Stranded at the Havana Airport for more than 12 hours due to mechanical--and customer service--failure (AA's that is ...)

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Apr 25, 2019
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#1
On a recent return flight from Havana to Miami, our AA plane had mechanical difficulties soon after all passengers had boarded. We were notified of the problem, told the wait would be "hours" since they needed to fly both the part and a mechanic in from Miami, and sent back to the lounge to wait. It was indeed hours. More than twelve, to be precise, during which time we were each given one voucher for 12 CUCs (about $11, which is effectively meaningless in an airport with virtually no amenities -- I bought five bottles of water with my voucher and had Puerto Rican graham crackers from Duty Free for both my lunch and my dinner [at my own expense, for the record ...]) and were not allowed to the leave the terminal. Literally. Information was slow in coming and, when it did arrive, was contradictory and erroneous. AA finally sent a "rescue plane" that ferried all passengers from the original flight back to Miami after midnight that night. It beggars belief if that if AA knew from the get-go it would "hours" they didn't work on that rescue plan far sooner (it is a very short flight, after all -- 45 minutes, tops!) OR send us all to a hotel for the night and try again the next morning. It was a hot, hungry, long, and frustrating 12 hours with, PS, virtually no connectivity because it is Cuba (none of this would have been a surprise to AA, which has been operating flights in and out of the island for several years now).

Naturally I was very unhappy with my experience and respectfully requested a refund since 12 hours is unacceptable by any measure; particularly since this did not involve an Act of God. I have been offered 10,000 miles (I could receive five times that many just for opening up a new credit card account with AA!) OR $175. When I asked to have my claim escalated, Customer Service told me this was not possible as they were the escalation.

Full details of the flight in question follow. All suggestions are welcome -- especially from you, AA ... I am a very frequent flier and I am very unhappy!!

American Airlines AA 2706

Departs: Havana (HAV) at 12:55 PM on Monday, April 15

Arrives: Miami (MIA) at 2:10 PM on Monday, April 15
 

Neil Maley

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#2
This was an unfortunate circumstance for sure. What you must keep in mind is that traveling to Cuba is very different than many other countries. They are still a Communist country and what we do in this county may not be anything Cuba allows. And what the airlines are permitted to is different too.

It may not have been as simple to get a plane into Cuba as you think. It most likely had to be approved by the Cuban government which is why AA might have thought it would be easier to fly the parts in. The Cuban government can determine what they will and won’t allow and they may have had a part in the delay. (Pure conjecture on my part but I’ve seen instances where cruise ships that had stops in Havana were told they couldn’t port at the last minute)

That said our DOT rules favor the airlines. Their passenger bill of rights states that an airline is responsible to get you from point a to point b and scheduled aren’t set in stone. So AA did what they were contracted to do- get you from Cuba home.

If you think what AA offered was not enough, use our company contacts and start writing to AA Executives and ask for more. You won’t get a full refund because they did what they are contractually responsible to do.

Use this post which tells you the most effective way to make a request.

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/

This is a link to your passenger rights. Read it and weep when you see how little rights you actually have in a case like this:

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
Based on the information you have supplied, I would present the following to information to American . . .
  • On Monday April 15, I was scheduled on flight AA 2706 - Havana to Miami at 12:55 PM
  • After boarding the passengers were advised of mechanical difficulties and deplaned to the airport lounge
  • We were each provided one voucher for 12 CUCs (about $11)
  • The airport amenities are limited, so I purchased 5 bottles of water to go with some graham crackers I had purchased
  • At approximately midnight, a "rescue plane" arrived to ferry us back to Miami
The remainder of your points will not advance your cause, I think. While meaningful to you, they could have the opposite effect . . .

Note: as you proceed with those contacts, it is important that you wait one week before
proceeding to the next executive level. This gives each one time to process your request . . .

"Advice found in my Attic" . . .
RULE #7: When writing an appeal, remember the "withs" - with brevity, with respect, within reason. And also, without anger, insults or threats . . .
 
