AA Outshone By BA in Customer Service

Old Jul 15, 16, 5:54 pm
  #1  
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Thumbs down AA Outshone By BA in Customer Service

I am so absolutely outraged at AA right now that I am looking for some way to force them to lift up their customer service standards– and/or compensate me beyond their “take 10K miles and go away” customer service policy. So if anyone here has any advice let me know.

The short version of my story is:
  • My son and I were traveling from Austin to Zurich through JFK.
  • The JFK to Zurich leg was delayed multiple times, then cancelled due to AA mechanical issues.
  • They put me on a flight that would arrive in Zurich 14 hours later, routed through London.
  • When I got to London, I called AA and ask to be routed to Geneva (a roughly equivalent flight, in both market pricing and in distance).
  • The AA reservations agent and her manager absolutely refused but offered to cancel my existing flight plan and sell me two $600 (total $1200 for two) one-way tickets from London to Geneva.
  • I explained my personal situation – basically that my original plan was to drive from Zurich to Annecy, France but that due to the flight delay I would not make it to my non-refundable hotel in time unless I could get to Geneva instead (Geneva is much closer to Annecy, France). I described all of the expenses (totaling about $1200) that I would incur if they were unable to route me to Geneva. I also explained that I had already put my wife and 11 year old daughter on a train from Zurich to Geneva (thinking AA would certainly re-route me) and they would be stranded there without me.
  • They still refused.
  • I threatened to be “done” with AA forever, after 22 years (5 of it with Gold status – I know, that’s not much), if they refused.
  • They still refused.
  • I decided to take a shot in the dark and ask BA for help in the Heathrow airport, since this was a BA flight leg.
  • The agent at the BA counter re-routed me without hesitation – and before I told him of my predicament. I asked him “how was that so easy?”. And he replied “well you said your flight had been cancelled right? I was just trying to help out.”
How much more pointedly could I point out AA’s poor customer service relative to other global airlines?

Of course since BA eventually fixed this for me, it is a little hard to claim damages. But I still had other expenses as a result of the delay (around $1200) – of the incidental sort that AA does not normally compensate. But because they did not attempt to mitigate my damages when requested, I am still asking them to cover my expenses with $1200 in vouchers ($600 each). They have made a “final offer” of $600 in vouchers (or $300 each), and actually called me to try and bully me into taking the offer by telling me it was “take it or leave it” and I needed to decide right then. But it’s more about principle at this point for me. They were willing to greedily try and extract $1200 from me at a time when I was desperate and had little or no alternatives – so I want $1200 from them for my expenses. Or I want them to fix their policies. I have taken so much abuse from AA over the last 20+ years, and never complained, that I just can’t let them off cheap when they push me over the edge and I finally decide to actually pursue the matter.

I actually got so frustrated that I told them they could just compensate me the $250 cash for an outstanding non-refundable ticket, so we could part ways clean, and they even refused that. I guess cash is just completely out of the question.

I am just curious what some of the frequent travelers on this forum would do in my shoes, under the assumption that I am willing to invest some time for the common good. Among other things I would welcome opportunities to compel AA to adhere to EU standards for their US flights.

Last edited by FlyingHighest; Jul 16, 16 at 12:23 pm Reason: adding spaces -- did not change content at all
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Old Jul 15, 16, 6:18 pm
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Oh man here we go in all honesty it's pretty easy to outshine AA in most criteria these days....no one there seems to care. So I'm flying Delta in paid FC this weekend and again for my Birthday trip to St Barth (in which all of my guests I urged to book on DL or JetBlue to SXM) on Wednesday.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 6:29 pm
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Is his a case for EU261
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Old Jul 15, 16, 6:41 pm
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I have luckily not run into your situation before but that's sounding more and more like the new American. Some of the phone agents I've spoken with have been downright terrible. When you got to London, you should have spoken with a desk AAgent to sort it out for you there instead of on the phone. They have the transfer desks right after arrivals correct? Not surprised BA treated you well, in the few experiences I've had with them they've been pleasant.

Originally Posted by ExpatSomchai View Post
Is his a case for EU261
Nope, only those flights that originate from the EU. Since the delay was at JFK, no compensation is required.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 6:53 pm
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Originally Posted by ExpatSomchai View Post
Is his a case for EU261
Since the flight originated from the US on a US carrier, it is not an EU261 case.

