Open Letter to American Airlines

April 20, 2014

Dear American Airlines,

On Friday, April 18, 2014, I was returning from a conference in San Francisco California. My flights that day were from SFO to Chicao's O'Hare airport, and then from ORD to Manhattan Kansas. My flight number was 1585, leaving SFO at 11 am for ORD. I arrived at the airport very early and was at my departure gate two-and-a-half hours before the scheduled 11 am flight.

At approximately 10:30 am the boarding process began. When group 2, my assigned group, was called I entered the line and presented my boarding pass. The gate agent scanned it and said, "That's not the right name." He scanned it a second time and more forcefully said to me, "That's not the correct name." I pulled up the electronic boarding pass on my phone and showed that to him and he for the third time said, "That's not the right name!" Visions of large, unsmiling men escorting me away from the gate appeared in my head.

A woman at the counter, who I later learned was the supervisor, came and took me aside and handed me a new boarding pass. My seat assignment had been changed from 12F to 8B. I demanded to know why I was being moved to a middle seat when I had purchased a window seat months earlier. Supervisor Mcosey (phonetic spelling) said something about another passenger who didn't speak English. I asked why that meant I had to lose my seat. I was bitterly upset about being forced to sit bewteen two other people for a 4 hour flight. She said "I put you at the bulkhead where you'd have more room." I said that the bulkhead meant my backpack, containing several thousand dollars worth of computers would have to go in the overhead and risk being crushed by other bags.

Since all ariports are now places of security theater I was acutely aware of making a scene. I looked at Supervisor Mcosey and said, "You have me over a barrel here, I don't have a choice, do I?" and took the boarding card and stormed down the jetway.

During the boarding process the gate agent who had been confused by my boarding pass appeared on the plane. I asked him for an explanation and he was unable to provide one. He didn't know why I had been moved and said it has been done by Supervisor Mcosey. He did volunteer to try and get me on another flight to Chicago, but with only one remaining connecting flight that day to my final destination I didn't feel like that was a viable option.

After the plane was airborne one of the flight attendants helped a barely able to walk passenger to the forward lavatory and then came to talk to me. She explained that the passenger she had helped had been moved from 12E to 12F. She was willing to put the passenger back in to 12E and move me to 12F. When I asked how she would explain this to the other passenger who apparently had no English she couldn't answer. I stayed in 8B. I believe that the passenger who had been moved ended up with two seats, 12E and 12F all to herself as a result of this fiasco.

I have filled out your online complaint form and submitted it. My reference number is 1-1383184011. Here is the text I submitted with my complaint:

I demand an explanation as to why Supervisor Mcosey (phonetic spelling) changed my seat assignment from 12F to 8B at the last minute without telling me, or involving me in that process. I wasn't aware of the change until my name on the boarding pass didn't match the name on the display when the gate agent scanned it as I was boarding. I do not understand why I was moved from the window seat I had paid for for a middle seat at the bulkhead.

Not only was I not aware of the seat change, the gate agent wasn't aware of it either. He was understandably confused by the wrong name appearing when my boarding card was scanned. I felt like I was being accused when my boarding card didn't work. I found the accusation stressful and upsetting, particularly since I had no idea what was happening. The accusation left me frightened and upset.

  1. Why was I moved?
  2. Why wasn't I, or anyone else, informed of the move or involved in that process?
  3. What will be done to ensure this kind of unilateral change won't happen again?

The entire experience was extremely upsetting and disturbing, and unnecessarily so.

Consider me an extremely disastisfied customer. Unilateral changes made without the participation of or knowledge of the passenger are terrible customer service.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.