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73-hour delay in Auckland with American Airlines with toddlers

Discussion in 'American Airlines' started by Kelly N, Jan 10, 2018 at 11:53 PM.

  1. Kelly N

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    Our family, which includes my husband and two daughters (2 and 4 years old), just returned home late on Monday, January 8 – more than 73 hours after the original arrival time for our AA flight from AKL to ORD. I take over 100 flights a year, with PlatinumPro status on American and 1K status on United. This is by far the worst experience I have EVER had on any airline – specifically the customer service – not to mention the fact I was traveling with my entire family.

    In brief by the numbers:
    · Hours delayed: 73!
    · Outbound phone calls required to AA customer service to resolve issues created by AA: 10+ (still unresolved, on average for ~45 minutes a piece not including initial queue time)
    · Hours spent in a taxi to/from the airport in Auckland: 6
    · AA staff available at the airport to help with rebooking: 0
    · Alerts (phone, text or email) from AA about delays or cancellations: 1 (phone call 30 minutes prior to scheduled boarding, 1h45m after the cancellation occurred)
    · Work and school days missed: 1
    · Number of birthday parties missed: My daughter’s own 5th birthday party

    I am still speechless in the horrendous customer service received through the process – regardless of status level, but particularly at my level. My expectations of customer service and reservations:
    · Accurate follow-through
    · Problem-solving orientation
    · Timely notification of delay/cancellation
    · Understanding of key systems and rules (or the ability to ask)

    All of these were failed in our recent experience which brought us to new lows with each passing day of the ordeal.
    · Multiple instances of inaccurate information entry which caused additional follow-up
    · In both major delays / cancellations it was due to a sick flight crew, an issue that does not start only 1.5-2 hours before flight departure. More timely notification, particularly on the cancellation of the 2nd flight at 1am on Jan 7.
    · American agents at the airport claimed “I don’t work for American” and “I don’t know who to contact” or “I can’t help rebook you”. Given the magnitude of this issue, I’m surprised American did not fly someone to Auckland to help passengers or at least actively reach out to passengers (especially those with status).

    The miles awarded after the first delay are inadequate given the resulting magnitude of the issue. As compensation for this ordeal we request:
    · Ability to fly to Australia / New Zealand within the next year business class for all 4 of us whether through mileage credit (80,000 miles per person) or cash credit towards tickets (~$2,500 per person)
    · 2018 Concierge Key status level for me and Platinum for my husband (Jesse Newton)
    · Reimbursement in cash for the expenses incurred as a result of the delay (~NZD$1000, receipts available)
    · Reimbursement for the baggage damage on the outbound flight (~$45)

    Detailed facts from the experience:

    Dec 6, CHI: Realized original American Airlines flight from ORD-LAX was cancelled when checking in for another trip, we were automatically rebooked on a flight from ORD-LAX that would arrive AFTER the scheduled flight – on the same itinerary – from LAX to AKL. No phone call or email notification of the change. I called AA customer service to adjust the reservation to reflect a legal connection. They were unable to resolve the issue. They referred me to the travel agent.

    Dec 8, CHI: After multiple hours on the phone with travel agent and AA (again), was able to secure a legal connection for the outbound flights.

    Dec 22, AKL: Picked up bags in AKL, a bag with our carseat had the wheels ripped entirely off and holes were worn through the padded bag. No available AA desk members to help resolve the issue, needed to continue to connecting flight. Asked again when we checked in to return home and the ticket counter was unable to direct us to someone who could assist.

    Jan 5, 2pm AKL local time: Arrived at airport for flight, cleared customs, arrived at lounge about 2 hours before flight. Announced ~2pm that flight was cancelled due to sick crew. Directed to a gate where we would be rebooked. Arrived at the gate, essentially a remote area to quarantine passengers, no one was available to help rebook the ~200 passengers queued in the area. Told we had to wait at the gate for 1.5 hours in order to be escorted back through customs. No one available to help put passengers on a United flight (with available space) departing at the same time as our scheduled time (assuming they did not have checked luggage). Called American Airlines customer service as a PlatinumPro member and quoted a 1hr 41 min wait time. Joined the queue for a callback. We were told at the gate someone would help us to rebook and arrange hotel accommodations / reimbursement once we picked up our bags and went through customs again. Unclear why they could not help any passengers rebook flights prior to clearing customs.

    Jan 5, 4pm AKL: After we cleared customs, no representative available. Went to the American ticketing desk, no one present. Unclear where to go or how to find someone to speak with. Reservation showed flight rebooked/delayed until 1AM on Jan 7. Spoke with AA customer representative that called me back. I asked to be booked on the United flight at 7:30pm on Jan 5 or Jan 6. Was told that American did not have an agreement with Air New Zealand who operated the flight so they could not book us on the flight. There were no other seats available until Sunday, Jan 7. We stayed on the flight scheduled to leave at 1AM on Jan 7.

