Disappointed with American Airlines Cust. Service after Forced Overnight at DFW

Since the beginning of the year, I've been commutting from Kansas City to Greensboro, NC, two-three times per month, to work on a job that my company is doing outside Greensboro. For the most part, I've not had any problems with my flights, mainly all on US Airways via Charlotte. While I've had a few mechanical or weather delays, I've always felt as though the airline has taken good care of me, but that all changed after my trip home last Friday.

Friday April 17th

As with most of my tickets to/from Greensboro, I settled on flying US Airways, via CLT. My booking had me on a 2:35pm flight GSO-CLT, with a 55 minute connection to my 4:11pm flight back to Kansas City. Despite being blocked at 55 minutes, the flight from GSO-CLT is only 83 miles, so I figured that I would still have plenty of time to make my connection.

I got to the airport around 1:30pm and was in the process of checking in, when I heard another agent mention a mechanical delay for my flight. They would be late leaving Charlotte (to come to Greensboro), though it still looked like I would make my connection. Nevertheless, the US Airways agent started checking all kinds of alternate routings for me.

At 1:57pm, I got the first of four emails about the delay. It indicated:

US Airways flight 5577 from Greensboro to Charlotte-Douglas on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM has changed. The flight is operating behind schedule due to maintenance affecting a prior flight. Your new departure time is 3:35 PM.

I was in the process of being rebooked, though this left me with even less hope of making my connecting flight.

At 1:59pm, while the agent was struggling to find alternate options, I received another email, this time with new flight. I had been rebooked on AA from CLT-DFW and then DFW-MCI. This was not my preferred routing and got me back to Kansas City six hours later than planned. It wasn't until later that I found out this was a rebooking in full-fare first class, though it wouldn't matter too much.

I went through security with the boarding passes for the new flights, figuring I'd still try and make my original connection (if we actually left GSO...), but my hopes of that grew smaller when I reached the US Airways Club. The agents confirmed that the flight, operated by Mesa Airlines a.k.a. Maintenance Every Single Aircraft, continued to be delayed for maintenance. The notes showed that the agent had boarded everybody, then seemed to deboard all of the passengers while they waited for the mechanics to arrive. This continued for another 30+ minutes.

At 3:20pm, I received yet another email:

US Airways flight 5577 from Greensboro to Charlotte-Douglas on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM has changed. The flight is operating behind schedule due to maintenance affecting a prior flight. Your new departure time is 4:30 PM.

At this point, there was no way I'd be making my originally scheduled flight, so I started searching for alternatives. There were two more nonstop flights to Kansas City that night, though both were wildly oversold, so they wouldn't be an option. Everything via almost every conceivable airport was full, so I would have to stick with the DFW option.

I received my final email at 3:44pm:

US Airways flight 5577 from Greensboro to Charlotte-Douglas on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 2:35 PM has changed. The flight is operating behind schedule due to maintenance affecting a prior flight. Your new departure time is 5:00 PM.

We ended up leaving at 5:02pm, just under three and a half hours late.

screen-shot-2015-04-24-at-11.43.10-am screen-shot-2015-04-24-at-11.43.22-am

The fun didn't stop there! As we were approaching DFW, our flight was diverted to Wichita Falls, TX, due to the weather in Dallas. The radar looked pretty messy, so it was a wise move to divert. The only downside was that I would miss my flight back to Kansas City. I figured it would be smart to reserve a hotel, so I booked the Hyatt Regency DFW.

We spent a little under two hours in Wichita Falls, before buttoning up and heading down to Dallas. At this point, I'd missed my flight to Kansas City (though it later canceled), so I sent AA a message on Twitter to be rebooked for the following morning. They took about an hour to respond, by which time I had already been in contact with the Exec. Plat. desk for rebooking.

Once at DFW, I was not allowed to receive my checked luggage. It was only after other passengers started to complain that they handed out some of the distressed passenger amenity kits.

amenity kit

The following morning, we departed a bit late for another maintenance issue, this time on a brand-new Airbus A319. Pulling into MCI, I was glad to be back, despite being back more than 16 hours than scheduled.

Asking for Reimbursement

Since I became an Executive Platinum in 2012, thanks to the oneworld MegaDO, I've never once sent in a complaint to American. For the most part, all of my flights have been on-time and my flight crews friendly. The treatment as an EXP has been outstanding, way more than what I'd received on United after Continental came along. With that in mind, I figured I would have no problems getting my hotel reimbursed ($170~). I thought wrong.

Now that American no longer allows for agents to hot-transfer calls internally, or customers to contact customer relations directly, all correspondence must be done via email. I absolutely hate the new process, as it usually leads to scripted emails that don't address the matter, while an agent is able to understand and take care of the problem immediately.

My email to AA was very direct, yet they still responded with a form letter, blaming the delay on Air Traffic Control. By doing so, they would not have to reimburse me for the delay, as this was out of their control. Of course, I told them that I had proof of it being a maintenance delay (an agent at the airport printed out their internal FLIFO results for 5577), yet they ignored that fact in both email replies.

I received a phone call this morning from a unknown #, which I first thought about ignoring. It turned out to be an agent from customer relations in Dallas, which I probably could have ignored anyway. He just reiterated the line about this being ATC, none of the agents at the airport or the crew onboard were correct in saying that it was all maintenance, and AA wouldn't cover anything. He even failed to understand that even if the reason had changed, it was maintenance which originally caused me to miss my original connection.

The agent gave me the #NewAmerican company line and said he would offer a $25.00 voucher and that was it. Though there are many things to fault United with, they would at least take care of a customer service issue like this. the 1K Customer Relations agents in Honolulu always made it right, or if they couldn't, found somebody who could.


DavidB April 25, 2015 at 01:30 am

You didn't purchase the flight tickets with a credit card that covers delays, etc.? Or if traveling for business, doesn't your company cover such expenses? These days airlines seldom accept responsibility so providing one's own insurance coverage is essential.

I've been afraid that we'd hear more stories like yours during bad weather situations now that AA is forcing people into tight connections at DFW via their re-banking scheme, though it sounds like the delay here was so long that it wouldn't have made a difference anyway. I will also say I'd been pleasantly surprised at how AA hadn't really been Parkerized save for the F meal downgrades, but based on your el cheapo compensation offer, it looks like the merged airline may be starting to go down that rabbit hole.

Brian April 25, 2015 at 02:20 am

Three words: small claims court

Jim April 25, 2015 at 07:53 am

Which CC did you use to book the flights? Maybe see if you can take advantage of the trip delay/cancellation benefit?

@David: It will be covered by my company, as I was doing work travel, but I still feel as though AA should cover the cost. Not fare to my company, imo. As I believe I mentioned above, I was used to UA which would cover anything for a 1K. Even if AA doesn't want to cover the full hotel cost, $25 (or 2K miles) just seems like a slap in the face for an Executive Platinum.

@Meanmeosh: It certainly wouldn't surprise me. I do plan to start flying from RDU again, despite it being over an hour away from the job vs. GSO at 15mins away So many more options in case of irrops, though obviously a bit more hassle to get to/from.

@Jim: Used my US Airways/Barclays Card. Haven't been in this situation before, so not sure if they cover anything. Planning to call them tonight when I get to DC.