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ATA Airlines Complaint - My Nightmarish Experience With ATA

Review by 113COP on 2007-11-19
LAGUARDIA AIRPORT, NEW YORK -- In February 2007, my family of five flew on ATA Airlines from CA to NY. We had a horrible beyond belief experience. We were not allowed to sit together as the plane was overbooked, however that was the least of our problems. Although I have to tell you as a Mom, it really is a safety issue when your young children are separated from you and are sitting next to strangers. Not a good situation in today's society. We sat at the gate for two hours waiting for a connecting flight that was delayed. We were told that they were not going to move the plane until every single seat was filled and they weren't kidding. After the delayed flight showed up we then waited for stand by passengers to board. After everyone was finally on the plane, we then had to wait to be de-iced a second time because we had been sitting there so long that the wings iced up
again. Obviously, this is an acceptable delay because I'd rather not fly on an unsafe plane but we shouldn't have sat there so long as to make this necessary.

Then they started asking people to voluntarily get off the plane in exchange for $400 so they could put other people on. I thought the people who stayed on the plane should have been paid. I found it intolerable that we were inconvenienced for the sake of the airline maximizing its' profit. It was hot, there was no offer of food or water. I am disabled and at the time I was 6 months pregnant and traveling with my husband and three other kids (one a lap infant). You can imagine that the kids were besides themselves trying to stay in their seats because we were not allowed to get up and move around the cabin. The long delay was making my back hurt something fierce and I asked for a pillow. I was told I could have a pillow for $10. During the boarding, another passenger rammed their wheeled suitcase into my seat - breaking the seat and leaving a sharp edge on the seat which ripped the dress I was wearing.

When I complained about it, I was asked to get up and wait outside while the maintenance crew used duct tape to hold the seat together. This didn't sound all that safe to me. When we finally arrived at NY, we waited at the baggage claim for over an hour before realizing that our 5 checked bags weren't coming. We filed a claim (along with many others on the flight) and were told that we would be contacted within 24 hours. No one ever called us. After 2 days went by, we started calling and all we could get was an answering machine. After many infuriating phone calls and a lot of yelling, our bags showed up 4 days later. The bags were damaged, ransacked and we had many items destroyed and/or stolen.The airlines refused to pay us for any of our losses saying that we couldn't prove that their employees did it. I understand that the airline may need to look thorough some things for security purposes but this was completely overboard. I had factory sealed, shrink wrapped items that were torn open for no reason. I had gifts that I had brought back in boxes and even though the boxes were not sealed and could have easily been opened and closed they were ripped and torn at the seams. All the of neatly folded clothes were in a jumble. Everything was a completely mess.

They had opened toiletries but then failed to put the lids back on properly and also failed to put them back into the plastic bags that I had so they leaked all over everything, ruined some clothing and I had a huge mess to clean up. They had opened a container that held contact lenses in saline
solution. Since the case was left open, the contacts dried out and were ruined. There was a pair of headphones for a CD player that were crushed and the wires were ripped out of them. There were two music CD's in jewel cases that were completely shattered. I packed and insulated things very well so none of the damage can be blamed on that. Not only were things ruined but things were missing as well. We were very angry about the damage and the thefts but ATA claims it was our fault for packing those things. Huh? If I pack something in my luggage and it gets ruined through airline employee negligence or stolen by airline employees, it's my fault for having the audacity to pack it? Well, that will teach me, won't it?

We were also very upset by how unaccommodating and incompetent the employees were. I was told that they pride themselves on helping disabled and special need passengers and yet not one thing was done to see to our comfort. Even the simplest thing that could have been done, wasn't done, we weren't even allowed to pre-board. The entire experience was one problem after another and it was just inexcusable. We made many phone calls and wrote letters and we finally got some resolution or so we thought... We were offered a choice of travel vouchers in the amount of $1,600 which would cover the price of approximately four round trip tickets or we could take a cash settlement instead. We opted for the vouchers because we thought we could have a nice vacation with them. We received the vouchers and then in September of 2007, we used the vouchers (which had cash values printed on them) to purchase tickets on ATA from NY to CA.

We received e-tickets and confirmations of our flights. We then proceeded to make hotel and rental car arrangements for our trip. After we had the whole trip planned and money invested, ATA sends us an e-mail saying that they are no longer going to fly out of NY and we have no reservations with them. We called them to confirm this and got the run around for almost a week. We made many, many angry phone calls. They told us that they would reissue the vouchers to use on other flights. We kept telling them that the vouchers were useless because they didn't fly anywhere anymore that we could get to. They agreed that the vouchers were useless, however they were offering no other remedy. It was a case of, "you can't get there from here. " In the end, we got all the way up the corporate ladder to the CEO's office where we were told that we could have the vouchers and $100 and basically were told where to go.

We told them this was unacceptable and the person on the phone said, "fine, then you get nothing" and then refused to even issue new vouchers. We told them that we were going to sue them and they laughed at us. They claim they have no liability and furthermore don't care. Unbelievable arrogance! This was October 22nd. The next day, I heard that ATA filed for bankruptcy but I have been unable to confirm this. I hope that person loses their job. ATA is a disgrace and they have no concept of customer relations and their employees are rude and arrogant!!!!

