Monday, April 09, 2012

The Real Story About Round-Trip Airline Tickets

UPDATE on April 10: American Airlines responded to our complaint and gave us vouchers. I emailed to ask whether I can post the full content of their email. I was very happy to finally get to have someone listen to us.

I've written a response to the FlyerTalk forum addressing your points here.


My husband and I are in the midst of having an extremely unpleasant experience with American Airlines during this Passover break. My husband is a law student and I am a teacher. We are not the wealthiest of consumers. However, we were excited and looking forward to our Passover vacation, which is why we booked expensive round-trip tickets at $324 per person out of DC heading to Chicago on Friday, April 9 at 8:20am.

We decided to save some money by taking the bus to the metro to the airport. This was a big mistake as we ended up in the airport at 7:50am. (Yes, we freely admit it was our fault that we were late to the airport). Nevertheless, since our flight was at 8:20am, we figured we'd still make it. After all, we were there a half an hour in advance. We tried to get in line to check in but then were told that the place to check baggage was upstairs. We went upstairs and were told it was too late to check our baggage. We headed back downstairs with the baggage, which we were now told they would accommodate by allowing us to take as a carry-on. An airline lady was trying to assist us and she went on ahead to try to get to our flight while we went through the security checkpoint. During the checkpoint, they discovered liquid in our baggage-turned-carry on and decided to look through the entire suitcase. The TSA also asked me to remove my hat. When I explained that I was a religious Jew, they took me aside and had a female pat down my hat to make sure I wasn't carrying anything problematic within it. We wasted about 10-20 minutes during this time.

When we finally got to the gate, it was 8:10am. The person manning the gate informed us our flight had left without us, despite the fact that it had been scheduled to depart at 8:20am. I had not known that planes reserve the ability to depart 15 minutes before departure time (as we later found out when my husband spoke to the manager). The gentleman manning the gate told the woman who had tried to help us that she ought to have called ahead and he would have held the plane for us. I got extremely upset and started crying. The man told me that it wasn't a problem; he would just roll us on over to Standby.

We then endured waiting for the following American Airlines standby flights: 10:00am flight, 12:00pm flight, 2:10pm flight and finally the 3:40pm flight. (Yes, we were in the airport shuffling around for over 7 and 1/2 hours). Due to the fact that this was Easter, Good Friday and Passover all rolled into one, American Airlines had overbooked and oversold all their planes. What this meant is that we were consistently bumped to being #6, 7, 8 or 9 in the standby line because passengers with actual tickets were the first five people on the list.

My husband talked to the manager about our situation. She said that they could issue us a refund for our tickets and we could reschedule them for a different day, but that was it. This wasn't exactly an option due to the fact that Passover and Yom Tov was happening that evening.

So instead, we waited as time and time again we were not called as standby passengers. I became very emotional and told the lady manning the booth that if we did not get on the 3:40pm flight, we would end up stranded in DC because we were observant Jews. As observant Jews, we cannot fly after sundown, and the 3:40pm flight was the last flight that would enable us to get into Chicago with enough time for us to get home before sundown. The lady said she would try to get us out of there but guess what...once again, we weren't called.

At around 3pm, I decided we needed to find a different way to get out of there- since American Airlines wasn't allowing us to rebook our tickets or fly standby. We booked one-way tickets on a 3:35pm United Airlines flight. It cost us $600 total. We got to Chicago in time to celebrate the Passover holiday.

Meanwhile, my father called American Airlines and spoke with a woman named Pamela. He explained that we had missed the first leg of our round-trip flight and he wanted to know whether the returning leg of the trip still stood. She told him that yes, that would be fine, and we were good to go with no additional fees or changes. Reassured, my father went into Yom Tov with good and happy spirits.

Last night (April 8) after Yom Tov had concluded, my husband received an email saying 'Your Trip is Now Eligible for Check-In.' When we attempted to check in, we received a red warning saying that this ticket could not be processed online and that my husband would have to see a ticket agent. I was worried about this and decided to call the airlines to figure out what was going on. I was then informed that in fact, if you miss the first leg of your round trip ticket the entire ticket is void and gone. The only way to proceed is to pay the difference between the amount you paid for your round-trip ticket and what is now a one-way ticket, plus a $150 change fee.

We protested that a) my husband had been told by the American Airlines manager in DC that he could get a refund for the ticket b) my father had been told by Pamela that we could still take the second leg of the trip and c) we had at no time been notified of this policy. In fact, we had received the very misleading automated email that said 'Your Trip is Now Eligible For Check-In' which in no way informed us that in fact, our trip had been cancelled and was now gone and my husband's seat had likely been sold to someone else. (You can read more about this unpleasant and irrational phenomenon here and here). When speaking to two extremely unhelpful supervisors (especially the female one), we were informed that this information regarding the round trip policy had been in the fine print of the agreement we made with the airport when we purchased our tickets. Furthermore, she claimed that our first ticket had not been a standby ticket and that the airport had been doing us a favor when they tried to have us fly standby in the first place because they were under no obligation to do so.

Here are my questions on this matter:

1. Why is it that no one in DC, including the man who rolled us over to standby from our first missed flight, told us that they were doing us a favor and that this was not standard policy? We were told that this was standard.

2. Why is it that even though we explained to every single person that would listen that we were observant Jews and thus had a certain time past which we could not fly, that was not taken into consideration when it came to the order of passengers on the Standby list? There were other passengers who could easily have taken 5pm flights; we, on the other hand, could not.

