Archive for May 2010

American Airlines Can Suck It

May 3, 2010 - 2:12 pm 48 Comments

American Airlines lost my bag (and Doug’s) on our flight down to Rio de Janeiro. At the airport in Rio, a baggage service representative told me I had a US$25 credit to buy toiletries and that it would be immediately refunded upon my return to DC.

We waited four days for our bags. I bought some toiletries to tide me over, and I also bought and a swimsuit and tank top, thinking American Airlines might extend themselves a bit and reimburse me for that, too. Finally, after a lot of time on the phone talking to American Airlines people and airport people, we got our bags.

When we returned to DC, I went to the American Airlines service desk. Instead of reimbursing me on the spot as the representative in Rio had promised, the disinterested lady behind the desk gave me an information card explaining what paperwork I had to mail into the AA corporate office to get the reimbursement.

Admittedly, I got tied up with a lot of things after getting home and put this on my to-do list. It took a while to get everything together, and a freak snowstorm meant that I had to wait an additional week before I could mail it. Finally, on February 15, 2010, I sent copies of my receipts and this letter to American Airlines:

American Airlines
Interim Expense Reimbursement
PO Box 619613 MD1322/HDQ
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9613

February 15, 2010

To whom it may concern,

On a trip to Rio de Janeiro in December 2009, American Airlines lost my bag for a total of 4 days.

After landing, I was told by the representative at the airport in Rio that it was “not in the computer,” but I was given a file locator number and told that they’d track it down and call me with more information when the bag turned up. He told me that I would have a US$25 credit for purchasing toiletries and essentials, to be refunded to me when I returned home on January 17, 2010.

We waited for a couple of days but heard nothing. At our expense, we called AA’s international baggage service number in the United States, but communication with the airline on this matter was ineffective. Nobody in your call center would pinpoint where the bag was or who was going to be delivering it or when. Each time they said it was one the way, it wouldn’t arrive, and we’d have to call the airline again for an update.

Since AA could not provide reliable information about when my bag was supposed to be arriving, and since no airline should expect any traveler to wear the same clothes for 4 days, especially when those clothes are jeans and a thick shirt in the oppressive humidity of Rio in the summer, I went to a local store and found myself a reasonably priced t-shirt and shorts.

In addition to the toiletries and essentials, I hope American Airlines is able to cover the costs for these basic articles of clothing as well. Receipts for both, as well as a copy of my file locator, are enclosed.

I apologize for not getting this letter out to you sooner, but the freakish snowstorms in the DC area have left me unable to leave my house for a week and without mail service.

Thank you,

Jeff Nyveen

I received this response from American Airlines on May 1, 2010. Apparently, it takes him two weeks to walk to the mailbox.

April 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Nyveen,

Thank you for your letter regarding expenses you incurred on your trip with American Airlines. Unfortunately, due to the unusual length of delay in requesting reimbursement from American Airlines, we are unable to consider your claim for your interim expenses. Our tariff specifically states that all claims for delay, loss and damage must be submitted within 45 days of travel.

For additional information regarding this policy, please visit us at AA.com.

Sincerely,

Mr. J. Blake
CENTRAL BAGGAGE SERVICES

I can’t just shrug my shoulders and forget about it the way most other people probably would. I am a man of principle. Not only is Mr. J. Blake is wrong about the timeframe, but American Airlines is being shitty about the situation as a whole.

Here’s the reply I sent off today:

Mr. J. Blake
American Airlines
Interim Expense Reimbursement
PO Box 619613 MD1322/HDQ
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9613

May 3, 2010

Dear Mr. Blake,

I received your reply to my lost baggage interim expense claim on May 1, 2010. I am not satisfied with the response.

If you are suggesting that my request needed to be mailed to you within 45 days of the commencement of my travel, then you have me, as I mailed my letter 51 days after my initial departure date. But your “tariff” does not specify this. In any case, if you think customers without baggage should find extra time to draft a letter, find a printer, use copy machines, and buy foreign postage to address mistakes made by American Airlines while on vacation, then you are asking too much.

I did, however, return home on January 17, 2010. I understand that it took a while for me to send my letter, but I remind you of the freak, record-breaking snowstorm that disrupted postal service and prevented me from leaving my house for a week. This same storm grounded American Airlines planes in Washington, DC for several days, so I would have thought you’d heard about it.

I dropped my letter to you in the mail on February 15, 2010, which works out to a period of 29 days after my travel was completed, well under the 45-day limitation you are quoting. If the American Airlines mail distribution network took another two weeks to deliver my letter to your hands, that is not my problem.

Let’s be fair. I received your response on May 1, 2010. That’s 75 days later, an unreasonable delay in my mind. If you cannot honor my request for reimbursement because of the “unusual length of delay,” I find your response unacceptable for the same reason.

What about the “unusual length of delay” of my baggage in Rio de Janeiro? What about the representative in Rio de Janeiro Airport who said that American Airlines would reimburse my US$25 at the airport when I landed in DC? What about the resulting 4 days of inconvenience waiting for my baggage? What about the many incompetent American Airlines baggage representatives I spent hours with on the phone, at my expense? What about my calls to the airport in Rio de Janeiro to sort out the issue myself when American Airlines proved unable to locate my baggage?

Those are the real issues here. Does a supposed “unusual length of delay” in receiving my letter absolve American Airlines of all responsibility in this matter?

American Airlines’ obvious disregard for customer satisfaction will be a factor when purchasing my next flight. Given that other airlines price most of your routes competitively, I will be sure to consider them first. Your ridiculous excuse to save $25 on reimbursement fees comes at the potential cost of all my future travel. Silly, I think, given the current state of the airline industry.

With this letter, I enclose a copy of my original letter as well as a copy of your response, a useless waste of paper but necessary to ensure a continuous dialogue since American Airlines chooses not to communicate via e-mail with its customers on these matters. Realize that reducing paperwork would not only be environmentally friendly but would also save the airline money on materials and postage and surely reduce the “unusual length of delay” caused by snowstorms and inefficient mail distribution networks.

In addition, I am sending a copy of all paperwork to American Airlines Customer Relations. I also plan to post my letter and your response on my web site so that people around the world can read about how American Airlines uses silly excuses about postmark dates to avoid admitting mistakes and being fair to customers.

Sincerely,

Mr. J. Nyveen

And my letter to American Airlines Customer Relations:

American Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 619612 MD 2400
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9612

May 3, 2010

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the way American Airlines has handled my lost baggage interim expense reimbursement claim.

On a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, American Airlines lost my baggage for 4 days. Upon my return, I submitted a claim for US$25.

Today, I received a response from American Airlines, stating that my claim could not be honored since there was an “unusual length of delay” in submitting my request.

Enclosed is my communication with a Mr. J. Blake, the American Airlines representative who has handled my issue. I would appreciate a review of these materials as well as the interim expense reimbursement I feel is still owed to me for a mistake made by American Airlines.

Sincerely,

Jeff Nyveen