LATAM/American Canceled Flight a Week in Advance without Notice or Rebooking, Adding 30 Hours to a Trip

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Apr 21, 2018
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#1
On March 12, 2018, I had a nightmare travel experience involving American Airlines and its partner airline, LATAM. I was flying back from Punta Arenas, Chile to Washington, DC. The total travel time was supposed to be about 21 hours with stops in Santiago and Miami. My ticket was issued by American Airlines although half of the flights were to be on its partner, LATAM. I have never seen an airline categorically reject responsibility for its clearly inadequate performance the way LATAM has in this case. American offered a $200 voucher as "fair and adequate" compensation for over 30 hours of airline delays and refused to take any responsibility for delays imposed by its partner airline despite having issued the ticket.

Upon arrival at the airport in Punta Arenas, I was informed by LATAM that it had canceled the flight a week prior due to lack of demand. I asked why I had not been notified and what my rebooking was. LATAM informed me that it had no obligation to notify me and had not rebooked me. I was denied boarding for the numerous additional flights leaving that day that would have allowed me to make my international connections to the United States as I was told they were full. LATAM also refused to put me on another airline that would allow me to make my connections. I was told the only option was that LATAM would put me on a 3 AM departure (12 hours after my canceled flight) to Santiago. This rebooking also required an additional flight from Santiago to Lima before flying to Miami and then to DC. LATAM offered a single $10 food voucher to cover 12 hours in the airport. This was not an isolated incident as at least one other person in line with me had the exact same experience.

Upon arriving in Santiago after the 3 hour flight in the middle of the night, my 2nd leg from Santiago to Lima experienced mechanical problems and departed 2 hours late. I then missed my connection for the 3rd leg from Lima to Miami. I now had to wait in Lima an additional 12 hours to catch the next flight on LATAM to Miami, leaving at midnight. LATAM also refused to put me on an earlier American flight. I arrived home after 50 plus hours in transit, after 2 overnight flights, and over 30 hours behind schedule.

Upon arrival home, I applied for compensation with both LATAM and American. American was responsive but only offered a $200 voucher. It refused additional compensation and said this was "fair and adequate" compensation for my inconvenience. I explained this was incorrect as I had incurred hundreds of dollars in additional expenses and had to take an additional day off work. In a one sentence email that I received 3 weeks later, LATAM categorically rejected all responsibility and refused any compensation. At first, it claimed that because I purchased the ticket from Expedia, Expedia should have notified me of the cancellation that started this mess. I called Expedia who then contacted LATAM directly. Expedia explained it had never been notified the flight was canceled and still has not received notice. I confirmed that LATAM had also never notified American the flight was canceled as it continued to appear on American's website for a few days afterwards. The LATAM agent, having now no choice but to admit it had never notified anyone of its week-prior cancellation of this flight, said that it would still not be providing any compensation because I had voluntarily agreed to this outcome by getting on the 3 AM flight, 12 hours after my originally scheduled departure, in Puntas Arenas rather than staying in Chile.

I have traveled all over the world and never seen an airline respond in a manner that shows such open disdain for its customers as LATAM. I have also been shocked by American's complete disclaiming of responsibility for a ticket it issued.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#2
We have company contacts on top of our page. Read the information about writing to these companies and how to escalate your letter to the executives. I would write to both AA and LATAM management (one at a time). From what you stated LATAM told you - thats inexcusable.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
Wow how miserable. AA may have issued the ticket but it is the operating carrier that is at fault. Unfortunately Chile does not have any regulations like EU 261 (and neither does the US). I think LATAM is not in a good financial position so once they got your money for the ticket they may not have wanted to let it go to another carrier.

And you cannot really blame AA -- because there are only three airlines that fly from Puntas Arenas to Santiago -- LATAM Sky and Jetsmart -- but Sky and Jetsmart do not interline with other airlines that connect to the US -- so no baggage transfer or anything -- think of how Allegiant does not connect or play well with others, the two low costs are like Allegiant and Frontier. Jetsmart just started flying.

If you wanted it all as one ticket and not have separate tickets (very risky) there is no choice but to fly with LATAM.

Sad to say that LATAM sounds like the most reliable of the three -- which is not saying much.

Puentas Arenas is fairly remote and the options are really limited, especially if one is connecting outwards,

I would follow Neil's advice but be prepared for AA to not take responsibility for LATAM. There is no excuse for LATAM to operate so badly, but in some parts of the world the technology and standards are different.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#4
What an awful mess. I know many travellers experience horrible delays ... I just talked to someone that spent 55 hours getting from Melbourne Australia to Amsterdam ... but I cannot imagine how awful it must be. And to top it off, being treated like a poor uncle instead of the paying passenger that you were. When you write, grit your teeth and be polite, also as concise as possible. The person reading your letter did not cause your problems and is in a position to help you. An airline tix gives you transportation from Point A to Point B, and you did get to DC finally, and the complaint department reads complaints all day long ... some perhaps worse than yours. Your job is to interest them in your complaint and make them want to help you. Good luck and please let us know the outcome.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Apr 21, 2018
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#5
I sent detailed letters to American by hard copy and LATAM by email. I even outlined how LATAM's operations failed to comply with the Montreal Convention and entitled me to claim actual damages. I heard back from American corporate today. American's position is that LATAM is responsible and that they will not provide any additional compensation. I have not received any response from LATAM yet. I'm very disappointed in American to say the least.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
I am sadly not surprised that AA did not take responsibility -- they did not operate the flight. LATAM is the only airline that flies to Punta Arenas with interline agreements with US based carriers so there was no choice but to book them -- interline means that one can have the itinerary on one ticket and not have to stop and recheck bags and is protected. The other two lost cost airlines do not interline with US or European carriers. Yes LATAM is a oneworld member but it also is the only possible carrier even if one flies Air France from Paris --

One thing to remember is that AA did not cause the problem -- you chose Punta Arenas as a destination and the only airline that interlines is LATAM.

This is all on LATAM. And if you look at the Facebook page for LATAM it is clear that there are many other unhappy customers. LATAM should have contacted you about the cancellation and should have given more than $10 for a meal. Was there no need for a hotel room because the flights were overnight?

I do not have experience with LATAM but they sound like a mess.
 
Likes: krisseye
Apr 21, 2018
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#7
I've now sent a second round of letters to senior executives at LATAM as it ignored my first round. I heard back today amazingly enough from the person who handled my original complaint. She offered the exact same explanation as before that Expedia is responsible for notifying me of the flight change. The email did not address any points I raised in my letter, including that Expedia was never informed of the flight cancellation as a LATAM representative actually admitted. Sadly, it seems the only remaining avenue here is a small claims court suit. I will have to decide if that is worth my time to consider. My advice to others is try to avoid flying LATAM if possible.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#8
I'm glad that LATAM finally responded, even tho it got you nowhere. Your advice to others should also include avoiding code-share flights plus booking direct with airlines and hotels.
 
Likes: Neil Maley