Originally Posted by Geauxtigers View Post
I have luckily not run into your situation before but that's sounding more and more like the new American. Some of the phone agents I've spoken with have been downright terrible.
This really doesn't sound much different than the 'old American' to me. That doesn't make it good customer service, but it's not like bad customer service such as this is a new aspect of AA.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 7:45 pm
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So if BA is so great, ask them if they'll check your bags through on separate PNRs. Even if both flights are BA. Then ask them that say you bought a BA ticket ORD-LHR and then your plans changed and you bought a separate BA ticket LHR-PRG - ask them if they would through-check your bag or if they'd protect you to PRG in case of IRROPS.

I'll wait.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 8:09 pm
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Reroutes are best handled by agents on the ground. I doubt that a BA phone agent would have done this. I also doubt that an AA agent at LHR would have denied this.

Generalizations such as this never work. Just look at the BA thread for the dozens of BA regulars damning BA for its customer service !

As soon as OP told the AA agent that "he was done" that was the end of any of hope of anything beyond a few miles as a customer service gesture.
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Old Jul 15, 16, 9:26 pm
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Why did you not ask to be rerouted to Geneva when you were in JFK? Trying to reroute yourself mid-journey after you have already been reaccomodated is almost always going to be a problem, imho...
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Old Jul 15, 16, 10:48 pm
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OP: the best advice anyone can give you at this point is to enjoy what I presume is your vacation and not waste time or energy fighting a Sisyphean battle with AA. You got to your destination and BA resolved the situation for you. It's extremely unlikely you are going to get any significant monetary compensation out of AA for this. It is just plain not gonna happen that you are going to change the service culture or customer service policies of the giant AA corporation. Not. Gonna. Happen.

The second best piece of advice you can take away from this is that, as posted up thread, the best place to make the reroute request is with an airport agent (or even a phone reservation agent) at the point where your itinerary is originally disrupted. In this case JFK. They have the most flexibility and willingness to help at that time. Once you've accepted a reroute, AA considers the problem solved, and more importantly views you as having accepted a solution, and has no reason to make further changes at a downstream connection point. When that connection point involves a change to non-AA operated flight, there's even less incentive for AA to make additional changes. The same could be said of pretty much any airline.

One thing I don't understand is if your wife and other child were already en route to Geneva, in the event that you didn't get there that day, why couldn't they just have continued on the other ~40km to Annecy and checked into the hotel you had booked there? And thereby making use of that hotel you had booked. Why would they be stranded?

Last edited by bse118; Jul 15, 16 at 10:49 pm Reason: typo
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Old Jul 16, 16, 5:29 am
  #10  
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Some random thoughts/reactions:
  • AA's been abusing you for 20+ years and you've stayed with them all this time? Why? Sounds like hell on earth for you. There are other carriers on every route you've flown, I would venture a guess.
  • Unless your 11 year old daughter had her own room, that means that the three of you were sharing a room. Since they were already on their way, the room wouldn't have gone to waste and you wouldn't have lost the non-refundable hotel payment.
  • If GVA is a roughly equivalent flight in duration and price and has the added benefit of being much closer to your destination, why did you buy a ticket to ZRH? Why not, say, AUS-LHR-GVA. Operated by BA but both flights also available as AA codeshares.
  • AA carried roughly 175 million passengers last year. You were GLD in your best years. You're right; they don't really care about your business.

I've always had much better service from the EXP desk than the service that you received. Perhaps AA is just doing what any business could be expected to do, -- paying the most attention to its best customers.

And please understand, it's not that I'm unsympathetic to your plight. I HATE foulups in travel; that's why I try to short check my bag to the connection point whenever I have a connection. I'd much rather go through the hassle of claiming and rechecking. However, I do wonder about some of what you say, as I stated above.
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Old Jul 16, 16, 12:12 pm
  #11  
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Thanks to all for the responses and for speaking the truth. To answer a few of the questions:


