Traveling with toddler, forced to board last, forced to check only carry-on when there was an empty overhead bin.

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Apr 11, 2018
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#1
It is unfathomable why American Airlines would force a mother traveling with a toddler to be the very last to board a flight, why none of their employees could be bothered to make an effort to assist and help find space (that was evidently available) for the single piece of carry-on luggage I had. I felt they were discriminating against me because I am Asian, and/or the only one traveling with a toddler on this flight.

This entire ordeal just made no sense. I was traveling with a ticketed toddler with one piece of hard sided carry-on luggage between the two of us that conforms to the airline's dimensions. No stroller, no diaper bag, no breast milk bag (already potty trained and only drinks from the boob).

I was forced to check the carry-on at the gate, and damage resulted from the forced check. I have contacted American Airlines customer service, forwarded them pictures and original receipt as requested. No luck.

At the gate, the gate agent refused to allow me and my toddler to board when it was my turn (even though their website states families with young children can pre-board). I stood in line and was told to step aside and wait to be the last to board allowing everyone else to take up available bin space, so they can then determine IF there is space for my luggage. Then it was demanded that I hand over my luggage when there was in fact bin space for it, and I was told i can wait with my toddler for the next flight if i don't want to hand it over .

I made it very clear I have valuables in my only carry-on, never mind anything I may need for my toddler during the flight, and three gate agents plus three flight attendants couldn't work together to find that there was a nearly empty overhead bin I could have put it in. When I asked for my luggage back when I discovered that empty overhead bin upon boarding, they couldn't/wouldn't give it back to me.

I make it a point to not check luggage because i have heard enough horror stories on the news so I always travel light. I paid for two regular economy fares that "allow access to overhead bins". I admit this is the first time i have ever had to report damage and i am not familiar with the 24-hr reporting rule and i didnt report damage until hour 29. My priority was to make sure my child is taken care of after a coast to coast round trip, helping her get back on eastern time. I was able to get them to take a look at my claim but in the end it was still completely denied with reference to their contract of carriage, and saying the damage to my luggage case is "normal wear and tear" even though it's pretty much completely defaced after having been used only twice. I'm not sure if my request for compensation falls under "reasonable" or "appropriate", but to me, their employees were completely in the wrong, and they should not be able to hide behind their "Contract of Carriage". They should be liable/responsible for the contents in the luggage they refuse to allow me to maintain possession of.
 

Neil Maley

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#2
Are you sure you bought regular economy and not basic? It sounds like you bought a basic economy ticket and received exactly what you purchased. If you did that ticket requires you to board in the last group and carry ons must fit under your seat- you aren’t permitted overhead bin space. Can you post a copy of your confirmation here so we can see what you bought? It doesn’t seem to be any case of discrimination - it seems to be the class of tickets. When did you get a seat assignment? When you checked in?

If you did not buy basic economy but in fact regular economy- we can direct you who to write to.

“American will not offer pre-assigned seats to those who purchase basic economy fares. Instead, passengers will receive a seat assignment (Heyyyyyy seat 37E) at check-in. Overhead bin space is not included, so baggage must fit below the seat in front of the passenger. And they must pay for checked baggage. And they board last. And are not eligible for upgrades.”

I would still use our company contacts on top of our page and write about the damage, going up the executive level if need be. But what exactly was the damage?
 
Jul 13, 2016
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#3
I agree with Neil, it certainly sounds like somehow you ended up with a Basic economy ticket. With those tickets, no matter what, you will not pre-board, and you will not allowed to use the overhead bin space, even if space is available.
 
Apr 11, 2018
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#5
Here you go. I am aware of "basic economy" fares. I purchased regular economy on AA.com. Both of our tickets were regular economy, and seats were selected online at the time of booking. Because I booked on December 18th for a February trip, seat selection wasnt available for return trip at the time, but I selected seats online some time in January.


There was a nearly empty overhead bin three rows up from our seats, as I discovered, and they wouldn't give me my luggage back.

I have to note, the gate agent who told us to step aside and wait did so without checking our tickets.


IMG_1682.jpg
 
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Apr 11, 2018
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#6
I wrote to the executives. Thats probably what got "central baggage" to even take a look at my claim after initially declining to accept it because it was reported on hour 29.


IMG_1685.jpg IMG_1686.jpg
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
AAneveragain. I am having some difficulty understanding what happened.

It sounds like I misunderstood and you did not have a Basic economy ticket — you had a regular economy ticket with access to the overhead bin.