May 1, 2018
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#4
Based on your narrative, it doesn't seem to me that AA owes you anything. Unless there are additional details, it seems to me that their offer of $175 is reasonable. If you had trip delay/interruption insurance you should put in a claim for any expenses you incurred as a result of the delay.

What amount of compensation are you hoping to get?
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#5
Based on your narrative, it doesn't seem to me that AA owes you anything. Unless there are additional details, it seems to me that their offer of $175 is reasonable. If you had trip delay/interruption insurance you should put in a claim for any expenses you incurred as a result of the delay.

What amount of compensation are you hoping to get?
Your point has merit, Dan. But each traveler has to decide their breaking point. As I think about this, I'm not so sure.

First, you stranded me for 12 hours. Certainly not the most ever seen, but more than just 3-4 hours. Second, there was no food in a small terminal (can't leave). Third, $11? Doesn't bowl me over. And fourth, the replacement flight leaves at midnight (not late for some, but unpleasant to me for sure).

So, I don't know what compensation I would want, but I might want more than what they are offering. Maybe both the money and the miles . . .
 
Likes: jsn55

Neil Maley

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#6
Your point has merit, Dan. But each traveler has to decide their breaking point. As I think about this, I'm not so sure.

First, you stranded me for 12 hours. Certainly not the most ever seen, but more than just 3-4 hours. Second, there was no food in a small terminal (can't leave). Third, $11? Doesn't bowl me over. And fourth, the replacement flight leaves at midnight (not late for some, but unpleasant to me for sure).

So, I don't know what compensation I would want, but I might want more than what they are offering. Maybe both the money and the miles . . .
I think the offer of $175 in AA’s eyes makes up for the no food. I know I wouldn’t be happy with water and crackers for 12 hours.

I like the idea of cash and miles though.
 
May 1, 2018
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#7
Your point has merit, Dan. But each traveler has to decide their breaking point. As I think about this, I'm not so sure.

First, you stranded me for 12 hours. Certainly not the most ever seen, but more than just 3-4 hours. Second, there was no food in a small terminal (can't leave). Third, $11? Doesn't bowl me over. And fourth, the replacement flight leaves at midnight (not late for some, but unpleasant to me for sure).

So, I don't know what compensation I would want, but I might want more than what they are offering. Maybe both the money and the miles . . .
I don't really understand the water and crackers comment. I am Cuban and travel to Havana at least once a year to visit family.

AA flies out of terminal 3, which is the main international terminal. It's not a luxurious or pleasant place to be by any means, but it does have a couple of restaurants/cafes which serve hot food. The food is pricey and not particularly tasty, but it is available for purchase. Certainly the OP would have to pay out of pocket as their voucher would not cover much, but it's not like they were made to sit for 12 hours with no food options whatsoever. There's also wifi in the terminal. It's really slow and costs $1/hr, but it's connectivity and it's available. So the OP could have messaged their family member or found a good book to read.

There is also a "VIP lounge" in the terminal (it's really not up to international standard) that costs like $30 for the day. It's a step up from the main terminal and certainly would have been worth the entry fee since the OP was informed he was delayed for several hours at a minimum. They also offer a (admittedly poor) selection of snacks and drinks as you would expect in an airport lounge.

I am not trying to make light of the fact that spending 12 hours at a dingy Cuban airport is a wholly unpleasant experience. I certainly would not want it to happen to me. But I do think the OP is making it sound far more torturous than it really is.

My personal opinion is that the offer of $175 should cover the reasonable expenses I listed above, plus about $100 for the inconvenience. I think the offer is reasonable seeing as there is no requirement for any US airline to provide delay compensation (unlike EU261). I do think the OP could eek out a little more compensation, which is why I asked what amount they are hoping to get. An extra $100 might be feasible with an email to AA execs, but $1,000 likely would not.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#8
I think Neil’s point of the challenges of doing a repair in Cuba should be taken into consideration. Getting permission for a mechanic or rescue flight must have been an ordeal. Who knows maybe the appropriate mechanic had Cuban ancestry and was concerned about traveling there. And I doubt the Cuban airport authority was promptly giving options to the airline.

