You Can't Bend Your Knee? Here, We're Bumping You To Coach

What does it take for an airline to retain customers these days? Here’s a tip: given the graying of America, try not treating elderly people with medical emergencies like crap. Livejournal user urzepatriz details how American Airlines added insult to his or her grandfather’s injury. Literally. By bumping him to coach on a cross-country flight after an injury sustained during the trip required major surgery and left him unable to bend his knee.

Here’s the horrible story, as posted on the Livejournal community bad_service:

I realize that you’re in financial trouble due to the cost of fuel spiking last year, and the decline in the economy. However, when you screw around with the people that mean the most to me – you’ve clearly underestimated your consumer experience. My grandparents were planning a last minute trip to see me cross-country for my birthday – you had no trouble booking them and taking their money at an obscene rate. They have flown constantly with your company for more than 10 years – do you have any idea how much it takes to retain a customer nowadays?! Allow me to inform you of your major mistakes….

When said grandparent fell from a step-ladder and crushed his knee – which required 6 pins, 6 screws and 2 metal plates – you made them jump through hoops trying to rearrange their flights. Please let your mind envision the horror of hearing your Customer Service reps tell my grandmother that she should have made the changes before they even left on the 1st flight. (Fail!) Or how my grandfather maybe should have been paying more attention to what he was doing. (Major Fail!!) Or maybe how she could travel home, alone, and make arrangements for him when he was better. (Triple Fail!!!) Or that maybe her priorities were out of line – like taking care of her husband for 60+ years isn’t her first priority!! (Please tell me this rep was fired!)

[My grandparents] canceled their original flights due to not knowing how long it would be before they could safely travel CROSS COUNTRY in a confined space after MAJOR surgery, (and because you wouldn’t allow them to change the dates without major fees!!). They faxed you – on 4 different occasions – the medical report from his doctor and surgeon – but this wasn’t good enough for a refund. We sent gruesome pictures – nope, still not enough. What, pray tell, would have satisfied your “unexpected medical injury” rule for a refund??

Allow me to continue – as the horrors of your company have not yet ceased to amaze me. My grandparents were finally cleared to travel 3 weeks after the expected departure date. We went about making new flight arrangments to get them home safely. Cue endless elevator music while on hold for 4 hours! Cue obscene phone booking charges, simply because we were speaking with a phone representative. Seriously?! Over $65 per person simply for speaking to a rep?! Are the chairs made of gold thread?!?

We finally get the flights booked – a 2 day process!! – and we go about getting them packed and what not. We arrive at the gate, after booking 1st class seats, a pre-boarding notice, and wheelchair notice was given – only to find they’ve been BUMPED to COACH. Are you freaking kidding me!?! He just had a joint reconstructed and pieced together, and not able to bend said joint for 6-8 weeks – only to find you want him to bend the knee (against medical advice) for 7 hours on a flight home?! Try again!

I talked to the gate supervisor – who refused to hear one word I was trying to explain. I talked to a floor manager – who also failed to understand the gravity of the situation. I get to the flight deck manager – who after 3 hours of speaking to idiots- finally understands everything. By this time – *gasp* guess what?? They missed the *ONLY* non-stop flight that night. Your flight deck manager needs a promotion, kudos, a recogintion piece – something. He went above and beyond any requests we made. He put them up in a VIP hotel suite at the airport, rebooked their 1st class seats for the first flight in the morning, and even bought them dinner that evening. Him you can keep – feel free to get rid of every other offending party we’ve dealt with.

If I had known how bad this would get, I would have called Channel 13′s news crew to meet us at the gate. Picture it: the headline should read: “Airline bumps disabled Grandpa and abuses spouse”.

Think about this letter the next time you have a marketing campaign that says: “Doing What We Do Best”…. if this is the best you have – then we have a major problem.

Kudos to the flight deck manager who made the situation tolerable at the end, but they never should have been put in this position in the first place. What place is it of an airline to question a family’s caretaking arrangements? And what, exactly, does qualify as an “unexpected medical injury” if this injury and surgery do not?

Effing Airline!
[Livejournal] (Thanks, AJ!)

(Photo: arsheffield)