1. My original flight was to arrive at 8AM in Zurich. My vacation plans were to rent a car, pick up my family at a friend's house in Zurich, and spend the entire day touring Switzerland while making our way slowly to Annecy. When the Zurich arrival time became 10PM, the thought of driving 4 hours from Zurich to Annecy after not sleeping for almost 36 hours seemed like a dangerous idea. (I have never driven in a foreign country.) So I told my wife to catch a train to Geneva, expecting that AA would have my back and change the destination city. When you've actually endured the hardships of the delay and you haven't read up on this stuff, you just assume any company that cares in the least about customers would let you change to an equivalent destination city.
2. Yes my wife and 11 year old daughter could have continued on to Annecy via train and checked into the hotel but I still would have had to either drive very sleepy or pay for my own accommodations in Zurich. Also this was their (and mine) first time to ever step foot in Europe so not being together was not really a good option. So maybe "stranded" was a stretch but I certainly felt that way about leaving two female members of my family in a foreign country.
3. I am surprised anyone thinks an AA desk agent would have fixed this. AA has maintained in all of our correspondence that never under any circumstances would they change a destination city unless the person paid the fare difference, for a Gold status customer. They MIGHT waive the change fee, but that would be all.
4. When I say AA has been abusing me for 20+ years, I always assumed the grass was not greener on the other side. That's what kept me with AA. And more importantly, I always felt I was fair in letting things slide that seemed beyond their control.
5. Respect to all of the people that had bad experiences with BA as well. Glad we have a forum to speak out about it.
6. Where is the outrage? There is only one reason AA has this policy - to make more money off people that want to change routes. That is an OK business practice, but should not be OK for someone that has been delayed significantly and is trying to catch up with other parties. The whole reason airlines get by with this stuff is because regulation supports the idea that they want AA to always do make the safest choice about grounding an aircraft without consideration of the expenses they might have to pay out. But in the case of giving someone an empty seat on an equivalent flight, there is no real cost to AA. I see it as pure greed.


One last question for the thread. From my research online there is something called Article 19 of the Montreal Convention that does not apply to domestic travel, but appears to apply to international travel. Based on the below, I think I would have a very clear basis to sue for compensation for all financial losses, had BA not helped me out. Putting me on the alternate flight was a reasonable way to help mitigate my damages, especially given that it was equal distance, equal price, and empty. Here are some excerpts from a description I found online of the Montreal Convention:


- Article 19 of the Montreal Convention provides that a carrier can be liable for damages to passengers caused by delay in transportation. However, Article 19 further provides that, the "carrier shall not be liable for damage occasioned by delay if it proves that it and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it or them to take such measures." "All measures" has not been interpreted to mean an airline must do everything in its power to avoid delay, only what is reasonable. The carrier need only show that it took "all precautions that in sum are appropriate to the risk, i.e. measures reasonably available to defendant and reasonably calculated, in cumulation, to prevent the subject loss." Verdescaex rel., v. American Airlines, Inc., 3:99–CV–2022–BD, 2000 WL 1538704, (N.D. Texas Nov. 17, 2004).






- The question of what constitutes "all reasonable measures" is one for the fact finder. Where the airliner is found not to have taken all reasonable measures and is, as a result, liable, Article 19 permits the recovery of compensatory damages which are reasonable and foreseeable, damages for inconvenience, but bars the recovery of punitive damages and emotional damages. Daniel v. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd.,59 F. Supp. 2d 993, 986 (N.D. Cal. 1998). Therefore, the cost of the lost days at a vacation resort, car rentals, or hotel accommodations could be recoverable, but damages for any emotional impact of the delay are not. Lee v. American Airlines, Inc.,03-10178, 2004 WL 18008 (5th Cir. Jan. 14, 2004) (holding that nonrefundable vacation expenses are recoverable under Article 19, but the loss of a "refreshing memorable vacation" is a re-characterization of mental anguish damages, which are not recoverable).


A passenger's ability to recover under Article 19, however, is also subject to the per-passenger liability limit of 4,694 Special DrawingRights (currently about US $7,200) set forth in Article 22(1). See also Inflation Adjustments to Liability Limits Governed by the MontrealConvention Effective December 30, 2009, 74 F.R. 59017-18 (Nov. 16, 2009)(increasing the limitation from 4,150 SDRs to 4,694 SDRs.) This liability limit is removed pursuant to Article 22(5), if the passenger can prove that the delay damages resulted from airline conduct "done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result."
In sum, the individual facts and circumstances both behind the reasons for the delay and the airline'sactions to accommodate passengers following the delay in each case will ultimately determine whether liability exists and the extent of available damages.

