What happened next (part 2): American Airlines Replies

I tweeted to @AmericanAir once that evening, and throughout the night. They assured me that it wasn’t the experience they wanted for me, and I assured them I did not want that experience either.

After exchanging a few DMs on Twitter, a very professional AA Customer Service representative name James L. contacted me on the phone.

I relayed my experience and he was suitably and appropriately responsive to my experience. I think he was a little surprised to find this, amidst complaints about delays and lost luggage I’d imagine, and when I explained how Robin (the flight attendant) kept threatening me–first, to remove me from the plane, and then to put me on some mythical “list” that would impede future airline travel–he said she sounded like a bully. “Like, how a bully would say ‘I could take your money, but I’m not going to.'”

As though she was an altruistic doyenne, permitting me to complete my flight, instead of a flight attendant who, in choosing to align herself with a colleague about a dispute she was not present to witness, escalated a situation twice to harass and threaten me.

He promised an internal investigation, and informed me that if any other passengers called in with additional information, their accounts would be included. I said I thought it would be even better if he actually reached out to passengers for their accounts, but his relatively vague reply suggests that would not be part of the investigation. Certainly, they would be discussing it with the flight attendants themselves, and he suggested that the issue would be raised with the Director of Flight Attendants, or a person with a similar title.

I requested a follow up after the investigation was complete. James explained that I was not privy to the outcome of the investigation, because it was an internal matter.

He offered me a $300 voucher, which I denied and informed him, “I will never fly American Airlines again. Ever.” I think I was disappointed to hear that I just had to trust that this would be handled appropriately–or at all–and he was, I like to think, disappointed to hear I would never travel AA again. “You mentioned you were traveling for business, right? Well, maybe if they booked on you on American you might want a voucher?” And I said, “I will tell them never to book me on American, so no thank you.”
He gave me a number to call if I ever had a problem with which he could help.

I can’t give James L. enough praise, truly: He was the first professional person working at American Airlines that I have encountered during this debacle. I don’t know if my interaction with him was the result of his training–say this to make the customer feel better, offer a small token of apology–or if he was a human being responding to a terrible situation. But he was very good at his job.

The problem, now, is not James: it is the fact that I am unwilling to accept an apology from a customer service agent, no matter how effective he is at his job. I am not complaining about a delay. Or a dented suitcase. Or any of those flight annoyances that have made airline flight all the more unpleasant, but ultimately not the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, or makes you get stopped by fellow passengers to share their outrage.  For simple matters, an apology and a voucher are perhaps an appropriate response.

I was targeted for harassment. Threats. And intimidation–such treatment merits more, from someone high enough in the hierarchy to realize the deeply troubling (and probably actionable) experience I endured, and who could initiate an appropriate response. And that person is not working the phones–or the Twitter account–at American Airlines.

And so, I continue to wait.



  1. American Airlines flight staff are almost uniformly rude and it often borders on harassment/threats. Staff seem unfit for the service aspect of their job. I was once berated for wanting to use the bathroom before takeoff. Another stewardess later told me that the berator was inappropriate, but was senior staff. They should address underlying issues with management or find other employment. I totally believe this passenger.

    Fly United. United personnel are efficient and pleasant, actually demonstrating that they understand their primary job responsibility, passenger service.


  2. I, too, have decided never to fly American Airlines ever again, after two international flights a couple of years ago. On the first I had paid extra for a “better” coach seat, which turned out to have no padding and which alsohad inoperable lights. On the return flight I was berated by flight attendants, who were poorly groomed and who also berated a woman across the aisle from me, for no reason. Very unpleasant.


  3. I have had two bad experiences with AA.

    1. Flying international from DFW to Shanghai, I needed to use the restroom and the lavs were quite busy for over an hour. I finally decided to use the restroom in FC because I had to go so bad and the flight attendant stopped me and told me it was a “security” issue and I had to go back. She then proceeded to harass me during the rest of the flight by waking me up to ask to see a seat belt even though it was plainly visible and offered everyone else refreshments but skipped me.

