Sample letter to airline


Re: Flight #1332 (formerly) on January 16, 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to request compensation for being bumped, mistreated, forced to spend an extra night from home, and missing a day of work.

I would like to briefly share with you my experience on January 16-17, 2006, in order for you to understand why you should offer me remuneration. My flight, AA 1332, was supposed to leave from Miami International Airport to La Guardia, New York, on January 16, at 3:36pm. At 1pm, just before leaving for the airport, I tried to check to see if my flight was leaving on time. I spent fifteen minutes searching the site, before I finally discovered that my flight number had been mysteriously changed, and the time set back by 6 minutes. I then had to call my car service in New York with the new flight number before I could leave for the airport. Despite these delays, I managed to arrive at the airport over 70 minutes before takeoff.

The lines at the Miami airport were very long, and we were concerned. I took my baby and went to wait in line, while my husband sought an American Airlines representative. We were shuttled from line to line before being sent to the front. At this point, it was about 45 minutes before our flight. When we tried to check-in at the electronic counter, we received the message that it was too late. Surprised, we asked the agent for help. The agent said he would get a supervisor, and then he disappeared. After 15 anxiety-ridden minutes of waiting for his return, and repeated inquiries to other agents, I was very upset. My baby was crying, and an agent threw my suitcases aside to give room for other customers. Finally, an agent said, “OK, I’ll put you on the next flight.” Without asking me for identification (all of which was with my husband, who was searching for a supervisor), he tagged my luggage, whisked it on to the conveyer belt, handed me tickets and rushed me off to a gate clear on the other side of the airport.

Although I was displeased to be leaving an hour later, I collected my husband and we made our way through security. At the gate where our original flight was leaving, I noticed that the flight was just boarding. I told the agent at the gate that we had been on the flight, and he said that because our luggage was on the 4:29 flight, we could not now get on the 3:30 flight. I begged; after all, I had a 7-month old baby who needed to be in his bed by his bedtime or close to it, which would not happen with a later flight, and we had bought tickets for the 3:30 flight. We were turned down, and we went to the gate for the 4:29 flight.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the counter and discovered that I had not—as I had been expressly told—put on the 4:29 flight. I had been put on standby—behind about twenty people! Recall, too, that my luggage had been put on this flight—with my box of diapers, package of baby wipes, containers of baby food, and clothes for the baby. Of course I had a carry-on, with the requisite number of diapers and wipes for a 3-hour flight plus a little extra in case of delay, but I certainly was not carrying an extra day’s worth. I asked to speak to a supervisor, and was presented with Priscilla.

Priscilla was extremely rude. She seemed to find it her personal duty to lecture us about not arriving over 2 hours before domestic flight, to lecture me on my parenting style, to speak to us as though we were morons and to punish us for all our wrong-doings. Although right beside us a woman, who had also been booked on the 3:30 flight, and who was also put on standby for the 4:29 flight, was then put on a 6:15 flight, Priscilla flat out said there were no openings to the entire Northeast from the entire state of Florida for at least 24 hours. Her best offer was for us to buy a $900 ticket for one in order to fly to JFK that night (and then go to La Guardia, to pick up our luggage that was sent without any identification and without us—a clear violation of TSA rules). The other would be left alone still in Miami. Did she imagine my husband would go on without me in order not to miss work the next day and I would stay alone with an infant at the Miami airport all night? Or maybe she imagined that I would go with my baby and search for luggage that had arrived hours earlier at a different airport. And perhaps she felt that a $900.00 ticket would be a minor inconvenience to us. In any case, we declined.

Priscilla’s next suggestion was that we could go standby on the 5:50 flight. When Priscilla stepped away, the agent who had placed the other woman on the 6:15 flight told us that there had been two seats available on that flight (but now there were none). She also apologized for our being shuttled from flight to flight, suggested there was an excellent chance that we would make it on the 5:50 since a connecting flight was running late, and explained that problem we were having was the fault of the airline. I wrote down her exact words: “We booked more people than we have room for on the plane.”

