American Airlines - Issue While Traveling With an Infant

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Dec 21, 2018
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#1
On December, 9th 2018 my husband and I, along with our 14 week old son, were flying home from Philadelphia, PA to Charlotte, NC after a great weekend at the Army v Navy football game. My husband is a West Point graduate and medically discharged veteran, so we were very excited that Army continued their winning streak. We had a 1pm flight scheduled on American Airlines flight 793 at gate C26 and arrived in great spirits at 11:30am to the airport. We arrived early to ensure we had no issues getting checked-in with our son. We did not have a seat assignment yet, so we headed straight to our gate to give ourselves a good chance of getting seat assignments together. The woman at the gate asked us for our names and handed us our new boarding passes with seats together. I told her we would be gate checking our stroller and car seat once boarding began, so she helped us tag the travel bags so we didn’t have to worry about it during the boarding process. Once we were all settled, we went to get some snacks for the plane and headed to the family restroom to get our son situated for the flight. I was checking out at the store diagonal from our gate and told my husband to take the stroller to the gate since he would probably have to start breaking it down. We were trying to be one of the last people to board the plane so that my son didn’t have to spend an extra 30 minutes cramped in our seat. Just trying to reduce the chances of him getting fussy out of respect for other passengers. It has worked very well in the past. My husband got to the gate at 12:45pm, makes clear eye contact with the gate agents, and there were still 2 or 3 people waiting in line to board, so he breaks down the stroller which is quick and easy. Another person who didn’t make the standby list for our flight comes over to my husband and says “You need to go up to the counter. I think they gave your seats away.” Sure enough, my husband goes up there and the gate agent says “I’m sorry sir, you weren’t here when we called your name, so we gave your seats away.” I have no clue how this is possible since we already had a seat assignment and had checked in with the gate agents face to face as soon as we got there. The other customers sitting at our gate said they watched everything unfold and our seats should not have been given away. After my husband was trying to ration with them, I ran over trying to find out what had happened. I was right across the way and hadn't realized there was an issue. The gate agent then started telling me that the door closes 10 minutes prior and we weren’t here in time. She completely contradicted the other story we were given about giving our seats away because we weren’t there when our name was called. We were there on time. We had seat assignments. There were still people boarding when my husband walked up. Another standby passenger told us that they called our name out once by mouth very quietly (never on the loud speaker) and then just gave the seats away. I pleaded with the gate agent and repeatedly told her “We were here just before. You helped us and gave us our tickets. You knew we had an infant.” She claimed to not remember us, yet all the people standing around remembered us very well. So much so that they knew to tell my husband they gave our seats away. I know they were checking in a lot of people, but people traveling with infants and small children tend to not blend into the crowd at an airport. The two agents were incredibly rude to us and made no effort to help us with next steps or even to keep the situation calm. She refused to give me her name when I asked for it and told me “I don’t have to give you my name, what would you need my name for?” (her name was Lisa). They changed their story 2 or 3 times and it seemed as if they were in the wrong and trying to cover it up. People standing around were appalled at the entire situation. I wish more than anything I had video taped this. We then headed to the AA customer service desk where we were greeted by a less than friendly woman who was already rolling her eyes at me when I walked up. She said “Hi ma’am can I help you?” Which I replied “Yes, I’m trying my best to keep calm right now, but the gate agents at our flight just gave away our seats prematurely and I’m extremely upset about it.” Her reply was “Because you were late to your gate, right?” It became clear very quickly that she was probably debriefed by her coworker before I even got there. This woman couldn’t have looked less interested in anything I had to say to her. She told me there were no flights out until the next day and I immediately asked to speak to her superior. I then got to speak to Jaqueline, the AA Customer Service Manager for the Philadelphia Airport and again, she was debriefed before I got a chance to tell my story. She said that the gate agents have a right to give away our seats if we are not at the gate 15 minutes prior. She wouldn’t even hear the fact that people were still boarding when my husband arrived, the fact that we did get there 15 minutes prior to boarding, or the fact that when we arrived 15 minutes prior to boarding, whoever received our seats was already on the plane. She said there was nothing more that she could do. She told me that people check in with gate agents and then leave the airport all the time. I'm sure it has happened, but I find it difficult to believe. I told her that even if the gate agent didn’t remember us, she could see on my ticket that I had an infant on my lap and still made no attempt to contact us. I’m constantly hearing people’s names over the loud speaker and if she was going to prematurely give our seat away she should have called on the PA system before doing so. Especially because there was an infant involved. We had a checked bag full of everything we needed on that plane that went on to Charlotte without us. The original customer service agent I spoke to then came up to us and said we got lucky, she was able to confirm us 2 seats nowhere near each other on the 7:27pm flight. I’m still extremely upset at this point and the manger did nothing to help. She told me they already went above and beyond. I kept trying to tell the manager what had actually happened and she told me she would have to review the cameras to see what really happened and gave me no way to follow up when I asked how I could do so. During this lengthy conversation, my son was extremely upset and ended up soiling his diaper through all his clothes which we then realized we had no extras of. We were stuck in the airport for an extra 6.5 hours with a hungry, overstimulated, very tired 14 week of old baby wrapped in only a blanket, to no fault of our own, and no one seemed to care. These people work together everyday and seemed to be covering for each other. Some of the standby passengers from our original flight had spotted us afterwards hoping to hear that the situation was rectified. They couldn’t believe how the situation was handled by those gate agents. After spending the rest of the day attempting to keep our baby calm, clean, and warm, we eventually had to put our stroller in the travel bag which we then realized the baggage workers on the way here broke. The zipper no longer worked so we had to go buy two baggage straps to keep the bag around it somehow (one of those straps were gone when we finally made it to Charlotte). We ended up spending money on luggage straps, 2 meals at the airport, a onesie from the gift shop, and will also have to replace our stroller travel bag. I was forced to pump and breastfeed in a crowded, loud and unsanitary environment while people stared. My son hasn’t quite perfected it yet so it was very stressful for him and the breast milk that we did have was only in a cooler with an ice pack and it all went bad. 30 ounces. They wouldn’t even give us a pass to the lounge or anything to help. It felt like such a good weekend started falling apart. One thing after another. I could understand if it was weather related or a mechanical problem, but we did everything we were supposed to do and were treated with no respect or common decency. I truly can’t believe these people are in the business of customer service. We are American Airlines credit card members and fly American all the time. I even have 3 American flights scheduled in the next 2 months. It was extremely disappointing.

