A flight from Oklahoma City to Palm Springs, California turned sour for 17 year-olds Austin Giuliani and Willow Anderson when they found themselves delayed on American Airlines in Dallas and were offered no support from the airline.
For weeks the kids had been saving up their money to go visit family in California. For them, this was going to be the trip that they had long been waiting for. It turns out that it was the trip that they would just as soon rather forget.
The pair of teenagers left Oklahoma City bound for a connecting flight in Dallas around 6:00 pm Thursday evening. Everything was going good until American Airlines canceled their connecting flight due to what the company claims was weather,
The claim from the airline certainly had at least a little merit as a thunderstorm blew over Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Thursday evening. The delay only last a few minutes. The airline however, is arguing that the delays had a ripple effect causing further cancelations and delays. Reality is that weather may have had a hand in some limited delays and cancellations. However, the company avoids addressing the most likely culprit—airline staffing issues.
For weeks, American and other airlines have been dealing with staffing shortages along various routes. The problem is nothing new. Most airlines seem to be getting ahead of the situation by cancelling flights ahead of time and by working with passengers to get accommodations when they are left out to dry. It seems that American Airlines has chosen a different approach to the problem.
American has been cancelling flights on certain routes, but they have also still been booking flights—often putting crews up against the clock when it comes to service hours. It seems as if American has also dropped the ball communicating with their passengers. Many passengers report not being able to speak with agents at the gates and sitting on hold with airline customer for as long as 4 hours without ever getting top speak with an agent. The frustrations for American Airlines passengers is real.
For Austin and Willow they experienced that frustration firsthand. when they finally did get to speak to an American Airlines gate agent they were told that the teenagers would not be given a hotel or food voucher by their airline and that any expenses incurred would be left totally up to them. Without money and being younger than 18, Willow and Austin were left to fend for themselves. That is when their grandmother, Kari Moeller-Thomas got involved.
Kari, a nurse practitioner, understands just exactly what the situation means. “If I did this to a patient it would be considered abandonment,” the Georgetown University Alumni and Ambassador said on Friday. Kari believes that leaving a patient alone and confused could have—and very likely should have cost her serious professional sanctions. Worse more, it could have cost her the loss of trust from those who are putting their faith in her and a system that they have come to depend on. For years Kari and her family have trusted American Airlines and now that trust has become strained at best.
That lack of trust is not only being felt by Kari, Austin and Willow. It is being felt all along the American Airlines system.
Travelers had been strung out in places like McAllen, Texas and Boise, Idaho. For days, many of them have been left on their own using already strained budgets to find solutions to a problem that seems to be no fault of their own. Many are left to rent cars to reach their final destination and pay for food and hotels out of pocket even though they are not the party responsible for the staffing shortages and canceled flights. For Willow and Austin things were made even worse—they are technically minors and most, if not all of the area hotels would not book them a room because of their ages.
Austin and Willow ended up getting to Palm Springs and the safety of their grandparents late Friday afternoon. But they still have to get home to Oklahoma City in a few days. Their return tickets are booked on American Airlines and that has the family even more concerned.
“I am not happy about it,” Kari said on Friday. “I am thinking about booking them on another airline.”
While other airlines seem to communicating and handling things with professionalism and responsibility, American Airlines seems to have taken another route. Time will tell if the carrier is able recover from the failure to react and avoidance of the responsibility that seems to be entirely on their shoulders.
Austin Gulliani has a message for American Airlines and their CEO Doug Parker. That message is in short and sweet. “Just be more at tentative to your passengers and their needs. Don’t sit there and blame it on something else when its not,” Austin said. Austin just wishes that American Airlines was a little bit more at tentative and aware of what passengers are going through.
He offers Parker and his airline this little bit of advice. “Just listen and be helpful to your passengers.”