Day twenty eight: One more airplane

You will find below my letter to American Airlines. Our luggage did arrive at my daughters at 12:30 am.

This letter is a letter of complaint concerning our travel between St. Thomas and Toronto originally scheduled for February 28th. Our flight was eventually completed on March 1st. The events of this day precipitated from two of your 757 aircraft being unable to fly for mechanical reasons.

I have five areas of concern:

  1.  St. Thomas
  2. Miami (Re booking centre) from 12:30 am March 1 to approximately 2:00 am
  3. The Chateaubleu Hotel we were booked into for the night.
  4. Your aging 757 fleet with two problem planes on the same day with the same destination
  5. Our baggage

I will write this in a historical fashion. My hope is that you might see where your customer service failed on this day in these locations.

Our bookings:

We were originally booked on AA flight 936 St. Thomas to JFK Friday Feb. 28 ticket 0012329938944 and 0012329938945 connecting with AA flight 3332 JFK to Toronto Friday Feb. 28th.

We eventually completed our trip on AA flight 2421 St. Thomas to Miami tickets 00118716483951 and 00118716483940 to connect to AA flight 1610 Miami to Toronto.

Booked by AA into the Chateaubleu Hotel 

March 1 next day flight to Toronto AA flight 1485 Miami to Toronto.

St. Thomas: February 28th (11:00 am to 9:30 pm).

St. Thomas

We arrived three hours before our flight. I have been in St. Thomas and it can become a cattle auction and the extra time is warranted. Everything was good until near the time our plane should be arriving from New York passengers received some automated phone messages that 936 would be delayed. I have the AA app on my ipad and soon started to follow the growing delay on my own.

No one from the AA counter/gate made any reference to the plane being late until well after its scheduled arrival time. As the delay grew we knew we would not be able to connect with 3332 out of JFK so my wife went to the counter to find alternatives. After some prodding we were booked on 2421 connecting to 1610 to Toronto. We would get home near midnight. We were concerned about our luggage. We have flown out of St. Thomas before and luggage concerns are normal. We were assured by the counter/gate agent that our bags would be found and retagged. Our bags were not retagged. They went to JFK on 936. I was always told that unaccompanied luggage could not travel obviously not the case.

Then my ipad started saying 2421 would be delayed. The counter/gate did not announce anything about 2421 being delayed until almost the scheduled time of arrival. There was an announcement spoken very quickly and garbled about the plane having mechanical issues and either returning to Miami or landing in San Juan. We were told it would be arriving at 6:30. The last announcement they made prior to their ‘break’ was that at 6:30 the plane had just left Miami.

When the delay for 2421 grew we saw we would not make connection with our flight to Toronto. My wife again attended the counter was rebooked on 1485 the next morning and were assured that we would have hotel accommodations waiting for us on arrival in Miami.

They did help a few people with connections and then started telling everyone that they would be dealt with in Miami. At around 7:00 the counter/gate staff made a quick announcement not heard very well by many…”If anyone did not get a food voucher come up now we are going on break”. Go on break they did at approximately 7:00 the American Airlines presence in the lounge ended and did not return until the gate opened and they herded us like cattle onto the plane at 9:30, two and a half hours later.

During that time those of us who were connected spread the information we had to customers who were very upset…an elderly lady who was to connect to England. This lady did not have a cell phone active in St. Thomas and thus unable to receive American Airlines preferred method of communicating with customers, automated calls. Further, no one at the counter…leaving us to pass on what we had been told about ‘everything will be ready and fixed when we get to Miami’.

The flight to Miami was fine. The Captain did make reference to equipment issues and AA was sorry.

Miami Rebooking Counter

20140301-105855.jpgThe plane crew did not make any reference to connections or hotels only that if Miami was not our final destination we had to go to D14 the Rebooking Centre. When we arrived at D14 the line was long and noisy. The first passengers to be dealt with came back telling those of us in line that there were no hotel accommodations only meal vouchers. During this time several of the counter staff from the rebooking centre just left leaving fewer people to deal with at least 100 passengers.