Once I got home, I wrote the story above and mailed it to American Airlines Customer Service. I received a reply within a few days saying "Reserved seats must be claimed at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of a domestic flight. This is the time period we need in order to allow seat assignment or reassignment to passengers who arrive at the airport without seat reservations. It also enables us to put back in inventory those desirable seats reserved by customers who then do not show up for the flight. At 30 minutes before departure, unclaimed reserved seats are canceled and are eligible for reassignment to other customers. You must be checked in and be present at the departure gate at least 15 minutes before scheduled departure time to retain your reservation and seat." I responded reiterating that I did not initially have a seat reservation so that's why we arrived early to claim our seats at the gate face to face. I also repeated that after getting snacks and the using the restroom, we were back at the gate at 12:45pm with people still boarding and then told our seats had already been given away.

Her next reply included some more repetitive information about this 15 minute cut-off which I'm not sure how we didn't comply to if we were there at 12:45pm and there were still people boarding. She also changed her story a bit and said "The possibility of missing is flight is why airlines strongly encourage passengers to arrive to the airport at least 90 minutes early for domestic flights, and two or more hours early for international itineraries. Even with assigned seats and boarding pass in your possession, if you are not at the gate when they call you then it is possible for the gate agents to release your seats. Although you mentioned that your husband started breaking down the stroller, with having to gate check the stroller and with only him at the gate then most likely the gate agents did not feel they have enough time to process your boarding in a timely manner. I am sorry. " This is after her reading my letter, and having me reiterate the times we arrived at the airport and the gate. This is also after me relaying to her that there should have been no reason for them to call our names since we already checked in with the gate agent, as well as telling her our seats were already given away so these rules she's sending to me do not apply.

We briefly spoke on the phone after that and kept talking in circles. I remained as calm and respectful as possible. I know it wasn't her fault, but I truly felt like she wasn't hearing my story. That she was just throwing rules at me and changing her story every time I refuted her explanation. She finally asked me how I wanted to be compensated and I told her that I would like my husband and I to be compensated in the same manner as a customer would be compensated to voluntarily give up their seat. We were on standby for other flights that day trying to get home and people were given generous vouchers. Our seats were invalidly taken away from us and we received nothing but rude customer service, excuses trying to lead us to believe we were in the wrong and an extra 7 hours trapped in an airport with an infant. She told me that she would review my case again and bring it up to management. She promised I would get a response by the end of the day. A few hours later I received a response saying "Lindsay, records reflect that flight 793, departed the gate on-time and that your family missed the 15 minute cut-off time. Accordingly, we established a 15-minute "cut-off" (30 minutes for international flights). This means that you must be present at the departure gate and ready to board your flight no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time to keep your reservation and seats. Although we understand that your husband was at the gate and you were right behind him, these last few minutes are essential for our airport staff to complete all the details needed to depart on time especially since you also had a stroller to check-in. In this situation, our agents believed that allowing you and your family to board would have jeopardized an on-time departure." I was extremely frustrated at this point that she kept repeating the same things to me and talking to me as if I hadn't told her 3 times that we were there 15 minutes prior, there were still people boarding and our seats had been given away well before that anyway. I responded mentioning that if what she said was true, that would mean the plane left with two empty seats on it. That's not the case. Our seat reservations were given away prior to any cut-off time that has been mentioned thus far. She has still never given me a straight answer as to why our names were even called out in the first place. Using the rule she mentioned in her last explanation, if we weren't there by the 15 minute cut-off, only then could our seats be given away. This was not the case. That is my issue with this situation.

If I'm looking at this all wrong, someone please help me. I have been replaying this day in my head and keep getting told that we missed some cut-off. I know that's not what the problem was. I just feel helpless and drained at this point. All advice, good or bad, is welcome.

Sincerely,
Lindsay
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
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Dec 27, 2014
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#2
Lindsay, your letter is very hard to read because it is way too long.

However - your boarding passes have a boarding time printed on them. It is usually 1/2 hr to 40 minutes before the flight leaves. If you arrived at 12:45 - you were definitely way past that time and the airline does give your seats away after calling your name. Perhaps the other sitting there only recalled calling your name once, but I have never been on a flight that the names aren't called on a loudspeaker multiple times.