AA does not automatically give families with children early boarding—. It is up to the gate agent and one has to ask.

What boarding group was on your boarding pass?

What group did you board with?

Was the damage to the exterior of the case? Is there something missing from the interior?

What I have noticed is that airlines automatically start to tell people in the last boarding groups that they have to gate check their bags — even if there is room—it seems they are doing this to make sure that there are no delays. I have heard announcements at the gate telling people this.

I do not think they will give you a flight attendant’s full name. Why do you want that information?
 
Likes: ADM and jsn55

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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#8
It is indeed a mystery to me why you were forced to board last with a small child. Was this a generalization and you mean that you were in the last boarding group? Did you checkin online 24 hours before your flight? Were you on time at the gate, ready to board? Were there any issues with the gate agents before boarding? If you requested seat assignments, were they all the way in the back of the plane? Surely they didn't literally pull you aside to board after everyone else? I do not see anywhere in your letter WHY this happened. What reason did they give? It is common for the last third or quarter of passengers to be required to gate check their bags, but it seems totally over the top to insist that you do so while dealing with a little kid. I'm very interested to hear what led up to this and what the reason was.
 
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Neil Maley

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#9
Why the “here you go again” when you came here for help? We need to ensure we know exactly what you booked so we can help you. And that is the ticket class.

You had a regular economy ticket and were treated abysmally. That is what you should focus on.

Start over because your letter as it is written is not going to get the results you are looking for.

Are you attaching that picture when you send? If you are that can cause your emails to go into spam.

If we have to ask you the questions we are asking- the information you are giving is not clear.

Send a bullet point letter with facts only:

- On xx/xx I had tickets to fly AA flight #xxxx. My reservation number was xxxxx. I was flying by myself with my xxx month toddler. My tickets were regular economy fare O tickets.

- When the announcement was made for pre boarding families with small children, I was refused boarding at the airport by a the airport agent. I was told to wait until my boarding number was called. When I questioned why I couldn’t pre board, I was told Xxxxxxxx. (What did they tell you?)

- I was traveling with one harder piece of luggage only the measured xx x xx x xx- meeting your carry on measurement of 22 x 14 x 9 inches / 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters (including handles and wheels). That’s it- no diaper bag, stroller, etc

- By the time my boarding position was called, I was told that I had the gate check my bag- there was no room in any bins on the plane. Had I been permitted to board not only would I have had the items with me but I would have had a much easier time getting myself and my child settled in.

- In my carry on were several pieces of jade that I had picked up at my grandmothers (or wherever you got them) These were heirlooms my late grandfather had passed down to my daughter and I specifically flew to xxxxxx to pick these up by hand and bring them home. I specially made sure they were in a hard sided case that I would be handling due to the fragile nature of the items.

- When I got on the plane- there were several bins that had space open that my carry on would have fit in.

- when I returned home, I discovered that some of the pieces were (cracked, broken, etc)

- I attempted to notify AA of the damage but......(whatever you were told)

- I am requesting xxxxx xxxxx

- I have pictures of the damage and also of the overhead bins that had enough space that my bag would fit in that I can send you.

That’s it. If you know the name of the gate agent- that’s the name you need to give the Executives.

And you must prove that the bag dimensions adhered to their dimensions.

Don’t add the pictures or any attachments so the letter doesn’t go interesting spam. Start at Customer Service and move up one by one as our company contacts advise.
 
Likes: ADM
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
fare class “O” is the lowest economy but not basic economy on AA.

What boarding group was on the boarding pass? 7? 8?

Did AA agree to pre board with children? It is not automatic and sometimes there are age restrictions (such as less than 2). Otherwise AA is having people board with their groups as stated on the pass.

It is a problem that the last groups 7 + are told to check their bags automatically.
 
Apr 11, 2018
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#12
Christina, I was in 6 or 7, with general economy boarding. I dont have the pass anymore to verify. I was traveling with a 3 year old. There is no under 2 qualifier listed on AA's website but yes I did find out (after the fact) that AA make you ask for pre-boarding. I'm more accustomed to an airline inviting families to board.



Pre-boarding is not the issue. I didn't need to preboard. My gripe is they totally went to the extreme opposite of being professional and courteous. And i was left in a tin can for 5 hours with a 3 year old without things I could have used to divert her attention, make the flight easier. Plus the heirloom that was damaged didn't make me feel any better. The exterior of my luggage case looked like it had been thrown on a hard surface and slid, multiple times.

