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How American Airlines Customer Service Failed Me 3 Times

 How American Airlines Customer Service Failed Me 3 Times

While I generally like to keep things positive here on adventureswithben.com, I need to provide context to tomorrow’s pos on How Airline Customer Service is @ss Backwards by telling you a tale of woe today. Thank you in advance for indulging me. Let’s take a look at how American Airline’s Baggage Policy, and follow-up Customer Service were great examples of failure…

Fail #1 You Were Careless with My Suitcase

On December 8th I flew from Miami to Orlando on American Airlines. When I checked my bag, I unclipped the luggage clip from my suitcase (you know, the one that  can strap around a small bag and let it dangle from your suitcase) and placed it in one of the suitcase’s exterior pockets. Upon arrival in Orlando, this pocket was unzipped and the clip was missing.

There was no TSA note. Fault = American Airlines

Fail #2 Your Baggage Agent Refused to Listen to Me

I went to the baggage representative in the terminal and explained the situation. She made it very clear that American Airlines is not responsible for baggage clips – citing a policy in their conditions of carriage.

Now dear readers, as a frequent flier, I am well versed in baggage policies, and limitations. When South African Airlines lost my bag in 2007, I became very well educated in the policies and compensation rules of airlines. Had my baggage clip been attached on the outside of my bag, I really wouldn’t have a case. But the fact that my baggage clip was on the INSIDE of my suitcase, meant that I believed American Airlines should have covered my baggage clip. I considered it cargo. In fact, American Airline’s Baggage Policy is written as follows:

“American assumes no responsibility for damage to or loss of protruding [emphasis added by me] baggage parts such as wheels, straps, pockets, pull handles, hanger hooks or other items attached to the baggage.”

Last time I checked, securing your baggage clip on the inside of your bag is not, by definition, protruding. American Airlines demonstrated a lack of common sense, choosing to hide behind inaccurate interpretations of their baggage policy.

Warning to All Wheel, Strap, Pockets, Pull Handles & Hangar Salespeople

By American Airline’s logic, if you had a suitcase full of zipper pulls, straps and (gasp) baggage clips, and they lost or damaged them – they would not cover those contents of your suitcase. Do you see how ridiculous this is?

So I Wrote a Letter to Executive Customer Service

The standard Airline Customer Service route is generally not any more effective than the in-person customer service you’ll receive at the airport. So I wrote an email to their Senior Vice President of Customer Experience instead – Craig Kreeger. In my email, I made 2 requests:

  1. A check for $25.00 mailed to me personally to pay for a replacement clip ($25 happened to be the amount I paid to check my bag in the first place).
  2. 2,000 miles for my aggravation (a paltry amount).
Shortly thereafter I received an email from his assistant with a credit of 2,000 miles and a refund to my credit card in the amount of $25.

Fail #3 You Didn’t Listen to Me (Again)

I got my $25 back, so why was I still upset? I asked for a check mailed to me, not a credit card refund.


I paid for my baggage with a corporate credit card. Refunding my corporate credit card will not resolve the fact that my suitcase is broken. My company won’t credit me the money to get my suitcase fixed. American Airlines essentially did nothing to fix the main issue. Not-helpful-at-all.

I wrote a polite email back explaining the above concern, even offering that they remove the credit card refund and just mail me the check. All I wanted was to be able to purchase a replacement clip. The response I received was confusing at best.

“Thank you for your recent correspondence.  Since our baggage claim department has denied your claim, we do not override that denial. We do regret that we will not be able to send you a check for the damage claim that you are requesting.”

Is it me? But the very fact that they refunded my credit card in the first place meant that they “overrode” the baggage claim denial. I was merely asking for that resolution to actually resolve my issue. I persuaded the executive assistant to speak to me over the phone about my issue. We played a few rounds of phone tag. My last two voicemails went unanswered, unresponded.

I still have a suitcase without a baggage clip.

It’s not worth my time anymore. If American Airlines is fighting over a a pittance of $25, I’ll never fly them again.

While this story is about American Airlines, the reality is that the treatment I received is typical of most, major airlines. Tomorrow we’ll explore this customer service lapse further.

Until then, what do you think? Was American Airlines providing customer service? Or did they demonstrate complete ineptitude by not listening to my concern in the first place, and then aggrevating the situation later by doing what they thought would be easiest and not what would please the customer? Share by commenting.

I’ll see you out there…!



I’m sorry that your issue wasn’t addressed correctly from the beginning. As a longtime crewmember for a major airline, I empathize with your concern. I too hand over a bag when boarding a regional jet as a passenger, and I also remove my luggage strap, but I place it in my smaller carryon bag. It may be a bit late now, but if you still need a strap, I could send you one since I have several. Let me know.
P.S. You noted a “warning” in red on the webpage. Please note that a “hangar” as you spelled it is an airplane garage; a hanger hook as noted in the Baggage Policy is an attachment to luggage.


