I quickly called my PR contact to stop processing my ticket on her end and I would just pay at the airport. My contact let me know she had just finished charging the ticket.
So, I turned to the American Airlines woman at the counter. “Can you undo the $451 charge?
“Can they cancel the charge on their end?” I asked.
“Is there another number I can call, or someone else to talk about this with? It is an additional $300.”
“Any other suggestions?”
“No. I tried to do a ‘good deed.’ Sorry.”
With a heavy sigh, I thanked her for her help.
She then clacked on her keyboard for a moment and handed me my boarding pass for my flight to Jamaica. She said, “Next time, you should ask for a supervisor in the beginning.”
“I did,” and pointed toward the supervisor who was standing a few feet away next to the shiny man.
She peered over to them and looked back at me and said either, “I’ll talk to him later” or “I top to hanorkter” — the airport was really noisy. As I finally walked away, I was relieved. I had my boarding pass in my hand. I could look forward to Jamaica again without ticketing distraction. I would be arriving on the 16th, just like I thought.
Later that night, I sat waiting at the gate for my plane while scarfing an overpriced chain store burger and vanilla shake. I finally felt full when I heard an American Airlines’ announcement that they had “oversold” their flight; they sold more tickets than they had seats available.
Travelers who read ITKT or TWL with any regularity know that I promote travel and tourism to help build a smaller world. I love travel and as a rule only write about things I love. This means I tend to give companies and tourism folks the benefit of the doubt, especially when I create the problem. However, a company’s reaction to adversity is how I gage how loyal I will be to that company in the future.
Having spoken with multiple employees and spent several hours on the phone and in person with American Airlines representatives, the following story cannot be attributed to merely dumb luck or to one employee having a momentary lapse in following customer service etiquette.
During my three hours of no’s from American Airlines, I listened to a number of other passenger requests for help from American Airlines’ representatives that were mostly met with “no” or other bad news. I wonder how these customer’s remain loyal.
In this case, I don’t know if my experience is just good business sense to American Airlines’ execs, or if I have a legitimate gripe over inconsistent and unhelpful service, but I do seem to remember when the skies were friendlier.
From the moment I left the American Airlines ticket counter, I planned to write this story, but not publish it. I still believe in promoting travel, and I, along with millions of other travelers, will end up flying American again. I know to bring my own snacks, pillow, blanket, head phones, ear plugs, eye shades, aspirin and anything else I might need to create a comfortable flight. I also know that American Airlines will still carry millions of passengers and my little story will mostly go unnoticed, especially by the decision makers at AA’s corporate office. Still, when the food cart rolled by and I was offered a small sandwich for $10 and a single cookie for $3.50, something that would have been complimentary by many other carriers, I thought to myself: I guess I am a jerk face.
* One final note. I have paraphrased a variety of no’s for the purpose of sparing the reader from undue corporate excuses and my own writerly blather.