Subject: Claim against American – advice needed
I have a serious claim against American Airlines and need advice on how to proceed.
My family and I were recently flying from PHL
to DEN. We checked in and received boarding passes stating “doors close
10 min prior to scheduled departure time”. The security lines were very
long, plus American initially sent us to the wrong terminal, but we were
at the gate 13 min before departure – to be told that because the
flight was oversold, they did not wait until 10 min and gave our seats
to other customers.
We were very upset and got into an
argument, after which police were called and we were removed from the
terminal. The reason given was our behavior – I was accused of
threatening the agent (convenient for them, but completely untrue) and
as for my wife – the reason was “I don’t like your attitude”.
Our kids were not accused of anything, but were upset and crying.
We then went to American counter and were told
that our tickets have been cancelled and we have to go to another
airlines. We bought new tickets from United for $4100 and we lost a
vacation day. In addition, my wife’s medical condition was aggravated.
I have a lot more details plus a wonderful
picture of the agent trying to hide under his desk from being
My attempts to reach a settlement with American
have so far been fruitless – they are offering to refund the original
tickets, but that would be a fraction of what we lost.
Their Legal Department is very well protected,
and my attorney has not been able to reach anyone at the number given to
me by Customer Relations.
Do you have advice for me?
If, as is likely, you get nowhere with
American, you have the option of a small claims lawsuit. No attorney is
needed. You can sue in any county where American has a presence. You
can sue for monetary damages only. If, as is likely, American does not
send a representative, you will present your side of the case and will
win. If they do show up, they will try to have the case moved to a
higher court, where you would need an attorney. If you win, you send
your judgement to their headquarters in Fort Worth for collection.
If you want to sue for more than monetary
damages, such as pain, suffering, embarrassment, etc. you will need a
personal injury attorney willing to take the case. They normally work
on a commission basis so there is no fee unless you win. If your
personal attorney wants to help you he should write to anyone at
American headquarters at the address above. He can send his letter to
the legal department or any executive on up to Doug Parker, the CEO.
Again, we advise writing, not calling so anything promised would be in
writing. The airlines are good at promising things that do not happen.
If you want other contacts at American, or
have any other questions do not hesitate to contact me. We are here to
help. Please keep us in the loop as to your progress. If you feel so
inclined, we always appreciate donations at our website www.flyersrights.org.
Joel J Smiler DVM
Thank you for all the info, Joel.
I have already had several communications with
them so there is more to the story – please see attached the latest
communication (April 5) which sums everything up.
When you have a chance, I would appreciate your comments.
I also have a couple of specific questions:
Does American have the right to cancel our
tickets (including return tickets which were in fact on a different
Is it a violation of any law to take a photo of the gate agent?
Thanks in advance
If you were, in fact, at the gate with
more than ten minutes before departure and the flight was oversold, then
you would all be entitled to the “bumping” compensation, plus they
would have had to honor your tickets and get you on the next available
flight. This is complicated by the dust up with the gate agents and
police. That would likely be their argument against compensation of any
I will give you the email address of a
contact at American. You can ask for whatever compensation you feel you
are owed, such as the difference in the price of the walk-up fare you
had to pay the other airline and what you had paid for your American
tickets. That would be reasonable, but again I do not know how
receptive they will be. We advise doing whatever you do by email or US
mail, not by phone, so you have a record of whatever they promise you.
The contact at American is:
Vice President Customer and Relations
4333 Amon Carter Blvd
Fort Worth, TX 76155.
I was pleased to find your website and I am writing to you to ask for advice.
I did book a ticket on the American Airlines
(AA) website to travel from Memphis (TN) to Casablanca (Morocco), via
Philadelphia and Madrid (Spain) on 03/05/2016, returning on 03/12/2106. I
was allowed to make that purchase and to board in Memphis (AA 3934).
However, in Philadelphia I was denied boarding on AA 740 to Madrid
(Spain) on the ground that my US passport was about to expire in two
months (actual expiration date is: 05/18/2016) and in spite of the fact
that my boarding pass had the mention “Docs Ok”.
By searching the internet, I verified that
this rule about passport having to be within 3 months of expiration date
is indeed real. However, I wonder why AA since they knew about this
rule did let me purchase a ticket. I contacted their customer service
department who declined to issue a refund on the grounds that their
policy is that documentation requirements are “the full responsibility”
of the traveler.
This to me appears very deceptive: by
not disclosing this policy AT TIME ticket purchase AA is misleading its
customers by enticing them to purchase tickets while knowing that these
tickets have a chance to be declined and to cause substantial hardship
and financial loss to the purchaser. There may be some mention of this
“full responsibility” policy on the travel documents issued AFTER ticket
purchase, but this, to the best of my knowledge, may represent an
unfair business practice.
Is this also your opinion? I did also contact FAA and they were responsive. Any other suggestion?
We have had several questions like this
one on our hotline. While the airline (not just AA) are required to
collect passport information when making a reservation, the reservation
systems of the US airlines at least, do not kick out reservations where
the passport expires before the required time for the countries where
you are traveling. As American stated, it is up to the passenger to
research the passport and visa requirements of those countries to which
they are going.
Where American did make an error was in
allowing you to leave Memphis. You should never have been allowed to go
at all. I would say that the only compensation you might be due would
be if they charged you to get you back to Memphis. If you were charged
extra, I would dispute that charge with American, and if needed, your
credit card company.
If you still want to make your trip, you
should be able to use the same ticket, minus any change fees and change
of fare, after you obtain a new passport.
I know that this is not what you wanted
to hear from us, but this is the situation as it exists at the present
time. If I can answer any other questions or you need contacts at
American, let me know. I would start at their regular email contact on
Joel J Smiler DVM
Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Your
response is not what I want to hear indeed, but it is comforting to
hear this from a source other than AA.
Let me also mention that in addition to the
mishap of letting me board in Memphis, AA did load my suitcase on the
plane to Madrid while they knew that I was not on the plane. I have a
record of my phone conversation with AA agent acknowledging that my
suitcase was in Madrid. (My suitcase eventually made it back home). I
have contacted the FAA to report these two mishaps and they are pursuing
the case. If this is of interest to you, I will share the outcome with
From a consumer standpoint, I believe it is
wrong for airline companies to pocket the money without informing the
customer of these rules BEFORE finalizing the ticket purchase since in
the end it is the airline companies who enforce these rules at time of
boarding and/or check in. Why can’t they do this checking at time of
purchase? This does not make sense.
CC’d to FlyersRights:
Dear friends over my 76 years,
Pass this on to anyone you know in these states: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington.
Driver’s licenses from nine states won’t be valid IDs for domestic flights in 2018. See that section in the latest Newsletter
Forwarded to you, the latest Newsletter from FlyersRights.org. Costs
nothing to join, but stands up for your interests as a passenger, and
I’ve donated about $10,000 since 2007 and I’ve proofread the newsletter
weekly as an unpaid volunteer for several years.
Join FlyersRights to keep up, and forward this to anyone you know in the states affected. The
processing time for passports is certain to grow, possibly to several
months, with applications from those states, so help your friends get
ahead of the curve by telling them now.