In any other situation I would place the blame for the lengthy delay 100 percent on AA. In this situation the conflicting information and time may have been the result of the Cuban government. Would the Cuban immigration let everyone back in to go to a hotel?

What was the cost of the round trip? Does the $175 certificate equal the cost of the return leg?
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#9
Your point has merit, Dan. But each traveler has to decide their breaking point. As I think about this, I'm not so sure.

First, you stranded me for 12 hours. Certainly not the most ever seen, but more than just 3-4 hours. Second, there was no food in a small terminal (can't leave). Third, $11? Doesn't bowl me over. And fourth, the replacement flight leaves at midnight (not late for some, but unpleasant to me for sure).

So, I don't know what compensation I would want, but I might want more than what they are offering. Maybe both the money and the miles . . .
But one has to take into consideration the challenges of Cuba — airport authority is in charge. Immigration may not have let people leave and reenter the country after they had gone through the exit formalities.

The lack of amenities in the airport — well it is a poor country. I think one has to temper their expectations when something goes wrong in a lesser developed country.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#10
I don't really understand the water and crackers comment. I am Cuban and travel to Havana at least once a year to visit family.

AA flies out of terminal 3, which is the main international terminal. It's not a luxurious or pleasant place to be by any means, but it does have a couple of restaurants/cafes which serve hot food. The food is pricey and not particularly tasty, but it is available for purchase. Certainly the OP would have to pay out of pocket as their voucher would not cover much, but it's not like they were made to sit for 12 hours with no food options whatsoever. There's also wifi in the terminal. It's really slow and costs $1/hr, but it's connectivity and it's available. So the OP could have messaged their family member or found a good book to read.

There is also a "VIP lounge" in the terminal (it's really not up to international standard) that costs like $30 for the day. It's a step up from the main terminal and certainly would have been worth the entry fee since the OP was informed he was delayed for several hours at a minimum. They also offer a (admittedly poor) selection of snacks and drinks as you would expect in an airport lounge.

I am not trying to make light of the fact that spending 12 hours at a dingy Cuban airport is a wholly unpleasant experience. I certainly would not want it to happen to me. But I do think the OP is making it sound far more torturous than it really is.

My personal opinion is that the offer of $175 should cover the reasonable expenses I listed above, plus about $100 for the inconvenience. I think the offer is reasonable seeing as there is no requirement for any US airline to provide delay compensation (unlike EU261). I do think the OP could eek out a little more compensation, which is why I asked what amount they are hoping to get. An extra $100 might be feasible with an email to AA execs, but $1,000 likely would not.
FYI, I see no mention of $1,000. MIAMIJD has not specified what he/she wants . . .
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#11
But one has to take into consideration the challenges of Cuba — airport authority is in charge. Immigration may not have let people leave and reenter the country after they had gone through the exit formalities.

The lack of amenities in the airport — well it is a poor country. I think one has to temper their expectations when something goes wrong in a lesser developed country.
True, but when have the same customer challenges mitigated fair treatment. From vehicle traffic to long lines to . . .

If the roles were reversed, AA would say to the customer "sorry" but these are "circumstances beyond our control". Whatever issues AA faces in Havana, the customer "suffered" and should be compensated, in my opinion. The question is how much . . .
 
Likes: Pixie Pie
Feb 12, 2019
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#12
I don't really understand the water and crackers comment. I am Cuban and travel to Havana at least once a year to visit family.

AA flies out of terminal 3, which is the main international terminal. It's not a luxurious or pleasant place to be by any means, but it does have a couple of restaurants/cafes which serve hot food. The food is pricey and not particularly tasty, but it is available for purchase. Certainly the OP would have to pay out of pocket as their voucher would not cover much, but it's not like they were made to sit for 12 hours with no food options whatsoever. There's also wifi in the terminal. It's really slow and costs $1/hr, but it's connectivity and it's available. So the OP could have messaged their family member or found a good book to read.

