AA Lies About Bad Weather To Deny Reader Compensation

Reader S knows his stuff when it comes to his rights as an airline passenger. He was flying on American Airlines (AA) and takeoff was delayed. AA said it was because of thunderstorms in Dallas. He called a friend in Dallas and they said “there isn’t a cloud in the sky.” AA later revealed the flight was actually delayed because they were waiting for a fax. It’s understandable why AA lied. Since this was something they had control over, it meant they owed several things to the delayed passengers. By lying and saying it was due to the weather, they could escape their obligation. The flight finally took off but reader S missed his connection and had to stay overnight in a hotel, a hotel room that American should have paid for. Inside, the letter S executive email carpet bombed after two customer service reps refused to listen to his story on the phone and an online form sent back a robotic received reply with no real results.

To Whom It May Concern,

I have never contacted any company with a complaint before, however my recent experience with American Airlines was the single worst consumer experience I’ve ever had. From beginning to end my friend and I were confronted with rude representative, lies and absolutely no concern for the completely screwed up travel plans.

I purchased a roundtrip ticket on American Airlines for my friend to fly out from Los Angeles to Atlanta for my wedding.

The problems started in LA where the planes was delayed, initially gate agents claimed this was because of thunderstorms in Dallas where my friend was connecting on to ATL.

However, another wedding guest was already in Dallas, where as he told me, “there isn’t a cloud in sky.” Eventually, after several hours delay attendants admitted that the flight was waiting for a fax regarding permission for another passenger who needed an oxygen supply for the flight.

Eventually the flight left LA, but by then the connecting flight was long gone. The next connecting flight from Dallas to Atlanta was the next morning, forcing my friend to spend the night in the Dallas airport.

Not only was my friend not offered a hotel room for the night, the attendants in Dallas wouldn’t even give her or other passengers blankets, water or any other basic necessities.

So she and the other passengers were forced to spend the night hungry and cold, unable to sleep or leave the airport.

My understanding of your “conditions of carriage” agreement is that my friend deserves compensation. The relevant section reads: “If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.”

The fact that attendant already refused to provide meal vouchers or a hotel room means that, in my view, my friend deserves some sort of flight voucher or other compensation.

To make matters worse I (since I paid for the ticket) attempted to contact American Airlines on my friend’s behalf to complain about her treatment and was told that customer service complaints may only be made through e-mail, mail or fax. Fine. So I filled out the form on your website outline the same issues mentioned here and I received back a form letter thanking me for the positive feedback.

Some people will keep their mouth shut and usually I am one of these people. I feel violated, taken advantage of and left with only one choice which is that letter. I realize there’s no guarantee this will be read and not just rerouted to the problem customer file to never be looked at again.

To assure myself that have done all that is possible to have my letter read by all powers that be, I will be forwarding this to as many executive email addresses that I can find.

Cheers,
S.

Good luck, S, and good letter. It’s clear, directly asks for specific compensation, and lays out the concrete reasons why they owe it to you. We hope it gets you what you deserve.

(Photo: zonaphoto)

Comments

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  1. donkeyjote says:

    Just go the easy way and small claims it.

  2. All I can think of when reading this story is the iphone commercial parody…

  3. kepler11 says:

    sounds compelling, but more detail is needed regarding who told you the “real” reason for the delay, and what that delay was exactly.

  4. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Delay a whole flight for one person’s oxygen tank approval? Why not boot the person and have that one person take a later flight? It would seem the airline gave this person extremely preferential treatment. I wonder who this VIP was.

  5. dakotad555 says:

    American Airlines should be ashamed. Treating people like garbage is not the way to retain customers. It’s likely that high fuel costs might be the 2nd most important reason AA and other air lines are failing to turn profits.

  6. dakotad555 says:

    @Concerned_Citizen:

    Not necessarily. This might have fallen under the American’s With Disabilities Act. It is possible the Air Line had no choice but to delay the flight.

  7. uomdeacon says:

    Airlines lying about inclement weather isn’t exactly a new thing though, is it? I’ve had UA tell me a flight was delayed due to weather once… and then I read the next day in the newspaper that they had canceled those flights due to a lack of pilots. I called up customer service to bring up this point, which they acknowledged, and gave me points to compensate.