Regardless of the "norm" that is nowadays that they make people gate-check for whatever reason they want to come up with, whether there is available space or not, the fact is, they should have made an effort to assist me (and any other parent traveling with a young child). I needed overhead bin space for ONE case, nothing else. Space that I paid for. And they didn't bother to.

I asked for my luggage back immediately after boarding and seeing the empty space. I asked for it back. I didn't get it back. And now they tell me the damage to my case is normal wear and tear.
 
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Apr 11, 2018
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#13
It is indeed a mystery to me why you were forced to board last with a small child. Was this a generalization and you mean that you were in the last boarding group? Did you checkin online 24 hours before your flight? Were you on time at the gate, ready to board? Were there any issues with the gate agents before boarding? If you requested seat assignments, were they all the way in the back of the plane? Surely they didn't literally pull you aside to board after everyone else? I do not see anywhere in your letter WHY this happened. What reason did they give? It is common for the last third or quarter of passengers to be required to gate check their bags, but it seems totally over the top to insist that you do so while dealing with a little kid. I'm very interested to hear what led up to this and what the reason was.
I selected seats online long before the actual trip, and checked in at the airport due to not having a functional printer and no smart phone (I'm one of those super paranoid people who resist tech and have a sticker over my iPad camera).

I was not in the last boarding group. I was on time, I got in line, I handed the gate agent my tickets, she didnt take my tickets, didnt even look at them, she told me to step aside, and let everyone else board( and take up overhead bin space), so it can then be determined IF they have space left for my one case. I asked her why cant you check right NOW if there is indeed ZERO space left? No answer, just told again to step aside. So i ended up being THE LAST to board. I checked the bins as we walk to our seats, and found wide open space.

I really cant think of any other explanation for this other than I'm Asian, they didnt deem me worthy.

The gate agent could have let me board and see for myself if I can"t find space, she could have left word for the flight attendants to check the bins immediately. The first class flight attendant at the door when I got to the plane instead of saying they are "completely full" could have picked up the intercom thing and asked for the other flight attendants to do a quick scan for space to fit one regulation sized case. When I found the space myself and asked for my luggage back, they could have given it back to me. But none of the above happened.

What reason does any airline have to force a mother to fly 5 hours with a 3 year old without luggage?

For arguement sake, even if they were indeed "completely full", they could have asked passengers with bags that can fit under seats to put them under seats to make space. They could have maybe reshuffled a bag or two to make space. They could have ask if anyone would be willing to check a bag so I can bring mine on board. Heck, they could have put my case where flight attendants store their bags!

No one bothered to lift a finger, and I see zero reason why they couldn't have. I have yet to get an explanation from them why they couldn't have.
 
Jul 27, 2016
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#14
I selected seats online long before the actual trip, and checked in at the airport due to not having a functional printer and no smart phone (I'm one of those super paranoid people who resist tech and have a sticker over my iPad camera).

I was not in the last boarding group. I was on time, I got in line, I handed the gate agent my tickets, she didnt take my tickets, didnt even look at them, she told me to step aside, and let everyone else board( and take up overhead bin space), so it can then be determined IF they have space left for my one case. I asked her why cant you check right NOW if there is indeed ZERO space left? No answer, just told again to step aside. So i ended up being THE LAST to board. I checked the bins as we walk to our seats, and found wide open space.

I really cant think of any other explanation for this other than I'm Asian, they didnt deem me worthy.

The gate agent could have let me board and see for myself if I can"t find space, she could have left word for the flight attendants to check the bins immediately. The first class flight attendant at the door when I got to the plane instead of saying they are "completely full" could have picked up the intercom thing and asked for the other flight attendants to do a quick scan for space to fit one regulation sized case. When I found the space myself and asked for my luggage back, they could have given it back to me. But none of the above happened.

What reason does any airline have to force a mother to fly 5 hours with a 3 year old without luggage?

For arguement sake, even if they were indeed "completely full", they could have asked passengers with bags that can fit under seats to put them under seats to make space. They could have maybe reshuffled a bag or two to make space. They could have ask if anyone would be willing to check a bag so I can bring mine on board. Heck, they could have put my case where flight attendants store their bags!

No one bothered to lift a finger, and I see zero reason why they couldn't have. I have yet to get an explanation from them why they couldn't have.
There seem to be two separate issues here:

1. Boarding Last: Did you wait to board when your group number was called? If you were trying to board before your assigned boarding group, the gate agent was supposed to tell you to step aside and wait until your group was boarding, otherwise there's no point to having multiple boarding groups.

