Complaining brought police


In an exception to ITN’s policy of not covering travel in North America (or the Caribbean), we are printing the following letter from an ITN subscriber as a complement to the previous letter from Ruth Weiss.

For eight months my husband, Martin, and I had looked forward to sharing a Christmas with family members in Ixtapa, Mexico. Our plans included flying early on the morning of Dec. 17 out of Louisville, Kentucky, through Dallas to Houston, where we were to pick up our Aeromexico flight.

For our 6:31 a.m. flight, we arrived at the airport at 5:15 a.m. and were pleased to note the line at American Airlines (AA) was not long. A young African-American woman seemed to be working quite hard to get people processed. There were perhaps five or six couples ahead of us in line.

The line, however, did not move. Twenty minutes after we got there, we realized this young woman was still dealing with the same party as when we walked in the door. The next couple took even longer.

We were getting worried and announced that we needed to make a 6:31 flight. Everyone ahead of us said that they were in the same situation. The long and the short of it is that several of us missed that flight. We were angry and we told the young woman that we wanted to speak to her supervisor.

To our surprise, she pointed to a woman standing next to her, who we had noted had checked in a few people while we were waiting in the line but mostly just seemed to be standing there. We thought she worked for another airline.

We asked her for her name and the name of her supervisor. She refused to give it. We asked her again and she refused. She then called security and three police officers showed up. We heard her tell them that we were not flying AA that day and she wanted us physically removed from the airport.

How surreal! We had used no inappropriate language and made no threats, though we were certainly angry and frustrated. We spoke at length with the extremely polite officers who arrived in response to her call. In the end, the senior officer took the young woman back to an office, came out and told us to just go on with our plans.

We were put on a later AA flight, but we missed our AeroMexico connection and 2½ days of a prepaid Club Med vacation.

Upon our return, we wrote the airline to complain and to ask for compensation for the extra $1,700 their error had cost us (in new tickets, hotel nights in Houston, van transport and lost vacation days, not counting frequent-flyer points we employed). We received back an astonishing letter from a Mr. Rhodes in customer service. In it, he accused my husband and me of making “inappropriate racial comments.”

My husband is a physician and I am a counselor. Born and raised in Canada, members of different minority groups ourselves and longtime supporters of the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Fairness Rights Campaign, it’s hard for me to think of any people less likely to behave so cruelly. We would be more likely to stick feathers up our armpits and try to fly! If we were angry before, we were furious now.

We took American Airlines to small-claims court. A week before the court case was scheduled, Mr. Rhodes called and offered a $500 voucher if we would drop the case. I said we would if it came with an apology from the airline. He responded that the airline had nothing to apologize for.

American Airlines did not send a representative to the court and they lost.

The check arrived several weeks later after we had sent yet another letter advising the airline that we were ready to hold a discovery deposition and were looking forward to possessing our own airline jet.

PATRICIA SCHILLER

Louisville, KY

ITN sent to American Airlines (Box 619612 MD 2400, DFW Airport, TX 75261-9612) a copy of Mrs. Schiller’s original letter to ITN and a month later received a call from an airline representative stating they could not provide comment as the Schillers had sued the airline. A month and a half before going to press, ITN e-mailed American Airlines another copy of the letter and asked for a reply. ITN received no reply.