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American Airlines Customer Disservice, Part II

Jul
13
2006

A week has passed since I filed a formal complaint about American Airlines after they charged $100 for a replacement paper ticket that was, in reality, an “electronic” ticket.

The salient part of the automaton response issued a few seconds after I filled out the form said: “We are currently experiencing higher than normal email communications from

our customers and our response to you may be delayed.”

Well, how soon is now? It neatly sidesteps any estimation of when one might expect a response. So far, nothing. Dealing with Italian bureaucrats has taught me that letting things go for a few days without pelting them with phone calls and faxes is paramount to giving up, so I re-emailed them.

Surprise, surprise: the same identical automatic message. I wondered if “Sean Bentel”, the customer relations rep who “signs” the message, was an actual person.

Google turned up virtually nothing about Mr. Bentel, apparently a veteran in fielding customer ire for American Airlines, but a lot about how to make effective complaints.

First thing to take into account: it will take ages. Christopher Elliott, who runs a customer service blog chock full of complaining savvy and impressive results as a paladin of irate travelers, says to wait six-to-eight weeks for an answer. If they haven’t answered or denied your request, then you can get the big guns out and ask Elliot for help.

Six to eight weeks? That is an eternity. It seemed that way as a kid, when it was the standard time that your box tops went at snail’s pace for your Cap N’ Crunch official Note Writing Kit or whatever. I would imagine airlines count on a certain amount drop-off due to the time lag. Two months is a long time to chase after an apology, or, in this case, $100.

It’s a short click over from this information to, say, the Airline report card, which shows American Airlines plunging downward from the top position, in 1991, to its current 10th place and lots of similar, but really horrific, complaints about American Airlines from other travelers.

I’m one of these people who still falls into the trap of thinking that electronic means easy. Remember when complaining meant all you could do was type a letter and send it off, maybe with a copy to the Better Business Bureau? You might phone or even fax. Check out back issues of Consumer Reports at the library for solace. But that was it.

The amount of information available now means that we need to become personal experts on everything from airline travel rights to tumors. (A dear friend emailed me this morning to tell me he is having brain surgery. Not to worry, the missive said, if you don’t believe me just Google the type and you’ll see it’s low-risk. In the space of an hour, I know that I should have lower expectations about swift answers to customer service and higher ones about certain kinds of brain surgery).

No matter. I always waited patiently for my box-top prizes. I’ll wait this one out, too.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:50 PM | Permalink

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