Do I have to say it, American? Beer and pediatrics don’t mix

By | February 16th, 2016

If American Airlines promises to pay for a new jacket, they will. That is what Leonard Demers thought.

But he learned that sometimes it takes a little nudge, sometimes it takes a lot of prodding, and sometimes it takes a call from a consumer advocate to get American to live up to their promises.

Demers flew on American Airlines from Boston to Washington, D.C. to make a presentation at a conference for the American Academy of Pediatrics. His suit jacket was placed in an overhead bin in the first class cabin. When he retrieved his jacket from the bin, it was soaked with beer.

Demers was headed to a meeting and did not have time to get his jacket dry-cleaned, but it would have been bad form for him to go to a meeting on pediatrics wearing a wet jacket that reeked of beer. He was told by agents from American Airlines that he could buy a new jacket and they would reimburse him for the cost.

He actually got this promise in writing with the cryptic message, “Pax#s suit jacket damaged/wet. No fault of his own… called baggage serv and advs that AA will reimburse for the new suit jacket with receipt and he has to fill out the claim.”

Despite his written claim, American failed to respond to his claim for over six weeks. When they did respond, it was with a form letter that suggested that the incident was a minor spill and that he should have his jacket cleaned.

He had several emails with a customer relations agent. He responded:

Your reply to my issue, caused by AA, is very disingenuous at best and repulsive at worst.

First, it’s taken over six weeks to respond to my request for reimbursement. In the meantime, I have had to pay for an issue that was caused by AA and now you are telling me I have to eat the cost.

Second, either your response was a generic response or you did not read what I had to do. I had to present at a NATIONAL CONFERENCE and had no time to get my jacket dry cleaned. I had no choice but to purchase a suit coat (because of AA’s fault).

Third, this was not a “spillage” – my jacket was soaked with alcohol and it reeked with a horrendous smell!

Please reimburse me for the cost of a new jacket ($356.16) that I was compelled to buy because of AA’s fault.

American Airlines has specific policies for damaged baggage, but it does not have any specific policies for items in the passenger cabin which are damaged by the flight crew or the airline’s negligence, such as when beer spills in the overhead bin.

We’re also left to wonder how the heck beer got into the overhead compartment. Neither American nor Demers had a clue.

When he felt that his claim was falling on deaf ears, Demers contacted us and our advocates contacted American Airlines. Once he sent the jacket to American, he was reimbursed $356 to replace his ruined suit jacket.

It shouldn’t require a call from a consumer advocate for American Airlines to do the right thing. But since it does, we should be glad we have advocates working for us.

Should American Airlines have reimbursed Demers for the beer damage?

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  • IgorWasTaken

    Well done. An alternative approach/option: File in Small Claims Court. Not all that big a deal, and my hunch is American would send the check before the court date.

  • Peter Varhol

    Chris, I don’t always agree with you, but you do serious good out there.

  • Pat

    Yes, well done in getting American to pay. My question is how did the beer get in the overhead bin? I thought there are TSA restrictions on the amount of fluids that can get past the security screening.

  • Ben

    It was probably the beer that the airline serves on the plane. Snacks and beverages are often stored in the overhead bins and the location makes sense, the first class bins being near the galley.

  • Carchar

    I hope they sent him the postage too.

  • Bill___A

    Well cone.

  • JewelEyed

    They really should not be storing beverages in overhead bins with people’s belongings…

  • Joe_D_Messina

    That’s an all-time headline!

  • Tom McShane

    I wish you’d had a poll with this one. I’d like to know how many readers thought the passengers should have purchased beer-jacket insurance.

  • Regina Litman

    I don’t know how men’s clothing is priced, but if I needed a jacket in an emergency on the road, I’d probably head for Wal-Mart. I doubt if I’d spend more than $56, let alone $356. But I can see why a medical doctor who flies first class might head for, say, Brooks Brothers (if they still exist) or their ilk.

  • MarkKelling

    Not sure which airline you fly, but I have never been on a plane where the snacks or drinks served to the passengers were stored in the overhead carry on luggage bins, especially not alcohol. These items are stored in the galley areas on planes with bins that have no connection at all to the carry on luggage bins. Alcohol specifically is stored in a locked cart (or now on some Southwest flights a bag that is secured by a zipper lock) and is carefully inventoried.

  • MarkKelling

    You can buy alcohol at many airports and carry that on a plane. That is what I am thinking happened here – passenger bought some beer and the container popped due to the lower air pressure on the plane or they had an open one they were drinking before getting on the plane and it tipped over during the flight.

