Shameful Customer Service

June 27, 2015

in Airport Stories

I would strongly recommend against flying US Airways or American Airlines. My recent experience with them is the worst I have ever had with any airline. My story is as follows:

My wife and I were meeting in New York for our first year anniversary. She was coming down by train; I was flying in from Philadelphia to meet her. We were going to return together to Boston by plane. I had initially booked a ticket for my wife with air miles from American Airlines for what at the time was a 5:00pm flight from New York to Boston. I paid for a ticket for myself from Philadelphia to New York, and from New York to Boston, with the final leg at the same 5:00pm time as my wife’s ticket. I was then later informed that my flight had been changed to the 8:00pm flight; I received no such similar note concerning my wife’s flight so I thought that we had been put on separate flights.

I spent an hour and a half on the phone with American Airlines and US Airways to finally confirm that we were on the same flight at 8:00pm. I was later notified that my Philadelphia-New York leg flight time had been changed to a later time that would not work. I thus had to call up again to make changes to my Philadelphia-New York flight, but I made no further change requests for my wife.

When we arrived at the airport in New York for our flight to Boston, we were told that my wife’s ticket had been canceled because “she hadn’t shown up for the Philadelphia-New York leg of her flight.” But I had never booked or requested such a leg for her. It seems that when I made changes to my Philadelphia flight, a Philadelphia leg was incorrectly added to her flight. I had never requested such a change or addition.

US Airways told us at the airport that there was nothing they could do about it, and to call American Airlines as it was booked with American Airlines miles. We did so and were left on hold, first for 15 minutes, then spoke with someone who said we needed to be transferred to someone else and that this would happen immediately, but then we were left on hold for an additional 30 minutes. By this point, the flight was going to take off within an hour so we had no choice but to purchase a one-way ticket for my wife for the fee of $430.10. We were essentially trapped. This had been our weekend away to celebrate our first year anniversary. It was a horrible, horrible way to end it.

I sent a complaint in to American Airlines and US Airways. I heard nothing for some time and wrote again. Finally a week later, an e-mail came in saying I was refunded $5.60 (the fee I paid when I initially used miles to book my wife’s ticket) rather than the $430.10 that they forced us to pay because they would not pick up the phone at customer service and sort out the problems they had created.

This was the worst experience I have ever had with any airline: change of flight itinerary, lack of notification, an hour and a half on the phone initially to sort it out, further changes to my wife’s ticket I had not requested, cancellation of my wife’s flight, 45 minutes left on hold on the phone, having to purchase an expensive last minute ticket, terrible customer service, and then a refund of $5.60 rather than for the $430.10.

I wrote again to complain and after two weeks of waiting still had no response. It is somewhat unbelievable. It is far and away the worst airline experience I have ever had. I will do my best to avoid American Airlines and US Airways whenever possible in the future.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

CMR June 28, 2015 at 12:26 am

Ouch. Seems like it ended being a complete mess of a situation that couldn't be fixed easily.

I'd recommend whenever you book tickets, try to book together if possible. So for your trip from New York to Boston, I'd say you should think about just purchasing those two tickets together and maybe only using the air miles for your initial leg from Philly to New York since you were traveling solo. Whenever you try and travel with someone on air miles while you aren't, it can get unnecessarily complicated. The ticket fares and codes used to book aren't the same, and whenever delays, cancellations or changes are made you can't assume you will end up in the same boat. For example, I got into a similar case when I booked travel separately from my significant other to the same destination. While our outbound flights were the same, I got re-booked onto an earlier flight and she didn't. I learned then to make sure we always booked tickets at the same time so we were treated as an entity, rather than two separate tickets in the computer system.

Unfortunately, I think you are more likely to get your air miles back than you are the $430 dollars. Whenever you make decisions like buying another ticket, it's VERY hard to get that money reimbursed to you.

Hopefully you are able to get something back!


Gary August 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm

That can be problematic also. All of the travel plans should have been disclosed at booking so the airline could have assisted and made notes in the record for handling.


Eddie Key July 2, 2015 at 2:58 pm

I would suggest That American Airlines learns how to serve thier customers again instead of encouraging the customer to learn how to better serve the Airline. You should be able to book a flight, cancel flight and pretty much do anything else as a customer with a reasonable expectation that American Airlines would assume some responsibility for issues that they themselfs create. I would also advise that American Airlines be your last choice when making travel plans.


Jennifer R. Povey July 16, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Yeah. I learned the hard way too – don't book one person on miles and the other cash. Even if it ends up costing more.

1. If anything goes wrong you're making things complicated not just for you but for a likely harried gate agent.
2. They will move you to be sitting separately. They will do this no matter how many times you move your seats back together. (I know that can happen anyway because airline seating computers are funky – but not like this).


Thomas July 20, 2015 at 6:34 pm

They seem to get very confused when two tickets are purchased by different methods.

My wife booked a flight with voucher for herself and with cash for our daughter by calling a representative. A week for before the flight I noticed that they were on two separate flights flying home even though the rep said the flights were identical.

After a phone call the situation was corrected and I even got the change fee waived by being firm and insisting that it was not my wife's fault.

I'm just happy I caught the mistake soon enough since this was an international flight.

Hopefully things will get much better after this merger is completed.


PESMITH August 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm

There are probably thousands of stories like yours. I got hosed once by US Airways trying to save a buck. Bottom line is you have to dot every "I" and cross every "T". and doing it online leaves a nice trail. When it happened the second time I had all the correspondence and receipts so I was able to avoid getting the financial mambo from US Air.


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