“I have never in my life experienced such disregard for human decency”

By | February 15th, 2016

Danielle Williams and her fiance were delayed, and then delayed again, when they tried to fly from Dallas to Jacksonville, Fla., during the holidays.

American Airlines apologized, and then apologized again. But did it apologize enough?

We do a regular feature called Is This Enough Compensation, and this one, though rare in some ways, is frighteningly common in others. For all its wonderful automation that gets planes to and from their destinations faster, airlines still have no way of measuring the human misery they’re causing. If they did, then this case would have never crossed my desk.

As Williams explains, her fiance needed to be at work early, so she booked the first flight out of Dallas.

“We got to the airport by 3 a.m. to return our rental car and were at the gate by 3:45 a.m.,” she says.

It wasn’t enough. The first leg of their flight from Dallas to Miami was delayed, and they missed their connecting flight to Jacksonville. Their troubles were just starting.

“When we finally boarded the plane for Jacksonville, we sat at the gate awhile, then pulled out — but quickly stopped,” she says. “The captain told us there was a mechanical issue and we needed to go back to the gate.”

But no gate was available. So they waited.

Finally, they returned to the gate, disembarked and boarded another flight – only to have it return to the gate again with a mechanical problem. What are the odds of that happening?

American placed Williams and her fiance on a flight the next day, handed them a $7 meal voucher and wished them well. The reason? It claimed their initial delay had been caused by weather, and as such, it wasn’t responsible for providing hotel accommodations.

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I’ll let your tell you the end in her own words:

I have never in my life experienced such disregard for human decency. This wasn’t just a bad airport experience. We didn’t just get delayed because of some rain or weather issue. They caused us to miss work, pay an extra day to have our car at the airport, 30 hours with no sleep, and our dogs stuck at home with nobody to care for them for an entire day.

Plus, we had to pay for several meals ourselves when we should have been home where our fridge and pantry was full of already-bought food. The gate attendants were rude and unhelpful, and the airline itself showed no concern for the difficulties we faced.

Wow. Thirty hours to get from Dallas to Jacksonville. I could almost drive there and back in that time.

From my perspective, and without knowing American’s side of the story, it looks like a massive wire-crossing exercise. They should have taken better care of these passengers.

As is our practice here, we ask the company for its response via the customer. Here’s what American had to say:

We are sorry we didn’t get you to your destination as planned on December 27, 2015 and realize how frustrating this overnight delay must have been.

The on-time departure of our flights is one of our most important service goals. Regrettably, the mechanical issue with the particular airplane scheduled for your flight caused an unavoidable delay and eventual cancellation. Still, we can appreciate how disappointing it must have been to spend your time waiting for your flight to depart.

Additionally, we regret that you did not receive more efficient customer service during your travels. Based on your comments, it appears our agents could have better handled this situation, with the level of respect and care we expect. This is not reflective of our company as a whole and your feedback will be used to help improve our service.

In hopes of encouraging you to continue to travel with us, we’ve added 10,000 bonus miles to your AAdvantage account. You should see this adjustment in your account very soon. You can view your account via AA.com.

Williams wasn’t pleased with the response. She spent at least $700 on meals and accommodations as a result of the delay. 10,000 miles just didn’t cut it. So she told American it wasn’t enough.

The airline converted its response into a $200 flight voucher. “They suggested this might be a better solution for me because it could be gifted or used on someone else,” she says.

“I looked it up,” she says, “and $200 is actually less than what the 10,000 miles are worth in dollars.”

The way she sees it, American said it was sorry and then revised it to kinda sorry.

But from the airline’s perspective, that’s not how it looks. It got her and her fiance to Jacksonville, fulfilling its contract of carriage. What’s more, the contract said it wasn’t liable for overnight accommodations if their flights were delayed because of weather, and technically, the first flight was delayed because of weather. So what’s the problem?

Would you take a $200 voucher for a 30-hour ordeal? Or can American do better?

Did American offer Danielle Williams enough compensation?

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