3. Why did the American Airlines manager in DC claim that we could receive a refund on our ticket?

4. Why did Pamela tell my father that we could still fly the second leg of our trip even if we had missed the first leg of it?

I feel very frustrated by the lack of transparency and the unwillingness to work with the customer in this situation. When it comes to your driver's license, you amass points; it doesn't necessarily automatically get taken away the first time you are caught speeding. Yet even though this was the first time that I or my husband had ever missed a flight (and we've taken many flights on American Airlines), we were treated like we had deliberately attempted to defraud them.

Furthermore, while I am aware that it is not necessarily the airline's responsibility to accommodate the religious beliefs of its customers, surely if it had been explained to the people who were first in line on the standby list that there were two people who would literally be stranded without food they could eat for the Passover holiday unless they got on a flight by a certain time, they would have been willing to allow us to take their places. It would certainly have been nice of the airline to at least consider the religious customs of its consumers.

Third, while it may be true that the fine print that you click when you buy a ticket online tells you this information about your not being able to take the second leg of your flight if you miss the first leg of your flight, I would wager that the majority of consumers do not know this unless they are frequent flyers. Thus, there ought to be an automated system that sends an immediate email notification to a customer who has missed their round-trip flight that says 'You have missed the first leg of your flight. Your round trip is now void. Please take the following steps to reschedule.' Had we received such a clear, transparent email about American Airline policies, we would then have been able to take the steps that would have prevented me from being in a situation where, since I reached out to them tonight, I was informed I would have to pay $400 on top of the $324 we had already paid in order to take a 6:40am flight tomorrow morning from Chicago to DC.

And fourth, there was no consistency when it came to the message we were given. The manager in DC claimed we could get a refund. Pamela said we could take the second leg of our flight and all would be well. The supervisors I talked to tonight told me that if you miss the first leg of your flight, you are screwed. Why is there not one clear, easy-to-read policy that every employee is aware of so that they can all give the same, non-contradictory answer?

What this comes down to is that my husband and I have now spent over $2000 to fly from Chicago to DC and back for this Passover holiday. We might as well have booked an international trip. And all of this because we flight.

The moral of the story? Never be late to the airport. But more importantly, never fly American Airlines.


Matt said...

Efrat said...

My husband is a New Yorker. I am a Chicagoan. When we were getting married, he and my mother-in-law to be booked an AA ticket to come in the Friday before the wedding, which would take place on Sunday. They came to the flight on time (around 9 AM), boarded, and sat on the plane. They waited for 2 hours on the ground- the pilot announced then that there was an engine malfunction, and that everyone would have to switch to the next flight. Which they did. They got on the next flight (11 AM) and waited on the ground again, for 2 hours. They said that the bathroom on the flight (it's a 1 and a half hour trip) was not working, and as such they could not fly. By then it was 1 PM. Shabbos was at 4 PM, and with the 1 hour time difference, they still had 4 hours to spare. So they asked to leave the plane to book a different flight. They were denied, as they told them that they still needed to fix the bathroom on that flight, and they were not allowing passengers off. They wasted another hour on the plane, before determining that they could not fly without the bathroom working- heaven forbid someone could go 2 hours without a bathroom. It was now 2 PM in NY. They FINALLY were allowed off the plane, booked another, last minute flight at United, grabbed it at around 2:30, and made it in before Shabbos at our house 10 minutes before candle lighting. WITHOUT BAGS. 2 days before our wedding on Sunday. My MIL had no clothing for Shabbos, and my husband had no clothing for himself either for the Shabbos before our wedding. AND- DESPITE that this was ALL their fault (again, no missed flights, no missing baggage, nothing they did wrong at all) THEY REFUSED TO REFUND THE TICKETS, saying that it was our own religious choice to have to leave by 2 PM, and they would have rebooked us on a 3 PM flight- which would have been too late for Shabbos. We have never flown AA again after that. (PS- they were NOT willing to deliver the bags before the wedding on Sunday, so on Saturday night, we drove them back to the airport to pick up their bags PERSONALLY before the wedding.) WORST AIRLINE EVER.

Fudge said...

Chana! I am so sad you seem to have outdone my many horrific travel stories in one fell swoop!

Ah, American Airlines. Bane of my existence. As one of the only cheap airlines that flies to Canada (where my boyfriend lives), it is unfortunately often my only method of travel.

I was booked on a 10 am flight erev Rosh Hashana this year that sat on the tarmac for something like 5 hours while I cried, pulled at my hair, and sent desperate texts to everyone I knew in both countries. We were told we were second in line for takeoff, then that airspace to Canada had been closed, then fifth, then our flight attendents 'forgot to call the tower' so we were bumped to the back of the line, then our pilot timed out, so we had to wait for another pilot to land...

When we finally touched down in Canada, our plane was delayed again at the airport (because they apparently 'had no flight attendants at the gate') and we were told we would be there a half hour. As you can imagine, by this point there was a pretty long line for the bathroom, so I got in it. By the time it was my turn, people were getting off the plane, but I assumed this was fine.

When I left the bathroom five minutes later, the plane was completely empty. I got down my carryon and exited...only to find that all the corridors to customs had been sealed. Because the crew seemed to have just assumed everyone was off the plane.