Once your seats are given away, it's too late for them to pull the passengers off that they put in your place as the manifest is usually closed out already.

I'm sorry to say that you really don't have a claim if you were not at the gate by the boarding time printed on your boarding pass.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
AA has an emphasis on getting the planes out on time. Your husband got to the gate at 12:45 for a 1 pm flight while you were still shopping.

I was checking out at the store diagonal from our gate and told my husband to take the stroller to the gate since he would probably have to start breaking it down.

One simply cannot show up last minute like that and start breaking down a stroller as one is not ready to board -- the stroller needed to be tagged and taken down stairs as does the car seat. If something is being prepared for a gate check one is not ready to board. These things are put in a separate place in the belly of the plane and that may have been closed already. AA states that one has to be at the gate and ready to board the plane at least 15 minutes before; breaking down a stroller is not ready -- and by your own narrative he went first at made the 15 minutes yet you were not with him. You said that you were across the way and did not realize that there was a problem, so you were not there 15 minutes before. As you state:

After my husband was trying to ration with them, I ran over trying to find out what had happened. I was right across the way and hadn't realized there was an issue.

One should be at the gate at boarding time, not risk it. It is a painful lesson to learn, but AA demands at least 15 minutes to be at the gate ready for boarding and only the husband was there 15 minutes before and he was folding up the stroller.
 
Mar 8, 2018
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#4
As others have said your letter is extremely long and most likely will not be read. The customer service rep who starts to reads your letter doesn't care about the Army/Navy game.

I would simply write that I was traveling with my husband and baby and after checking in and receiving seat assignments we returned to the gate 15 minutes before departure and found our seats were given away. You can link their description of the boarding process that says you must arrive 10 minutes before boarding https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
As others have said your letter is extremely long and most likely will not be read. The customer service rep who starts to reads your letter doesn't care about the Army/Navy game.

I would simply write that I was traveling with my husband and baby and after checking in and receiving seat assignments we returned to the gate 15 minutes before departure and found our seats were given away. You can link their description of the boarding process that says you must arrive 10 minutes before boarding https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/boarding-process.jsp
KMC doors close 10 minutes before departure; the contract of carriage specifically mentions 15 minutes prior one has to ready to board. The husband was there folding the stroller 15 minutes prior but the wife was "right across the way" looking at a store, and was not at the gate.
 
Dec 19, 2014
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Lindsay,

I stopped reading your post after you mentioned that your husband got to the gate at 12:45PM for a 1:00PM departure. Passengers must be at the gate 15 minutes prior to departure and the doors close 10 minutes prior to departure. Once the doors, no one can board the flight. The flight manifest is closed.

I'm sorry to hear that you feel that AA mistreated you. But the facts that you presented do not support your case. Obviously if there were standby travelers who did not make the flight and AA could not re-accommodate you for several hours, flights were at capacity that day. When your husband got to the gate, the boarding process was in the final stages. If the gate agent called your name and there was no response, the gate agent's responsibility is to ensure the flight does not go off with an empty seat. They absolutely will reassign your seat.

The painful fact is... you did miss the cutoff.
 

JVillegirl541

Verified Member
Nov 21, 2014
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#8
I’m so sorry. The short answer is once boarding has begun you simply must be present at the gate. Your mistake was leaving the gate area and not boarding when your Group was called. Thank goodness you got seats on another plane without being stuck for another day. You notice I am not mentioning what time you got to the gate but rather you not being present when boarding started and failing to board with your group or before when they call for Families with Children (likely when they called your name and you weren’t at the gate to respond).
I’m sorry this happened I have traveled with babies and remember how hard it is.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Jul 30, 2018
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#9
I too am sorry this happened. Although it has been decades since I have flown with an infant/small child, I can remember what a Herculean task it can be. However, just as my fellow forum members have said, you need to be physically in the gate area *ready to board the flight*, not just coming in. The flight gate areas are always, at best, chaotic when it's time to board and unless you are actually there, it can be difficult to hear the announcements. Additionally, you mentioned that you ran out of supplies for your baby. Sadly, in the modern era of airline travel, flight delays and disruptions are par for the course, for whatever reason. We passengers must *always*have contingency plans for when something goes wrong. It is even more prudent when traveling with babies and small children. Always pack ten times more food, clothing, diapers, entertainment, than you think you will need, for both outbound *and* inbound flights.
 
Jul 7, 2018
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I didn't read through the whole letter either. Way too much to wade through. But I agree you should have been physically at the gate by the boarding time on your boarding pass. Maybe if you had mentioned when you checked in that rather than board first you would prefer to wait until later in the process the gate agents would have been aware. But since they always board passengers with infants first and you were not there physically to let them know you wanted to board later, they inferred you were not there and gave your seats away.
 
