American Airlines Charges Me To Carry On Dogs, Gives Me Nowhere To Put Them

Rebekah’s problem with American Airlines is very simple. She paid them extra for the privilege of bringing a pet on board. Two, actually: dogs small enough to fit under the seat. She ended up in a row with no seat in front of it and nowhere to stash her dogs, because animals don’t like the overhead bin.

This was apparently a huge hassle for the staff at the airport she departed from, and she wrote to American to complain about how she was treated and the fact that she had been assigned this seat to start with. There were surely long-legged passengers on the flight who were happy to switch with her, but should the burden be on Rebekah to make sure she will get the services she’s paying for?

She had already reserved seats for herself and for her sister, and added the pet reservation a few days before the flight.

Here’s part of the letter that she sent to the airline about this particular flight, which was about two hours long.

My issue began when I boarded the flight to find that my sister and I were flying on a Boeing MD-80, and our assigned seats were 31A and 31B. If you look at the seat arrangement for the MD-80, you can see that directly in front of those seats is a stewardess area, hence no place to put my dogs’ kennel unless I put them in an overhead bin – obviously, this was not an option. I understand that the plane was full and that this was an early morning flight, however I do not understand the stewardess’ outright hostile reaction to myself or my sister.

I politely informed the stewardess that I had a problem with my seating assignment as there was no place to put my dogs. She looked at me, looked at my dogs, rolled her eyes, and then started peppering the people immediately seated around me if they would change their seats. I told her that I was travelling with my sister, and that I would like to have us travel together. She told me then that she couldn’t help me, and we were told “well then you should just both leave the plane and sort it out of the gate.” I just wanted to get to the funeral, so I exchanged my seat with a kind gentleman and left my sister beside him. We were both very unhappy the rest of the flight due to that exchange and our inability to fly together.

On our flight back, you can imagine our surprise when we were seated in the same seats – 31A and 31B! Thankfully, we informed the ticketing agent that we could not fly in those seats because I was travelling with dogs, and she was quick, efficient and kind in changing us to seats 32A and 32B.

I do not complain when I have to pay $300 dollars round trip to fly with my dogs on a flight that cost $357.80 for my seat. I pay your airline $125 for the privilege of putting my dogs under the seat in front of me and giving up a carry on, which means I must pay an additional $25 to check a bag if I want to change clothes on my trip.

I am upset, however, that while I pay almost the same price for my dogs to fly as I do myself when I am (1) seated in a place where it is impossible to follow your airline’s policy of placing the dogs under the seat in front of me not once, but twice and (2) treated so rudely by an employee when I point out my problem.

I fly quite often with my dogs to points all over the country. I am usually treated well and have great experiences when flying many different airlines with my dogs however this trip has left me disappointed in the customer service and training of the staff of American Airlines. I hope that in the future, your employees are trained more on seating arrangements and how to handle potential difficulties that passengers might encounter while boarding.

“TL;DR,” said the customer service agent answering mail that day, who also apparently doesn’t have a canned response for customers who complain about paying to carry on their pets without getting a space to put them in. American’s response, paraphrased: if you want to pick your seat, you have to give us more money.

Dear [Rebekah],

We are sorry you became concerned when you were not able to obtain reserved seating with your sister and your dogs. It appears that your reservation was booked online. When booking flights online especially on separate itineraries, it is difficult for the airport agents to see that two different people are traveling as one party.

Our Preferred Seats product is the best and quickest option for customers to obtain seating together. With this option, customers have the option to purchase seat assignments in the first few rows of coach, as well as bulkhead and other desirable seating. Preferred Seats are available to all American Airlines customers traveling on purchased tickets, and can be bought from the time of booking (up to 331 days prior to departure) through direct booking and during check in. For more information on Preferred Seats, and our other Your Choice (SM) products, please visitwww.aa.com/yourchoice.

Still, we understand that some families may not be interested in Preferred Seats, but still need to sit together. We have internal processes in place, both in the days leading up to the departure date as well as at the airport, to assist families in obtaining seating together — even if they elect not to purchase Preferred Seats. Many of these families will check in and find that they have already been assigned seating together. For those who have not yet received seating together, our airport agents are able to assist families in obtaining appropriate seating. In any case, we make every effort to ensure that families traveling with children are seated together upon boarding time.

Again, you must let the airport agents know that you would like to sit with someone who is not in your party and that you are traveling with pets.

We are very sorry about the apparent courtesy of the flight attendant.

Ms. [Rebekah], thank you again for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns here. We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you aboard.

Sincerely,

[redacted]
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Rebekah, for her part, was not thrilled with this response. “I already had to pay through the nose ($250 round trip for the dogs, an additional $50 round tip to check a bag) for the privilege of shoving my dogs under the seat in front of me, and you suggest that I pony up MORE money for ‘preferred seating?’” she commented when she forwarded this exchange to Consumerist. “My concern really was that when I hand over a gate agent $125 to shove a dog under the seat in front of me, that they should make sure that there’s a seat in front of me!!” Well, that, depending on customers to buy the “preferred seating” upgrade ahead of time puts the burden on ticketing agents and flight attendants to help passengers play musical seats before takeoff.