An Open Letter to Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines

fooI'm looking to the sky to save me...

...Looking for a sign of life.

Foo Fighters-Learn to Fly


Dear Mr Parker:

Greetings and Happy Holidays to you and your family. We are well, and just completed a wonderful warm weather vacation. Oh, there were some hitches along the way, and we thought you might like hearing about them, as American Airlines was the main "hitcher."

First of all, I would like to thank you and airline executives all around the country for all those strategic mergers. I can't think of a better way to limit competition, decrease flight availability and overcrowd your planes. Not to mention creating a ticket pricing system that is totally incomprehensible. Coincidentally, we have had the pleasant opportunity recently of flying both Virgin America and Alaska Airlines. Maybe you would merge with one of those independents and "improve" them too!

So where were we...oh yes, our holiday trip! Seven of us, heading from our home base in Chicago to sunny Florida to celebrate Barb's and my special (ahem) birthdays. So we splurged and booked the outgoing flights First Class, a rare treat, but something we were all looking forward to doing together. The scheduled mid-morning flight out of O'Hare was perfectly timed to allow enough time to reach the airport  (important with baby-on-board), and still give us some time for fun in the FLA sun. At least that was the plan.

Midnight. Ten hours before anticipated departure. Every cell phone and IPad in our house house starts beeping and trilling. I stagger to get to one of the phones, fearing a midnight call must be about some health issue. Then the  disembodied computer voice comes over the phone speaker. "Your flight has been cancelled. You have been rebooked on," followed by a string of flight numbers and times shot out so fast I had to listen four times to get them all down. I then realized our party had been split into two, with three of us (including baby) with a transfer in Philly, and four of us on a double transfer to both Detroit and Philly before we would see Miami.

While I was shifting through the message, Barb was on the phone to American Airlines Customer Service. Notice that the phrase Customer Service includes neither the word "friendly" or "helpful." And Mr. Parker, the phone agent was neither! Barb questioned whether the timing of the flights was sufficient to make connections, did we have other options, and also whether our First Class Status would be retained. These questions all seemed to be of little interest to the agent, but what could we really expect from a poor customer service rep woken at midnight. No wait, WE were the ones woken at midnight.

Well, all of us made it out of O'Hare in the morning. The Chicago-Philly-Miami itinerary worked out fine. Chicago-Detroit-Philly-Miami, not so fine. Stranded overnight in Detroit! But on our third try in the Detroit airport we did find some friendly, helpful American agents, who booked two hotel rooms for us and assured us we didn't have to worry about our luggage, it would get be waiting for us in Florida the next day. So we settled in, caught the new "Star Wars" and set our alarm clocks for a very early Detroit to Miami flight the next morning.

The sunrise flight was flawless. We were in Florida. Our luggage? American Agent Number One, after clacking on a keyboard "Your luggage just came in from Philadelphia and is on that carousel." Nope. Agent Number Two. More clacking on keyboard. "Your bags are coming in from Philadelphia tonight and will be delivered to your hotel." Not acceptable. Supervisor, half hour later, not bothering to clack. "To be honest with you, since our merger with USAir, we are working with two computer systems that don't talk to each other. I bet your bags are in the old USAir baggage center. Let me walk you over." Success. Kudos to that intrepid supervisor, but just what were those other agents clacking?

Anyway Mr. Parker, despite our misadventures we had a great time on our vacation. We were just happy you didn't cancel our half empty flight home! It was nice to fly without someones knee in my back.


Your former frequent flyers,

Les and Barb


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