Last edited by FlyingHighest; Jul 16, 16 at 12:25 pm
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Old Jul 16, 16, 12:27 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingHighest View Post
[COLOR=black]3. I am surprised anyone thinks an AA desk agent would have fixed this. AA has maintained in all of our correspondence that never under any circumstances would they change a destination city unless the person paid the fare difference, for a Gold status customer. They MIGHT waive the change fee, but that would be all.
Because that's been our - my - experience a number of times. BUT: once you accepted the revised booking/routing to Zurich, AA rightly considered the matter closed. Your window to make the change was when you were first looking at rerouting options, not after you'd already accepted - and flown part of - a new route.


Originally Posted by FlyingHighest View Post
One last question for the thread. [FONT="Calibri"]rom my research online there is something calledArticle 19 of the Montreal Convention that does not apply to domestic travel, but appears to apply to international travel. Based onthe below, I think I would have a very clear basis to sue for compensation for allfinancial losses, had BA not helped me out. Not putting me on the alternate flight was a reasonable way to help mitigate my damages, especially given that it was equal distance, equal price, and empty. ...<snip>....

The question of what constitutes "all reasonablemeasures" is one for the fact finder. Where the airliner is found notto have taken all reasonable measures ...<snip>
You bought a ticket to Zurich - AA is reasonably obligated to deliver you to Zurich. Not to another destination on the opposite side of the country. That fact that they could have done so as a customer service gesture does not constitute any expectation that they should do so.

My humble suggestion is that you really consider whether this is worth your time and trouble for what is likely to be very little satisfaction.
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Old Jul 16, 16, 1:01 pm
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Originally Posted by bse118 View Post
Because that's been our - my - experience a number of times. BUT: once you accepted the revised booking/routing to Zurich, AA rightly considered the matter closed. Your window to make the change was when you were first looking at rerouting options, not after you'd already accepted - and flown part of - a new route.




You bought a ticket to Zurich - AA is reasonably obligated to deliver you to Zurich. Not to another destination on the opposite side of the country. That fact that they could have done so as a customer service gesture does not constitute any expectation that they should do so.

My humble suggestion is that you really consider whether this is worth your time and trouble for what is likely to be very little satisfaction.
Excellent analysis and advice.
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Old Jul 16, 16, 2:37 pm
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I think they are obligated to deliver me to Zurich at a time that is reasonably close to my scheduled arrival time, absent any weather issues. If they fail to do that, they should help mitigate my added expenses, but only if there is an easy and cheap way to do that. Changing my destination would have been cheap and easy. "Opposite side of the country" is a dramatic statement. It was a comparable flight.


Or at least at a macro level, AA has a responsibility to address operational issues that impact delays and cancellations. Whether they should be penalized by regulation requiring them to pay for damages, or simply by consumers voting with their dollars in a free market, is a matter for another thread I suppose.


The fact is that AA is dealing with high employee turnover and other operational issues (especially at LAX where I go thru a lot) that make it a completely logical decision, in my case, to find another airline to fly. Delays and cancellations by AA have cost me over $2500 in non-reimbursable expenses in the last year, and that is even when I have allowed for 5-6 hour buffers to allow for delays.


So I will vote with my consumer dollars and stop fighting AA about this, to your point. I agree 100% with your comment that it is not worth my time and trouble. Thank you (truly) for responding to this thread and helping me face the reality of the situation. I certainly don't need any extra stress in my life! :-)
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Old Jul 16, 16, 2:43 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingHighest View Post
The fact is that AA is dealing with high employee turnover and other operational issues (especially at LAX where I go thru a lot) that make it a completely logical decision, in my case, to find another airline to fly. Delays and cancellations by AA have cost me over $2500 in non-reimbursable expenses in the last year, and that is even when I have allowed for 5-6 hour buffers to allow for delays.
If so, you might want to consider travel insurance. AA's operations have been abysmal lately, but they're not vastly worse than the other carriers (something like 81% on time so far this year, vs. 88% for Delta, for instance). If you're losing that much money due to AA, you'll likely lose less (but still a non-negligible amount) on other carriers.
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