    2. Flying from San Francisco to Dallas and went to take a seat in the back of the plane. Since plane was only about 2/3 full I took the very back seat. A flight attendant that I think was having a very bad day (union negotiations were going on) told me “you must have moved my stuff from the seat” and I told him I didn’t see any stuff on the seat. He told me that this row was reserved for flight attendants. I told him I’ve never heard that before. He told me YOU EITHER MOVE OR I WILL HAVE YOU MOVED. I moved and then asked for his name and he said “I am not going to give it to you as it won’t do you any good anyway, now shut your mouth and move NOW”. Then he went ranting all up and down the plane (think of the FA from Jet Blue a few years back) and said he couldn’t believe I had pissed him off (for what I don’t know).

    It was a 3 1/2 hour flight and every time he skipped me for drink service. When I departed the plane and asked to see a rep at the counter he said “well, that is flight service and we are gate agent service, sorry”. I looked around and several passengers thought it was ridiculous but no one wanted to get involved (surprise) so I guess it is us against them. I filed a complaint with AA customer service and they said they would forward to his management but never heard back. I am sure nothing happened which is sad. Really bad the way customer service has gotten in this country on a major airline. It used to be they would bend over backwards to be nice, I guess those days are long gone.


  4. I wish it was just American Airlines that had this problem, but unfortunately it seems like customer service is worse and worse these days. I was on a United Airlines flight a few years ago and rushing home from a business trip. My friend, who was fighting Stage IV breast cancer had taken a turn for the worse and her husband texted me that she wasn’t going to make it through the night.

    I got on the first plane I could which was delayed and sat on the runway for a while. I expressed my concern that I might not make my connecting flight in Houston but they said I should be OK. When we landed, I had limited time but was relieved to find out my connection was only two gates away. I ran there, and the gate was empty but the doors were still open. When I tried to board, they denied me saying I was too late. I gave them my boarding pass and asked if they had given my seat away, and they said no – but I was too late to board (most upsetting since it was a delay on their airline).

    I begged and pleaded and they still wouldn’t let me on the plane. I explained that if I didn’t get on that plane, there was no other plane until the next day. I showed them the text I got that my friend would probably not make it through the night. They didn’t care. And still the gate stood open.

    It was at this point that I started crying. I told them I had to see my friend before she passed. The woman at the gate said nothing, turned and walked away. They finally closed the door to the plane and about 15 minutes later it took off without me. I ended up spending the night in Houston and leaving on the 6:00 am flight the next morning.

    This was an absolute nightmare. I know that as long as the doors are open, the flight is open. There was time for me to board and I had no checked baggage so that wasn’t a problem. I was actually within their scheduled boarding time but, for whatever reason they still wouldn’t let me on. I sat on the floor in front of that desk after the desk attendant walked away and sobbed when that desk attendant walked away. I still have no idea why she refused to board me. When I complained to the airline, the response was that they would “provide customer service training” to her and others.

    To this day, I have not flown United Airlines (and I had about 750,000 lifetime miles with them). I think when you hire for Customer Service positions there should be a psychological evaluation to ensure that you are capable of dealing with the public in good times as well as stressful times. There are too many stories like this that illustrate how one employee’s bad day has a ripple effect on all the customers.

    I hope you get some resolution for your problem – I know it’s tough to get a response!




  5. In 2007 I was injured on a dive boat in Kauai as a large wave knocked the boat ladder in my face as I was getting back on the boat after my dive. I suffered injuries to my face requiring a trip to the emergency room. I had a few butterfly bandages and some bruising around my eye. On my American Airlines flight home back to the mainland with my wife, we were quite happy to be going home and were as polite and friendly as can be. Alas, every single flight attendant treated me as if I were some sort of “deplorable” and as if I were troubling them with my requests for water, etc. It was the last time I was ever going to fly American Airlines again, and it appears that 9 years later I have still made the correct decision to avoid this airline. I continue to be VERY careful about the airlines I choose. Clearly American Airlines does not deserve a second chance.


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