Reader-submitted: My Horrible Experience with American Airlines

opinionOn December 14 my aunt suddenly passed away. On Sunday, December 15, I made arrangements to fly to Toronto for funeral services. I have a five-month-old, nursing baby; so before I officially booked the ticket online, I called American Airlines to confirm that a valid birth certificate for the baby and valid US PASSPORT for me, would be proper documents; since I do not yet have a passport for baby. The agent said that it would be sufficient. I booked the ticket.

But unfortunately, when I got to LaGuardia airport after a 2 hour drive, the agent / supervisor there wouldn’t let me on. She said I needed a passport for the baby. I asked to speak to a customs official/ TSA agent / her supervisor but the woman said she is not allowing me past check in. She said no-one will come to me either because airport is closed – 5:35 p.m.

How do planes fly if the airport is closed?

I begged her to let me past check in and that I would deal with customs later. I told her that it’s for funeral services; I had no luggage – just a change of clothing for baby. A purse only. I had a return flight the next day 12:25. But as nice as I spoke, my words fell on deaf ears.

I called American Airlines again and spoke to another agent who said the birth certificate for the five-month-old with my Passport is enough documentation. He put me on hold and called for a supervisor who also said it’s sufficient. They documented my ticket with that info. I asked him how he verified it and he said they are signed up with a company that provides that information – truly outdated.

Unfortunately, they said that they were very sorry, but since they aren’t physically at the airport, the most they could do is document the ticket and I should file a complaint with customer relations. I was very hurt and let down. A business meeting can be rescheduled, but not this.

I sent up an email to Customer Relations as soon as I got back from the airport and they responded a week later stating that “we cannot agree that American is responsible for these entry requirements which truly are ultimately the passenger’s responsibility.” I fully understand that they are not the ones who create these requirements. The agents should be taught not only how to sell a ticket but also which questions to answer and how to direct the passenger to the right place for their answers.

However, if their agents do answer to questions of passengers with confidence and document their ticket with that information (misinformation), then they SHOULD take full responsibility for what their agents sell and say. So three agents and one supervisor from American Airlines all say YES to travel and one supervisor at the airport-also from American airlines – said NO! I think an airline such as American Airlines should have all their agents on one page. She should have allowed me at least to speak to higher authorities.

I want my non refundable ticket reimbursed fully and some sort of compensation for all the frustration I was put through.

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  1. That’s why you don’t rely on American Airlines for border rules. It’s not AA’s fault – you can’t cross a border by air without a passport for a baby. You can drive over the border without passports for kids, but you can’t fly.

    Next time check out the federal guidelines.

  2. AA has the worst possible customer service. I’ve flown this same route many times and have had countless issues woth them. I had this same issue except that we were allowed on the flight in but not back even though the AA rep told is also it was fine. Good luck getting anything out of them. They are impossible!

  3. I disagree with you. You are ultimately the one who should check with customs before you left, not relying on some customer service agent who probably lives in India. I feel bad for your loss but you are the ultimate cause of the issues.

  4. I feel terrible for your loss and your experience.
    This is nothing new that you need a passport to fly even with a new born. This is not the airlines fault.
    If you travel with a passport that is less than 6 month left they might not either let fly.
    Next time check out the rules yourself.

  5. TSA and Customes have specific travel rules. An affidavit from Customs would have cleared you if this was an emercency. The child already has a social security number if you followed the rules and this could then be back checked by both agencies. American airlines has a disclaimer on its tickets stating that you are responsible for travel documents related to Customs and Immigration.

  6. Regardless of whether or not an individual should check with customs to know the regulations, if an employee answers questions such as this incorrectly the company should be held accountable and if it’s documented I would reach out to an attorney and see if they’ll take your case on contingency for the emotional distress …

  7. Contact local TV/radio stations; they love to get ahold of stories like this and if aired it will be a BIG busha for AA. If your story gets aired I’m sure you’ll be hearing a very different refrom AA.

  8. i travel in and out of Montreal all the time. a child traveling into Canada that is under the age of 16 only requires a valid birth certificate! i could be wrong and traveling via air as opposed to by car….but i just recently traveled to Montreal and a birth certificate for my children under the age of 16 was very sufficient. i agree you should definitely fight it!

  9. Ur 100% right. AA should at least train their agents to know the rules of International travel. It must’ve been such a hard day for u & ur baby. Wasting time , money & aggravation for nothing. And u must’ve been really close to this aunt to drop everything to run to Toronto. I hope u get something from AA & keep sharing ur story ; it’ll be therapeutic & helpful for u in this difficult time.

  10. U do have to have a passport when flying to Canada for all ages. Having said that u def have a case against AA for the misinformation. Lesson learned: always check all with all parties involved for correct info.

  11. British is no better. Traveled to Europe took 8 plane rides. My last flight home was British. The same hand luggage I used all other planes was no problem. British air had a 65% empty plane and refused to allow my 20″ luggage on flight and charged me $129 to ck it in!!!

  12. American does nothing for ur complaints i waited 5 hrs for the planes to come in they kept on pushing us off and rebooking and canceling but they never came due to bad weather across the world weather was clear by laguardia they gave me nothing no food no hotel and i rebooked a flight for the next morn @ jfk w them (was in laguardia)they wouldnt even supply trans to jfk complaints afterwards got me nothing moreno than 1k miles!!

  13. Common sense says the baby is not a terror risk. It is time we hold employees accountable at TSA and the airlines for not using common sense. Otherwise, they should be replaced by machines.

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