The following correspondence was forwarded to Flights From Hell and is posted below verbatim except as noted.
December 3, 2016
American Airlines Customer Relations 4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd. Phoenix, AZ 85034
Dear Customer Relations,
While I am sure that your office receives many concerns, I feel that what I recently experienced warrants review and I thank you in advance for your time and serious consideration to what I am relaying to you. Thanks to your communications team for their quick replies to my Tweets.
I understand that 20,000 Aadvantage miles were issued as a good will gesture. I implore you to see the details of my travel and the impact and reevaluate what you feel is fair and just.
Wendy ____, AAdvantage ____, [Last name and account number removed by editor]
Record locator QWTWRD, LAX- AKL, AA 83, 11/25/16
Record locator XIDRSM, AKL- LAX, AA 82, 11/28/16
Aside from the aforementioned AA flights, I had a separate booking with Air New Zealand between AKL and GIS (Gisborne, NZ). (attached photo of boarding passes) Obviously, my connection to Gisborne was missed due the unexpected overnight in Papeete which caused additional consequence but I understand that this separate booking was not under the control of American Airlines.
As your records will reflect, I booked this very short in duration/very long in travel time (28 hours in total of travel time for 2.5 days in New Zealand), far in advance so that I could attend my Mothers soth birthday part. Unfortunately, I ended up with 1.5 days with my family in New Zealand and missed the birthday celebration altogether. I put forth much effort and finance to ensure that I would be present and it was truly more disappointing than I can relay that it all unraveled so quickly.
I am sure you are aware of the circumstance with flight 83 on 11/25/16 diverted to PPT while enroute from LAX to AKL due a passenger health issue on board. I noticed on the in-flight monitor that our flight path was deviating before the announcement was made. I fully understand the decision that had to be made under the circumstance and hold no ill-will toward AA for making such decision/action. What I do find appalling is the way the situation afterward was handled.
When we landed in PPT I texted my partner and advised him that we had diverted and all was well and that the service on board had been excellent. The ill customer was removed and we were waiting for a new flight plan and fuel. We waited and waited. At one point the crew stated that they were waiting on ground staff to provide an air start but that was quickly remedied. We were then advised that there was potential that the crewmembers may time out. This is when the customer service failures began.
Firstly, I have previously worked in customer service in the airline industry and am somewhat savvy as to how situations should be handled. The crew did indeed choose to timeout. I use the word ‘choose’ because they chose not to extend their duty time to proceed with the trip. This choice caused 200 customers to be offloaded in an airport where AA has no staff. The crew were taken to their hotel straight away while the passengers remained in the terminal with no information or direction as to what to do. We didn’t know when the flight was being rescheduled for so we continued to wait in the terminal; we were given 15 minutes of wi-fi time as this is what the airport offers, yet the volume of users overwhelmed their system and it was non-functional. I don’t know the cost of the phone calls that I made during this time. The wait time ended up being 6 hours in the terminal until we were advised to clear customs. We were then advised by an Air Tahiti Nui staff member that we could try and get a hotel room through Air BNB and offer the receipt to AA for reimbursement. They suggested that passengers find other passengers to share a room as there would not be enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone. The alternate option offered was to spend the night at the airport.
I proceeded outside with many other passengers to try and find accommodations; no suggestions were offered by any entity, AA or otherwise. My partner in the US Tweeted AA that passengers were stranded and received a response from AA advising that customer care team members were taking care of the customers; this was simply not true. It was Thanksgiving so I would imagine that staffing was already minimal. We were truly on our own.
Fortunately I found a room at a shabby hotel nearby (without working air conditioning… please keep in mind that I was dressed for cold weather climate; Ugg boots and the like and now in Tahiti). I purchased a few items that were more climate appropriate (receipts attached) that I consider completely necessary as our luggage was not returned to us and remained on the aircraft overnight.
The following day, I was phoned at 2AM and advised to proceed to the airport for the continuation of the flight (this is now 19 hours after the ordeal began). While consideration of the crewmembers rest was taken into complete account, the passengers rest was not.
We finally arrived in New Zealand nearly 24 hours behind schedule (please also consider that while traveling from the US to NZ, crossing the international date line pushes the arrival date one day forward so I arrived on 11/26 with a departure on 11/28 back to the US).
I proceeded to Air New Zealand where I was advised that I would have to incur penalties to reschedule my trip. Fortunately (well, actually unfortunately), the Air New Zealand Manager had family on-board AA 83 who missed a wedding as a result of this diversion and they were apathetic. I was permitted to travel stand-by on a flight and eventually did make it to Gisborne. I was exhausted… not being dramatic… truly exhausted. I have traveled this route many, many times and realize that the journey itself is long, but the stress and wait times, lack of sleep, made this truly one of the worst travel experienced I have had to date. The flight itself was great… the way the ordeal was handled is inexcusable.
If you’re still with me in reading this letter, thank you. This isn’t a “I’ll never fly AA again” letter. I will. I have been dedicated to flying on AA as exclusively as possible. I have both the Platinum Select and Executive Citibank cards. I was, until recently, an AA stockholder; it truly was in my best interest to see that American was as successful and profitable as possible and I helped in every little way that I could.
In closing, I don’t feel that 20,000 miles is sufficient compensation; you cannot even fly to NZ for less than 40,000 miles each way. And frankly, anyone can get 50,000 miles just for getting a Citibank credit card. For this particular trip, I used 40,000 on the outbound trip and spent $622 for the return trip. (this does not include the Air New Zealand segments obviously as that was a separate transaction that AA had no involvement)
I feel that adequate compensation for this situation would be a 40,000 mileage credit, $600 future flight credit, and reimbursement for the minimal essential expenses that I incurred. This would allow for me to potentially replicate the trip in the future with confidence that a similar situation will not occur.
Again, a sincere thank you for reading this lengthy letter (and I actually didn’t capture all of the details of what transpired) and I appreciate your consideration with my request as I feel it is the right and fair thing to do.
Best regards, Wendy