Unable to get to customs, in a foreign country I had only visited a handful of times before, and with about 2-3 hours before YT, I totally lost it. I ducked under some tape and started running down a random hallway which, it turned out, led back to the international departures. Crying, I approached a flight attendant there and told them I was lost. Alarmed that I had somehow gotten into the airport without going through security and customs, she took me to a security detention room, where I was so terrified I nearly passed out.

Her supervisor looked at me, shrugged, and said: "Seriously? Just escort her to customs. I have better things to do."

And I ended up at last delivered to my boyfriend, who had been at the airport all day, and who at that point I had only known for a few months, like the haggard woman of the woods, completely deranged but proud to have survived.

I swore off AA five times. But unless I want to pay 300+ more per ticket, I have to keep flying them.

My sympathies.

Unknown said...

Beyond weird. I used to fly plenty, no longer do, but how it used to be:

If you didn't check in 30-45 minutes prior it was too late. They would never rush you then especially with having to get through tsa.

They would instead try to get you on standby on Any airline, not just their own. I've been shifted from airline to airline and never paid.

I've never understood why some airlines cancel the second leg, but it's ludicrous to do so when you've actually traveled and they know you did, and obviously still need it.

Your best argument is that they specifically told you otherwise.

I would write a calm letter to AA and ask for all the extra expenses back, including asking why they didn't get you on any other airline as is common practice. If you could buy a seat they definitely could have asked United for it. Ask that they reimburse you for all costs at the minimum, and give a detailed accounting.

If that doesn't get anywhere use the better business bureau. Even if that also goes nowhere at least they'll have a public mark.

Chana said...


I told them of the urgency and asked to be rebooked on a different carrier, but they told me they only rebook you if their aircraft has experienced a mechanical failure.

ilanica said...

Chana, what a terrible and frustrating story! Yet another moral is - do not fly out erev-anything!

Michael said...

to answer a few of your points:
About the standby list, standby is prioritized by the elite status level in american's frequent flyer program plus how long people have been waiting from missed flights. A lot of those people are businessmen who need to make meetings and can not "just take the 5pm" because it would result in them missing a full day of work, and some times thousands or millions of dollars.
And about the fine print. While you may not have read it, and indeed the average passenger will never look at it, when you buy your ticket you do agree to it. If you didn't read it, don't blame the airline. Its your own fault, even if its what everyonr does.

Chana said...


Thanks for responding. Are you another customer or an American Airlines employee?

1. Thank you for clarifying re: this. I think that the same way that those business people value their money and meetings and that is taken into consideration, so should the religion of people who are flying.

2. I have now read the fine print of the Contract of Carriage. It includes the following statement: American specifically prohibits the practices commonly known as:Throwaway Ticketing: The usage of roundtrip excursion fare for one-way travel. It also says: Unless a ticket is reissued by American or its authorized agent upon payment of applicable charges, or an authorized representative of American waives applicable restrictions in writing, a ticket is invalid: If American determines that the ticket has been purchased or used in a manner designed to circumvent applicable fare rules.

As is clear to everyone involved in my case, we did not purchase this ticket with the design to throw away one end of it, nor did we use the ticket in a manner "designed to circumvent applicable fare rules." We missed our flight. That's it. Nowhere does it say in the rules that the repercussions for missing the flight is that our round trip is now void. More importantly, it is the airline's responsibility to make sure the customer is aware of these rules, which is why they ought to have sent me a text message, automated phone call or automated email explaining what the next steps were.

As it is, we followed the next steps listed under's FAQs, which was to call the airline, and the woman named Pamela told us we were fine and good to go. This is why the airline is at fault.

Anonymous said...

The joys of American Airlines are at least as great when you fly them internationally. We once missed our connection to a British Air flight from Heathrow to Israel because the first-mate was an hour and a half late for the American Airlines departure (the assumption in the cabin was that he'd been "sleeping it off" - not a phenomenon I want flying my plane!). It was Erev erev Sukkos and camping out in England (with only distant friends and no family) was not an option. An expensive hotel stay (AA *did* reimburse it) and a ridiculously early flight later, we arrived in Israel missing some of the luggage. There was talk of a class-action suit....I too swore off AA - but after I used their frequent flyer miles for "as far as I could go" (Boston to Anchorage). The problem is that now, a few years later, I find what Fudge says to be the case: When the cheapest fare from Israel to New York/New England is a combo-deal with Iberia and American, and even that costs more than $1250...spending even more money for an airline I don't hate becomes prohibitive. Still, I agree with your moral to the story, and would plug just about anybody else, when the choice is yours.

HAGBTG said...

I feel bad for you and it sounds like AA doesn't have its act completely together and you suffered as a result. While I think that (especially as you are now out several thousand dollars), especially with all the "miscommunications" to you, that you are a victim here, there is one thing I object to. You ask "Why is it that even though we explained to every single person that would listen that we were observant Jews and thus had a certain time past which we could not fly, that was not taken into consideration when it came to the order of passengers on the Standby list? There were other passengers who could easily have taken 5pm flights; we, on the other hand, could not."

Our religion is not someone else's problem, including a two-hour delay. Your argument essentially means that on Friday afternoons or any erev-chag, there needs to be affirmative action for Orthodox Jews on all forms of intra-city transit so that we get first priority on standby because we "suffer more" if we don't get on "that" bus or that plane ... and that is objectionable to me. Your religious scruples are not a fair basis to make another person suffer, even a little bit. Had AA been honest with you about where you stood ticket-wise, once you missed your flight, I'd have thought they'd have done everything needed/possible when they got you on standby on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Anonymous said...

