AA Agent Throws Passenger’s Phone, Cancels Ticket in Retaliation for Complaint

Jul 1, 2018

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On Friday evening, a TPG reader had a miserable experience checking into an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia (PHL). By the end of the check-in experience, he would have his phone thrown on the ground and his ticket cancelled.

From speaking with the passenger and American Airlines, here’s what we understand happened. The passenger, who asked to remain anonymous, arrived at the PHL Priority check-in counter 75 minutes before the departure of his flight to Boston (BOS) Friday night.

When the travel agent booked the tickets, his travel companion’s last name was listed incorrectly on the ticket. The check-in agent pointed this error out and tried to assess a $200 change fee. Understandably, the passengers asked if there was a way to avoid this fee. In the interaction that ensued, the check-in agent reportedly became irritated and rude as he was unable to resolve the situation.

Eventually a manager was called, who confirmed that the change fee needed to be charged. With this settled, the passengers tried to get the original agent to make the change, but he refused to assist them. So, another agent assisted in making the name change, charging the fee and checking the passengers’ bags, just before the 45-minute cutoff.

The passenger described in an email to TPG, which we reprint here unedited, what happened next:

Upon trying to leave, I expressed my unhappiness with the initial agent’s attitude. I tried to take a picture of his name tag. The agent gets irate, lunges across the counter, punches my hand, snatches my phone and throws it into the floor. 

The customer’s traveling companion filmed the immediate aftermath and provided us the footage to help corroborate the story. In the video, the passengers express their anger that the agent just took and threw the passenger’s phone. Rather than refuting their claims, the agent defiantly turns to walk away from the situation. Another nearby AA agent is seen looking at her colleague with a expression of disbelief.

After the recording stops, the agent threatened, in the passenger’s telling, to cancel their tickets. Again, a manager was called, who apologized for the situation and handed the passengers their boarding passes. The passengers rushed to security and got to their gate only to be stopped at the boarding door saying that the tickets were cancelled.

The ticket-counter manager and two supervisors convened at the gate, investigated and confirmed to the passengers that the original check-in agent had cancelled their tickets. The passengers were rebooked on the next flight to BOS, three hours later. By way of compensation, the passengers were reportedly asked to sign a “waiver/release for the incident in return for a $100 airline credit,” which they declined.

We reached out to American Airlines, providing details of the story and giving the company a chance to confirm or refute any aspects of the story. After investigating the situation, a spokesperson provided this statement:

We were concerned to hear this report and our Customer Relations team has reached out to the customer for additional details. This customer’s experience on Friday was not up to our standards and we apologize.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the passenger was offered — but refused — a voucher and was re-accommodated on a later flight. We do not know at this time what disciplinary steps the airline may have taken in response, or what form of compensation the passenger may have been offered in lieu of the $100 voucher he refused. We will report back when we learn more.

Update 7/2: Upon further research, American Airlines found that the change fee was only $200 instead of $275. The additional $75 in fees were for checked baggage and preferred seating. We have confirmed this with the passenger. Also, the passenger noted that American Airlines Customer Relations has reached out to him after this story has published with a new compensation offer: $100.

This story originally stated that the passenger’s name was spelled incorrectly on the ticket, while in fact it was a different name entirely. We have amended the sentence that referred to that aspect. 

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