Sunday, November 19, 2006

American Airlines sucks. Don't fly them.

Entry for Tuesday, 02 August, 2005

And speaking of companies that should be out of business...

American Airlines lost my son yesterday. He had flown to New York at the end of June for a summer program at a Yeshiva there. His itinerary, which I printed out for both of us before he left, was clearly arranged for him to return home on August 1st, which was yesterday. When my son arrived at the airport, he was told that he didn't have tickets for any flight on August 1st (even though his printout clearly says "confirmed" right on it), and that his flight was scheduled for the next day. They told him he would have to pay them $200 to "change" his ticket, which his receipt plainly showed did not need to be changed.

A few hundred dollars worth of long distance calls later, American Airlines decided to claim that our travel agent mysteriously decided to change his flight to the next day sometime after we had purchased the tickets, which is absolute bull. The flight he had originally been scheduled for was supposed to have been at 11:00 a.m., and he missed his flight because of this idiocy. The travel agent then booked him on the 2:00 flight. However, after talking with the school, which said they would be happy to have him stay another night and fly out tomorrow if he couldn't get another flight, my son apparently didn't pay attention to the last part of that sentence and went outside to the passenger pickup to wait for transportation. In the meantime, the ticket counter at American Airlines paged him, and since he was no longer in the terminal and didn't hear them, they decided they were done with the problem and went about their merry business.

So about 1:00 p.m. I called back to make sure everything was ok for the 2:00 flight, and they said he wasn't booked for the 2:00 flight. I asked why not. They said they didn't know where he was. After seeing they didn't particularly care, either, where he was (he is a minor, for the record), I called airport security and told them to look for him, which they did - although I must confess I don't believe for one second that they "don't have email" when I asked if I should email them a picture of him. They weren't terribly efficient, either. If he had been a terrorist then La Guardia would now be a pile of rubble because my son told me on the phone security walked right by him several times before "seeing" him. By the way: he is thin, dark complected, and, oh yeah, carrying a black back-pack. Don't you feel safe flying now that you know security can't find someone who frankly looks like a middle eastern terrorist sitting right in front of them?

So, my son goes back to American Airline's counter and they say - guess what? - that no, the travel agent hadn't taken care of the problem and he still needed to pay them $200 that he didn't have - which the agent assures me is also a load of crap, because she booked him on the 2:00 p.m. flight without difficulty by way of her agency's usual and customary computer uplink.

At this point, since I had already talked to the school and they were fine with him coming back, I told him to call his Rabbi at the school and arrange it, since American Airlines is apparently run by people with the collective IQ of a doorknob.

For the record, American Airlines says that they "don't consider" him a minor. I pointed out to them that how they categorize people for billing purposes has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that he is a legal minor and that any and all laws and regulations regarding child welfare apply to him and to them when they allowed him to fly without a parent. Their reckless disregard for the facts and for his welfare constitutes neglect and endangerment of a minor under child welfare laws. (They, like any other corporation that does business with, cares for, or transports children, are required by law to act in loco parentis of minors who are with them unattended.)

But they obviously don't think they have any responsibility. So if I were you I would never, never, allow my child to fly with American Airlines again. In fact, if I were you I wouldn't fly American Airlines myself.

In fact, the airline industry in general needs to go out of business and be reborn under regulations that require them to be ethical and legal - and not just in their treatment of children, either. If any other type of business sells something to one person and then turns around and sells it to someone else, too (and then acts surprised when both of them expect to receive it), that is called fraud and it is a crime. Yet somehow when airlines sell me a seat and then also sell my seat that I have already paid for to someone else and tells me I can't fly in my seat that I paid for already because they also sold it to someone else who got there five minutes before I did - that's business as usual for airlines.

The airlines business as it is today is a scam that needs to be shut down. They will not take reasonable responsibility for the minors who fly, their security is a joke, and their business practices are unethical and dishonest.

And gee whiz, people are voting with their feet, in case they hadn't noticed. Wonder why the airlines are in financial trouble? Maybe because people who have a choice would rather drive, even, than fly? I wonder why?

One other thing, class. I also found out yesterday that all six of us can take the train to New York when we go next time for less than $1000 dollars round trip. It was over $3000 the last time we all went by air, this past March. Guess how I'm going to travel from now on?

Bye-bye, bankrupt airlines. You did it to yourselves.

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