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    I wonder if the EECB, which is likely to be losing its effectiveness should be modified as follows:

    “I am sure you are eager to rectify this problem and do not condone the lack of customer service I have received. Please note that attached is a letter I will be sending to the media outlets listed below if this situation is not resolved in XXX hours.

  9. sleze69 says:

    @donkeyjote: Is this something you can sue over? Is it provable?

  10. parad0x360 says:

    I think it would have made more sense to let the flight leave while the person with the special need has to wait at the airport. Thats a hefty delay for a single person and it really screws over everyone else on the flight.

    Im all for the disabled but give me a break.

  11. vladthepaler says:

    Seems to me this has the makings of a great class-action suit. All the people on the plane were denied the compensation they deserve. And it wouldn’t be surprising if this is a common practice; some research could surely find other flghts where the same thing happened.

  12. Cocotte says:

    For contrast, I once had an AA flight that I chose to reschedule for a week later (business was keeping me in town longer). AA refused to talk to me, saying Delta was handling the connections. I called Delta, who were understandably confused why I would be talking to them to reschedule an AA flight. But, the CSR there was so nice, she went completely out of her way to reschedule my flight under the Delta flag, and even brought up current snowstorms in my destination city as an excuse to avoid charging me for the change – I hadn’t even known it was snowing! So sometimes it can come down to the CSR – there are good ones out there, even working for airlines.

  13. Pylon83 says:

    3rd party complaint letters are not even remotely compelling. Unless it’s written by an attorney, they don’t care if your friend got screwed and can’t stand up for themselves.

  14. kepler11 says:

    @vladthepaler:
    good thing you’re not a lawyer. The airline probably fulfilled its contract to most of them, which is to get them to their destination on the day specified. There is no contractual compensation due for delays that still allow you to arrive on the same day, beyond the airline’s courtesy policy.

    If the person here has a more detailed story, he/she could be justified in expecting something more from the airline. However, to begin with I wouldn’t go believing everything that airline agents tell you anyway.

    For some of the other commenters, the ADA does not apply to passengers on commercial airlines.

  15. Greeper says:

    That exact thing happened to me flying back from Cabo. Only I was too lazy to follow up. It didn’t help them that the next counter over had a flight to Dallas that was boarding and leaving on time.

  16. wiggatron says:

    @dakotad555: I was thinking the same thing. It sucks, but I bet the poor person that required the O2 tank had a stack of paperwork with them, but that it somehow was not enough to satiate the airline’s need to scrutinize. I used to pack my diabetic supplies in a carry-on until that started giving me problems with security (post 9-11). Now I just pack ‘em in my pockets (there’s such a small amount of steel in the 30 gauge needles that the detector doesn’t catch them). I also have CF and carrying the small, odd looking devices that I need for a week long trip makes me worry that I’ll be pulled aside and questioned every time I fly. It can be tough flying with special needs/disabilities.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Just remember, campers: you totes don’t need any regulatory interference because the Free Market insures that companies will never lie to consumers. Ever!!
    (And double-totes on unions because they’ll never lie to/screw their employees either!)

  18. CompyPaq says:

    Lets bash the OP

  19. dragonfire1481 says:

    I can see why airlines use this ploy. If they tell passengers a plane is delayed “due to weather” most will not question it at all.

  20. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @Concerned_Citizen:

    Because then we’d be reading a story about how AA hates people because their lungs aren’t up to the standards of the “Perfect Race”!

    It was actually probably one of those “it’ll only take 5 minutes…we might as well wait”..Then, when 15 minutes pass, they figure “we waited this long, we might as well wait another 5 minutes” and so it piles on.

    I know people like to bash Southwest…but I’ll repeat for the millionth time: I work for a COMPETING airline and I still like them..even though we don’t interline with them and I have to pay the entire amount! I had over 100 flights with them last year (they thank you with a 1 year no restriction whatsoever companion pass when you hit 100!) and can count on one hand how many delays I’ve had with them…and they never ever try to pull this shit.

