YOURS IS A VERY BAD AIRLINE A graphic complaint prepared for: American Airlines “ Customer” Service PO BOX 619612 MD2400 Dallas TX 75261-9612 Or, what constitutes a MEDICAL EMERGENCY? Prepared by: Lori Magno * *a constitutionally protected parody of the AA.com banner
With special thanks to Tom Farmer and Shane Atchison of Seattle, Washington for inspiration in dealing with “customer service” so bad, it deserves a presentation. And that presentation deserves to be emailed to everyone we’ve ever met. And emailed to everyone our friends have ever met. And emailed to the next level of people we’ve never met. And on and on and on.
On February 28, 2003 my husband Tom and I took an uneventful flight from Boston to Reno as part of our trip to the Eastern Sierras of California. The flight went smoothly and the extra leg room was certainly appreciated.
On March 7, 2003 Tom was brutally struck by a snow-boarder while skiing at Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes, California. Tom, suffering shock and in tremendous pain, was taken by ambulance to Mammoth Lakes Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to place 4 pins in his shattered wrist.
On March 8, 2003 I called American Airlines to ask if we could change our return flight, which at that time was scheduled to depart on March 10, 2003 from Las Vegas. You see, as part of our trip to the Eastern Sierras we had planned a leisurely drive through Death Valley, with a stay at the Furnace Creek Ranch and then a leisurely drive to Las Vegas the next day for a 10pm flight.
When speaking to the first (of 3) “customer service” agents (at 1-800-433-7300) I explained that Tom had just been released from the hospital after emergency surgery and that from where we were staying in June Lake, California it would take 3+ hours to drive to Reno. The trip to Las Vegas would take nearly 7 over a mountain pass and very rough terrain. (We are AAdvantage members)
Maps for the geographically inclined. The estimated travel time is 6 hours, 56 minutes for 322.72 miles of travel. The estimated travel time is 3 hours, 11 minutes for 153.71 miles of travel. June Lake, CA to Reno, NV June Lake, CA to Las Vegas, NV Special thanks to Mapblast.com for the maps
I asked if American would allow us to fly home from Reno to save my husband (and his now very painful and splinted arm and bruised body) from suffering a nearly 7 hour automobile journey over rough roads. I was more than willing to pay whatever change fee was necessary. “ No”, came the answer.
I asked to speak to a supervisor, was promptly put on hold, and even more promptly, disconnected. Foolishly, I redialed.
Knowing that sometimes it’s the luck of the draw with “customer service” people I explained the entire situation to customer service agent number 2, named Anna. Emergency surgery, 3 hours to Reno vs. nearly 7 hours to Las Vegas. Agony, pain, bruises, 4 pins, stitches, splint, yada, yada, yada. I again asked if would be possible to fly out of Reno based on the fact that this situation was a medical emergency, I would be willing to pay the change fee. “ No”, came the answer.
I again asked to speak to a “supervisor”. Little did I know I was about to speak to someone who cared even less than the original “customer service representative”. I was connected with Miss Phyllis Vogt in the St. Louis Reservations Office and explained the situation again. And again came the answer “No”. I choked – I couldn’t handle the conversation any more, so I explained to the “supervisor” that she would have to tell my husband personally.
Embarrassed, I handed the phone to Tom and made the “supervisor” explain to him how on earth the answer could be “no”. Tom explained (relived) the entire experience again for the “supervisor” Miss Phyllis Vogt. Again the old familiar refrain “No”.
Tom asked for the reason behind the answer “no”. Miss Phyllis Vogt stated that Tom’s situation was not a medical emergency . Tom inquired what constituted a medical emergency and Miss Phyllis Vogt stated “ If you were in intensive care, that would be a medical emergency .” Tom explained that if he were in intensive care, it’s not likely he’d be on the phone trying to reschedule a flight . Somehow that didn’t clarify the situation for Miss Phyllis Vogt.
Tom asked the “supervisor” Miss Phyllis Vogt what suggestions she could make in this very difficult situation. Miss Phyllis Vogt’s first suggestion was to purchase a pair of one way tickets from Reno to Boston. Estimated cost $2400. Miss Phyllis Vogt, always thinking of company profit…
Miss Phyllis Vogt’s second suggestion was a pair of round trip tickets. Estimated cost $2200. Miss Phyllis Vogt was not very helpful.
Tom asked Miss Phyllis Vogt if as a “supervisor” she had the authority and/or the ability to waive change fees and/or restrictions for a medical emergency. Miss Phyllis Vogt said “Yes, but I’m not going to do anything for you because this is not a medical emergency.” Tom inquired if Miss Phyllis Vogt had any formal medical training . Surprisingly, she did not.
Tom asked what it was supervisors do if they will not exercise the authority to assist an AAdvantage member suffering a great deal of pain. Miss Phyllis Vogt’s answer was “I’m here to uphold the policies and procedures of American Airlines.”
Tom asked for the name of Miss Phyllis Vogt’s “supervisor”. Miss Phyllis Vogt stated that her supervisor was Deb Gabelien in the St. Louis Reservations Office ( 1-800-433-7300) . Tom asked to speak to Miss Deb Gabelien and was told that she doesn’t take calls. Hmmm. Now that’s service!
CUSTOMER SERVICE - Definition: Customer service is an organization's ability to supply their customers' wants and needs. Customers and business managers alike like to talk about what good customer service is (and isn't), but I think this definition by ACA Group sums up what excellent customer service is beautifully: "excellent customer service (is) the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently exceed the customer's expectations."
FROM THE AA.COM WEBSITE: Customer Service Plan American Airlines and American Eagle are in business to provide safe, dependable, and friendly air transportation to our customers, along with numerous related services. We are dedicated to making every flight you take with us something special. Your safety, comfort, and convenience are our most important concerns* . In June of this year American Airlines and other members of the Air Transport Association agreed to prepare and submit to the Department of Transportation (DOT) service plans addressing particular issues of consumer interest. American Airlines and American Eagle submitted their joint Customer Service Plan to the DOT on September 15, 1999. *highlighting added
I spent some time poring over American’s website looking for the definition of a “medical emergency”. Surprise – didn’t find one. Just that line on their “customer service” page that said “ Your safety, comfort, and convenience are our most important concerns” . I’m not sure what they mean.
Sometimes you just have to get in the car and drive the 7 hours to your point of departure. So on March 9, 2003 I packed Tom and a number of pillows into the car and drove. I did my best to avoid bumps and potholes, but even so it was agonizing for me to see him in that much pain - and I know it was agonizing for him. We arrived at the JW Marriott in Las Vegas that night.
The people at the JW Marriott were f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s . Kid gloves all the way. A very kind desk manager named Shawn even arranged for us to stay in our room until 6pm the next day so that Tom could get maximum rest before the plane flight. Imagine – a person responsible for customer service allowing paying guests (and Marriott Rewards members) to stay a full 6 hours past checkout!
On March 10, 2003 we drove to McCarran Airport and with much trepidation approached the American desk. As luck would have it, an American employee with a heart by the name of Ginger (581595) checked us in. She was horrified by Tom’s arm, pasty white face and the fact that her airline had treated us so poorly. Despite the fact that the flight was full, she blocked the center seat for us so that no one would bump into the injured arm. We thank Ginger for her kindness and attempt to salvage something of American’s reputation.
PROLOGUE We arrived home, Tom has seen the specialist at the Mass General Hospital and is fortunate he won’t need further surgery. 4 more weeks in the cast and then a few months in physical therapy may restore most of the fine motor skills in his hand. SUGGESTIONS Don’t fly American Airlines – you know we won’t.