Although this story is 2 months old and ended on a good note, I didn't want the year to end without sharing it. This story is about a nightmare I experienced with American Airlines.
On Monday, October 17, 2011, my husband and I were making our final arrangements for our trip to Italy scheduled for a week later. Flights were booked, hotel arrangements made, and the rental car was awaiting our arrival. With a "ding" from hubs IPhone, we were alerted to an email in his inbox that would make the week leading up to the trip a living hell. The email read something like this: "Your flight from JFK to DFW has been cancelled." The cancellation didn't effect getting to Italy. It didn't effect our time in Italy. It only effected our last leg coming home (first leg: FCO to JFK; second leg: JFK to DFW).
We thought: No problem, we'll just call and request to be put on another flight. The conversation went something like this:
AA: There are no other flights that day. We can book you on a flight the next day.
Us: We must get back on the day we originally planned to get back.
AA: Sorry. We can only book you on a flight the next day.
Us: Are you going to pay for our hotel?
Us: Even though we booked our flights months ago, and it is AA who has caused this inconvenience?
AA: Sorry, but that is correct.
Us: Since AA cancelled our flight, why can't you put us on another carrier?
AA: Because you used award miles to book this flight, we aren't obligated to.
Us: So this isn't a matter of you CAN'T, it's a matter of you WON'T do right by us? Please put us in touch with your superior.
And the conversation repeated itself with the supervisor.
After an hour on the phone and scrambling to research other flight options, we were left with only one choice. We would have to spend around $600 (or more) to cover the expenses of an overnight stay in New York. This option didn't sit well with us -- it was more principal than anything. Why should we be punished because of a change the airline inflicted upon us simply because we bought award seats? I would have understood if we requested the change. Plus, hubs is a Lifetime Executive Platinum. Shouldn't that give us some advantage?
I couldn't let it go. Yet, three days and nine phone calls later, we were no further ahead. It wasn't until Friday that we finally had a glimmer of hope. A supervisor admitted he could get us on an AA Rome/London flight and a BA London/DFW flight, if BA would allow us award seats. We waited two days for the approval only to find out BA would not release us the seats.
We were now counting down the days until our departure and we still didn't know how we were getting home. Calling AA three to four times a day, speaking to a different agent each time (and most of them expressing no sympathy or desire to help!) was proving futile. But, we refused to give up!
On Monday (2 days before departure), we began the phone call battle again. We found ourselves in another wait-and-see situation with a flight option taking us to Madrid on Iberia, and then on to DFW on AA. And then, it happened. The day before our departure, Iberia granted us two award seats. (Iberia is my new hero!)
Our return home was suprisingly uneventful. We fully expected to arrive at FCO and find a glitch of some kind in our reservation making our return impossible. On the contrary, we had smooth sailing all the way and even got home 6 hours earlier than our original flight!
To save you a lot of boring repetition, I abreviated the details of our daily phones calls in this 9-day struggle. The bottom line: AA had no remorse in canceling a service and leaving their customer in an impossible situation. I wonder how many customers the rest us of would have if we approached business in this way?
Living in Dallas (home-base for AA), we don't always have carrier options. So, threatening to "take my business elsewhere" doesn't hold a lot of weight. I do, however, get a little comfort in knowing hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people who do have a choice in airline carriers will read my story and possibly think twice before booking with American Airlines.