After having our International, Non-Profit, Humanitarian Mission Trip to Guatemala canceled by our host missions organization due to major safety concerns (i.e. recent kidnapping / death threats related to the organization), we started calling American Airlines in hopes of minimizing our losses on our canceled tickets… ($1,800.00 in fees and penalties – Keep in mind this money came from donations and fundraisers.)
First off, American Airlines is very clear about their cancelation policy of $150.00 and I know that American Airlines doesn’t “OWE” us anything. That said, because of the nature of my team’s situation, I figured I would give AA an opportunity to go “above and beyond the call of duty” and do right by a non-profit organization and help us out. Thus, we gave them a call…
During our three calls with International Reservations Supervisors at American Airlines, we explained that our trip had been canceled due to safety issues in Guatemala, we explained that we were missionaries, that the finances for these tickets came from fundraisers and donations, and that we were going to Guatemala to build a house for a poor family in mountains above Guatemala city.
They weren’t impressed.
Thus, we made the business case to them… We stated that they could sell these tickets for a higher fare as these tickets were on heavily booked flights and that we were trying to cancel asap in order to give them more time to resell these tickets. Additionally, they would gain our loyalty and future business by helping us out.
They were still unimpressed.
When I asked them what motivation a customer had to cancel early as opposed to wait until the last minute, the International Reservations Supervisor told me that “they didn’t care”. He actually said “if we can’t sell the seats, we will just take on more cargo, it’s not a loss for us.”
A different International Reservations Supervisor suggested that we should go ask 6:8 Ministries to cover the fees… (Seriously?!?! “Don’t ask the BILLION DOLLAR Corporation to help you out!!! That’s not what we do!! Instead, you should ask the non-profit, humanitarian, missions organization!!!!)
As if saying “no, we can’t help you” wasn’t bad enough, two of the three Supervisors we spoke with were terribly rude and completely unprofessional. The one Supervisor who was nice was also the one who suggested we ask the mission org to cover our fees. (nice / incompetent)
After having flown with American Airlines faithfully for over 20 years, I was completely disappointed with their unwillingness to help us out. Especially since we weren’t asking for a refund, but simply a voucher (without penalties) for future travel (we have another house-building trip scheduled for Costa Rica in August with our Youth Group).
Thus, I sent the following email to the CEO of American Airlines:
Dear Mr. Arpey,
I am a Mission Team Leader for 6:8 Ministries, Inc. and I want to share a very, very negative experience in hopes that American Airlines might save a future relationship with my nonprofit organization, our business and community supporters, and the 12 passengers included in these two reservation records.
Our organization has had to cancel a mission trip to Guatemala because the risks of violence have recently escalated and we can no longer assure these volunteers’ safety.
While I acknowledge AA has no obligation in this matter, we believed in your “FlightPlan 2020” that was recently published and the tenet to earn customers’ loyalty. Unfortunately, we’ve had to deal with three reservation supervisors who obviously don’t support your plan and instead prefer to belittle us.
In this matter, we believe our request for voucher refunds without penalties was consistent with your plan’s two important tenets, to earn customers’ loyalty and to fly profitably. Our request enabled AA to retain the revenue already collected, enabled AA to reap additional revenue from the resale of our 12 tickets on already heavily booked flights, and gave AA the opportunity to show they understand the financial hardships volunteers endure to help nonprofits. But instead, your three supervisors advised us that AA is not interested in our proposal because seat spoilage is not a concern to your airline, since you can replace any lost passenger revenue with additional cargo revenue. I find this very hard to believe, based on the constant policy changes your carrier makes to limit seat spoilage.
The three conversations thus far can be characterized as nasty, short, uncaring and nothing like my past experiences with AA. In my previous Distribution Business Management role with Texas Instruments, I had the opportunity to work with many fine AA Sales and Marketing representatives and I find it very hard to believe this is how you now want AA portrayed.
This matter was also escalated to your Group and Meeting Travel manager for his review, but he responded that the appropriate procedural steps have been taken and unfortunately AA is unable to make any exceptions. I hope you’ll disagree with his decision.
In closing, if you think we can turn this situation around to put AA back in a positive light, I hope one of your representatives will contact me in a timely manner. I think you’ll agree, these passengers and our business and community supporters include some of the most attractive marketing segments and shouldn’t be disparaged, but instead should be courted.
Omar Jesus Bravo
To date, I have received no response.