    The only carpet bomb they have to worry about at WN is the impact of some guys sack hitting the floor after Herb kicks him square in the balls for lying to the pax!

  21. Turm0yl says:

    Remember, just cause its sunny at your destination does not mean it is sunny 15000 feet in the air between you and your destination.

    But if the airline lied about that, they owe you….those evil bastards! making people sleep in the airport? come on!

  22. @IamNotToddDavis: When I think of that, I remember the enlightening discussion (and don’t forget the sequel). It contained gems like these:

    When I first saw that commercial, I laughed out so hard my stomach hurt because it was trying to convey the message that the iPhone can clear up runways and the skies.

    So are they suggesting that the airports and the FAA should replace all of the aging technology in the control towers with iPhones? Wouldn’t that put an end to weather delays?

    The Ask a Pilot article is a perfect example of why this is complete bunk. Thanks to whoever linked to it. I can’t believe people actually think flying one of these planes is actually so simple you could plan it with weather.com.

  23. mizmoose says:

    I know people who have had this bullsh!t pulled on them, and have walked up to the counter with a laptop showing live satellite data from weather.com, only to be brushed off.

    If the airline claims “bad weather” they get away with it, whether (no pun intended) it’s true.

  24. mantari says:

    I just learned something about American I didn’t like.

    You know those electronic check-in kiosks? Well, it made me an offer for you to upgrade to a first class seat for a little extra $$ and get some added convenience in the flight you’re going to take. Sounds decent, right?

    Yeah. Don’t jump on it. It seems that by purchasing that extra convenience, you’re also purchasing an “SSS” on your ticket, which gets you the extra special security screening for being such a suspicious person. (Pat-down search, someone tearing through your carry-on posessions.)

    So much for paying extra for better treatment! The next time I’ll know better, and shame on American for not providing a warning. I paid for an upgrade that THEY did as a suggestive sell to ME, and I got the criminal treatment for it!

  25. darksunfox says:

    @ the people asking for a lawsuit

    Although it’s ridiculously bad customer services, what tangible damages did they incur? You’re not going to get punitive damages from a case like this. Plus, the airline might have a legitimate gripe if it was someone like TSA or Homeland Security whose fax they were waiting on for approval. Waiting on the goverment = outside the airline’s control.

    That being said, I’d be surprised if the airline didn’t offer some sort of voucher for this.

  26. donkeyjote says:

    @darksunfox: Breach of contract can have punitive damages.

  27. oldheathen says:

    This exact same thing just happened to me in Chicago – except the pilot ‘fessed up to the fact that the plane had mechanical problems that weren’t fixed on the first go-round. They had to return to the airport a second time, de-plane the passengers and unload their luggage. (They may still be at ORD for all I know.) :P

    United gate attendants and customer service people (including Chuck in Mumbai) ALL lied and claimed the delay was due to bad weather in Chicago. (Like what, we can’t look out the window or check weather reports?)

    Ultimately a beleaguered c.s. agent at Chicago put us up for the night – probably because security had just detained the guy ahead of us for going apeshiat on him. I felt really bad for the c.s. agent and went out of my way to be polite, which I think helped a great deal.

    I really get the feeling that top to bottom, airline employees are FED UP with mergers and layoffs, not to mention all the grief they get for issues over which they have no control.

    After this last experience, I’m seriously more afraid to fly now than I was in the weeks following 9/11. Airlines are cutting too many corners and it’s a matter of time before the worker bees start going postal.

  28. jpx72x says:

    @ the people talking about the law.

    Stop. Being an amateur internet gyno doesn’t give me the cred to look at someone’s pap smear. Being an amateur internet law buff doesn’t give you the cred to invoke such things as class-actions, small claims court, damages or breach. Seriously, stop.

  29. @darksunfox: I think the point is that if you’re waiting on a fax, say you’re waiting on a fax. Don’t say “weather” when the answer is in reality “regulatory approval” or something.

    Lying when there’s no reason for it is one of the signs of a compulsive liar. Maybe we need to arrange an intervention for AA.