If you relied on an employee's telling you that you will not lose the second leg of your trip, American Airlines should pay for their employee's incompetence, not you. I have never heard of employee's not knowing their own company's contract/agreement. Extremely incompetent.

Me said...

This is terrible, here is what you can do.

1) File a complaint with the FAA

2) File a complaint with the BBB

3) Write a review on Skytrax

4) Write a review on Yelp

5) Write a review on review center

JetBlue's customers are happier than American Airlines.

Sage-Advice said...

If you haven't done so yet, please do us all a favor and send this, your blog posting, to every e-mail address of American Airlines that you can get your hands on.
They should be made aware that your "unpleasant" experience is going public.
And, of course, as you have already been advised, report to the "Better Business Bureau" and every kind of "consumer's affairs" dept. you can find.
In deference to you and your husband, I personally will boycott American until they make good by you.
Let's let them know that a lousy reputation will cost them and cost them until they go the way of TWA and Pan-Am! Then perhaps Jet-Blue or United will succeed them.
I don't know how well you would fare with legal action since "the fine-print" is on their side, and you have no proof of what "Pamela" told you.
But on the other hand, you do have the misleading e-mail.
But regardless, a decent Airline should try to be accommodating and sensitive to paying customers that make a simple mistake.
I recently, due to my own error, missed a flight with United. I had a non-refundable, non-exchangeable ticket. They were very helpful and obliging to my satisfaction.
Those fools at American seem to forget that customers that are mistreated do have friends and relatives that will hear about it.
And, sometimes, popular blogs.
You should remind them.

Rena said...

Chana: Have you ever heard the song "United Breaks Guitars"? A musician, Dave Carroll, and his band documented the challenges they had flying United Airlines and getting compensation for the damage done to their musical equipment during flights on that airline. They got their revenge by making a series of songs about their frustrating travels. I have included the link, below, which will give you the whole story as well as the videos. Someone I knew once told me, don't get aggravated, give aggravation! Which is what Dave Carroll did...and which is what you should do, too, by posting your blog post EVERYWHERE! Hatzlacha.

reader6 said...

united breaks guitars

Anonymous said...

Did you purchase your original tickets with your credit-card?
You can then dispute the charges. And then ask for arbitration, I think.
Also I think the c.c. has ssome kind of insurance. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks,
You arrived 30 minutes before a flight? did you actually think that you were going to get on the flight? you need to take responsibility for your actions instead of blaming everyone who works at this company. and no, I do not work for the company. I am just saddened after reading your blog for a number of years that your ideals of tolarance of others would fall apart when life doesnt go your way. What do you think that we have done for generations when we were late for Shabbat or Chaggim because of unforeseen circumstances? We have dealt with it. We havent blamed the secular world for their rules and regulations.
Consider that everyone else also had a dinner to go to, a wedding to go to, a graduation to attend. How does your religious observance trump everyone else's lives?
And consider that people have been yelling at and crying to the staff all day as well. The staff who probably make a small percentage of what your husband and you will eventually make. Who have probably slaved away at their jobs for years. Listening to people yell at them. Consider that actually you are not the only important person in this story.

Heshy said...

Anonymous at 10:31 PM,

1) Chana and I "dealt with it" as well. We did not yell at any of the staff (though one of them did yell at me).

2) The staff members were blaming each other for messing us up. Clearly they each thought the other was incompetent.

3) So you think that anyone who works at an airline has the right to be nasty and incompetent because they don't make a lot of money?

4) It's not just Chana who is unhappy with American Airlines. In fact, this is not limited to religious Jews, either. U.S. News and World Report rated American Airlines as second meanest airline in the country. Moreover, Business Insider ranked American Airlines as the the seventh worst company in America.

Anonymous said...

Heshy, In the spirit of Lashon Hara, do we not learn anything about turning our momentary frustrations into negative talk about others, including, organizations.
The Chafetz Chayim appears to indicate that defamation of a whole group, not only of an individual, is forbidden

Rena said...

Dear Anonymous, I am no Rav, but as I understand/have learned the halacha, one is permitted, perhaps even required, to inform someone about about a potential monetary loss if they were to do business with a particular individual or organization. This is NOT defamation, but rather a warning. This is the reason, too, that one does research about a potential shidduch....In this case, Chana/Heshy have done us a favor by letting us know about possible large monetary losses we could incur by flying with this particular airline (not to mention the aggravation and grief factor, which sounds considerable).

tesyaa said...

You raise 3 issues:

1 - missing the original flight, for which you accept responsibility (despite seeming to blame airport staff for delays, such as having to take extra time because of your head covering)

2 - the voiding of the second half of your ticket, which given your father's conversation with the agent, seems a valid complaint on your part.

3 - the airline's refusal to consider your Sabbath observance as a reason to prioritize your flight - like another commenter, I think this is unreasonable. If you felt you could not get on a flight for fear of violating the Sabbath, you certainly had the option of finding a Seder in the DC area. I'm sure many friends and/or congregations would gladly have accommodated you.

If the airlines start accommodating all religious beliefs and practices (other than making a token effort to provide kosher or vegetarian refreshments), there would be no end to necessary accommodations, given the multicultural society we live in.