  • MarkKelling

    I’m sure he went looking for a jacket that looked like it belonged with the pants since it was a suit and not a slacks and blazer combo. He may have gone to Brooks Brothers (there is one in Terminal C at Houston Bush airport that seems to be doing a booming business every time I go through there with reasonable prices [even though I have never felt the need to purchase anything there]) if he bought the original suit there. And for a man’s suit coat, $400 or even $500 is not an excessive amount to spend for a good one. I would have just gone to Men’s Wearhouse and spent $100 for a whole new suit. ;-)

  • JewelEyed

    Especially a medical doctor in a nice suit going to present at a huge conference for a very prestigious professional organization.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I can’t speak for alcohol but I’ve seen overhead bins used for galley items like snacks. Not too many flights back somebody asked for something and I watched the flight attendant go to the first overhead and get it. As I recall it was after the carts had went through so not sure if they were leftovers or what, but without a doubt they were using that first bin for stuff.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    No way would the flight crew take responsibility for that. And in writing, besides. It was something the flight crew had stuck up there and knew they shouldn’t have. That much is self evident.

  • sirwired

    W-M doesn’t even SELL dress clothes of any sort.

    That said, if I was going to buy an “emergency” sport jacket or blazer, to wear once and then donate to a thrift shop after mine was cleaned, I’d never spend $356. Maybe half that much.

  • sirwired

    When airlines screw up like this, I can totally get behind holding them responsible for emergency replacements.

    That said, why do these “Airline won’t cover my emergency clothes bill” cases always seem so high?

  • Alan Gore

    Fortunately, an MD flying premium is exactly the sort of passenger that airlines are most afraid of crossing. This case was pretty obviously heading for Small Claims Court had there not been a customer service resolution.

  • Éamon deValera

    AMR, the only airline I’ve ever had to sue.

  • joycexyz

    Why should he buy a cheap jacket? The one that was ruined was probably of good quality. You sound a wee bit envious!

  • Alex Stanley

    My question is… If he were flying First Class, why was the jacket in the overhead bin. Usually, the flight attendants will hang up passenger’s jackets.

  • 42NYC

    Need to know:
    – who’s beer was it. If another passenger stored a case of beer in the overhead it’s not aa’s fault (I doubt that’s what happened given the liquid ban)
    -is $358 excessive for a jacket? Not saying he needs to buy a crappy $49 sport coat from wal mart but there has to have been options on the 150-200 range.

    That said we always suggest you get a response in writing since a verbal response can easily be retracted. Unfortunate that aa couldn’t even agree with what they put in writing.

  • Fishplate

    As it turned out (and he could have anticipated) he had to send the ruined jacket to the airline in order to get reimbursed. Why replace a good jacket with a cheap one?

  • Travelnut

    He didn’t have time to get his jacket dry cleaned, so he likely didn’t have time to do much comparison shopping in an unfamiliar city. He likely just had time to find something in the airport, which was probably along the lines of Brooks Brothers. I’ve had to buy something specific on a short time schedule in a unfamiliar city. It ain’t easy. You grab the first thing that’s acceptable.

  • Don Spilky

    Next time you fly, have a look in the terminal and see which stores are available to purchase a jacket. Unfortunately, $358 is actually in line with what is available. It could very well be that OP did not have enough time to figure out where to shop in a strange city with enough time to get to his presentation.

  • Don Spilky

    Bingo. I had a similar experience and Brook Bros was my only option.

  • 42NYC

    true. Target usually isnt in the airport and i’m assuming the OP didnt have 4 hours to go bargain hunting for a jacket and have it altered.

    Dont get me wrong, i own jackets in that price point, but i can see how an airline might think theyre being fleeced (kind of like yesterday’s post about the woman wanting $700 for a night in Miami).

  • sirwired

    I suspect they asked for the old one back because they didn’t want him “double-dipping” (and/or they wanted to make sure he wasn’t replacing a $60 jacket from Macy’s with a $400 jacket from a nicer store.)

    I suspect the original jacket could have been cleaned. Mere exposure to water does not generally ruin fabrics, it’s actually washing them in water that does.

    If the bill was smaller, I doubt they would have asked for the old one.

  • Ben

    I’ve definitely seen snacks stored in overhead bins. You make a good point about the alcohol, though, they probably wouldn’t store that there.

  • mbods2002

    Maybe the beer was for a crew member and they forgot it was there. You know, a little sippy sip?

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