Wednesday, January 11, 2012

All Writing is an Opportunity.

January 11, 2012

American Airlines Customer Relations

P.O. Box 619612 MD 2400

DFW Airport, TX 75261-9612

Dear American Airlines Customer Relations,

I am home. My suitcase is home. I am very happy about those two things, as both achievements were unnecessarily difficult and fraught during my recent holiday sojourn on the mainland. I left my home on Kauai on December 15th, 2011, and arrived in Santa Barbara on December 16th, 2011, via Honolulu and Los Angeles. I was traveling with my brand new Samsonite suitcase (bright red with a purple tag!). Sadly, my suitcase did not join me at Santa Barbara until the afternoon December 17th. I shall be filing a claim for expenses under separate cover (file locator TDHVUN). I was quite upset at the time because (1) I had purchased two very nice princess dresses for my niece for Christmas at the Lihue WalMart on my way to the airport and they were in the suitcase, and (2) I was forced to buy underwear at a drug store. Not a fine moment, I’m sure you’ll agree, American Airlines Customer Relations.

What most confused me in my final call to your Luggage Relations Persons Number (aka Bag Status) was being informed that even if my bag were located, it might not be placed on a plane to Santa Barbara if you had contracted cargo with the United States Postal Service. I was disappointed to know that my ticket for air passage and carriage of my suitcase did not supersede the many Christmas catalogs that had to be delivered. Shop online, say I.

My suitcase was finally found— in a startlingly battered condition— standing alone at the Santa Barbara Airport. It was delivered to me, contents intact. Either the suitcase was on the move the entire time, and its condition was due to thirty hours of travel and handling (I’d look into that; that sounds expensive for you), or it experienced time travel and is now three or four years old. As the planes in your fleet do not approach a substantial fraction of the speed of light, I would guess the first. Special relativity works the other way in any case, American Airlines Customer Relations.

I imagined my troubles were over. I enjoyed my holiday, thank you, and my niece adored her princess dresses. On January 3rd (didn’t want to miss the Rose Parade!) I rose quite early and my mother drove me through a starlit, predawn morning back to the Santa Barbara Airport. Where there was nobody at American Eagle ready to service my flight to Los Angeles International Airport, where I was scheduled to board a nine a.m. flight direct to Lihue. I was glad of my direct flight, and glad to be getting home in the afternoon. You see, American Airlines Customer Relations, I had learned that I would have to appear at Wilcox Community Hospital in Lihue the next day for a doppler echocardiogram. I don’t have the results yet, but I thank you for your concern.

I did not get home that afternoon. As I stated, there was no one at the counter at Santa Barbara, and nor was there a flight. I was told I had been put on a flight just after noon. Further, I was now being sent from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and was on the last flight from Honolulu to Lihue. I would be landing at 10:36 p.m. at Lihue. This, American Airlines Customer Relations, was bad. I had four issues:

(1) I could no longer ask my neighbor to pick me up. That’s too late. So I incurred a $100 taxi fare ($120 with tip; the poor man lived in Omao, on the other side of the island).

(2) My mother had to come back to the Santa Barbara Airport, pick me up, feed me breakfast, and return me later that morning.

(3) When my original trip was canceled, I was given seat 35A on the flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu. 35A, American Airlines Customer Relations! Penultimate row to the rest rooms! As Henry Kissinger once famously said, “One only sits near the rest room if one has diarrhea or wishes to meet people who do.” Thanks to the agent at Santa Barbara when I showed up for my noon flight, I was moved to 11A. There’s a relief.

(4) When I called your Customer Service Number (I’m kidding— I called Reservations because your hieroglyphic Contact AA menu certainly does not include a straightforward phone number for Customer Service, hence this letter), I asked why I had not been notified of the change. I was told it was not your policy to notify travelers if they have not booked directly through you. But American Airlines Customer Relations, I plead to you as I did to them, I am an American Airlines Frequent Flyer (H7748W2)!

My disappointment was severe at this point, but I remained calm as I was destined for a heart test the next day. From my first arrival at the Santa Barbara Airport to my landing at Lihue, I calculate that my travel speed dropped to 150 miles an hour (I had plenty of time to do the math). I was forced to eat at a Burger King at Terminal Four at Los Angeles. I spent money that the cardiologist is going to want. And all along you had all of my contact information. There’s penny pinching, yes, but how much does one email cost? Ouch!

To add to my day, when I finally arrived home near midnight on January 3rd, there was a cane toad sitting on my toilet seat (see enclosed photo). It was just that kind of day, American Airlines Customer Relations.

Sincerely yours,

Lorelei Armstrong

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