Finally, while you had this terrible experience on American, I believe it could have happened on any carrier today. Air travel, especially at holiday time, is not an enjoyable experience.

Sarah said...

What a frustrating experience. I'm very sorry for you, and I do believe that you should be compensated for the cost of the your return ticket. You'd be surprised at how effective a polite yet firm email/ phone call can be. I'd advise you to keep it brief and targeted. It's not really AA's fault that you came so late to the airport, that you wear a hat, or that the seder was that night. They should absolutely accept responsibility for what their employee told you, and you're lucky that you have a name/ time of call. I think that's your legit complaint, and that's where they're likely to help you.

And in AA's defense, we've flown with them a couple of times, and had only wonderful experiences with very helpful staff. One bad experience (which this certainly was!) is not necessarily reason to write off an entire airline.

Heshy said...

Anonymous 7:26 AM,

AA did contact Chana to try to work things out so this point is now moot. But just to clarify...

Lashon Hara, at least as I understand it, does not apply if it is done l'toeles - which as Rena pointed out, is the case here.

Also, lashon hara does not apply when information is common knowledge - which based on the comments here and the links I posted previously, was the case here.

The Cousin said...

Oh airlines...and the endless fun they provide (not really)

The Sister once missed a wedding because of an airline (not AA)'s screw up.

The Sister and I had separate Pesach return flight problems. She was delayed 4h (who knows why)

Me--the TSA....ugh. Apparently the TSA in Cleveland aren't familiar with the concept of how Jewish mothers insist on sending their children home with food. Last night they re-scanned my bag 3 times and re-inspected it over gefilte fish (loaves) and a salami (from the butcher).

At least in the end AA did the right thing and gave you some vouchers

Anonymous said...

So you showed up late and expected the airline to accommodate for your mistake, especially when they had plenty of other paying customers who made their flights ontime?

Anonymous said...

You seem willing to blame everybody but yourselves for these mishaps. That's ridiculous. Get to the airport on time and none of this would have happened. Enjoy the rest of the Passover holiday.

Anonymous said...

While I feel sorry for your situation you and only you are clearly at fault for not arriving at the airport on time. End of story.

Anonymous said...

You were late. Your fault. End of story.

Stating that you should be higher on a stand-by list due to you religion is religious discrimination at its finest.

Your fault.

Anonymous said...

Booo hoooo. Everyone is mean to me.... Ignore the fact that it's completely my fault....

Isaiah said...

Oh. good grief, you pathetic kettle. Have you had your head where the sun don't shine for the last 20 years? What kind of idiot would show up 20 minutes before a flight is scheduled to leave? It is well known to anyone who has been anywhere near an airport that if you are not checked in at least 30 minutes early you lose your seat. The airline then went way out of their way to waitlist you on one of the busiest travel days of the year , something they are not obliged to do and which they rarely do, and you piss and moan that they didn't bump PAYING passengers to make extra space for you? Get real. Read about how to travel by air if you have never done it before. And do you feel no shame for stealing money from the airline by threatening bad publicity until they give you vouchers? If you have any class whatsoever you will donate those vouchers to a deserving charity and publicly apologize for your screed here.

Anonymous said...

Chana, you were late and missed your flight. That's the 11th commandment when flying. Too bad for you; you learned a lesson the hard way. This is nobody's fault but your own. And your post, by the way, reeks of a sense of entitlement that you did not earn.

Schenkey said...

Ever think of taking responsbility for your own actions here? YOu admit you broke the airline rules and then you expect them to bend over backwards for you? How entitled are you? What a horrible xample of a person are you to blame someone else for your own mistakes. YOU screwed up. Not American. They did their best to work with you. You cannot expect an Airline to displace a passenger just becuase one passenger with religious restrictions admittedlyl did not follow the rules. You are repsonsible for all this, not them. Be accountable for your mistakes. Stop blaming other. What a horrible example you set for eveyrone else!

Schenkey said...

This is not American's fault. This is the poster's fault. Plain and simple. The poster ignored or hoped the rules wouldn't apply to them. Guess what? They apply to everyone. What a pitiful state things have come to when no one accepts resonsbility for their own actions.

Anonymous said...

I blame you completely for your misadventure. Please do your fellow flyers a favor and next time, take Amtrak or Greyhound.

Anonymous said...

this had nothing to do with AA specifically. You would have had the same issues with pretty much any other domestic carrier.

Sleuth said...

I have a sneaking suspicion that the last 11 "Comments" are from the same person. Or maybe 2 people.
Here's a clue:
Suddenly there's a slew of critics, one after the other, posted one shortly after the other. (in 2 sessions.)
Another clue:
They all seem to suffer from amnesia and fail to consider how the agent AND the E-mail misled you. All they focus on is your arriving late, to which you already admitted guilt.
Now a question. Somebody mentioned that you received a call from AA and they gave you vouchers. Is that true? If so, you should have mentioned it. It's only fair to report the positive too.
Happy Pesach, all.

Sleuth said...

Oops. I just noticed you DID add an update to your posting. I'm glad that AA is working on rehabilitating their service and image.
What your loyal fans would now like to know is, are you satisfied? Did you accept their offer? Were you adequately compensated?

Anonymous said...