Likes: jsmithw

mmb

Verified Member
Jan 20, 2015
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#12
Sorry, I could not read the whole monologue BUT I do smell something fishy.
Pax WAS there 5 min before doors closed. I have never heard of giving away seats before the last call.
Which would happen when all passengers had boarded, giving them the full boarding time.
If other passengers were still boarding, that doesn’t make any sense.
Perhaps the GA had a vested interest in some way to help out some standby passengers.
My daughter did this exact thing a couple of months ago.
I boarded early but she held back with her 2 year old, waiting until the very end of boarding.
No problems. She Gate checked the car seat.
How does a GA/airline decide you are not there when boarding is ensuing ?
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#13
Sorry, I could not read the whole monologue BUT I do smell something fishy.
Pax WAS there 5 min before doors closed. I have never heard of giving away seats before the last call.
Which would happen when all passengers had boarded, giving them the full boarding time.
If other passengers were still boarding, that doesn’t make any sense.
Perhaps the GA had a vested interest in some way to help out some standby passengers.
My daughter did this exact thing a couple of months ago.
I boarded early but she held back with her 2 year old, waiting until the very end of boarding.
No problems. She Gate checked the car seat.
How does a GA/airline decide you are not there when boarding is ensuing ?
MMB all passengers need to be there at least 15 minutes before take off that is an AA requirement. Only one of two ticketed passengers were there 15 minutes before boarding.

Perhaps GA made a call for family with children -- how do GA know someone is not there? They can check who has not boarded from the computer program when passengers scan the boarding pass. I see that my scan lists my name and seat number. They called the passengers name and there was no response.

As an aside I do take the boarding time seriously. I had a flight delayed an extra hour for maintenance, so I went to a sit down restaurant near the gate. I saw that the plane was undelayed and went back to normal boarding time. I cancelled the food order rather than risk it or try to time it to be one of the lasts at the gate.

Airlines are emphasizing an on time gate departure, even if the plane sits and waits for ATC. It is not a risk I am willing to take.
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#14
There is a reason boarding times are printed on your boarding passes. You are supposed to be there at that time. All they had to do was hang around until the last zone was called and they would have made it. But because they had the stroller theyvreakky needed to be early and get the stroller gate checked.

The agents call the names of missing checked in passengers multiple times and I’m sure they did that at the gate- I’m betting if the people already onnrhe plane were asked more would have said that there were multiple calls of the name made.
 
Dec 19, 2014
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#15
Sorry, I could not read the whole monologue BUT I do smell something fishy.
Pax WAS there 5 min before doors closed. I have never heard of giving away seats before the last call.
Which would happen when all passengers had boarded, giving them the full boarding time.
If other passengers were still boarding, that doesn’t make any sense.
Perhaps the GA had a vested interest in some way to help out some standby passengers.
My daughter did this exact thing a couple of months ago.
I boarded early but she held back with her 2 year old, waiting until the very end of boarding.
No problems. She Gate checked the car seat.
How does a GA/airline decide you are not there when boarding is ensuing ?
@mmb with all due respect, your situation is different, your daughter boarded at the end of boarding (last call)

You are correct in that we truly don't know what happened. But the OP's statement that "other passengers were boarding" is immaterial. The cutoff time of 15 minutes is enforced because they need time to generate boarding passes to the standby passengers to meet the 10 minute deadline for closing the doors. The boarding passengers the OP saw could have been standby passengers boarding.

If you are not at the gate and ready to board 15 minutes before the departure time, the gate agent has the right to reassign your seat to another passenger. All the evidence points to a busy day, full flight and with multiple standby passengers (OP's own words that another standby passenger didn't make the flight). They are NOT going to dilly dally around looking for passengers. I doubt the gate agent would have been completely heartless if they made a final call for passenger X, and the husband said, I'm here, but my wife is right behind me. But, by the time the husband spoke with the gate agent, the seats were already reassigned. There are not take backs at this time.

The OP got her seating assignments within the 30 minute cut off
The OP did not meet the 15 minute cutoff for being in the boarding area
AA did not want to jeopardize the 10 minute gate closure time
AA did not want to jeopardize a delay in pushing back the airline for an ontime departure, especially at Philly. Missing the push back window could jeopardize the departure slot which could have delayed the flight for 130+ other passengers.

I'm sympathetic to the OP, I really am. However, OP seems to feel that AA somehow wronged them. The facts as presented by the OP do not support that.

Several years ago, I missed a flight because I was 30 seconds (yes, you read that right, 30 seconds) past luggage check-in time. At this specific airport, luggage must be checked 60 minutes before the departure time, and I got there 59:30 minutes before. There was nothing the agent could do. The computer automatically locked him out (or so he said). It was my own fault, and fortunately, the airline re-accommodated me at no additional cost to me, but instead of a non-stop flight home, I had to connect, and got home 4 hours later.
 
Likes: krisseye

Barry Graham

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Jan 7, 2015
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#16
If you are saying you were there 15 minutes before departure, then at least one of you seem to have been there in time. Please write to our contacts.
 
