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Terrible experience with a gate agent (and excellent service at the Admirals Club)

Terrible experience with a gate agent (and excellent service at the Admirals Club)

Old Mar 8, 18, 12:11 pm
  #1  
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Terrible experience with a gate agent (and excellent service at the Admirals Club)

Over the years I've read a number of stories here on FT about gate agents behaving badly. As a lifelong AA flyer, I've also seen quite a few cringeworthy incidents. As a Dallas resident, I also talk to a lot of FA's and other employees in social settings who also share their stories. And I know plenty of GA's who have their own horror stories to tell about passengers (and have witnessed a lot of bad pax behavior in person). But today I had a terrible experience the likes of which I've never seen before, followed by an equally great experience, all within the space of an hour.

It started with my wife an I traveling on an AA domestic flight ex-DFW to make a connection to a TATL BA flight. We both had carry ons and initially everything was going normally until we were halfway down the jet bridge and the gate agent starts yelling after us. They were being rather aggressive about checking bag size, so she wanted to put my wife's bag in the sizer, but was apparently thought we were ignoring her. In reality, neither of us ever heard her ask my wife to size the bag and I was paying close attention as I saw how other passengers were being checked. Ok, no big deal, maybe yelling at us wasn't the best approach but just put the bag in the sizer, take a few items out if it doesn't quite fit, move on. No big deal.

Boy, was I wrong. When the bag at first didn't fit, the GA became very agitated, telling my wife she couldn't "stuff it in there". As I attempted to intervene, telling her it wasn't a big deal, we could remove some items while boardingest continued, she became very irate. My wife, who doesn't fly often, was becoming distressed - when she pulled the bag out, she set it down forcefully as it was a bit on the heavy side and she was being harangued by the GA. A couple of seconds after she set the bag down, and while I was trying to intervene and calm things down, the GA suddenly declared "you just struck me, you're not going on this plane" and confiscated our boarding passes. She was nearly in hysterics at this point, waving her arms about telling us to get out of the way of the rest of the pax. I was right there and involved the whole time, despite her trying to shoo me away - my wife's bag never touched her. Never even came close.

I then asked for a supervisor and she angrily replied "I am the supervisor", at which point she informed the other agents not to rebook us, and kept saying "you're not going anywhere today". When it became obvious that the GA would not listen to reason or deal with us in a calm or professional manner, we stepped aside and I called the Platinum desk to rebook as I knew this wasn't going anywhere. As soon as the GA saw me on the phone, she gave the other agents another instruction not to rebook us and stomped away. They refused to help us even after the supervisor left. I want to stress that at no point did either myself or my wife raise our voices, insult anyone, use profane language, or become angry. I stayed calm and tried to be reasonable but the GA was acting in the most unprofessional manner I have ever witnessed from any airline employee, ever.

I'm still flabbergasted at how the GA behaved. I don't know if she violated any policies or procedures but she certainly wasn't very professional. And, at that moment in time, she was not representing the company in a positive light. Quite the opposite. And how she can unilaterally deny rebooking and instruct others to do the same is beyond me. Furthermore, if she actually believed she was struck or physically assaulted in any way, why didn't she call security? I've seen that happen before and it doesn't take long for airport police to arrive. In this case it would have taken mere seconds, as we were right across from an entry point. She never did so, never asked her co-workers for assistance, never acted as if she were physically threatened. We were at the gate for a good 15 minutes after the supervisor left, no security ever approached us and the GA never returned.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to all this. As we were just a few yards away from an Admirals Club, and the Platinum desk couldn't put us on any standby lists for flights already under control, we went back and asked the agent for help. This turned out to be a good move. It took about an hour, a lead agent and a supervisor, but they sorted it out and got us rebooked on a direct flight that actually put us in to our destination earlier than we otherwise would have arrived. As my wife was very visible shaken (and shaking), they were the epitome of kindness to her - giving us free drink vouchers, offering to come find us after they sorted things out, and so on. They kept communicating with us and even went into the back room to work on the issue so they wouldn't keep getting interrupted by other passenger requests. A complete reversal of our experience with the angry GA. In the end, we made it to our destination and it all worked out but what a difference in service all in the space of an hour.
birddogmax is offline  
Old Mar 8, 18, 12:17 pm
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Wow thatís a crazy story. Glad to hear the dragon helped you out. Did you get the name of the nut job gate agent? She needs to be reported and subsequently terminated.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:19 pm
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That sounds like a nightmare! Glad the Admirals Club came through for you.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by birddogmax View Post
...giving us free drink vouchers...
Since you were on a OW international itinerary and say you called the Platinum desk (so I therefore assume you are) drink vouchers are an expected inclusion at ACs. As to the rest, wow, just wow. But without being there, I'll refrain from further comment.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:31 pm
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Yikes! Definitely send a complaint to AA, if you don't have the AAgents name at least note the date and flight.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:36 pm
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Please do consider following up with AA and the DOT.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 12:53 pm
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In retrospect, you ought to have called the police and called her bluff for the false accusation of assault/made her call the police to force her to admit that you had not 'struck/assaulted her'.