  30. Concerned_Citizen says:

    Shouldn’t you file a complaint with the FAA. At least to me it seems that lying about the weather or the status of the aircraft is grounds for a huge fine. If they lied and said the weather was all clear when data showed it was dangerous to fly, they would be screwed. So why isn’t the opposite just as bad?

  31. uncle_fluffy says:

    @jpx72x:

    Small claims court is nothing if not amateurs. And stop trying to be an amateur internet moderator.

  32. Concerned_Citizen says:

    @dakotad555:
    Definitely not in violation of the ADA to leave the person who forgot to clear their oxygen tank in advance or forgot the needed paperwork. There is always a later flight for that one person. The ADA isn’t going to delay a whole plane when all you need to do is bump that person to a later flight. This person definitely knew someone high up.

  33. UNITED AIRLINES would go out of business if they had to compensate all of the passengers they lie to when they delay their departures ‘on account of weather.’ It’s Standard Operating Procedure at UNITED.

  34. Agents are often given misinformation as well.

    I once watched a repair crew roll up to my scheduled flight, shake their heads, drive away, and then watched the entire crew of my plane disembark and disappear into the terminal, never to return.

    After waiting about an hour, I informed the gate agent of this, to which he replied: “$%^&*!@# why they don’t they tell us this $%^&*!@#.” The flight was finally canceled and we all got put onto a different flight.

  35. Overheal says:

    Way to go man. It seems like all of the Airlines are starting to screw everyone over over fuel prices. Im glad to see nobody is laying down and taking it though: Gas prices effect EVERYONE. Airlines are not a special exception to the rule, and they all need a firm Air Jordan shoved up their collective asses.

  36. MercuryPDX says:

    To those peeps in the now missing “Customers big issue with airlines is SERVICE not price” article from yesterday…. THIS.

    THIS is the kind of weaselly, slimy, unhelpful BS customers are fed up with. Not lack of free pretzels, or free Cokes.

  37. kepler11 says:

    @mantari:
    You don’t get SSSS’d because of buying an upgrade. You get SSSS’d for a variety of reasons, including because you: bought a last minute ticket, bought a one-way ticket, bought with a flagged credit card, are yourself flagged because of your combination of personal information, and other factors. An upgrade does not come into it, and unless you know you didn’t have SSSS on your boarding pass before that and did afterwards, then it is one of those other reasons.

  38. mantari says:

    @kepler11: I bought a round trip ticket. The trip there was normal. They way back, after I paid for a first class upgrade (which apparently is treated as a last minute ticket?) and was SSSS’d.

  39. DH405 says:

    @jpx72x: The law BELONGS to the people. I’m sick and tired of people treating the law like it only belongs to the elite who have decided to specialize their career in screwing those unarmed with a law degree.

    I may not have a J.D., but I can damn well read and tell right from wrong.

  40. Anonymous says:

    My comment is about a 6 hours delay on a flight AA613 from JFK to Miami on June12,2009.In the first 4 hours of the delay no one from the staff appeared and then when somebody finally showed up,we did not get any reasonable explanation about the reasons for the delay,how long it will be.The supervisor,as well as the staff members Carol and Perry were hiding from us,they were ruthless and cold.In moment like this we,the customers,need some staff member to face us and tell us the truth and we will understand.Instead,a Belgium citizen was told that he has an accent and the staff can not solve his wife’s problem,whatever it was.My question is how many languages do the staff members Carol and Perry speak and according to what code they ,laughing,were making fun out of American Airlines’foreign passenger,who was in difficult situation?
    Nadia

  41. Anonymous says:

    My comment is about a 6 hours delay on a flight AA613 from JFK to Miami on June12,2009.In the first 4 hours of the delay no one from the staff appeared and then when somebody finally showed up,we did not get any reasonable explanation about the reasons for the delay,how long it will be.The supervisor,as well as the staff members Carol and Perry were hiding from us,they were ruthless and cold.In moment like this we,the customers,need some staff member to face us and tell us the truth and we will understand.Instead,a Belgium citizen was told that he has an accent and the staff can not solve his wife’s problem,whatever it was.My question is how many languages do the staff members Carol and Perry speak and according to what code they ,laughing,were making fun out of American Airlines’foreign passenger,who was in difficult situation?
    Nadia