I started writing about my experiences as a customer with various companies a while ago. So here’s a story about my flight with American Airlines.
Short version: they ruined the luggage, the representative was rude, the customer service responded “we don’t care, here’s some miles, go away”. Bottom line – The Little Advisor will avoid American Airlines, and suggests you do the same. Although, as you will see later – AA is not at all unique.
Here’s the long version.
So we decided to take the long weekend as an opportunity to visit the marvelous New York City. Booked tickets with my favorite British Airways (since I’m doing some international little advising once in a while, I’ve got plenty of miles there), but unfortunately their only domestic partner is American Airlines. Well, it’s either that or paying almost a $1000 for tickets, Labor Day weekend after all.
Everything went smoothly, but at LAX (from where we were flying), the land crew announced that since the flight is full, they ask everyone who has more than 1 piece of carry-on luggage to check it in. For free. Well, one comment about that: Airlines – I’m sure that had you not imposed the ridiculous baggage fees, the boarding process would be much faster, and the carry-on space in the airplane would be half empty. In the end – no-one pays the fees, but you, airlines, have more work to do when checking the stuff in for free from within the terminal, where there’s no luggage delivery belts or infrastructure.
Well, anyway, my partner and I had a small suitcase in addition to our laptop bags, so we checked it in, from Los Angeles to New York. Didn’t worry much about it, after all, there were another 10 suitcases altogether, in an otherwise empty baggage compartment. What could possibly go wrong?
When we received the luggage in New York, at midnight when we landed there, it was broken. First black point on AA. This luggage has traveled extensively, domestically and internationally, but that was the first time with AA, and it was ruined.
We went to the AA agent, and waited in the line (for a domestic flight with almost no-one checking baggage in, the line was surprisingly long). After a while a second agent came out and asked us what the problem was. We told her. She took a brief look at the luggage (without even taking it to the light, or making a closer look), and immediately said “It’s a seam line, the fabric torn at the seam line is not AA responsibility”. We were stunned for a second and asked “What?”. The reply was “wait…” and disappearance for 15 minutes.
After the time has passed, the lady came back with a piece of paper on which a list of possible rejections was printed out. She circled the “Seam line is not AA responsibility” one and gave it to us. We put the luggage on the counter and pointed at the whole in it, which was not at all at the seam line, and was under the torn fabric. The response stunned us even more: “It was not there just now when I looked”.
I asked “What do you mean?” – got no response.
I asked “Are you saying we just cut our own luggage?” – got “that’s not what I said”.
I asked “So what did you say?” – got “NEEEEEEEEXT”.
All further attempts to communicate with Ms. Greta Shepherd were en vain.
We contacted the AA customer relations by email, and the response we got was:
We are sorry to hear that your baggage was damaged when you traveled with us. Some items to be checked as baggage for a flight are not able to withstand normal handling and are vulnerable to damage. Included in this category are such things as strollers and car seats, sports items not packed in hard-sided cases, electronic equipment, previously damaged baggage, unsuitably packed or overpacked baggage, boxes, and certain expandable and vinyl type bags.
Our baggage liability policy, which is posted at all check-in locations, automatically releases American Airlines from responsibility for fragile items. In addition to certain baggage contents, fragile items include, but are not limited to, bag components such as wheels, locks, pullstraps, outside pockets, retractable handles, hangers and stability features located at the foot of the bag.
Since the article you presented is excluded from our liability, our baggage agent was correct in denying your claim. It is not appropriate for us to overrule such decisions since we have not had the benefit of seeing the item in question. Moreover, the ultimate responsibility for handling problems involving damaged baggage rests entirely with our local stations, and their decision is firm and final.
Nevertheless, as a gesture of goodwill, we have credited 5,000 bonus miles to your AAdvantage® account. We are eager to keep you as a satisfied customer and put this one unhappy experience behind us. We will do our best not to disappoint you again.
Translation: “We don’t care, here’s 5000 miles, go away.”.
Bottom line – avoid American Airlines, and if you have to fly with them – keep your luggage close to you.
Your Little Advisor.
PS: I promised to tell you if AA is somehow unique… Well, my experience with United Airlines was pretty good, and I like them a lot (although I prefer their international partners when flying abroad). But some people had similar experiences with them as well, and surprisingly (or not…) also at LAX. Take a look here.
Of the domestic airlines, my most favorites are Southwest and Jetblue. Unfortunately, they don’t fly everywhere I need…