There is also a "VIP lounge" in the terminal (it's really not up to international standard) that costs like $30 for the day. It's a step up from the main terminal and certainly would have been worth the entry fee since the OP was informed he was delayed for several hours at a minimum. They also offer a (admittedly poor) selection of snacks and drinks as you would expect in an airport lounge.

I am not trying to make light of the fact that spending 12 hours at a dingy Cuban airport is a wholly unpleasant experience. I certainly would not want it to happen to me. But I do think the OP is making it sound far more torturous than it really is.

My personal opinion is that the offer of $175 should cover the reasonable expenses I listed above, plus about $100 for the inconvenience. I think the offer is reasonable seeing as there is no requirement for any US airline to provide delay compensation (unlike EU261). I do think the OP could eek out a little more compensation, which is why I asked what amount they are hoping to get. An extra $100 might be feasible with an email to AA execs, but $1,000 likely would not.
Is there a place in the terminal for them to exchange money or would they accept USD? When I read up about Cuba there's always talk of only converting what you need or making sure to convert it back before you leave. I wonder if the OP had already spent or converted all their money and were only left with the voucher.
 
May 1, 2018
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#13
Is there a place in the terminal for them to exchange money or would they accept USD? When I read up about Cuba there's always talk of only converting what you need or making sure to convert it back before you leave. I wonder if the OP had already spent or converted all their money and were only left with the voucher.
They won't accept USD at the shops but there is definitely a money exchange place inside security in the departures area. It's there primarily for the purpose you mentioned - to convert CUC back into USD before leaving, but they perform any exchange transaction.
 
May 1, 2018
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#14
FYI, I see no mention of $1,000. MIAMIJD has not specified what he/she wants . . .
I didn't mean to imply the OP has requested $1,000 in compensation. I was using the two orders of magnitude ($100 vs. $1,000) to establish the reasonableness of a request for additional compensation.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#15
True, but when have the same customer challenges mitigated fair treatment. From vehicle traffic to long lines to . . .

If the roles were reversed, AA would say to the customer "sorry" but these are "circumstances beyond our control". Whatever issues AA faces in Havana, the customer "suffered" and should be compensated, in my opinion. The question is how much . . .
I definitely agree that the customer suffered— the $175 May be good compensation. Flights from Miami to Havana are often around 300 roundtrip so the certificate may equal the cost of the one way ticket.

I do remember from my car owning days that mechanical issues happen despite the best maintenance— and with my luck the issues never happened near home or someplace like a mall shopping center but on a highway in an unpleasant area.

A few years ago a freak snowstorm in Oct shut a European airport — so flights cancelled and hotels provided. immigration did not make exceptions to allow passengers without a Schengen visa or visa free passport to enter the country to stay in the hotel. Those passengers had to spend the night in the terminal and all stores closed overnight.

The OP should decide what is desired, and also keep in mind comparing the points given for opening a credit card is not appropriate as the bank is givIng the miles not AA—. And as we have heard many are not eligible as they already have the card etc.
 
Likes: VoR61

Neil Maley

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#16
Remember in Cuba, people have old cars because they can’t buy new ones and have to often be very creative in fixing parts they have or finding substitutes. I think that is just wasn’t possible for the airport to have the proper parts on hand to fix whatever the problem was.

Dan, thanks for telling us about the airport and what it has. I was their on a cruise so don’t have any idea what is available at the airport but it seems that there was food options and he or she could have bought some food.

I like VoRs suggestion of some miles along with a the cash. I had a 12 hour delay in Dallas two years ago and never received anything, not even a cookie.
 