NO, I'm sure the critical comments are here because this story has gone viral. Check out the American Airlines forum on

Also, add me to the group that thinks you are way out of line with your complaint.

Anonymous said...

The blame for your problem rests solely with you and your husband. You were late. The fact that AA gave you vouchers is a bonus. I am not an AA employee, only a customer that follows the rules. Why should everyone else be inconvenienced because you decided to save money and take the bus?

The following is directly quoted from American Airlines website. Had you arrived at the airport on time you would have arrived on time without the inconvenience.

The following information will help you know what to expect when you arrive at the airport for all flights operated by American Airlines, American Eagle or AmericanConnection(R).

Suggested Arrival Times
When travel is completely within the U.S. including Puerto Rico, and on flights to Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands recommended check-in is at least 90 minutes prior to departure when checking baggage, and at least 60 minutes prior to departure if not checking baggage.

Before you head to the airport, be sure to check the latest travel alerts to learn about circumstances that could affect schedules, airport operations, parking and more.

You have no one to blame but yourself, wake up and look in the mirror!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Chana. Your story was picked up by some hardcore frequent flyers, all of whom agree that the blame in this situation is 100% with you. Showing up 1/2 hour before your flight at O'Hare with checked luggage is never going to get you on board, and you seemed shocked -- shocked -- that American's flights would be too crowded for you to get on another on the day before the Passover/Easter weekend.

It strikes me that you think American should hold empty seats on later flights for passengers who are late.

Your sense of entitlement in this matter and your broadcasting it on the internet is a "disgrace to G-d".

Anonymous said...

How do you know the two people ahead of you on the standby list didn't have an urgent need to travel? What if they were trying to get home to a dying relative, or had a funeral or wedding to go to. Are you saying they should be placed in the position of having to miss their event for your needs?

If we are to make exceptions for religious requirements and restrictions, how will be prioritize? Abrahamic religions first, followed by Eastern religions and then African tribal religion? Who goes first, or should I say who goes second, because we all know we are the chosen people....

Eileen Cohen said...

You think $324 is expensive for a DCA-ORD roundtrip? LOL... travel newbies!

MBS said...

"Why is it that even though we explained to every single person that would listen that we were observant Jews and thus had a certain time past which we could not fly, that was not taken into consideration when it came to the order of passengers on the Standby list?"

I have an issue with your statement. You claim you couldn't fly after sundown, when in fact you chose not to fly after sundown for personal reasons. This isn't a case where you were going to explode in a ball of fire like a vampire seeing the sun. I see this as no different than anyone who misses a meeting, birthday, connecting flight, etc.

You are just a couple of people who are pissed that the world didn't revolve around your special problem after starting the ball rolling by not getting up in time for their flight.

Anonymous said...

I read the copy of your blog post on Flyertalk. FT is full of experienced, frequent flyers.

The bottom line is that you arrived at the airport one-half hour before flight departure time, on a busy holiday weekend. That is way too late. Boarding the aircraft has started by then. Baggage check cut-off is about 45 minutes from departure, so even at the moment of arrival at the airport, you were already too late to check baggage.

All airlines have clear policies about standby priority. They offer priority standby to their "elite" customers, that is, customers who do a lot of flying on their airline. It is a strict meritocracy, based solely past history. "Elite" status is earned, quite simply, by being a steady customer of a given airline.

Everyone, not just observant Jews, has a reason to be at their destination on time. People have business meetings, family weddings, new grandchildren, and dying friends and relatives, etc.

Your inability to plan properly by (1) getting to the airport on time and/or (2) flying on Thursday instead of Friday does not mean that some other standby passenger need miss their important business meeting, family wedding, etc.

Anonymous said...

This post brilliant epitomizes the "blame someone, blame anyone" culture that seems to dominate consumerism today. I fly 100K miles a year on American and have literally never - not once in my life - missed a flight for reasons other than delays in connections. You screwed up. Admitting you made a mistake is not enough - you must accept the consequences. American didn't make you miss the flight. They generated no additional revenue from the seat you bought and didn't use. The fact that it was Pesach, Easter or whatever is utterly irrelevant - and the fact that you brought that into your conversation with them about solving the problem is frankly embarassing as a Jew.

Look in the mirror - you messed up - and it cost you money. Get over it or make smarter decisions.

Alan P. Grossman said...


I would be interested in seeing you participate in the Flyertalk discussion or reply to the comments posted here.

Thank you,


Anonymous said...

sounds more arrogant than anything.

+++ said...

Seriously, it's times like these that sometimes I begin to understand why many don't exactly find my people pleasant. This is one instance where you can definitely find the moderates distancing themselves from the extremists.

Casey said...

I am also a 100,000+ mile flyer and let me say this, the two of you blew it. 99% of the blame is on you guys for:
- Showing up at the airport 30 minutes before boarding
- Missing the checked baggage cutoff
- Have liquids larger than the TSA rules which I admit is silly
- Choosing to do the above on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

To then state you feel priority should be given due to your religious beliefs is terrible. Why should your beliefs trumps those of someone else to cover up your own mistake?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, have you ever taken a flight before? Every airlines mentiones that you should arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes prior to your departure, 3hrs in case of international trips. You arrive 30 minutes, and try to check in your luggage. What exactly where you expecting, that some employee will take it upon itself to leave is post, manually walked you through security, check your luggage and immediatley place it inside the plane. What about all the other folks that now have to wait because there is one less person available to assist them! I'm sorry, you should be thankful that AA gave you vouchers. Next time be at the airport on time.