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Likes: mmb

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,578
7,354
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San Francisco
#17
On December, 9th 2018 my husband and I, along with our 14 week old son, were flying home from Philadelphia, PA to Charlotte, NC after a great weekend at the Army v Navy football game. My husband is a West Point graduate and medically discharged veteran, so we were very excited that Army continued their winning streak. We had a 1pm flight scheduled on American Airlines flight 793 at gate C26 and arrived in great spirits at 11:30am to the airport. We arrived early to ensure we had no issues getting checked-in with our son. We did not have a seat assignment yet, so we headed straight to our gate to give ourselves a good chance of getting seat assignments together. The woman at the gate asked us for our names and handed us our new boarding passes with seats together. I told her we would be gate checking our stroller and car seat once boarding began, so she helped us tag the travel bags so we didn’t have to worry about it during the boarding process. Once we were all settled, we went to get some snacks for the plane and headed to the family restroom to get our son situated for the flight. I was checking out at the store diagonal from our gate and told my husband to take the stroller to the gate since he would probably have to start breaking it down. We were trying to be one of the last people to board the plane so that my son didn’t have to spend an extra 30 minutes cramped in our seat. Just trying to reduce the chances of him getting fussy out of respect for other passengers. It has worked very well in the past. My husband got to the gate at 12:45pm, makes clear eye contact with the gate agents, and there were still 2 or 3 people waiting in line to board, so he breaks down the stroller which is quick and easy. Another person who didn’t make the standby list for our flight comes over to my husband and says “You need to go up to the counter. I think they gave your seats away.” Sure enough, my husband goes up there and the gate agent says “I’m sorry sir, you weren’t here when we called your name, so we gave your seats away.” I have no clue how this is possible since we already had a seat assignment and had checked in with the gate agents face to face as soon as we got there. The other customers sitting at our gate said they watched everything unfold and our seats should not have been given away. After my husband was trying to ration with them, I ran over trying to find out what had happened. I was right across the way and hadn't realized there was an issue. The gate agent then started telling me that the door closes 10 minutes prior and we weren’t here in time. She completely contradicted the other story we were given about giving our seats away because we weren’t there when our name was called. We were there on time. We had seat assignments. There were still people boarding when my husband walked up. Another standby passenger told us that they called our name out once by mouth very quietly (never on the loud speaker) and then just gave the seats away. I pleaded with the gate agent and repeatedly told her “We were here just before. You helped us and gave us our tickets. You knew we had an infant.” She claimed to not remember us, yet all the people standing around remembered us very well. So much so that they knew to tell my husband they gave our seats away. I know they were checking in a lot of people, but people traveling with infants and small children tend to not blend into the crowd at an airport. The two agents were incredibly rude to us and made no effort to help us with next steps or even to keep the situation calm. She refused to give me her name when I asked for it and told me “I don’t have to give you my name, what would you need my name for?” (her name was Lisa). They changed their story 2 or 3 times and it seemed as if they were in the wrong and trying to cover it up. People standing around were appalled at the entire situation. I wish more than anything I had video taped this. We then headed to the AA customer service desk where we were greeted by a less than friendly woman who was already rolling her eyes at me when I walked up. She said “Hi ma’am can I help you?” Which I replied “Yes, I’m trying my best to keep calm right now, but the gate agents at our flight just gave away our seats prematurely and I’m extremely upset about it.” Her reply was “Because you were late to your gate, right?” It became clear very quickly that she was probably debriefed by her coworker before I even got there. This woman couldn’t have looked less interested in anything I had to say to her. She told me there were no flights out until the next day and I immediately asked to speak to her superior. I then got to speak to Jaqueline, the AA Customer Service Manager for the Philadelphia Airport and again, she was debriefed before I got a chance to tell my story. She said that the gate agents have a right to give away our seats if we are not at the gate 15 minutes prior. She wouldn’t even hear the fact that people were still boarding when my husband arrived, the fact that we did get there 15 minutes prior to boarding, or the fact that when we arrived 15 minutes prior to boarding, whoever received our seats was already on the plane. She said there was nothing more that she could do. She told me that people check in with gate agents and then leave the airport all the time. I'm sure it has happened, but I find it difficult to believe. I told her that even if the gate agent didn’t remember us, she could see on my ticket that I had an infant on my lap and still made no attempt to contact us. I’m constantly hearing people’s names over the loud speaker and if she was going to prematurely give our seat away she should have called on the PA system before doing so. Especially because there was an infant involved. We had a checked bag full of everything we needed on that plane that went on to Charlotte without us. The original customer service agent I spoke to then came up to us and said we got lucky, she was able to confirm us 2 seats nowhere near each other on the 7:27pm flight. I’m still extremely upset at this point and the manger did nothing to help. She told me they already went above and beyond. I kept trying to tell the manager what had actually happened and she told me she would have to review the cameras to see what really happened and gave me no way to follow up when I asked how I could do so. During this lengthy conversation, my son was extremely upset and ended up soiling his diaper through all his clothes which we then realized we had no extras of. We were stuck in the airport for an extra 6.5 hours with a hungry, overstimulated, very tired 14 week of old baby wrapped in only a blanket, to no fault of our own, and no one seemed to care. These people work together everyday and seemed to be covering for each other. Some of the standby passengers from our original flight had spotted us afterwards hoping to hear that the situation was rectified. They couldn’t believe how the situation was handled by those gate agents. After spending the rest of the day attempting to keep our baby calm, clean, and warm, we eventually had to put our stroller in the travel bag which we then realized the baggage workers on the way here broke. The zipper no longer worked so we had to go buy two baggage straps to keep the bag around it somehow (one of those straps were gone when we finally made it to Charlotte). We ended up spending money on luggage straps, 2 meals at the airport, a onesie from the gift shop, and will also have to replace our stroller travel bag. I was forced to pump and breastfeed in a crowded, loud and unsanitary environment while people stared. My son hasn’t quite perfected it yet so it was very stressful for him and the breast milk that we did have was only in a cooler with an ice pack and it all went bad. 30 ounces. They wouldn’t even give us a pass to the lounge or anything to help. It felt like such a good weekend started falling apart. One thing after another. I could understand if it was weather related or a mechanical problem, but we did everything we were supposed to do and were treated with no respect or common decency. I truly can’t believe these people are in the business of customer service. We are American Airlines credit card members and fly American all the time. I even have 3 American flights scheduled in the next 2 months. It was extremely disappointing.

