So it’s been one week since I contacted American Airlines via e-mail to complain about the fact that their staff told me to sleep at O’Hare Airport when my flight was cancelled.
Today I attempted to call a 1-800 customer relations number to speak to a real person. I looked online to find out that one can only make reservations with a real person, but cannot complain to one (this can only be done in writing – this fact was confirmed by the reservation agent I spoke to over the phone).
I asked the agent how long I might expect to wait to receive a response to my complaint from American Airlines, and was told that the response time when submitting electronically is typically 3 days or so, assuming that the situation wasn’t too ‘complex’. The complex complaints apparently can take up to 2 months. As I said, I’ve now been waiting 7 days and I would argue that my case is not complex.
This is a scary trend it appears – some airlines, including Air Canada for example, will accept customer complaints only in writing. On one hand, I can see how receiving complaints in writing could help the airlines to deal with complaints more efficiently, and would eliminate staff having to be on the receiving end of verbal abuse from angry customers.
On the other hand, this writing/e-mail only system really helps the airline staff to get away with providing lousy service as I imagine that many people would find it easier to speak over the phone to complain. If it’s more difficult to complain, less people will do it. Not to mention the fact that this type of system is about as faceless and kafkaesque as it can get. How exactly can I negotiate a settlement if I can’t speak to a person? Not very easily of course. This way, the airline can ultimately decide when and how it wants to settle, because I doubt that someone would really want to go to the trouble of replying to the airline’s settlement offer via e-mail a second, third or fourth time.
If the airline provided generally good service in the first place, then it should see fewer complaints, right?
In the meantime I’ll keep posting about this – let’s see when and how American Airlines responds to what I would consider a reasonable request for a refund for the hotel and transportation to and from the airport.