Follow-up: My Experience with American Airlines Customer Relations & The Power of Social Media

AA 787

Two weeks ago, while flying back to Kansas City on US Airways, I experienced my first "major" irrops experience with American/US Airways. To sum it up, the flight from Greensboro, NC, to Charlotte experience a two-hour maintenance delay, which killed my 55 minute connection to the Kansas City flight. The next two CLT-MCI flights were oversold, so I was automatically rebooked CLT-DFW-MCI. On the descent into Dallas, the weather shut down DFW, so we diverted to DFW. By the time we landed, I missed my flight to Kansas City and had to pay out of pocket for a hotel room. You can read more about the experience here, but the rep from AA Customer Relations basically told me how I was wrong about it being a maintenance delay and AA would offer $25 or 2,000 miles. I planned to contact AA once more, though after I returned from my trip to Beijing.

I returned today from a great, albeit short, trip to Beijing. As with everybody who purchased the very discounted business class fares that American published in March, I had to fly back to DCA, where I then caught a non-stop flight back to Kansas City on US Airways Express.

After landing at DCA, I had a voicemail come in from an unknown phone number. The person said that they worked for American and were contacting me on behalf of the Executive Management Team at the Corporate Offices. The agent was unable to leave me a callback phone number, due to American removing the ability for agents to hot-transfer to Customer Relations and disconnecting the direct phone number that many of us had acquired over the years. She indicated that she would contact me again in an hour. At this point, I had no clue that she was calling about the Greensboro trip. My flight to Beijing was delayed 16 hours, so I had imagined that they were calling about that delay.

You can imagine my surprise when I answered the phone 50~ minutes later and the agent's first words were "you were right all along". It took me a moment to understand that American was admitting that they were wrong and I was right, so my first words to the agent were "what are you referring to?"! The agent indicated that she dug further into the records from flight 5577 and it was indeed a maintenance delay on the previous flight that delayed us by two hours.

Throughout the call, the agent seemed sincere and apologized for the actions of her colleague. She indicated that I would be receiving an email with a link to submit the bill for my stay at the Hyatt Regency DFW. Additionally, she was going to credit my AAdvantage account with 15,000 bonus miles for the inconvenience. I received the follow-up email just a few moments after we got off the phone, part of which is quoted below.

April 29, 2015

Dear Mr. Palen:

Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. I am happy to have the opportunity to speak with you on behalf of our Executive Management team. It was a pleasure speaking with you this afternoon.

Again, I am sorry for the mishandling of your flight irregularity. Our records do show flight 5577 was a mechanical issue. I certainly apologize for our error. Your continued business means a great deal to us and I'd like to be sure that we get another chance to provide you with the kind of trip you should expect when flying with the New American. With that in mind, have added 15,000 bonus miles to your account.

Before we disconnected, I asked the agent how she had learned of my delay and why she had contacted me. I was under the impression that I would not hear back from AA after being contacted by an agent one week prior. In this case, however, the power of social media prevailed, as somebody in the corporate offices had seen my blog post and passed it along to the agent who contacted me.

I certainly do appreciate the fact that I was able to get American to admit that I was right, though I do hope that American brings back the ability to contact Customer Relations by phone, or at least through an internal transfer from the various reservations desks. Having to deal with everything via email is frustrating and for people who aren't frequent travelers, an email often doesn't allow them to tell their side of things.



Rocky April 30, 2015 at 01:51 pm

Great to hear that AA came through and fixed their mistake. I often time find that if I connect w/ AA via twitter/social media and then send a formal complaint to AA Customer Service I get a much better response vs if I just send a letter to customer service. As by the time my letter makes it way to AA, the appropriate people have already been notified/my reservation has been noted. This has been the case more than once! Regardless I'm happy to hear the end result was a net positive!

Andrew April 30, 2015 at 03:51 pm

Sounds like a great outcome for you! The question is - what do those of us without blogs do in this circumstance. Is Twitter our only option?

I had a very similar experience with AA in 2011, blogged and tweeted about it, and the Executive Management Team contacted me as well. The very gracious woman I spoke with refunded my entire flight on top of an AAdvantage miles bonus, even though I'm usually a Delta elite.

@Andrew: Like Rocky and Caleb mentioned, I'd just continue to go at AA on social media and via email. Posting to places like FlyerTalk and other message boards can also help, as AA usually has somebody monitoring those sites.

Barbara G. Page January 20, 2016 at 08:23 am

Great trip to Phoenix, AZ planned by granddaughter for Birthday and Christmas Present with free stay at lovely complex where she lives all the ammenities included. 12/27/15 after spending hours at airport, without the assistance I was promised, never showed and I was determined to be positive and get through security. I stood for hours that day, finally after making several trips for update saw flight cancelled weather conditions. Called for son pickup, spoke supervisor, admitted handled inadequately (no assistance called). Next day she herself would see assisted through security, etc. had assistance all way onto plane. Arrived in Charlotte, NC assisted to gate ,left wait, flight cancelled and told go another location to get new flight which was hours later. After waiting several hours got on plane flew directly Phoenix. Assisted to baggage claim, after waiting line, grabbed wheelchair while daughter stood line for me (after we spent hour ck. baggage make sure mine not there) filled claim, asked what supposed to do in interim only clothes had been wearing early morning to then. Told buy necessities , submit bill but wait bag could show up only 6:00 their time. No calls purchase l outfit, underwear and clothes bed. Explained luggage probably on flight Des Moines (flight cancelled, no). Made purchases at 9:00 as store closing, etc. Finally showed up , no phone calls other than made by me. Luggage arrived from Des Moines on New Year's Eve told between 7-9. Dinner reservations couldn't work, finally agreed deliver around 5:00. Contents basically not available until Friday monring. Leaving Tuesdy monring so enjoyed for same length time was without. Goodbye great relaxing vacation of a lifetime. Did mention I mention I suffer fromLymphedema (extreme swelling) in feet and legs, especially prominent right leg which is aggravated by standing long periods of time, etc.
Yesterday spoke to 4 employees of AA getting variety of responses to end resut after over an hour time to be told write a letter after explaining 4 times with one person saying: "doubt anything will or can be done!" Nice to know!! Many more interesting components, but I've digressed enough. Kicker is granddaughter is moving back to CT with job and the "window of opportunity is closed" and she feels terrible about entire matter even though out of hands.
We will see what transpires to the "gift that stopped givng!" Seems I have to do "all" the work because I decided to travel AA. Deadend whatever avenue I persue. BP, AA79 001 2192469525

Beverly Kramer February 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm

I need to know how to contact Customer Relations via address? Like the Chief Officer, etc. We had a horrendous experience when we missed our connecting flight on 1/5 at STL due to the deicing truck hitting the tail of the plane, causing cancellation, and an array of missed connections. We are still dealing with Customer Relations on reimbursing our missed hotel the first night , etc.

I intend to send a certified letter..does someone have several names with good addresses?