07 September 2013

Conclusion: American Airlines Damaged My Stroller

This handle should be straight across, not dipping down
on the right. And the gripper should NOT be sliced like that.
As I wrote about in July, American Airlines damaged my City Mini stroller, and the damage includes a very bent handle, a sliced handle gripper and other roughing up to the stroller frame.

After we got home from Minneapolis I took the stroller and its bag to the Baton Rouge airport as directed by the airline. The ticket agent took the bag and sent it to Dallas to be repaired (I still haven't heard back on that issue, so I guess this saga isn't really over). He wasn't even going to zip it up (the zipper is very damaged on the custom bag, but Shawn had worked to get it to zip up enough for our return flight). But I did zip it up before he tossed it on the luggage carousel, although it would have been damaged beyond any repair if it had traveled as he wanted to send it. (Just an aside about the professionalism seen when dealing with this kind of stuff. No offense to the guy.)

I asked him about the stroller itself and whether I could appeal the decision by the baggage employee in Minneapolis who told Shawn the company policy was a strict "we do not cover stroller damage." I detailed the damage and showed him how it looked almost intentional and how I couldn't imagine how something like this would have happened in normal air travel operations. He agreed but said he couldn't do anything/wasn't empowered to change this company directive. He told me I could call Central Baggage Service in Dallas to ask about an appeal.

When I got home I did that (and BTR didn't validate parking so I was out $1 ... at least I had called ahead and didn't have to wait in a long line to talk to the guy). It took three phone calls to actually be connected to someone -- something kept happening with their system to kick me off. Then the representative told me the number I'd been given was only for delayed baggage. She couldn't help me with damage. She gave me another number, which took another three tries to get through -- and I found out I'd been re-routed to the original call center only dealing with delayed bags. ARGH! I explained the situation to the rep, and she asked a supervisor who told her to tell me to just email customer service as there isn't a phone number to talk to someone about damaged bags. Lovely.

So I did email American Airlines customer service, not expecting any response or compensation. I got an automated "we got your message" as soon as I sent it. A few days later I did get a message from an actual person, and it included his name (although it was still from a do-not-reply address). The message was something like "decisions like this are left in the hands of our ground crew, but I'll ask our manager to review this and if he decides we can compensate you we'll be in touch."

FUMING.

I appreciated the response, but I don't think they should be able to have it both ways -- the people on the ground saying corporate has this rule and we have no authority to change it and the people at corporate saying we can't do anything because the people on the ground have to make a decision at that time. ARGH!

After more than week I wrote again (back in the form online that takes ages to fill out because it needs your flight number, time of departure, etc.) and expressed that feeling/trying to call bullsh*t on it and asked for a decision and some explanation either way. I had offered at every encounter to provide photos of the damage but no one ever took me up on it. I got another auto response.

A few days later I got a reply from the same customer service rep again saying that the decision has to be made by the people on the ground. They're sorry I'm still upset, blah blah. Here's a $100 voucher for future flight on American Airlines. Hopefully your next flight with us will be better/we aim to serve you. Ugh.

The damage to the stroller was more like $150, so I guess I should feel glad to have recouped most of the cost (although am I really going to buy a new stroller frame and basket? I haven't yet.). But the whole thing has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I'm not sure how we'll travel with our stroller in the future, but I know we will (assuming we can get our stroller bag back ... must check on that soon).

I guess I just wish the customer service was less about CYA and more about actually taking responsibility for doing something wrong -- namely effing up a piece of luggage. There's nothing more I can do about it now, but I thought I would write it out for those who might be interested -- and in solidarity if anyone ever Googles for "American Airline stroller damage."

I also realize how small an issue this really is in light of the big picture -- both of the world at large and my life overall. It's quite annoying in any case, and I'm trying to keep it in perspective even as I write about it nonstop. Thanks for bearing with me.

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