    Jan 5, 8pm, AKL: I am unable to access the new reservation online. I am asked to confirm that I want to be on the 1AM flight on Jan 7. I try to do so online and through the app but receive an error. I call AA customer service to resolve the issue. They are unable to confirm me on the flight. My assistant calls the original travel agent to resolve. I’m booked on the flight but still unable to check-in. My assistant calls AA customer service again to resolve the issue, spends an hour on the phone.

    Jan 6, 11am, AKL: Receive email from AA apologizing for delay and offer of miles. No information on how to be reimbursed for costs incurred as a result of the delay.

    Jan 6, 3pm, AKL: I am able to book tickets through United for the flight departing at 7:30pm that night. I call AA customer service again asking to be booked on that flight. They said they would book me on the flight but upon calling United said there were no seats available. They were unable to take the tickets I was able to confirm nor were they willing to reimburse me for the cost of the flights. We remained on the 1 AM flight which was scheduled to go.

    Jan 6, 5pm, AKL: My husband receives a phone call to confirm that we need to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of time for the flight that evening.

    Jan 6, 9:45pm, AKL: We depart for the airport from our accommodation and arrive at the airport at 10:30pm where we are informed the flight is cancelled AGAIN because the crew is (still) sick. We are unable to secure another flight out that evening (as no flights typically take off at that late hour). The person at the airport is unable to direct us to someone to speak with about reimbursement for expenses resulting from additional delays. I call AA customer service again to rebook as there is no one at the airport that can help rebook unless we want to go via HNL and LIH to get to LAX. The phone customer service agent suggests a trip via MEL that will take an additional 6-7 hours and not leave until Monday, Jan 8. I ask to be put on a United Airlines flight leaving on Jan 8 that would arrive earlier. After more than an hour on the phone with the agent, we are told we are confirmed on flights for Jan 8 leaving at 3:30pm on United. I receive a new record locator number and ticket numbers and a confirmation email that we are rebooked. It’s after midnight local time by the time this is resolved.

    Jan 7, 6am, AKL: I review the flight confirmations for the United flight and notice that a birthday on the reservation was re-entered incorrectly so need to call United to fix the issue. Try to get seats and manage to get seats confirmed but not together. Continue to monitor app to get seats together over the next 15 hours.

    Jan 8, 12:43am, AKL: I check my phone based on anxiety regarding our flight reservation on United to Chicago. The reservation has disappeared from my United reservations. I call United to understand what happened. The customer service agent says that the new tickets were never ticketed and expired. She helps to rebook our family on the flights, however we lose all seat reservations. We also lose our spot on an earlier connecting flight from SFO to ORD, therefore an unnecessary and longer layover in SFO is required. Furthermore, we were unable to get seats together and not with extra legroom on either flight. An hour later we have seats for a flight to Chicago and new confirmations from United (see attached).

    I have flown American for many years, but at this point have put on hold making new reservations with the airline as a result of this experience.
     
    #1
  2. dourdan

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    I know the actual mods and staff members are going to say "make a more streamlines letter using bullet points or else the letter might not be read in its entirety. "

    send this new streamlined letter to one CEO on the list
    http://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/american-airlines/

    and wait 2 weeks for a reply.

    BUT with the level of detail (this is a question for the Mods and staff) would it be more useful to go to social media first? Make a very detailed post on Facebook, for example then tweet it straight to AA?
     
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  3. Christina H

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    Well this sounds like a highly stressful experience. And AA' service was lacking.

    I have some questions-- when the December 6 flight from ORD was cancelled why did the travel agent not alert and instigate contact?

    Why did the travel agent not help with the return flight issues? That is part of a travel agents job.

    Did the airline pay for a hotel and meals during the delay? They certainly should pay for that and damaged luggage.

    The news reports that 6 members of the crew became seriously ill -- and at least one of the pilots -- and they were not medically cleared to fly. The plane has to have 13 crew members.
    There has been some talk that it was an infectious disease and that it may have been from a passenger on an earlier flight and that the incubation period coincided with the crew rest period. The replacement flight was also canceled.

    To make matters worse, the cancellation happened in the afternoon in Auckland on the 5th of January. With the time zone changes, that corresponded with the massive snowstorm on the east coast on January 4th that paralyzed the air travel and led to massive waits on the telephone lines, apps crashing and online computer booking failings on American, Delta, Jet Blue and United. The airline operations were a mess, and there is simply no way that AA was going to fly in staff to take care of passengers during a time massive operational problems.

