“It was the worst airline experience I have ever had”

After Mike and Kim Durkot have the “worst” airline experience ever, do they deserve a refund of their baggage fees? Find out.

Question: We just went on what was supposed to be a vacation of a lifetime to Antigua. It was the worst airline experience I have ever had.

What stands out most in our minds is the incompetence we encountered in traveling on American Airlines. Between all the delays and lost luggage, not once did any American employees express any sympathy to our situation or apologize on behalf of the airline. We encountered only rude employees who had attitudes of complete indifference.

When we departed, our plane returned to Chicago because of a strap hanging out the door of the plane. I can only imagine the true cause of turning around after being airborne for 30 minutes to land at O’Hare and being surrounded by emergency vehicles. Due to this delay, we missed our connecting flight to Antigua.

All we were told upon landing in Miami was to get in a customer service line for rebooking. After waiting for 20 minutes, we saw the sign with the 800 number to call. When I called, I learned my party was already rebooked and needed to rush to our gate to make our flight. Luckily we didn’t just wait in line as we were told, or we would have missed that flight, too.

When we arrived in Turks and Caicos, we learned that only two of the five bags we checked (for an additional $140) were not on the plane, and one bag that made the flight had the zipper completely torn off in such a fashion that had it been opened, all the contents would have been strewn about with no way to re-zip the bag.

Someone at the airport gave us a roll of duct tape so that we could close the bag. We were advised that we should file our lost bag claims with American once we landed in Antigua.

There were no American representatives in the Antigua airport, so we filed our claim with British Airways as we were flown to Antigua by British Airways due to our missed connection.

We missed our first day of vacation — it was a waste. Vacation time to all of us is precious and very rare, and to have it squandered is infuriating.

Two of our bags were eventually delivered to us, but we didn’t receive the third bag until we were back in Chicago. That bag contained snorkeling equipment and clothes that were packed specifically for a sailing trip.

Surely you have to agree that the experience outlined above is beyond ridiculous for anyone to have to go through and will definitely cause us to think twice about flying American again.

I would like to know what the airline plans to do to compensate us for the money that was spent; first, checking our bags in both directions; second, for the damage to one bag, rendering it useless; and third for all of the additional money that we spent due to the incompetence of their employees. — Kim Durkot, Antioch, Ill.

Answer: American should have delivered you — and your luggage — to your final destination safely and on time. If it couldn’t, it should have made a meaningful apology and offered some compensation. But how much?

Let’s put this into a little perspective: While the customer service you received on this flight was terrible, it could have been much worse. A really bad flight is one that doesn’t make it to its destination — the landing you don’t walk away from. If American hadn’t turned your plane around, the strap might have gotten sucked into an engine and then you wouldn’t be writing to me at all.

You should be grateful to American for putting safety first.

The luggage loss appears to be a direct result of your rescheduling, and the attitude displayed by the American employees served absolutely no purpose, except to antagonize you. American should have offered you an allowance to buy replacement clothes and toiletries. It should have reunited you with your luggage quickly, not dragged its feet for more than a week. And it should have refunded the luggage fees.

By the way, a new law is being considered by Congress that would force an airline to refund baggage fees when it loses your luggage. It’s about time.

You could have sent a brief, polite email to one of American’s customer service executives. We list the names, numbers and emails on our consumer advocacy site. Or you could just contact us.

You went with door number two. Good choice! Our advocates contacted American on your behalf. American apologized, offered a $200 flight credit and cut you a check for $693, which covers your luggage fees and a replacement bag.

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