2. Being Told No Bin Space, When There Turned Out to Be Bin Space. The gate agents and flight attendants often have to make a call as to when to start gate-checking luggage, based on their best estimate of when the bins are going to fill up. If they wait until the bins actually are full, then they're in the situation of having people who are already on the plane with luggage that won't fit, who have to salmon back up the aisle to get their bags checked, which slows down the whole boarding process. Sometimes, they get the estimate wrong, and would have had a bit more room for bags in the bins. Sounds like that's what happened here. Once a bag's been gate-checked, though, it's incredibly disruptive to the boarding process to get it back from the baggage handlers, so they basically never do it. Any airline is very unlikely to start asking passengers to pull their bags of of bins and check them to give you space.

When you contact American, definitely leave out the request for the full name of the flight attendant. Apart from the fact that they're never going to give it to you, it's indication that you're either (a) considering suing, in which case your letter will be put in the "might sue, so hands off" category, or (b) want to do something inappropriate/dangerous. The first name and flight number is plenty to identify him to American.

Going forward, anything that you're going to need on the plane, and any valuables, should go in a carry-on that fits under the seat in front of you, that way you're sure it will make it on the plane. I know that doesn't help you now, but it may in the future, and also help anyone reading this thread.

Bottom line, when you contact customer service, you need to be able to say specifically what you actually want. Cash? Vouchers for future flights? AAdvantage miles?
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#15
AAneveragain I would suggest that you rethink the accusation of discrimination. I took a look at the AA facebook page and in the past few days there are complaints of people being forced to gate check their bags and there was overhead space (also some had photos) -- the people complaining are of different genders, races and ethnic backgrounds and on different flights.

AA does not require flight attendants to assist passengers with their carry on and it is allegedly policy for them not to assist, because of liability -- they do not want the FA to be hurt after repeated lifting (back injury etc) and do not want to be liable if they drop or jostle a carry on and someone's million dollar porcelain vase ends up in pieces. In the past few years I have noticed that it is usually passengers that help other passengers; there is the occasional FA that will help, but it is not policy to do so.

The size of the FA closet has been reduced or eliminated depending on the airplane -- in order to cram more seats in.......

I take it this is the bag you flew out with and it fit just fine on the way out. This was a hard suitcase? How was it damaged? How was the jade damaged?

When I have been told that I need to gate check I take out all valuables and fragile items and put them in my purse -- now I realize that you may not have been able to do this with a toddler to take care of, so I am in no way criticizing you.

Just a guy is correct about the hypothetical, the airline is not going to ask someone to give up their bag to make room for yours, so that suggestion should be left out of any correspondence with the airline.

What I have noticed is that the FAs and gate attendants now just say with boarding group X you will have to gate check. If you checked in at the airport and had a low fare and no status you may have been in the group that they decided to force gate check. I think many do not want to be the overhead compartment police and this is why there are these blanket proclamations.

The charging for luggage /carry on space is a problem; several years ago I saw a similar issue, a woman was told that she could not take her bag on board (not oversize) by the first class FA, she argued, was asked to leave the plane (she did) and only later came back without her carry on. The voices were raised and it was very unpleasant. This was a different airport and different airline.

The management of the carry on luggage is a problem for the majority of airlines. There is truly not enough space even if one carries the minimum, a legal carry on and the personal item, because those in the bulkhead and exit rows have to put their personal items in the overhead.

AA does not seem to be managing the boarding well with the carry ons and it seems to be a problem for many, out of different airports.

For the damaged heirloom do you have a repair estimate from a conservator? Is the luggage a total loss? You do need to decide what to ask for.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Apr 11, 2018
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#17
There seem to be two separate issues here:

1. Boarding Last: Did you wait to board when your group number was called? If you were trying to board before your assigned boarding group, the gate agent was supposed to tell you to step aside and wait until your group was boarding, otherwise there's no point to having multiple boarding groups.

2. Being Told No Bin Space, When There Turned Out to Be Bin Space. The gate agents and flight attendants often have to make a call as to when to start gate-checking luggage, based on their best estimate of when the bins are going to fill up. If they wait until the bins actually are full, then they're in the situation of having people who are already on the plane with luggage that won't fit, who have to salmon back up the aisle to get their bags checked, which slows down the whole boarding process. Sometimes, they get the estimate wrong, and would have had a bit more room for bags in the bins. Sounds like that's what happened here. Once a bag's been gate-checked, though, it's incredibly disruptive to the boarding process to get it back from the baggage handlers, so they basically never do it. Any airline is very unlikely to start asking passengers to pull their bags of of bins and check them to give you space.