The saga, unfortunately, did not end there. The 5:50 flight was delayed by over an hour, and the connectors easily made their connection. We could not board the flight. We were sent, instead, to a flight leaving at 8:10. We had now been at the airport, running from gate to gate, with a 7-month-old baby in tow, for close to 6 hours. We did not get on the 8:10 flight either.

That flight was our last chance of the night. At this point, we were told to come back the next day (a work day for us both). We had to find a hotel room and pay for it ourselves. Priscilla would not give us a voucher for a hotel. Another agent, however, did help us out in that regard. We were able to pay a reduced rate of $60+tax for a hotel. The voucher clearly states that we received it because American Airlines “sincerely regret[s] the inconvenience you [we] have experienced today as a result of our [American Airlines] off-schedule operation.” I am including a copy of said voucher with this letter.

We arrived at the hotel at 9:45pm and were back at the airport for 6am. My baby, whose system cannot handle such stress and lack of sleep, has been sick since our return—almost two weeks.

The happy ending is that we finally made it home. That process, even on day two, was not quick. First, there was no record of me on any standby list, and we were told to wait in another long line. Then, we both got tickets and went to gate E5 for our flight. At 7:45, our gate was changed to E10. We all moved. At 7:55, our gate was changed to A5—a 28 minute walk. At 8:30, our flight was delayed to 9:15. Then 9:23. Then there was a medical emergency that further delayed us. All in all, it took us about 24 hours to get home.

The delays that occurred on day 2 are ones that I anticipate; they are the normal day-to-day airline annoyances that would never lead me to write to you. The events that led up to day 2, however, were not normal and not acceptable. Between running from gate to gate, depriving my child of sleep, having to buy diapers, wipes, food and a hotel room, and missing a day of work, I think that I am entitled to compensation from American Airlines. I have been a very faithful American Airlines traveler for years (and I travel quite a bit, both for work, and personal vacations). I always opt for American over other airlines, even if the price is a little higher. We are right now in the process of booking two flights—one to Israel for a vacation, and one to Fort Lauderdale for a conference, and I cannot bring myself to book on American, even though it is the most convenient for me. I have never felt as mistreated by an airline as I did on Jan. 16-17. I would like to be completely reimbursed the cost of the ticket and hotel ($260). As well, for my time and difficulties, I believe American Airlines should offer me a $300 voucher toward a ticket to be used at my discretion—standard operating procedure for bumping passengers from flights.

My husband will also be contacting you about this matter. I hope that you will resolve this matter swiftly, and restore our relationship to the happy one it once was, so that we can both return to flying with you.


Poor Princess


7 responses »

  1. Pingback: Dear Airline (Hotel, Cruise Line, Restaurant . . . ): I am SHOCKED and APPALLED! « The Poor Princess Diaries

  2. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for a movie with a similar title. I think this Louis C.K. clip is relevant to your ramblings:

    • I think I got a $300 voucher, which is pretty measly, all things considered. I seriously think that if my mother went through this experience, she’d be flying free on AA for life. What was interesting about that particular letter-writing activity is that The Scientist and I decided to each write a letter and see who got compensation. I wrote mine factually, and he wrote his very nastily. I got money and he didn’t.

  3. Extremely surprised…by this post on your blog… I’m a private citizen with many years in the service industry.. also a proud mother of 2 great young boys….with excellent vakues, and respect. I’m really hurt by this post as I’m a private citizen wih great values. Yes Im Priscilla…the airline employee with impecable record….I understand the frustration and stressful situation of traveling at times….I will not play the game of bad mouthig anyone..including I read in how you try to tarnish by the use of my personal name my the social media…and is ok to write to complaint if you feel deservice to a company , but using a personal name with malice .is untasteful….however I respectfully ask for my name to be remove from this post.
    I can say that if you felt deservice..we apologize..
    I will be more tan happy to respond to an email, privately….

  4. I’m sorry you feel that way, Priscilla, and as a kindness, I’ve deleted your last name–not because I think what you did was right in any way, but because I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that this is not the way you usually treat beleaguered parents who just desperately want to get their small children home. I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you had a bad day the day we met, and that it is not in your nature to create misery and despair. I hope you will remember this kindness and this benefit of the doubt next time a situation such as this one arises.

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