American Airlines customers stranded in Miami

Non profit blasts American Airlines

Published On: Apr 17 2013 07:09:01 PM EDT
Ruth to the Rescue Logo

American Airlines says its flight are back to normal after a massive technological meltdown Tuesday and Wednesday, but the customer service nightmare will linger on.

Members of a Detroit-area non-profit say they were stranded for the night in Miami without any hotel rooms, and very little sympathy from the airline.

Members of RainCatchers.org arrived at Detroit's Metro Airport on April 17th. They were tired, frustrated, and arrived without their luggage.

"They said all of our luggage was in a room on carts and there's absolutely no way they're going to even attempt to get our luggage," volunteer Brian Meloche told Ruth to the Rescue.

Mission of Mercy Turns Into Awful Journey

The volunteers were in Haiti for a week building systems that allow Haitians to filter rain water and use it for their everyday needs. They say the trouble started at the airport in haiti.

"We were an hour late to board, sat on the plane for give five hours, got a little bit of water, granola bar. Sat basking in the sun, no air-conditioning whatsoever," remembered volunteer Olivia Taylor.

When they arrived in Miami, their connecting flight to Detroit was eventually canceled. In addition to not having any luggage, they say American Airlines told them it could not provide any hotel rooms, despite some urgent pleas.

"We have someone that's completely ill, needs a hotel room, we need at least one, and they said no! It was no apologies!" said volunteer Olivia Taylor.

She continued, "Then we started searching for hotel rooms and we found a Holiday Inn that had 19 rooms available, and we booked it. And they, American Airlines. will not reimburse us."

The group says it spent $900 on six rooms for its 13 members. Members say it’s not about the money, but what that money could be used for.

"Any money that we lose in, let's say American Airlines, it actually takes away from being able to provide systems for, ah, Haiti," said volunteer Brian Meloche.

The entire group was extremely frustrated with the level of customer service provided, even though they acknowledge American must have been going through a major crisis.

"We just expected a little respect from American Airlines, their supervisors, and everybody else working at this airport," said Meloche.

The group is not alone. American and sister airline American Eagle canceled 970 flights and delayed at least 1,068 more be early evening on April 16th.

American blamed the outage on a loss of access to computer networks that are used for flight reservations and many other functions. Airlines commonly rely on such systems to track passengers and bags, monitor who boards planes, and update flight schedules and gate assignments. The computers are also used to file flight plans and tell employees which seats should be filled to ensure that the plane is properly balanced.

American's Response

American Airlines responded to Ruth to the Rescue's questions with an email. It said in part,

"We worked hard to assist our customers during a difficult situation. We kept both of our Admirals Clubs at MIA open all night to accommodate club members unable to obtain a hotel room. We also set up cots at the auditorium to accommodate other passengers. Employees passed water and granola bars to customers as they waited in line.

As for their luggage, we had luggage that misconnected, other luggage that was rerouted and other luggage that were simply not claimed. We are working on the backlog....

In summary, we’re obligated to refund the unused portion of their ticket if we are unable to provide travel. If we can’t provide them air travel on the day they were ticketed, we will do our best to “provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.” This means, we’ll try - but only those with special needs and/or disabilities are we obligated (but this falls under ADA rules/guidelines). If there is no hotel availability, we apologize and we are in no way obligated to compensation beyond the unused ticket purchase price.

Again we apologize to our customers."

To learn more about RainCatchers.org follow this link: www.raincatchers.org