We didn’t know what to do…we would be staying in the airport likely so a meal voucher in a closed airport would be something at least.

During the early parts of the line one agent “Maria” was in rare form. I am sure under separate cover from other passengers you will hear about her abuse and rude manner of dealing with customers or cattle as she saw us. She was operating from an adjacent gate.

20140301-110026.jpgOne or two passengers asked if someone from AA would make an announcement about what the process was or why we were standing in line. If we already had boarding passes and we were to be forced to sleep in the airport why stand in line for a 12 dollar meal. Twice we were told there would be no announcement, very forcefully by Maria (shown here). The young lady at left had been abusively treated previously by Maria and simply wanted her name. She was curtly eventually told that her name was Maria. Maria continued to snipe at her verbally as the young lady departed.

About 20 minutes into the standoff at the line hotel rooms began to be distributed. The twenty or so passengers who had been treated otherwise were probably sleeping somewhere in the airport. They were likely in nicer accommodations but I will get into that later. Just after I took this picture of Maria, the next gate opened and a very nice and professional agent called us over and quickly gave us our vouchers and got us moving. She obviously was not as well trained as Maria.

Our next line was at Super Shuttle. It has been many years since I have seen an accounting nightmare like Super Shuttle. We had a voucher but that had to be converted to a receipt. This took far longer than it should have. Eventually we get in a van the driver goes 100 feet and stops. When questioned he reports he has to do his paper work. 5 or 10 minutes later we continue to the airport gate where the accounting has to be done again. All the while the driver is reminding us to take out our frustrations with AA he is not AA.  We arrive at the Chateaubleu Hotel.

The Chateaubleu hotel; As we are getting out of the van the hotel person is counting heads. My wife gets in the lobby and I am stopped outside the door. He tells me he only has 6 rooms left and those of us outside are not going to stay here. Our vouchers are hotel specific. I explain that my wife is inside and I am outside.  I am eventually let in the lobby and we get the last room. Those left outside were taken back to the airport and spent the night there. As I mentioned they likely had better accommodations.

The room was tired. I will say though that my wife said the washroom was clean. My best description of our room is a Mexican 2 star. Does anyone from American go out and look over where you send your customers? Each bed had one pillow…so we lucked out.

Aging 757 aircraft

On our travel day AA had two 757 aircraft with malfunctions going to the same destination; St. Thomas. I acknowledge that there are two sides to this. AA successfully avoided incident with these aircraft by delaying or returning to base. I had a conversation with other passengers about this and it is a concern. The St. Thomas run is not a prime route and will get more tired equipment. Notwithstanding that AA claims that their fleet is being renewed.

Our baggage

Remember our baggage; the counter/gate person in St. Thomas who assured us our baggage would be retagged for Miami…didn’t happen. When we eventually arrived in Toronto no checked baggage. I should have known it would happen…every part of the trip had been a nightmare so why would we get luggage. We reported to the luggage agent who could find no record of our luggage. We filled out the forms and gave her our contact information in Toronto. We live 500 miles away from Toronto and if the luggage could not be found by this morning it would have to be shipped to our residence.

At 6:00pm last night the aa.com/bagstatus showed that our bags were in Toronto and would be delivered in the next six hours. We were asked to check on delivery status by using wheresmysuitcase.com. For the entire evening and even at the time of delivery our baggage status was ‘waiting to be assigned to driver’’ We waited the entire evening for the baggage to arrive at my daughter’s apartment. At 9:00 we received a call from my son at home that the luggage delivery guy had called him and wanted to know the address in Toronto. He gave the guy my cellphone number but he continued to call my son who relayed information up to the time that he was waiting outside the building at 12:30 in the morning. The airport is twenty minutes away and the bags were reported found and in Toronto at 6:00. More great service.

Today we fly North on Porter Airlines. Someone from AA should fly with Porter to see how customers are treated when they are not seen and treated as cattle.

I expect that this will be thrown in the garbage and nothing will change and that’s too bad.

Greg and Mary Lynn Wright

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