Neil Maley

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#18
You made me laugh Neil :). I picture you standing all alone in the middle of DFW crying for a "cookie" . . .
I also never thought to ask for compensation either. I guess I just am not someone who looks for compensation for every little thing that can go wrong

We are booked to leave Saturday on a 12 day transatlantic cruise from NY to Azores, France, Belgium, and a small port in England before ending in Southampton. We received an email Friday night they cut the cruise by 2 nights to get the ship in dry dock early and took off the two ports many people booked the cruise for- France and Belgium.

NCL was giving 25% off the cruise price and $300 pp in change fees. All well and good but to change our flight time leave 2 dats earlier, we would have list our comfort plus seats AND the air price went up
$1200 for the flight.

Enough people must have complained because a note went out later that night that the $300 could be used towards two nights in a hotel. Like you can find a hotel for $300 a night. And passengers also have two days of meals they now have to pay for that would have been included on the ship. We intend to send in our receipts for everything regardless of whether they fit the $300 or not. But I certainly not looking for more than that for the inconvenience. I also don’t think a 25% refund is enough but it is what it is. They also are giving everyone a 25% discount in another cruise within 2 years.

And enough people complained about the ports that we received an email Monday that they put back France and Belgium and got rid of the other two. Let’s see if we get any complaints here about it.
 
Feb 12, 2019
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#19
I also never thought to ask for compensation either. I guess I just am not someone who looks for compensation for every little thing that can go wrong

We are booked to leave Saturday on a 12 day transatlantic cruise from NY to Azores, France, Belgium, and a small port in England before ending in Southampton. We received an email Friday night they cut the cruise by 2 nights to get the ship in dry dock early and took off the two ports many people booked the cruise for- France and Belgium.

NCL was giving 25% off the cruise price and $300 pp in change fees. All well and good but to change our flight time leave 2 dats earlier, we would have list our comfort plus seats AND the air price went up
$1200 for the flight.

Enough people must have complained because a note went out later that night that the $300 could be used towards two nights in a hotel. Like you can find a hotel for $300 a night. And passengers also have two days of meals they now have to pay for that would have been included on the ship. We intend to send in our receipts for everything regardless of whether they fit the $300 or not. But I certainly not looking for more than that for the inconvenience. I also don’t think a 25% refund is enough but it is what it is. They also are giving everyone a 25% discount in another cruise within 2 years.

And enough people complained about the ports that we received an email Monday that they put back France and Belgium and got rid of the other two. Let’s see if we get any complaints here about it.
I almost booked that cruise. There's a long thread on cruise critic about it...with many shouting for a class action suit. As soon as they switched the ports the same people complaining about missing "the two best ports" started complaining about NCL making another change.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#20
I also never thought to ask for compensation either. I guess I just am not someone who looks for compensation for every little thing that can go wrong

We are booked to leave Saturday on a 12 day transatlantic cruise from NY to Azores, France, Belgium, and a small port in England before ending in Southampton. We received an email Friday night they cut the cruise by 2 nights to get the ship in dry dock early and took off the two ports many people booked the cruise for- France and Belgium.

NCL was giving 25% off the cruise price and $300 pp in change fees. All well and good but to change our flight time leave 2 dats earlier, we would have list our comfort plus seats AND the air price went up
$1200 for the flight.

Enough people must have complained because a note went out later that night that the $300 could be used towards two nights in a hotel. Like you can find a hotel for $300 a night. And passengers also have two days of meals they now have to pay for that would have been included on the ship. We intend to send in our receipts for everything regardless of whether they fit the $300 or not. But I certainly not looking for more than that for the inconvenience. I also don’t think a 25% refund is enough but it is what it is. They also are giving everyone a 25% discount in another cruise within 2 years.

And enough people complained about the ports that we received an email Monday that they put back France and Belgium and got rid of the other two. Let’s see if we get any complaints here about it.
I tend to agree with you Neil. My time here in this forum has certainly affected my outlook on tolerance. I'm much more mellow as well. But I respect that others have a different threshold . . .