    For some reason it seems that airlines have problems endorsing tickets properly I have had this issue and it is aggravating.

    The OP was wise to check on the endorsement issue.

    Now I do believe that some compensation (in addition to hotels and meals and damaged baggage) is warranted. But I must say what is requested in unreasonable. To ask for free business class international tickets and to be given Concierge Key status (invite only, spend over $60,000 in airfare) is just asking too much.

    The airline will not do that.

    I sympathize; I was stranded in Frankfurt for several days from Superstorm Sandy and could not get back to NY. But at least I was flying Lufthansa and there was always someone I could talk to. And I have been stranded for even longer.

    Asking for too much will result in a letter being ignored. A more concise letter with a reasonable request of a voucher or miles has a better chance of success.
     
    #3
  4. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    I agree 100%! If you ask for such outrageous compensation they are going to stop reading and do nothing for you.

    The best you can ask for is a much smaller percentage of what you paid for your tickets in a future flight credit.
     
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  5. Its Not Me

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    Did you call the Platinum Pro phone number? Or the regular customer service line?

    I understand the hassle with shuffling around - but once again - there are NO AA employees in Auckland. They have 'agents.' These agents handle the flights. They have very strict rules on what they can and cannot do. There is one flight a day - the agents have to wait for AA to provide a resolution package for the flight to the company on the computer.

    These problems are created when people try to let the airline solve their problems. I do have a recommendation for these types of snafu's in the future:

    AA failed to properly ticket you on the United flights. Thus, AA dropped the ball - and as a result of sick staff, they were unable to operate the flight as scheduled. Its not a weather delay they can hide from.

    At that point I would have taken the record locator, I would have gotten the name of the person at UA you spoke to - and asked them to put into the record locator 'comments section' EXACTLY what she just told you. You repeat it back so you properly understand.,

    Then, you simply buy tickets for your family back on United. Yes - it would be pricey - but my gosh you're United 1K - they'd prob upgrade you all right then and there - and this way you have known tickets getting home. But you get home.

    Then - you have nice simple demand on American - and it reads like this:

    Dear AA:
    On Jan xx, you cancelled flight 82 due to crew illness. We were ticketed on that flight.

    On Jan XX, after an extensive delay, we were re-accommodated on UA flight yyy and zzz. However, American failed to follow through and ticket this flight to United.

    At this point. AA had breached its contract by failing to follow through. We had no reason to spend yet more hours trying to force AA to do its job. I cannot force any AA employee to properly do their job, such as reticketing a flight on a carrier with whom you have a interline agreement on a timely enough basis.

    I have the UA record locator, pnr x134fv, which clearly reveals that AA failed to follow through on a timely basis and reticket our flights.

    I took matters into my own hands and purchased United tickets after AA breached its contract with us. This cost was $6500 for 4 tickets. Minus the $$3000 for the unused portion of the AA tickets for which a refund is demanded immediately.

    in addition, we incurred expenses of $1300 US for hotel rooms, meals and telephone calls. Net demand is $4800 for the cancellation, together with a refund of $3000 for the unused portion of the tickets.

    Please note that I have Platinum Pro status with American. Thus, I do fly you often. Receipts are enclosed. VTY - A Passenger"
     
    #5
  6. Christina H

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    I believe Platinum Pro on American has priority in the call list but not a dedicated "desk" -- that is exec platinum.

    When I have had endorsement issues with tickets (twice in the last few years) between airlines I have given the airline a chance to fix it. I personally would not buy a new ticket at the higher rate and expect to be compensated for that. But that is my comfort level.
     
    #6
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  7. Its Not Me

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    I can appreciate the desire to let the airline fix it - but you have already tried to let them fix it.

    when you are at an outstation and there is a major disruption, i.e., 200 people and prob 125+ records that need to be addressed, and everyone is arguing over hotels and meal vouchers and flight reaccommodation - I do not believe it is reasonable to force a party to a contract to take more than one bite at the apple. Or fight with a an airline over the 'reasonableness' of the airline's selection of hotels or how much they are willing to offer.

    Negotiating over a breach of contract should not require the party not in breach to negotiate repeatedly for coverage for incidentals or even negotiate at all. Sufficient staff should be present, there should be a clearly delineated package offered based on class of service or some other criteria, and it should be specified at the time.

    It is not my job as a party to a contract to ensure that the other side do their job. Damage theory at law is that a party damaged by a breach of contract is required to minimize their damages, but they are still able to take steps to place themselves in at least as good a position as they would have been in but for the breach. Giving the breacher a chance to cure the breach by providing a:
    1. hotel voucher;
    2. meal voucher;
    3. transit vouchers to / from airport; and,
    4. providing alternate transport -
    is entirely reasonable. ONCE.