When you contact American, definitely leave out the request for the full name of the flight attendant. Apart from the fact that they're never going to give it to you, it's indication that you're either (a) considering suing, in which case your letter will be put in the "might sue, so hands off" category, or (b) want to do something inappropriate/dangerous. The first name and flight number is plenty to identify him to American.

Going forward, anything that you're going to need on the plane, and any valuables, should go in a carry-on that fits under the seat in front of you, that way you're sure it will make it on the plane. I know that doesn't help you now, but it may in the future, and also help anyone reading this thread.

Bottom line, when you contact customer service, you need to be able to say specifically what you actually want. Cash? Vouchers for future flights? AAdvantage miles?
Really, there is only one problem -- American Airline staff unwilling to do anything to help a parent traveling with a toddler find space for a single piece of carry on. Why were they unwilling? I circle back to discrimination. I know you are trying to help me see maybe they had legitimate reasons, or maybe I was unprepared or not a seasoned traveler.

I have not travelled as much since having a kid for obvious reasons, but I can assure you I still know how to properly pack luggage, and I know to wait to board when my group is called. In my younger days I travelled to the other side of the pacific ocean for three months on literally a backpack, so I absolutely also know how to travel light, even now with a toddler in tow. I have no desire to drag any more than the bare minimum necessry through the airport. Hence no stroller, no diaper bag, no milk bag, no car seat. But you can only travel so light when u have a small child, and I needed a carry on case.

What I did not expect was the horrid customer service. I can't imagine how anyone, even AA, can quantify asking for space for a single piece of carry on as wanting any kind of special treatment. They sure acted like it. In forcing me to board last - and i mean i was THE VERY LAST passenger to step foot on the plane, I was the end of the boarding process - the gate agent was ostensibly making me wait so they can see if there is space left (which there was). But after humiliating me and my toddler, they did not do what they were ostensibly trying to do, I had to find out for myself I could have kept my luggage.

All it would have taken was for Tim (the first class FA) to take 10 seconds to get on their announcement phone n ask a flight attendant in the back to confirm space in the bins. they would have found the space, my 3 yr old would have had her toys, her books, her snacks, etc. and my antique heirloom would not have been damaged. It wasnt even a full flight -- i had all three seats to the two of us, lady three rows up had all three seats to herself (where the nearest empty bin was), directly in front of me was an empty middle seat.

3 yr olds arent capable of sitting in a small space staring at the back of the seat in front of them for 5 hours. Thank goodness mine decided to be an absolute angel that day or the entire plane would have had to hear her wail. In the end, passengers commented on how remarkably well behaved she was despite circumstances.

I didnt ask to preboard, i didnt think i needed to preboard. Now i know i probably should have, but who knew! The flight out to SFO was awesome, pilots were awesome, flight attendants were super friendly. On return i got this.
 
Apr 11, 2018
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#18
christina

I have no clue how they managed to beat up my luggage and content so badly.

After reading your reply, I checked AA's facebook page too, and I saw one lady say she was forced to check and charged fifty bucks and told to learn to read. Rudeness aside I think she was being told she had a basic economy ticket, which is not my case. Another lady said she was forced to check on an international flight, luckily her fiance had a bigger backpack than she did and she as able to put her laptop in his backpack. I saw no mention of anyone traveling with a kid on regular fares being forced to check their only carry on that had everything in it.

I filed a claim with american and it was denied completely, they wouldnt even accept responsibility for the luggage case. The heirloom will not be repaired. It cannot be repaired. I am not gonna have it essentially super glued or botoxed back together. Repair or not, its monetary value has already been drastically reduced, not that im about to sell it so the monetary value of it is less important than the sentimental value. But if we were to talk about how much monetary damage, being an item passed down from my grandfather's father who lived in the Qing Dynasty era, AA's maximum liability probably wouldn't cover it.
 

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Neil Maley

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#20
I didnt ask to preboard, i didnt think i needed to preboard. Now i know i probably should have, but who knew! The flight out to SFO was awesome, pilots were awesome, flight attendants were super friendly. On return i got this.

I was under the impression you tried to Pre-board and they wouldnt allow you to-

“At the gate, the gate agent refused to allow me and my toddler to board when it was my turn (even though their website states families with young children can pre-board). I stood in line and was told to step aside and wait to be the last to board allowing everyone else to take up available bin space, so they can then determine IF there is space for my luggage. “

If that wasn’t the case- you should remove that from the note I suggested.