Society has gone mad and it has taken the airlines with it.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 1:15 pm
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I am very, very convinced that AA hires some of their GA's from the local mental hospitals. Some of these nutcases shouldn't be out in public let alone have customer service jobs.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 1:25 pm
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waaaoooouuuuu that is an insane story! Sorry your wife & you had to endure that.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 1:46 pm
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Sounds like the GA a few years ago at DFW who insisted my wife's rollaboard go in the sizer after we came in from MBJ, then declare the bag too big (I have the same bag, in a different color, and have never been questioned and wasn't that day). I said something to the effect of "It fits fine in the overheads." and the GA said "if you argue about it, you won't fly today."
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Old Mar 8, 18, 2:48 pm
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Originally Posted by IflyonAA View Post
In retrospect, you ought to have called the police and called her bluff for the false accusation of assault/made her call the police to force her to admit that you had not 'struck/assaulted her'.

Society has gone mad and it has taken the airlines with it.
Called the police for what crime? To report a non crime?
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Old Mar 8, 18, 2:55 pm
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My immediate reaction was that you should write to AA Customer Service. You need to condense this situation into bullet points and highlight the fact that, at no time, did you raise your voice or become hostile. I suggest focusing on the actions of said GA and your willingness to do everything to make it right without getting upset.

It would have been interesting to call the police and let them review the video of the incident.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 3:00 pm
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The Admirals club agents are great, I agree. GAs at DFW on the other hand-- I have witnessed my own share of hostility by a few. (most are perfectly professional).

That all being said, I am getting tired of passengers not being able to fit bags in overhead bins -- blocking aisles during boarding, requiring FAs to stop boarding to tag bags and carry them to the jetbridge, etc, I've been half way down the plane way too many times only to get blocked by someone trying to shove a bag that won't fit, and then forcing me to crawl ontop a passengers lap to let the perp go back to the front to have it checked. So, on that end of things, I don't mind it when GAs take a bit of a harder stance at checking bag sizes -- too many people are pushing the boundaries and causing problems at boarding.

Even with group 4 boarding, I stay out of the overhead bin fights and only carry on what can fit in the seat in front of me. There is just too much drama around the overhead bin situation.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 3:02 pm
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Originally Posted by formeraa View Post
My immediate reaction was that you should write to AA Customer Service.
My bet is that they just provide a generic email about how GAs have to check the sizes of bags, and ignore anything and everything said about the rude, irate, behavior of the GA.
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Old Mar 8, 18, 3:19 pm
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I find GAs to be pretty much the weakest link in the airline customer service chain. A nice one is a unicorn, the best you typically can hope for is 'does job in a normal fashion'. However, it's far from rare to encounter a GA with a bad attitude. While I've never been yelled at, I'm also someone where if the first answer I get indicates a bad attitude, I back off and try my luck with someone else. I get the sense that quite a few GAs are in over their heads with the demands of the job and then lose their nerves if something goes wrong (from their P.o.V.).
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