Once I got home, I wrote the story above and mailed it to American Airlines Customer Service. I received a reply within a few days saying "Reserved seats must be claimed at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of a domestic flight. This is the time period we need in order to allow seat assignment or reassignment to passengers who arrive at the airport without seat reservations. It also enables us to put back in inventory those desirable seats reserved by customers who then do not show up for the flight. At 30 minutes before departure, unclaimed reserved seats are canceled and are eligible for reassignment to other customers. You must be checked in and be present at the departure gate at least 15 minutes before scheduled departure time to retain your reservation and seat." I responded reiterating that I did not initially have a seat reservation so that's why we arrived early to claim our seats at the gate face to face. I also repeated that after getting snacks and the using the restroom, we were back at the gate at 12:45pm with people still boarding and then told our seats had already been given away.

Her next reply included some more repetitive information about this 15 minute cut-off which I'm not sure how we didn't comply to if we were there at 12:45pm and there were still people boarding. She also changed her story a bit and said "The possibility of missing is flight is why airlines strongly encourage passengers to arrive to the airport at least 90 minutes early for domestic flights, and two or more hours early for international itineraries. Even with assigned seats and boarding pass in your possession, if you are not at the gate when they call you then it is possible for the gate agents to release your seats. Although you mentioned that your husband started breaking down the stroller, with having to gate check the stroller and with only him at the gate then most likely the gate agents did not feel they have enough time to process your boarding in a timely manner. I am sorry. " This is after her reading my letter, and having me reiterate the times we arrived at the airport and the gate. This is also after me relaying to her that there should have been no reason for them to call our names since we already checked in with the gate agent, as well as telling her our seats were already given away so these rules she's sending to me do not apply.

We briefly spoke on the phone after that and kept talking in circles. I remained as calm and respectful as possible. I know it wasn't her fault, but I truly felt like she wasn't hearing my story. That she was just throwing rules at me and changing her story every time I refuted her explanation. She finally asked me how I wanted to be compensated and I told her that I would like my husband and I to be compensated in the same manner as a customer would be compensated to voluntarily give up their seat. We were on standby for other flights that day trying to get home and people were given generous vouchers. Our seats were invalidly taken away from us and we received nothing but rude customer service, excuses trying to lead us to believe we were in the wrong and an extra 7 hours trapped in an airport with an infant. She told me that she would review my case again and bring it up to management. She promised I would get a response by the end of the day. A few hours later I received a response saying "Lindsay, records reflect that flight 793, departed the gate on-time and that your family missed the 15 minute cut-off time. Accordingly, we established a 15-minute "cut-off" (30 minutes for international flights). This means that you must be present at the departure gate and ready to board your flight no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time to keep your reservation and seats. Although we understand that your husband was at the gate and you were right behind him, these last few minutes are essential for our airport staff to complete all the details needed to depart on time especially since you also had a stroller to check-in. In this situation, our agents believed that allowing you and your family to board would have jeopardized an on-time departure." I was extremely frustrated at this point that she kept repeating the same things to me and talking to me as if I hadn't told her 3 times that we were there 15 minutes prior, there were still people boarding and our seats had been given away well before that anyway. I responded mentioning that if what she said was true, that would mean the plane left with two empty seats on it. That's not the case. Our seat reservations were given away prior to any cut-off time that has been mentioned thus far. She has still never given me a straight answer as to why our names were even called out in the first place. Using the rule she mentioned in her last explanation, if we weren't there by the 15 minute cut-off, only then could our seats be given away. This was not the case. That is my issue with this situation.

If I'm looking at this all wrong, someone please help me. I have been replaying this day in my head and keep getting told that we missed some cut-off. I know that's not what the problem was. I just feel helpless and drained at this point. All advice, good or bad, is welcome.

Sincerely,
Lindsay
This is one of those stories that is so difficult to deal with. Your anguish and frustration come through loud and clear, Lindsay. And I absolutely understand your position. But AA didn't cause your problem, you are responsible for the denied boarding. While I am not excusing AA people, airlines today are under such pressure to board and depart flights that their compassion and human-kindness seems to get lost in a situation like this. I suspect the kind agent who checked you in had forgotten "who you were" when you didn't appear for boarding. She gave away your seats without remembering whose seats they were. Once she realized that she had been the one to check you in, all she could do was fall back on "policies and procedures", showing you an uncaring face.

Do you see the clear message with this description? An airline agent deals with more information more quickly every hour than most of us do all day. She didn't recognize your name and pair it with those nice people with the cute baby. She couldn't admit this at the time, because that would cause far worse problems ... the passengers were already sitting in your seats. So she does what most people do when they make an error ... fall back on policies and procedures. Flying today bears little resemblance to even six years ago ... airlines no longer take care of their passengers, it's a pure numbers/revenue game. The passengers suffer, and so do the employees.
 