Awwww, thanks for the offer. Sadly, my bag handle actually broke yesterday, so it’s time for a new suitcase anyway.


I realize I’m a year late to this party…. But I have to agree with you, Ben! AA “refunding” your (corporate) cc $25 wasn’t them actually refunding $$ you had spent with them (eg, cost of your flight or checked bag). You really wanted the $25 to pay for a new luggage clip. So the logic that they would have to “refund” you to the method of payment you used (to book your flight or check your bag) doesn’t make any sense anyway. They should have mailed you a check like you asked!!

Ugh I HATE AA, and tried SEVERAL ways to talk to someone who would actually listen to me and care about the multiple mistakes their representatives had made throughout my travel-booking and travel experience, and no one cared. I wish I had known you back then, you would have guided me to contact their exec VP of customer service! I haven’t flown them since my ordeal, which I believe was in 2007. So that makes me feel a little better :) .


I’m with you Amanda. I have not flown them since, because of this very incident. Companies are so rigid in their policies that they neglect to really think about whether or not it solves the customer’s problem.


Businesses don’t like customer complaints, but that doesn’t mean they should ignore them. Complaints won’t go away, that’s why customer service has to get better and they need to start caring about you, me, and everybody else on the web! Hello it’s 2012 not 1990 :)
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Given the recent news that AA is laying off thousands of workers, it’s really not surprising what is happening. They’ve got a lot of work to do to build customer’s trust back.

Jan Ross

Wow, you are complaining because they immediately responded to your complaint and not only refunded your money but ALSO gave you miles? That’s not a valid complaint. The fact that they refunded your credit card is not their problem; it’s yours. How are they to know you can’t technically get that money back? That’s the card you used to pay with; that’s the card they refunded. I think you will find that is the policy in almost any situation where you return something to a store, etc. I read about terrible customer service from airlines all the time; sorry but I just don’t agree that this is one of them.
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Jan, I must respectfully disagree with your comment on all accounts. Here’s why…

1. They did not immediately respond to my complaint. It was only because the customer service person at the airport denied my original request that I was FORCED to email the Senior Vice President of Customer Experience for resolution. For an incident as simple as mine, and as cut and dry as mine, a consumer should not have to email the corporate executive for resolution. Why must customers fight so much? Why not just fix mistakes you make – right away.

2. The fact that they refunded my credit card is not my problem, it it their’s because… Adopting a policy that requires you to refund the transaction based on the way the original purchase was made is convenient for the company for sure, but it assumes that EVERY customer will be happy with that resolution. It, in essence, treats every customer situation the same, and neglects to consider that different people may have different circumstances. One size fits all is a poor approach to customer service. And this story highlights this very fact. Just because this practice is common in retail, doesn’t make it right and acceptable.

If a company genuinely wants to rectify a situation, they need to carefully listen to the customer’s situation and create a service solution that meets those needs (provided it’s not excessive). In my case, I had a broken suitcase that I need to repair. A corporate card will not pay for that – so this universal policy that AA adopted does not work in all situations – leaving a very angry customer.

3. With regards to your comment that I “can’t technically get that money back” – I’m not sure what you mean and how I could get that money back. Sure I could dispute the baggage charge, but the removal of the baggage fee doesn’t go into my pocket. It goes into my company’s pocket, so again, I would not be able to pay for repairs to my suitcase. Furthermore, if I I did try to recoup the money some other way, it would either A) be considered fraud if I lied about my situation to get that money [which I'd never do] or B) would be within my right to dispute the charge on my personal account (but this wasn’t card I used) and after dealings with the bank and airline, a resolution would be made.

4. Finally, the miles they gave me were a pittance. Seriously, for an airline to give miles is a perceived value, but it costs them next to nothing when it’s such a small amount.

Thanks for the comment and courage to dispute my argument. Would love to hear your response on this comment.


You know, reading your experience here, makes me worry more about who looks into our bags and how things may have lost. I know TSA opens people’s bags and stuff, and some luggage handlers also too. Last time when locks on my bags were open, TSA did not leave a note, so you never know who has a chance to look around in there.

I’ve had several “crisis” with airlines before too, most of them have the same attitude as AA, so I am not really surprised. One airline even won an award for their customer service before too ~ sigh~
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I never put anything of value in my checked bag. If I lose a shirt – no big deal. Everything of both sentimental and monetary value is in my carry-on – for that very reason.


Ben- you were right. Customer service is a lost art.


It makes me sad, which is why I sometimes fight the good fight.


Ohhh…You’ve inspired me to finally write that letter to Continental I’ve put on the back burner since December. Thank you!
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Get to it! Let me know how it turns out.