Instead of re-typing the whole saga, I'm just going to cut-and-paste the complaint letter I drafted to American Airlines. Those of you who know me can hear the tone with which this was written. Everyone else can just sorta fill in your own rant-voice instead.
The trouble started on May 15th, 2007. I was flying from Hartford, CT to Wichita Falls, TX. I booked this flight myself. From Hartford to Chicago-Midway, I flew Southwest with no problems. I changed planes (and airlines, as per Southwest) in Chicago, to ATA, for the trip to DFW. It was in Chicago that things started to go wrong.
First, the weather. Rain delays kept my plane from landing in Chicago. There was lightning and thunder. As a result, my plane, scheduled to depart at 4:00, didn’t leave Chicago until 6:15 PM. This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except...
1. SOUTHWEST apparently didn’t check my bag all the way through to Wichita Falls. I later learned that they don’t do this, because they aren’t playing nice with the other airlines for some reason. So, my one piece of luggage was checked only as far as Dallas-Fort Worth. I had resigned myself to getting my checked bag, and making the hike back through security to American Eagle (three concourses away) in the hour and forty minutes layover time I originally had in DFW.
Now, because of the rain delay, that didn’t happen.
I spoke to the flight attendant on my flight and told her my dilemma. She looked at my itinerary and consulted with some folks, and then when we landed, radioed the gate that I needed some help. We touched down at 8:10 exactly—the time my flight to Wichita Falls was scheduled, three concourses away.
I got of the plane, where my itinerary (and sole luggage claim check) had been passed on to another member of ATA’s staff. He said to me, as I approached him, “We’re going to move your bag. Go, Go, Go to your gate!”
So I hustled to the sky train.
On the way, I realized that while I knew the concourse (B), I didn’t know the gate. I called AA, navigated past the robot lady, and got a human on the phone.
2. The AMERICAN AIRLINES rep on the phone told me the flight had already left the gate. I pressed her, and she grudgingly told me the gate number was B32. “B32?” I repeated, for the train was loud and we were both in a hurry. “B32,” she agreed, and I hustled to at the very least meet my errant luggage there.
Well, I stepped off the train, ran downstairs, and after a frantic few minutes, grabbed a security guard and asked him where B32 was. I could see B31, B30, B33, and so forth. He scratched his head and said, “There IS no B32. Do you have the right gate?”
I checked the board, but of course, since the plane had left the gate, the gate number wasn’t up there. Discouraged, I went to the bag claim at American Eagle to wait for my bag. I told my story to the nice woman, who immediately tried to help me find the bag. She started calling people (and in the meantime, she looked up what gate I was supposed to have left from—B36. “Those people on the phone never know what’s what,” she said conspiratorily).
While she was trying to find my luggage, I called American Airlines back and tried to reschedule my flight. What happened next really stunned and shocked me.
3. The American Airlines rep (who’s name I lamentably cannot recall) didn’t want to hear my story. She just wanted to know the number of the flight I had missed. When she looked it up, she said, “Mister Finn, you were marked down as a no-show for that flight.”
“I’m not a no-show,” I said. “I tried very much to make it, but there was bad weather in Chicago, see, and that delayed my flight.”
More tapping. “Well, where are you now?” she asked.
“In DFW,” I told her.
“Well, your flight was 11 minutes late in leaving the gate, so why did you miss it?” She was now taking a tone with me, like how my 9th grade English teacher used to ask me why I didn’t have my homework.
I said, “I was running for the gate. It’s a long way from where I was to where I ended up. Different concourses.”
“Oh, I see, you weren’t flying with us the whole way,” she said.
“No, I had to change planes.”
“So, then, it wasn’t our fault.”
“No, I blame the weather,” I told her.
“Well, YOU made it sound as if we cancelled your flight, Mister Farr-Nash.”
My frustration was peaking. I said to her, “Why don’t we start over? And let me tell you what happened.”
We went to neutral corners and I again tried to explain myself. “But Mister Finn, you’re a no-show for this flight. Why didn’t you call us?”