Anonymous said...

Next time, fly Southwest like the rest of the travel novices do.

Mama K said...

Yeah, tell others to never fly American Airlines because you planned poorly. LOL

Anonymous said...

You screwed up. Deal with it like grown ups. I hate to think how you teach children!

Shalom said...

Why is this flight different from all other flights?

1) All other flights I can check in 45 minutes before takeoff, but the night of Pesach I have to check in 2 hrs before takeoff?

2) All other flights I can buy a RT DCA-ORD for $200, but the night of Pesach they want a crazy $324.

3) All other flights I can take liquids through TSA, but the night of Pesach, 4 cups of Manshewitz is more than TSA will allow.

4) All other flights I can standby and be #5 on the list, but the night of Pesach, we were consistently bumped to being #6, 7, 8 or 9

Anonymous said...

@Shalom - what planet are you living on? Even frequent travelers that can go thru priority lanes would consider 45 minutes pushing it. Pesach or Easter has nothing to do with it - you are acting as if there's a conspiracy against your Judaism or Christianity. It's a busy time of year. Period. Have you heard of 3-1-1? Why don't you look that up before you start trying to bring 4 cups of ANYTHING through security.

AT said...

To echo other responses here, this course of events are entirely caused by and the fault of the OP.
If you need to make sure you absolutely must be somewhere by a certain date/time, do what the rest of us do: FLY THE DAY BEFORE. It ticks me off no end that you think the whole world had to start revolving around you to fix your f**k up. That's the problem with today's society: absolutely no personal responsibility whatsoever. It's always "the man" or "the system" or "the powers that be" that are trying to screw you. I for one, have had enough of it.

Anonymous said...

I believe Shalom was injecting some humour into the thread.

Anonymous said...

The reason all the responses from Flyertalk sound the same is because we pointed out the exact reason why things turned out the way they did. There is no ambiguity. Face it. The two of you caused your own problems.

Flyertalker said...

Dear Chana,

While I understand some of the Flyertalker's may be a bit rude they are correct and incorrect about certain things:

1 - If AA charged you a $150 fee per ticket to reinstate your ticket for the return portion then they owe you that back.

2 - If AA offered a refund at time of departure and you had to purchase a new return trip too, then while they were being generous they owe you that refund.

3 - AA was being more generous with you that you understand, your ticket was most likely non-refundable, meaning they never needed to offer you that.

4 - You may have found buying a roundtrip ticket on United was cheaper than buying a 1 way ticket, in many cases 1 way tickets are more expensive than just the roundtrip ticket.

5 - I'm from DC, DCA's check-in is upstairs so I'm not sure where you went originally to try and check-in, again same thing with Dulles unless you tried using a Kiosk down near the bus entrance, but you said you metro'd finally to the airport, so again, if you were unaware of the check-in procedures at a given airport you needed to spend a little money and take a taxi to the airport, but again, the metro opens at 5:30am weekdays, so there is little reason you could not have made it ontime.

6 - You said it yourself, you were trying to save money to get to the airport and you got there late. If you have flown since 9/11 you should be aware you are required to remove all outer articles or submit to further screening, as someone that should have known would need additional screening you should have been at the airport earlier. I myself refuse to go throught x-ray so I get to the airport an extra 10m on top of whenever I feel I need to be there in this case.

7 - The TSA liquid ban has been around for a LONG time now and has been on in the news for years, no reason people should still be making that mistake.

8 - Standby lists are based on Elite Status AND International connections/connections, I fly over 200K a year, I'd be pissed if someone with no status got on a plane in front of me because they made a mistake and I'd question my future revenue to that carrier, so their decision not to move you up on the list was the right one.

9 - Gates(doors) close 10m prior to departure and in many cases if you do not present yourself at the gate 20m prior to departure your seat will be released.

10 - Your beef should ONLY be with the misinformation you received from the AA staff at either DCA or IAD, and while it is a shame that the situation occurred, you need to take more responsibility for what happened.

11 - While I understand the religious side of things having a Jewish father, the airline is under no obligation at all to mention your issue as it was not a matter of life or death and may offend other customers who are not religious, not Jewish etc. (while that is silly it is true).

Lastly, American owes you a refund of ONLY the $400 you were asked to pay for the return portion of your flight because they gave you conflicting information, but you do need to take a lot more responsibility for what happened.

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat, and it goes for airlines rules too.

Anonymous said...

I think AA did you a favor. Now please pay it forward and be kind to that dyslexic student who is struggling in your class or make life a liitle easier for that special need kid.

Anonymous said...

Chana, sad bit of news for you. You are totally unimportant to American Airlines.

Occasional leisure passengers traveling on economy fares have no brand loyalty and are not profitable. You are, effectively, a seat filler used to complete an airplane so more valuable frequent flyers can be shuttled about for greater return.

American could care less if you ever return to fly their service, which, no matter how badly you feel this episode went, you will do if their fare is $50 cheaper than the next offering.

Fact is, every airline would give you the same result under these facts. Some airlines, such as Southwest, would not have even offered you the chance to fly on a later flight -- if you miss your flight, you are done. Ticket voided, no refund, go buy a new ticket.

The only person to blame here is yourself.

Anonymous said...

Think about it this way, at least someone else got to sit in the seat you vacated.

