Dave Carruthers was supposed to fly American Airlines flight AA211 from Manchester, UK to New York JFK but the flight was cancelled for mechanical reasons.
It’s not clear from his complaint what happened next. He says he spent ~ US$2000 to get to London Heathrow and fly to New York to make business meetings, which sounds like he wasn’t just put on an American (or British Airways) London – New York flight.
Mr. Carruthers’ bags weren’t promptly sent to New York.
He also says American only offered him a refund of half his ticket. Something was left up in the air here. Perhaps because he bought an alternate flight to New York, and didn’t get his initial ticket squared away, he must have looked like a no show for whatever flight American flight him on (such as the next day) Manchester – New York.
So when he called up American to change his return flight from New York to the UK a day earlier than planned, he couldn’t do it.
This all got sorted but apparently too late to be convenient for him to return a day early. He doesn’t mention any cost to do it, so I assume American was willing to change the return for free.
He wound up flying home the day he was originally scheduled. He approached the check-in counter filming his interaction, and he complains that the staff in New York weren’t friendly about it. He insisted on two things:
- An upgrade, for his inconvenience
- That his second checked bag should be free, since he had to buy clothes and the second bag to bring them home in because his original checked bag wasn’t sent to New York promptly.
The check-in agent wasn’t going to be able to upgrade him, whether there were seats or not. Waiving the second checked bag fee seems reasonable to me, actually, but getting a check-in agent in New York to do it hardly seems worth the hassle. Better to pay the fee and take up the issue of compensation with customer relations after the fact.
Flight cancellations are unfortunate. They also… happen. Although they happen more often with some airlines than with others.
Once that happens, airline customer service kicks in. Getting good service can be a challenge for passengers without elite status especially. Whether the passenger just left their reservation in a state that appeared to be a no show, or the agent he worked with didn’t clean it up properly, there was something to sort out.
He should have been entitled to a full refund of his ticket only if he didn’t intend to use the return, though it seems clear he did.
American should have put him on an alternate flight out of London, rather than making him wait a day to get home, including putting him on another airline if necessary given that the issue was mechanical. His luggage though wasn’t going to make it until at least the next day, it’s not clear when it did arrive.
The passenger wasn’t entitled to a free change to their return, or to an upgrade. Although it’s certainly understandable why he’d be frustrated by the cancellation and the challenges getting to New York especially without bags. And so his asks become unreasonable in response.
Under airline rules he shouldn’t get a free checked bag, but under the circumstances it seems like that’s more than a reasonable accommodation. He’s being deal with by customer relations, and they ought to be generous in terms of compensation and factor in the extra costs he incurred as a result of the mechanical delay.
I know my first call for the extra costs related to buying items when by checked bag didn’t show would be to my credit card company for baggage delay coverage, generally up to $100 a day.
- Travel is hard – much harder than it ought to be.
- It amazes me sometimes that the median passenger can navigate it at all, given the challenges that I find myself facing at times.
- In the face of that, customers can become unreasonable. That’s understandable given how frustrating it can be to get customer service, and know the right thing to do under an airline’s rules. Customers revert to their own (biased) sense of fairness.
At the end of the day, mechanical issues happen in travel and then customer service can either handle things well — which means more than taking a call or handling a passenger in line, but understanding the customer’s needs, listening, and responding to get the best possible outcome under challenging circumstances. That’s where airlines often fall down, compounded by agent training issues (getting the rules wrong, or screwing up a reservation) and IT issues.