American Airlines is absolutely the worst, most incompetent carrier I have ever had the unfortunate experience of dealing with. I bought my father a car and decided to help him drive it back to Chicago -- I almost made it all the way, we stopped in St. Louis and I told him he could drive the final 5 hours and I was flying home, I had enough of the drive. I booked an 8am direct flight to LAX from STL for the following morning.
Whenever I fly, I book online and then follow up with a phone call to notify the airline that I'll be flying with a service animal -- I had Duchess with me, my little 6lb Pomeranian that I brought along for the ride to maintain my sanity. Driving for 36 hours is no enjoyable task, nor is it an easy one. I informed them that I would be flying with her and I had the Four Seasons I was staying at fax in the doctors letter that I have for her.
Everything was fine.
I arrived at the airport at 7:05, I had a first class ticket so I knew I wouldn't have any hold up at TSA so it wouldn't be an issue arriving close to boarding time. I believe the flight was set to board at 7:30.
I pass through TSA and make it to my gate, where I approach the desk to ensure everything is sorted properly for the puppy. Here is where everything took a swift turn for the worst. The staff was angry, bitter, and the farthest from helpful. I had asked if they could check to ensure she was on the manifest, they said she wasn't and that they didn't know what to do. Then they talked for a moment and decided there was some department they needed to call.
They place the call, she announces she didn't hear what the gentleman on the line said to her and then hung up on him. Tries calling back, line is supposedly busy. She tells me to wait, as she says this she begins dealing with standby customers -- I fly first class because of the service that comes along with it; the whole reason for paying three times the cost of the ticket that everyone else has, is to ensure in situations like this the priority status is acknowledged.
10 minutes passes and she tries calling again, at this time they begin boarding the flight.
She tells me that I need to fax in the doctors letter that I'm standing there with, because apparently it isn't good enough to physically have the signed letter -- I ask how she expects me to fax the letter while standing at the gate. She says I don't know, you need to go back to the desk above and deal with it there.
I knew I didn't have time for that, I tell her that I'll just pay whatever the pet fee is and we can all be on our way, intending to dispute the charge with American Express upon landing for a fee I'm not supposed to pay. This is exactly why I have a service animal, because she keeps me calm in situations such as these where incompetent employees are incapable of following guidelines laid out by the law, not their company.
I ask if I run to the desk and back if I'll be on the flight, she says yes.
I arrive back upstairs at the desk, try speaking with all three employees currently working frantically telling them that my flight is scheduled to depart in 20 minutes and I just need to pay for my dog so I can go back to the plane. They all tell me to wait -- I proceed to the first class line, only person standing in it, and wait. And wait, and wait, and wait.
They pulled three people from the standard line while I was waiting, so I finally began yelling. Priority line, again, is priority. I'm supposed to be serviced first. It's what I paid for.
I finally get a woman to help me, she won't even look at the doctors letter. Doesn't acknowledge it's existence what-so-ever. She has a smug smirk on her face when I tell her I need this expedited because I need to be on my flight. She laughed.
"You're not making that flight", "I still need to fill out this form, you need to pay, the doors are closing right now."
I beg her to hold the flight, she laughs again.
The form that she made seem as if it were 20 pages long and would take an eternity to fill out, was 8 check boxes, a field for the dogs weight, and a field for each of our signatures.
I accepted my fate that I wasn't making the flight, because she had zero interest in actually helping. Even after acknowledging that my flight wouldn't be made, I returned to trying to get her to take my doctors paperwork so my dog would be properly notated, she still wouldn't acknowledge it.
She hands me my tickets for the next flight, departing 4 hours later.
I get to the new terminal to sit and stare at the wall and take a look at my passes, they're standby. How do I go from a $700 first class seat to standby? I went to the only currently servicing gate and asked them what I needed to do to get my first class seat back on the next flight.
I was told that because I missed my first flight and had a non-refundable, but full fare ticket, that I'd have to pay for a new ticket. So to reiterate this, they bumped me from my flight because they messed up the paperwork for my dog, and I'm being penalized by not having a guaranteed seat on the next flight.
Here is an interesting article pertaining to being bumped from your flight: Here's what you're entitled to if you're bumped off a flight
I ask how much the ticket for the new flight is, to guarantee a seat, they tell me it's the last seat and it's $2,000. How is a seat, on a 30 year old aircraft, $2,000? Why am I paying $2,000 to guarantee I get home when it was your fault that I didn't make my flight to begin with? Given the article above, regulation states not only should I have had a free, first class seat. I should have been paid for being bumped.
I paid the $2,000 with the notion of disputing everything with Amex upon return. I refuse to be forced into paying for something that I shouldn't be paying for, because you're incapable of adequately understanding your job.
At the Gate, Round 2
Here we go again, they call first class and we face plant as soon as I step into line. What's the new issue? I have too many carry on bags.
I'm pulled aside, told that I need to check one of my bags. I was carrying my dog, my duffle, and a backpack. I told them I refused to check my YSL duffle because they refuse to acknowledge a service animal as a service animal.
They call the manager.
The manager comes out and instantly says FAA regulation, only 2 bags. My dog isn't a bag. I try to explain the situation to him but yet again, I got the same angry woman from the first gate at the second that just had to continue sharing her irrelevant opinion.
I was grateful that I had my dog, because she provided them the service that day. She was the only thing allowing me to maintain my sanity throughout the struggle.
I ended up throwing my bag at them, in a literal sense and told them I don't care what they do with it because they clearly don't know what they're doing anyway.
I tried dealing with their Twitter rep, failed. Called their 1-800 line, failed. Everyone kept telling me to speak with someone else and in the end they kept telling me that only the employees were capable of doing anything, in which they were incapable of doing anything. I'm surprised they had the mental capacity to tie their shoes that morning.
This is the farthest from how someone with a service animal, and doctors documentation should be treated. Especially when they're in a full fare first class seat.