    The cure of the breach by the 4 above needs to be meaningful. This means the hotel has to have rooms, the voucher amounts must cover the reasonable expense of a meal in the location provided, and they have to take all necessary steps to ensure you are 'OK' to travel on the airline reaccommodated. Any failure of the above restores the party's right to take steps necessary to put themselves in the same position they would have been in but for the breach.

    AA breached the contract for transportation by being unable to operate the transpac segment. They need to provide more than one person to handle all of the issues. They then need to follow through on all of the accommodations made as part of their breach of contract. It is not my job to give them multiple opportunities to reissue tickets timely or to spend my time ensuring they do their job. Once they dropped the ball - even for something as 'understandable' as a storm in the USA, they're done. They treat us that way . . .
     
    #7
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  8. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    In your opinion - what should our letter writer be requesting in terms of compensation? What would the law agree to?
     
    #8
  9. Its Not Me

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    He’s asking to be compensated for being forced to endure long lines and bad service, what’s that worth? It’s clearly not worth what he’s asking for. It’s just not.

    Honestly, Platinum Pro is a fairly high level of elite. They should have taken better care of him. They didn’t. He should ask for whatever eqm’s he needs to reach ExP. That’s an appropriate compensation for not treating him properly.

    If he’s UAL 1 and AA PP he flies 200k miles a year. Or flies first / business over 100k. That’s s serious revenue thought for a company.

    Legally he’s entitled to compensation for his time and hassle. What’s that number? It’s not concierge key for sure.

    What he out? That’s the legally cognizable damage. It doesn’t sound like much. Phone calls. Meals. Hotel?

    Anyone who has flown that much should be better prepared. Because stuff like this happens all the time. He just happened to be at an out station without AA employees. And he didn’t push the right buttons to get better accommodation.

    This is where you call a friend to call the 800 number for platpro in the states while you are on the other line trying to coordinate.
     
    #9
  10. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Thanks - That was my thought as well and if you ask for something that outrageous, it tends to have whoever is reading it think what we are thinking - that's outrageous - and less tempted to assist.
     
    #10
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  11. VoR61

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    American's contract regarding delays is here. Two sentences appear to apply here:

    "If you decide not to fly because of a flight cancellation or a major delay, you can request a refund of the remaining ticket value and related optional fees."​

    So, a refund of the AA return fares seems a given (in miles is she prefers).

    For the hotel, meals, etc. they say:

    "If the delay or cancellation is caused by events beyond our control (like weather) you are responsible for your own overnight accommodations, meals and incidental expenses. American Airlines agents may be able to help you find a hotel."​

    Is a sick crew "beyond their control"? I searched for an authoritative source and could not find one. There were varying opinions about EU261 and aside from that some say yes while others say no (e.g.., they should have a standby crew). I would lean toward yes which, if true means a no to mandatory compensation for the hotel, meals, etc.

    That said, I do agree that this experience is worth something that shows good faith.

    BTW, this guest is a she ...
     
    #11
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018 at 8:58 PM
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  12. jsn55

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    This is definitely one of the worst travel stories I've ever read, Kelly. I can't believe you managed to get home with your mind intact.

    The first question that pops out for me is "What was your travel agent doing?" You should have been reaccommodated by the TA and at least be able to enjoy some pleasant time with the kids while you awaited the new arrangements. Instead, you spent all your time dealing with a non-functioning airline. Please let us know about your TA.
     
    #12
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  13. Christina H

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    VoR61 is correct there have been varying decisions in local EU courts as to whether crew sickness is an extraordinary circumstance. In one case in the U.K. the pilot got sick from a viral infection and flight was canceled; passengers made EU claims and lost in court. The Judge thought is was not practical and would be unreasonably costly for the airline to maintain a reserve crew at the "non operational bases".

    What a reasonable compensation for this delay aside from reimbursement hotel meals calls and the broken suitcase.

    In this case I do not know how much it would have helped to have a friend in the US call because of the incredible wait times all airlines had on the 4th. It was an incredible mess.

    It sounds as if the traveler was traveling in economy class. A one way mileage ticket to that region (not a saver award) is around 40,000 miles.I would suggest 25,000 miles and 300 per adult voucher (with a proportionate amount for child fares).

    I do not think the miles will be EQM to get to a higher status -- those are sitting in the seat and paying the fare miles and airlines are not likely to budge on that.
     
    #13
  14. VoR61

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    I like Christina's suggestion ...
     
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