He understood quickly the problem and was the first person from ASA that instead of being SORRY, took action. He took my report and told me he would find them, go trough customs and put them in transfer to Mexicana. It looked Ok to me.
While waiting, a woman came to the desk. She was Caroline Matwansih. She was the second person that instead of being SORRY, helped me to solve the problem. While I was explaining my problem, I remembered responsibility number one of supervision: see problems in advance, and I did it and found a big one. As I was responsible to avoid any more errors from ASA, I took action immediately. A potential problem was that as our luggage was documented in London as a terminal flight in NY, putting the luggage in transfer to Mexicana was not going to work because the tags did not have Mexico as final destination.
I explained this to Caroline, she understood it immediately and took the appropriate measures. She literally ran to the customs and caught our luggage in time before it was transferred. Finally we got it, and to my big surprise, in one single piece, not broken.
It is clear that ASA is far, very far from most airlines, specially the Mexican, which always leave on time, deliver the baggage very quickly and in good shape, the attendants are very nice and you can even have a drink. In ASA it cost $6US. Aside of this, ASA staff have no training, are very impolite and have no service attitude at all (do you remember Swissair and the taxi driver?).
And last, why does no one take responsibility for all the ASA errors? Why did ASA not give us an upgrade, pay the £182 for the cabs and the $100US on clothes and toiletry accessories and the $150US for our broken case? We incurred in all this expenses because of ASA irresponsibility and carelessness about customers.
I understand an airline is not an easy business, especially with the rising energy prices, but once someone decides to involved in it, the first policy should be to accept errors and do whatever is necessary to correct them instead of turning them around on the customers and saying: SORRY. I worked for a company that serves 20, 000, 000 customers. I was responsible for the Y2K project. We could have said, let’s wait and say SORRY to our customers if something fails. We did not have that attitude. We faced the problem in advance, trained our staff, made all the necessary arrangements, anticipated potential drawbacks and so we were very successful in the Y2K. We accepted our problems and errors and corrected them instead of just sitting around and saying SORRY to customers.
Attitude and responsibility is the key.
Alfredo Guadarrama Mancilla
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