May 26, 2018
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#18
On December, 9th 2018 my husband and I, along with our 14 week old son, were flying home from Philadelphia, PA to Charlotte, NC after a great weekend at the Army v Navy football game. My husband is a West Point graduate and medically discharged veteran, so we were very excited that Army continued their winning streak. We had a 1pm flight scheduled on American Airlines flight 793 at gate C26 and arrived in great spirits at 11:30am to the airport. We arrived early to ensure we had no issues getting checked-in with our son. We did not have a seat assignment yet, so we headed straight to our gate to give ourselves a good chance of getting seat assignments together. The woman at the gate asked us for our names and handed us our new boarding passes with seats together. I told her we would be gate checking our stroller and car seat once boarding began, so she helped us tag the travel bags so we didn’t have to worry about it during the boarding process. Once we were all settled, we went to get some snacks for the plane and headed to the family restroom to get our son situated for the flight. I was checking out at the store diagonal from our gate and told my husband to take the stroller to the gate since he would probably have to start breaking it down. We were trying to be one of the last people to board the plane so that my son didn’t have to spend an extra 30 minutes cramped in our seat. Just trying to reduce the chances of him getting fussy out of respect for other passengers. It has worked very well in the past. My husband got to the gate at 12:45pm, makes clear eye contact with the gate agents, and there were still 2 or 3 people waiting in line to board, so he breaks down the stroller which is quick and easy. Another person who didn’t make the standby list for our flight comes over to my husband and says “You need to go up to the counter. I think they gave your seats away.” Sure enough, my husband goes up there and the gate agent says “I’m sorry sir, you weren’t here when we called your name, so we gave your seats away.” I have no clue how this is possible since we already had a seat assignment and had checked in with the gate agents face to face as soon as we got there. The other customers sitting at our gate said they watched everything unfold and our seats should not have been given away. After my husband was trying to ration with them, I ran over trying to find out what had happened. I was right across the way and hadn't realized there was an issue. The gate agent then started telling me that the door closes 10 minutes prior and we weren’t here in time. She completely contradicted the other story we were given about giving our seats away because we weren’t there when our name was called. We were there on time. We had seat assignments. There were still people boarding when my husband walked up. Another standby passenger told us that they called our name out once by mouth very quietly (never on the loud speaker) and then just gave the seats away. I pleaded with the gate agent and repeatedly told her “We were here just before. You helped us and gave us our tickets. You knew we had an infant.” She claimed to not remember us, yet all the people standing around remembered us very well. So much so that they knew to tell my husband they gave our seats away. I know they were checking in a lot of people, but people traveling with infants and small children tend to not blend into the crowd at an airport. The two agents were incredibly rude to us and made no effort to help us with next steps or even to keep the situation calm. She refused to give me her name when I asked for it and told me “I don’t have to give you my name, what would you need my name for?” (her name was Lisa). They changed their story 2 or 3 times and it seemed as if they were in the wrong and trying to cover it up. People standing around were appalled at the entire situation. I wish more than anything I had video taped this. We then headed to the AA customer service desk where we were greeted by a less than friendly woman who was already rolling her eyes at me when I walked up. She said “Hi ma’am can I help you?” Which I replied “Yes, I’m trying my best to keep calm right now, but the gate agents at our flight just gave away our seats prematurely and I’m extremely upset about it.” Her reply was “Because you were late to your gate, right?” It became clear very quickly that she was probably debriefed by her coworker before I even got there. This woman couldn’t have looked less interested in anything I had to say to her. She told me there were no flights out until the next day and I immediately asked to speak to her superior. I then got to speak to Jaqueline, the AA Customer Service Manager for the Philadelphia Airport and again, she was debriefed before I got a chance to tell my story. She said that the gate agents have a right to give away our seats if we are not at the gate 15 minutes prior. She wouldn’t even hear the fact that people were still boarding when my husband arrived, the fact that we did get there 15 minutes prior to boarding, or the fact that when we arrived 15 minutes prior to boarding, whoever received our seats was already on the plane. She said there was nothing more that she could do. She told me that people check in with gate agents and then leave the airport all the time. I'm sure it has happened, but I find it difficult to believe. I told her that even if the gate agent didn’t remember us, she could see on my ticket that I had an infant on my lap and still made no attempt to contact us. I’m constantly hearing people’s names over the loud speaker and if she was going to prematurely give our seat away she should have called on the PA system before doing so. Especially because there was an infant involved. We had a checked bag full of everything we needed on that plane that went on to Charlotte without us. The original customer service agent I spoke to then came up to us and said we got lucky, she was able to confirm us 2 seats nowhere near each other on the 7:27pm flight. I’m still extremely upset at this point and the manger did nothing to help. She told me they already went above and beyond. I kept trying to tell the manager what had actually happened and she told me she would have to review the cameras to see what really happened and gave me no way to follow up when I asked how I could do so. During this lengthy conversation, my son was extremely upset and ended up soiling his diaper through all his clothes which we then realized we had no extras of. We were stuck in the airport for an extra 6.5 hours with a hungry, overstimulated, very tired 14 week of old baby wrapped in only a blanket, to no fault of our own, and no one seemed to care. These people work together everyday and seemed to be covering for each other. Some of the standby passengers from our original flight had spotted us afterwards hoping to hear that the situation was rectified. They couldn’t believe how the situation was handled by those gate agents. After spending the rest of the day attempting to keep our baby calm, clean, and warm, we eventually had to put our stroller in the travel bag which we then realized the baggage workers on the way here broke. The zipper no longer worked so we had to go buy two baggage straps to keep the bag around it somehow (one of those straps were gone when we finally made it to Charlotte). We ended up spending money on luggage straps, 2 meals at the airport, a onesie from the gift shop, and will also have to replace our stroller travel bag. I was forced to pump and breastfeed in a crowded, loud and unsanitary environment while people stared. My son hasn’t quite perfected it yet so it was very stressful for him and the breast milk that we did have was only in a cooler with an ice pack and it all went bad. 30 ounces. They wouldn’t even give us a pass to the lounge or anything to help. It felt like such a good weekend started falling apart. One thing after another. I could understand if it was weather related or a mechanical problem, but we did everything we were supposed to do and were treated with no respect or common decency. I truly can’t believe these people are in the business of customer service. We are American Airlines credit card members and fly American all the time. I even have 3 American flights scheduled in the next 2 months. It was extremely disappointing.

