FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA -- On February 8, 2007 I traveled with my husband and infant son on American Airlines flight number 2214, traveling from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Fort Lauderdale Florida. My husband was traveling to Puerto Rico at the behest of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and American Airlines is their carrier of choice. I decided to accompany him because I am a frequent flier on American Airlines and have always been very satisfied with the respect and attention the airline gives to its customers. All things being equal, such as the cost of a plane ticket, the only reason to select one airline over another is customer service. I travel extensively, and take the quality of customer service, or the lack thereof, very seriously. This most recent travel experience has made me reconsider my decision to fly exclusively with American Airlines.
On the afternoon of the flight, we arrived at the airport two hours early and were greeted by a staff that was courteous and polite and represented the type of customer service I have come to expect from American Airlines. That was the last positive experience I had that day. We arrived at the gate to learn that the flight was delayed an hour and a half. No announcement was made, and no customer service representative was present at the gate, so the only way we learned this was by looking at the board. No explanation was given for the delay. The flight was scheduled to depart at 4:20, but did not begin boarding until six o’clock. At no time were we offered any kind of food voucher or offered any assurance that the flight would be boarding shortly. So, not knowing the exact status of the flight, we were unable to leave the gate area to have lunch.
We were placed in the last row of the plane, where the stench from the toilet was overwhelming. There were two flight attendants assigned to the rear of the aircraft, and when we inquired as to the reason for the delay, we were told that the pilot was, “late for work.” When we inquired as to whether there was anything that could be done about the extremely foul odor emanating form the bathroom, we were told that there was not, and the flight attendant’s response was, “I have to be back here too.” We remained on the ground for approximately thirty minutes, with still no official explanation for the delay or any apology for it.
Once the plane began to prepare for takeoff, it became apparent that the instructional safety video was malfunctioning. Instead of the flight attendants beginning a manual instruction of the appropriate use of the seatbelts, flotation devices, and oxygen masks, they sat mute in the back of the plane. Shortly thereafter, the co-pilot came on over the intercom and stated that the video was malfunctioning and all we really needed to know was, “don’t inflate the vests inside the aircraft.” Not only was this extremely unprofessional, but I’m fairly certain it violated FAA safety regulations.
After take-off, the flight attendants began to sell snacks. Because most of the people on the plane had been waiting for several hours in the airport, not knowing when the plane would be departing, the snacks were gone by the time the cart reached the back of the plane. My husband asked the flight attendant if there was anything else available to eat, and inquired as to why he was not permitted to purchase something prior to the snacks being sold out. He also asked to be moved because the stench from the toilet was still overpowering. My infant son was asleep in his arms, so when my husband made this inquiry, his voice was subdued and he was extremely polite. The appropriate response to this would have been, “I’m so sorry you’re not having a pleasant experience with American Airlines today. We work very hard to make sure our customers are satisfied and pleased with our service. I don’t know that I can find you something to eat, but I’ll try and if there’s anything I can do to make you more comfortable, please let me know.” Instead, she said, “It’s not my fault. This is the way it is now; you just have to roll with the punches.” He responded that he was a paying customer and had, in fact, paid $650.00 for his ticket, so he really didn’t think he had to “roll with the punches.” She responded again that it wasn’t her fault and they (meaning American Airlines), didn’t feed her either. The obvious difference is that she was working and we had paid a significant amount of money for our tickets. Regardless, the response was completely unprofessional, inappropriate, and rude. Her cavalier attitude was not reserved solely for us; the gentleman seated across from us was a business traveler who had paid over a thousand dollars for his ticket. He inquired about a bottle of water and was told it would cost $2.50. The same flight attendant gestured to the galley and told him that he could get a cup of tap water if he wanted.
When the flight attendant returned with the beverage cart, I asked her if she could please tell me her name. All of the flight attendants on board were wearing name tags, and hers was noticeably absent. She informed me that she did not have to give me her name. My husband, who is a deputy sheriff for Palm Beach County, Florida, told her that he had to wear a name tag and would be very surprised if the same were not true for her. He then asked to speak with her supervisor. She replied that she was the supervisor and she would not be giving us her name. She then said, “You know what, this is harassment, I am going to have the police meet the plane.” My husband, knowing he did nothing wrong, invited her to do so.
Clearly, asking for an employees name in order to register a complaint is not harassment and even if it is perceived as such, is not illegal. We did not raise our voices and did not so much as unbuckle our seatbelts. Even in the light most favorable to the flight attendant, we did not assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with this flight attendant in the performance of her duty. As the police did not meet the plane, it is clear that she intended only to make an empty threat. Threatening to have someone arrested is not only unprofessional its offensive and an abuse of power. Her behavior was inexcusable, and caused us both a great deal of stress.
I can only assume that the flight attendant did not want to give her name because she did not want her deplorable behavior reported. I would very much like to provide American Airlines with her name so that appropriate action can be taken. Unfortunately, I can only say that she was an African-American female and her uniform was a high-necked style that differed from the white shirt and jacket style that the other flight attendant was wearing. I am forced to take her at her word that she was in fact a supervisor, but if that is the case, American Airlines has very serious problems with its promotion process as she seemed to have absolutely no training in appropriate customer service.
At the very least I would like a response from your company regarding this incident. Thank you for your time.