Awful Experience with American Airlines

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Ahh…the joys of travel..driving to the airport, long check-in lines, slow and tedious security checks, flight delays, and last but not least asshole personnel. Sorry, I had to use those words, there is no other way this post would be true if I had not done so.

A year ago, around June of 2005, I had what I think is the worst travel experience in my life. It was with last person in an airport who you think could make your life miserable. It was HELL. The letter is quite long and IMHO worth a read:

America Airlines Customer Service

To whom it may concern:

My name is XXX XXX, I am a Gold Pass member of American Airlines (———) and I work for XXX in Costa Rica, a software company that works in conjunction with XXX to deliver software trainings around the world.

I have been traveling with American Airlines for as long as I can remember, I have earned Golden status in less than two months and I am very close in reaching the platinum member status. My flight history shows that I have an impeccable flight record with AA and I’ve never been the cause of any type of disturbance in the ground or in the air.

On June 8th, at 11:05 a.m., I was boarding a flight to San José Costa Rica from Miami (flight 937 from gate E10). As soon as they were boarding Group 1, I proceeded to board and handed my boarding pass to MV Nichols, who was taking the boarding passes at the time.

He placed the boarding pass through the boarding pass machine and it got stuck. I mentioned that perhaps the Visa slip was still attached to the ticket, he showed it to me on the other hand, gave me a sarcastic smile and replied “I think I know how to do my job – thank you”.

I was shocked by the rude response because all I was trying to do was to help him. I told him “I think you have an attitude problem” to which he exploded and said he was going to call the captain as my behavior was unacceptable.

He then told me to step back. I stepped back and waited for the captain to arrive as I was sure that he would make use of his good judgment and solve this issue. Mr. Nichols told me to step back again, and I moved further away. During this time, Ms. Cristina Rodriguez and Ms. Donna Jackson were taking boarding passes for the same flight on the other machine and were witnessing everything that was going on.

When the captain arrived, Mr. Nichols talked to him in private for a couple of minutes. I could not hear the conversation as I was far away from both of them. The captain (CE Wilson) approached me and without listening to my side of the story told me I could not board the plane as I had not followed instructions when Mr. Nichols told me to move back.

I was completely appalled by what I had heard – I had followed every instruction given and never lost my patience or mood at any moment. I told Mr. Wilson that I respected his opinion and would like to have Mr. Nichols’ name (he was not wearing a name tag and ignored me when I politely asked for his name). Throughout this whole ordeal, Mr. Nigel Shearwood, who was at the counter, heard the conversation, talked to the captain and then talked to me again. Mr. Shearwood asked the other two American Airlines employees who were present at the time of the incident (Cristina Rodriguez and Donna Jackson) to verify my story. They verified my side of the story and told Mr. Shearwood that:

I had never disrespected Mr. Nichols at any moment I had complied with every instruction given by Mr. Nichols at the time of the incident

After corroborating my story, Mr. Shearwood did all that was humanly possible in order to help me board that flight, but Mr. Wilson said that if I boarded the plane, he would simply not fly the aircraft. He said his mind was made up and that there was nothing that would change his mind. Throughout this time, Mr. Shearwood told me to please sit as the Captain had to talk with somebody on the counter about this issue. I sat and watch from afar as the Captain talked several times to someone on the phone. I believe there was a ticket opened for this issue, please check for Ms. Rodriguez, Ms. Jackson, or Mr. Shearwood’s comments as they told me that they had written everything that had taken place in an event log).

The flight was delayed 50 minutes because of this issue since my luggage had to be taken off the airplane. Do you think the time and money lost during the unloading, plus the delay in everyone’s schedule is justifiable in this particular situation? I don’t. The only reason that flight was delayed and I could not board it was because Mr. Nichols had a bad day and wanted to take it out on someone who unfortunately turned out to be me. Time is very valuable to everyone and I am sure everyone in that flight would be very angry if they found out the real reason why flight 937 was delayed that day.

I was booked on another flight that would leave 7 hours after my original flight. Right now I am writing this e-mail at the Miami International Airport when I should be on a plane to Costa Rica as I am scheduled to deliver a key conference for Microsoft at 3:00 p.m. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this event which will most likely be cancelled or postponed.

I am still trying to believe this ordeal really happened to me. Simply put: I cannot believe it. I never disrespected Mr. Nichols at any moment; I was baffled on how rude he was after a simple remark I made when I tried to help him. No one deserves to be treated this way when traveling.

I am a firm believer that people who do not have people/customer skills should not take jobs that require them. I am not expecting any special treatment, I want to be treated with the same respect that I treat everyone else, especially when my company is paying good money for my ticket. I have to admit that I have received excellent treatment with American Airlines throughout my business travels during the last two months. Ironically/Sadly, it is on the last flight of these series of events that I had to deal with Mr. Nichols and his negligible attitude.

It is truly a shame that the excellent labor that people like Ms. Jackson, Ms. Rodriguez, and Mr. Shearwood deliver is overshadowed by the mediocre, impertinent, and unfriendly labor from people like MV Nichols. I for one will not let this one slip by. Mr. Nichols has to be responsible for his actions. It is my intention that his ridiculous customer service is put to an end once you finish reading this letter.

I also cannot believe that Captain Wilson was not able to make the right decision in this type of situation even when his colleagues warned him and verified that I had done nothing wrong. I have to admit that I am completely frightened by the fact that a captain who cannot make the right decision on the ground is out there flying passenger planes. It certainly is a scary thought.

In order to maintain the excellent customer service American Airlines has, I believe my labor is to inform you about this unfortunate event so that you can proceed and carry out any actions you deem necessary. I also believe it is my duty to inform the project managers at Artinsoft and Microsoft of my experience so that they can make the correct decision when booking flights for future events as this is something that is completely unacceptable.

I would like for American Airlines to open an investigation for this case. I believe you have all the necessary information so that you can interview the American Airlines employees who were present at the time and find out what really happened. I would also like to be informed on the progress about this investigation as I need to justify to Microsoft and Artinsoft my absence during the conference as well as the time and money that were lost because of this issue. As I have mentioned before: time is money, and we lost a great deal of both yesterday because of one person’s incompetence in your company.

Even though I had nothing but excellent service at American in the past, this event has ruined my day completely. I will not be able to attend my conference, I have to wait for 7 hours for my flight and I will arrive Costa Rica completely tired – all the opposite of what I had originally hoped for. As I have mentioned before, I hope you will do all in your power to make sure this never, ever, happens again to anyone in the future.

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