Damage Resulting = As a result of all this, we spoke with a travel agent who is a friend of ours and she said we would be lucky to even find tickets at all because it was short notice and peak season. If we even found tickets, we would pay twice the price because of the situation. She was right. We had to spend almost $2,000 to get tickets. We have been injured because we never would have planned this vacation in the first place if we did not have the free plane
tickets. We knew it was unaffordable otherwise. We acted on good faith because we entered into a contract with ATA when we used the vouchers and received confirmation of our flights. Based on that agreement, we then invested money in the hotel and rental car which we would have lost had we canceled the vacation. We also feel that because ATA reneged on the deal, we were never compensated for our original losses. We had to borrow money to buy plane tickets and make this vacation happen because we did not want to disappoint our children and cancel the plans and lose the deposits we already paid. I know that in August, Gov. Spitzer of NY signed into effect an Airline Passenger Bill of Rights but I do not know if this situation is covered. We did purchase travel insurance and this situation is not a covered item, which is pretty ironic. What’s the point of the insurance?

I do not know how ATA can just leave people high and dry and not even attempt to help them make other arrangements and/or partner with other airlines to help their customers. There was an article in USA Today on October 11, 2007 regarding ATA's decision to end flight service at some of the airports they currently service. In the article, ATA professes to help all their customers “any which way they can” - what liars! It was a full five days after this article appeared in USA Today that ATA even bothered to contact their customers. That action or rather inaction in itself doesn’t display a whole lot of concern. I
did not find anything out myself until October 17th, 2007. The whole situation is simply outrageous. I believe it is breach of contract and should not be tolerated.

I reported this to the DOT, the Attorney General's Office, the Better Business Bureau and numerous online consumer sites. Recently, the BBB forwarded me a response letter they got from ATA. Honestly, it was the most unprofessional thing I've ever seen in writing. The letter was full of typos and basically called us liars. The person who wrote the letter also made things up to cover her own butt and said that my husband cursed at her and hung up the phone on her. Can you imagine a company treating people in this manner? What a bunch of amateurs! In the end, I am sure they will go out of business as they deserve to.
Comments:9 Replies - Latest reply on 2007-11-25
Posted by bargod on 2007-11-20:
Wow what a horrible experience. I will stay away from these guys. One question though. After such a bad experience the first time why would you accept vouchers to fly again with them?
Posted by Ponie on 2007-11-20:
Carry a grudge long, do you? If this took place in February, why did you wait until now for your endless, rambling complaint? I flipped over to the second page--but couldn't get through even the first quarter of it.
Posted by 113COP on 2007-11-20:
To Bargod: We originally accepted the vouchers on the advice of the employee who offered them because she told us that they were worth more than the settlement we would have gotten for our damaged and stolen items. We often fly to the destination (although never before or since on ATA) so we figured it was a free trip. At this point, we would not accept vouchers from them, we want to be compensated monetarily which was a prior option that they have since reneged on. Thanks for asking for clarification though. It is a good point.

To Ponie: As you said, you didn't bother reading it. The original situation happened in February 2007 and I was compensated for it with a free trip. I tried to redeem the free trip a few weeks ago and they reneged on it. So to answer your sarcastic comment, no I don't hold grudges long. This was a recent occurance. Thanks for your unnecessarily nasty input though. I would recommend that you fly them.
Posted by keyjockey on 2007-11-23:
Typical airlines. They'll let terrorists sit side by side and blow up the plane but sitting next to your kid certainly not!!!
Posted by Ryan84 on 2007-11-24:
Wow, this sounds awful! but if anyone went through your bags, it was the TSA, not ATA. However, I hope they are not as bad as you make them seem, My fiance and I are flying ATA to Maui next July for our honeymoon! (along with USAirways and Delta)
Posted by 113COP on 2007-11-25:
To Ryan 84: If the experience wasn't as bad as it sounded I wouldn't have spent as much time pursuing it as I have. Unfortunately I didn't exaggerate, if anything I downplayed the experience. Check on line and you will see how bad their ratings are. I wish I had known before I flew them. As for the bags, anyone could have gone through the bags once they left our possession, ATA employees or the TSA. However, once we checked the bags with ATA personnel - the bags became their responsibility to care for and they took no care. Hope you have a good trip in July - Good Luck.
Posted by Ryan84 on 2007-11-25:
Ok, your right, the airline may very well have gone through the bags. Unofrtunatly your stuck in between 2 pointing fingers! the TSA pointing at ATA and ATA pointing at the TSA! I try to travel with trial sized toilettries to limit damage if it leaks, or I buy cheap toilettries upon getting to my distination so i wont feel bad throwing them away at the end of the trip (Suave shampoo 21 oz bottle for $1.29!!) But i do feel bad for you because I know how much it sucks when things get stolen from your luggage. In my experience it WAS the DFW TSA, and it was found and returned to me and the TSA employee fired! HA! If I were you I would seriously consider driving across town to JFK and flying JetBlue. even if their fares are a little more expensive then some of the legacy carriers!(they usually are not) They are worth it.
Posted by 113COP on 2007-11-25:
To Ryan84: I will look into Jet Blue out of JFK - thank you for the suggestion. This was the first and last time I flew ATA for this destination, we have flown U.S. Airways and United in the past without incident. I probably should file a complaint with the TSA regarding the handling of the luggage. I don't think they will do anything but at least they will have the incident on report. If the tolietries had leaked due to an unfortunate accident it would have been one thing but like I said - the caps were taken off and left off and the items were not returned to their sealed ziploc bags. It was almost as if some employee thought that would be funny. Apparently they are severely bored if they have time for things like that. Maybe next time I will buy trial sizes upon arrival and throw them out before I leave, still it's a shame that you have to go to that length to protect yourself and your belongings. Have a good day.
Posted by DigitalCommando on 2007-11-25:
113 cop check your inbox message at the top right

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