Once I got home, I wrote the story above and mailed it to American Airlines Customer Service. I received a reply within a few days saying "Reserved seats must be claimed at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of a domestic flight. This is the time period we need in order to allow seat assignment or reassignment to passengers who arrive at the airport without seat reservations. It also enables us to put back in inventory those desirable seats reserved by customers who then do not show up for the flight. At 30 minutes before departure, unclaimed reserved seats are canceled and are eligible for reassignment to other customers. You must be checked in and be present at the departure gate at least 15 minutes before scheduled departure time to retain your reservation and seat." I responded reiterating that I did not initially have a seat reservation so that's why we arrived early to claim our seats at the gate face to face. I also repeated that after getting snacks and the using the restroom, we were back at the gate at 12:45pm with people still boarding and then told our seats had already been given away.

Her next reply included some more repetitive information about this 15 minute cut-off which I'm not sure how we didn't comply to if we were there at 12:45pm and there were still people boarding. She also changed her story a bit and said "The possibility of missing is flight is why airlines strongly encourage passengers to arrive to the airport at least 90 minutes early for domestic flights, and two or more hours early for international itineraries. Even with assigned seats and boarding pass in your possession, if you are not at the gate when they call you then it is possible for the gate agents to release your seats. Although you mentioned that your husband started breaking down the stroller, with having to gate check the stroller and with only him at the gate then most likely the gate agents did not feel they have enough time to process your boarding in a timely manner. I am sorry. " This is after her reading my letter, and having me reiterate the times we arrived at the airport and the gate. This is also after me relaying to her that there should have been no reason for them to call our names since we already checked in with the gate agent, as well as telling her our seats were already given away so these rules she's sending to me do not apply.

We briefly spoke on the phone after that and kept talking in circles. I remained as calm and respectful as possible. I know it wasn't her fault, but I truly felt like she wasn't hearing my story. That she was just throwing rules at me and changing her story every time I refuted her explanation. She finally asked me how I wanted to be compensated and I told her that I would like my husband and I to be compensated in the same manner as a customer would be compensated to voluntarily give up their seat. We were on standby for other flights that day trying to get home and people were given generous vouchers. Our seats were invalidly taken away from us and we received nothing but rude customer service, excuses trying to lead us to believe we were in the wrong and an extra 7 hours trapped in an airport with an infant. She told me that she would review my case again and bring it up to management. She promised I would get a response by the end of the day. A few hours later I received a response saying "Lindsay, records reflect that flight 793, departed the gate on-time and that your family missed the 15 minute cut-off time. Accordingly, we established a 15-minute "cut-off" (30 minutes for international flights). This means that you must be present at the departure gate and ready to board your flight no later than 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time to keep your reservation and seats. Although we understand that your husband was at the gate and you were right behind him, these last few minutes are essential for our airport staff to complete all the details needed to depart on time especially since you also had a stroller to check-in. In this situation, our agents believed that allowing you and your family to board would have jeopardized an on-time departure." I was extremely frustrated at this point that she kept repeating the same things to me and talking to me as if I hadn't told her 3 times that we were there 15 minutes prior, there were still people boarding and our seats had been given away well before that anyway. I responded mentioning that if what she said was true, that would mean the plane left with two empty seats on it. That's not the case. Our seat reservations were given away prior to any cut-off time that has been mentioned thus far. She has still never given me a straight answer as to why our names were even called out in the first place. Using the rule she mentioned in her last explanation, if we weren't there by the 15 minute cut-off, only then could our seats be given away. This was not the case. That is my issue with this situation.

If I'm looking at this all wrong, someone please help me. I have been replaying this day in my head and keep getting told that we missed some cut-off. I know that's not what the problem was. I just feel helpless and drained at this point. All advice, good or bad, is welcome.

Sincerely,
Lindsay
This whole scenario is why airlines encourage those with infants and young children to board first, not last. While this happened with American, I can see it happening with any airline. One should never go shopping after boarding has begun. Always, always, always be ready to board at the 30 minute mark or before. Flights may sometimes close out and depart early, too.
 
Sep 27, 2018
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#19
Your letter is missing a key piece of info. What ti.e did you arrive at the gate, not just the airport. As others have said, stick to the facts. Your situation could be summarized in 10 bullet points.
 

Neil Maley

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Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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#20
Your letter is missing a key piece of info. What ti.e did you arrive at the gate, not just the airport. As others have said, stick to the facts. Your situation could be summarized in 10 bullet points.
The husband arrived at the gate at 12:45. She wasn’t with him at that point either.

“My husband got to the gate at 12:45pm” and also that as her husband was trying to reason with them, she ran over to see what was going on. So she apparently wasn’t even there at 12:45.

The OP never came back to read any of these posts.