“Lady, I was running for the gate!” I yelled, all composure now gone.
In a much quieter tone, she said, “Sir, I’m only trying to tell you what the computer says...”
“Okay, listen, what are my options?” I asked.
“Pfft. Not many,” she said. “There are no more flights to Wichita Falls tonight.”
“Yeah, I figured. What about tomorrow?”
“Well, now I have to get a supervisor because you’re a no-show and didn’t call us to say you’d be late...”
“Fine. Go get your supervisor.”
Click. And now I’m on hold.
The baggage lady, having heard my entire side of this, said, “I can reserve a seat for you on the flight tomorrow?”
“Do it,” I told her. I hung up. (MY FAULT: I really should have talked to the woman’s supervisor. She was snotty, and rude, and made the whole thing sound like I was the bad guy).
The baggage claim lady reserved me a spot, and then told me that she couldn’t locate my luggage. I got some numbers from her for people to call and then got lodging in Fort Worth for the night.
4. I showed up at the airport the next day, went to American Eagle, and of course, they couldn’t find me in the system. I told them what happened. She called her supervisor, and they charged me an additional 145 dollars to ride a flight that wasn’t even half-filled. I was royally peeved, but I wanted to get home. They sensed my frustration, and told me when I got to my final destination that I could make a lost baggage claim and talk to someone about the double fare. Before I made my gate, I checked in at American Eagle’s baggage counter, just to be sure—no bag. But, said the lady, she’d keep an eye out for it. She wrote down my name and phone number.
5. I get off the plane in Wichita Falls—and it’s only American Eagle, from the looks of it, with seven commuter flights to DFW per day, and I proceed to tell HER my story. She gives me a printout with your website on it, since you don’t have anyone I can talk directly to. Classy. She also tells me that she can’t file a baggage claim, since it was never checked through to them. Instead, she gives me some more phone numbers to call.
6. I spend approximately four hours learning how the interior workings of airport baggage claims work, on my own, since American Airlines hasn’t yet lifted a finger to help me and furthermore charged me for a flight that they should have just let me on, since I missed my original flight due to no fault of my own.
7. Finally, I tracked my luggage down to the ATA in DFW counter. The woman told me it had been there all day (meaning, it NEVER made it to American Eagle). I appreciated that the folks on ATA tried to help me out, but they didn’t follow through with what they said they would do. If they had told me they couldn’t do anything, I would have understood, grabbed my luggage, and tried to salvage the flight with American Airlines. But they didn’t. They said one thing, and did another. In any case, the baggage claim lady told me she’d send it over to American Eagle. Awesome, I thought. The lady would see the bag, and she’d just send it to Wichita Falls.
8. The next day, I called AA to find out the status of my lost bag. No one knew anything. The woman I talked to called DFW and Wichita Falls, and no one knew anything. She was also puzzled as to why I haven’t made an official baggage claim. I told her that NO ONE would take it. It was always someone else’s problem...either mine own, or the person at the NEXT leg of my journey. She said, “Well, without your claim tag number, we can’t even do anything for you.” She apologized for my incompetence a few times—after all, I’m brand-new to the whole “Track your own bag through the inner workings of DFW” thing—and then she hung up.
Now in a full-blown panic, I called ATA at DFW back and left a message. They still have not returned my call.
Bottom line: I’ve been flying for over fifteen years. I used to do it a lot, but now it’s mostly for vacations. This is the first time I’ve ever missed a flight, and also the first time I’ve ever lost my luggage. I know, it was probably just dumb luck on my part. But your Airline made me feel like this has never happened before in the history of American Airlines, and that I deliberately did these things to screw up the inner workings of your company. I’ve not been helped satisfactorily YET by anyone in your organization. And if this is not taken care of in the next 24 hours, I will move heaven and earth to never fly with your airline again. Moreover, I will endeavor to tell everyone that I know, from best friends to local acquaintances, never to use your airline again. I’ll Ride the Bus to DFW before I get on another American Eagle plane, for any reason.