Anonymous said...


cumonohito said...

I think the main thing that should be learned form here is that for the most part, saving money is NOT always the best option. You clearly said that you wanted to save some money and take the metro, well, how much money did you really saved? Is funny that the op has not reported anything back after receiving the vouchers from AA. go figure.

Anonymous said...

Have you accepted the fact that it is your own fault yet?

Anonymous said...

I simply cannot believe the blame someone else mentality here. For heaven's sake, so to the airline website, find out what the suggested check in time is and follow it and if you chose not to, then accept the consequences.

Isaiah said...

Your arrogance is monumental. You now post a snide "aside" snarking that your public internet posts "aren't for" certain people? My fares on American will now be higher because you have acquired ill-gotten gains in the form of vouchers, etc. by threatening bad publicity for mistakes that were your own fault. Give those vouchers to charity, or the bad karma will stick to you.

Anonymous said...

Yup. What a load of rubbish!

You were late. You missed your flight. Tough on you.

Let's see. If AA had bowed to your every need and delayed the flight, just for you, have you even considered how many other people on that flight, including people of your faith, would have been delayed and missed their connections, and not made it home for Passover, all because you didn't plan your trip properly?

(and no, I don't work for American, nor do I post on Flyertalk)

Anonymous said...

The only gripe I have with American is that they caved in and gave you vouchers.

Why? Totally undeserved imo.

Darth Zeidah said...

Originally Posted by dickinson

We decided to save some money by taking the bus to the metro to the airport. This was a big mistake as we ended up in the airport at 7:50am. (Yes, we freely admit it was our fault that we were late to the airport). Nevertheless, since our flight was at 8:20am, we figured we'd still make it. After all, we were there a half an hour in advance.

By her own admission, the OP is entirely and solely responsible for her misfortunes.

Playing "the religion card" was a manipulative, shabby and cheap ploy. It is little wonder that the OP has incurred so much negative criticism.

Arthur Farnesbarnes said...

As a Jew, and parenthetically as a frequent flyer, I am deeply ashamed by my coreligionists' appallingly arrogant behavior.

Chana and her ilk are a prime cause of modern-day anti-Semitism.

How she had the חוצפה to behave as she did - and then to crow about it in public fora is a disgrace.

William Johnson said...

"...surely if it had been explained to the people who were first in line on the standby list that there were two people who would literally be stranded without food they could eat for the Passover holiday unless they got on a flight by a certain time, they would have been willing to allow us to take their places."

If I were first in line, I'd tell you: "With all due respect, your religious obligations and the trials and tribulations appertaining thereto are entirely your own." Then I'd board the flight.

Why should an airline give you increased standby priority based on your religion? Do you not realize that if they're extending you an advantage based on your religion, they are discriminating against the person who otherwise would have had that seat? How is that fair?

Besides, I'm a member of the First Church of Nonbumpism. My religion demands that I don't let you bump me from my rightful place on the standby list. If that place is ahead of you, bye.

Anonymous said...

When your husband graduates from law school he can explain the fair/unfairness of all of this. But don't blame him either.

Is he hiding somewhere?

Dallas49er said...

As a child/young adult, whenever I made a mistake (like being brought home at 3am in handcuffs), things worked out tremendously badly versus anticipation, or if I just plain goofed,My father would calmly ask after all the histrionics, "So...what have you learned?".

In your case, things worked out tremendously bad. But rather than throw rocks, I would ask you the same question my father would pose to me.

So sad said...

ASIDE: Hi FlyerTalk forum people. No, this post wasn't written for you. Yes. you guys aren't really inventive when it comes to expressing yourselves (I think I have about 50 comments saying the same thing from you people). No, you aren't as knowledgeable about Judaism as you think you are (notwithstanding your attempt at Mah Nishtana humor). Thanks for all the yelling. Rock on, Chana

What a snarky comment. Typical religious zealot only see things from your own point of view. What a sad way to go through life...

Anonymous said...

I bet all the FlyerTalk people post he same comment 50 times because they know more about flying than the author does. And, some of us may know more about Judaism than the author as well.

Anonymous said...

What exactly does your religion have to do with an airline standby list?

Anonymous said...

Please keep your word and dont fly american airlines...that way I dont have to sit next to you.

Anonymous said...

Found this post via FT.

What a chillul hashem.

Arrive on time, learn the airline/TSA policies, and take a little responsibility for your own ignorance.

The airline is not always wrong. It seems AA went out of their way to accommodate you after you showed up late. Welcome to America...Shabbos/ Y"T is coming is not a reason for them to change their policies or procedures. If they did that, everyone and their mother would come up with an excuse why they are more important than the next person and blame the airline for not accommodating.

How about my 4 year old is hungry and there is no food here that he likes to eat...or my daughter's wedding is of the standby list we go! Its just not the way it works.

Anonymous said...

This is all very dumb.

Anonymous said...

If you had DARED try to get me bumped because you were too stupid to take your own religious needs into account with getting to the airport, I'd have smacked you. How DARE you think that you can decide that I should sit in the airport for extra hours. What a disgrace you are.

Anonymous said...

Anon April 20, 2012 2:29 PM,

You sound out of control

Anonymous said...

well if ur husband is a law student he should know by now to ALWAYS read ALL the fine print no matter what minmum wage barely qualified employee tells you in person or on the phone

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