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  • Fr. Satish Joseph

My Harrowing Experience with American Airlines!

To: Mr. Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to express my deepest frustration and anger at the inhumane treatment my fellow passengers and I received at the hands of American Airlines. If you care, please respond!

Let me give you the sequence of Events.

  • I arrived at Philadelphia International airport on July 4th, on Qatar Airways flight QR 727 from Doha. Earlier I had travelled from Bhopal to Delhi on Air India, and from Delhi to Doha or Qatar Airways. All these flights were great.

  • After a 30-hour travel, I was to take AA 5300 from Philadelphia to Cincinnati, First Class. At the customer service counter, I changed my destination to Dayton and paid $200 for the change. I had to give up my First-Class Status to make the change, unless, of course, I would pay $1,360. I settled for coach and was booked on AA 5398 to leave Philadelphia for Dayton 1:19 pm.

  • That afternoon, because of storms, many flights were cancelled, including mine. I completely understand this. I want all passengers and crew to be safe. I stood at customer service and I was book on AA 5398 for the next day, July 5th. AA did not offer room, food voucher, drink voucher, not even a bottle of water. However, I am a big boy. I can deal with all that.


  • July 5th, I reached the airport to board AA 5398 which it was announced was leaving on time from Gate F-3 at 1:19pm. I realized that there were at least 4 other passengers with long haul travel, who had were making their second attempt to get to Dayton. There was also a newly married couple and several couples with children.

  • 15 minutes before boarding, it was announced that the “aircraft was on maintenance,” and that the flight would be delayed.

  • After some delay, a gate change was announced to F-14. My fellow passenger and I were delighted that another aircraft was arranged, and we would leave without further delay. Young and old, single and parents with children, all rushed to Gate F-14.

  • At Gate F-14, it was announced that the aircraft was ready but that there was no crew. The flight could only leave when they arrived. Understandable!

  • After a short delay, the crew arrived. We boarded, AND THEN CAME ANOTHER NEWS!

  • The pilot announced that the new aircraft too had been on maintenance too but the PAPER WORK WAS NOT DONE RIGHT! He had to get that straightened out and we would leave in 5-10 minutes. How in the world does this happen? We did not leave in 5-10 minutes.

  • After almost half-an-hour, the captain announced that this aircraft too had maintenance issues. The flush in the toilet was not working. He was not going to leave without a working toilet.

  • Ground crew was called. They first announced that the issue was resolved, and we were ready to go. Then someone used the toilet who said that the toilet did not flush. This led to further delays. By now we were boarded and at the gate for an-hour-and-a-half.

  • IT GETS WORSE!!! We finally pushed back from the gate and taxied for about 7 minutes. And then we stopped. After having sat for another half-an-hour, it was announced that some storms had developed in the West and there was traffic congestion, but that we would leave in 5-10 minutes. Had the paperwork on the maintenance been done right, and had the toilet been working, we would have reached Dayton by now! But alas!

The ONLY BRIGHT SPORT thus far was a wonderful flight attendant Beverly Moore, who decided to offer free drinks to everyone. Even alcoholic drinks were on the house! She was wonderful and must be rewarded!

  • IT ONLY GOT BAD FROM HERE ON! After what seemed an eternity, it was announced that the plane did not have enough fuel for the reroute that Air Traffic Control was proposing. Now we had to go back to the gate to refuel. We were told that as soon as we refueled, we would take off. However, it took a long time to get back to the gate because of traffic congestion.

  • By the time the pilot navigated to Gate F-12, there was a threat of lightening and all airport ramps were closed. We sat for another half-an-hour.

  • We were then instructed to deboard the plane to refuel. We were to take off very soon.

  • The plane was refueled. But the pilot came to inform us at the gate that there were new maintenance issues with the toilet. He would not leave till that was fixed.

  • It was then announced that this flight is cancelled and that we find out way to customer service and book ourselves for the next day!

  • The line at the Customer Service was long with only one agent present. This was the craziest thing I have seen in my 22 years of travel. Meanwhile, I got on the phone to speak to a customer service rep. The wait was 24 – 45 minutes. They offered to call me back. Fortunately, I left my name for them to call me back.

  • YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS!!! While in line, it was announced that the issue was fixed and that we should all return to Gate F-12 to board. WE RUSHED TO THE GATE ONLY TO BE TOLD THAT THIS WAS A FALSE ALARM AND THAT THE ISSUE WAS NOT RESOLVED! THE CAPTAIN COULD NOT TELL US WHEN WE WOULD DEPART!

  • The time not was about 7:45pm. We had boarded the flight at 2pm.

  • Meanwhile I got a call back from AA customer service I was booked on AA 5687 which departed on time at 8:28 pm. I barely made it to Gate F4 on time. I told all my fellow passengers to do what I had done, but the wait on the phone only got longer. Many of them did not make it to the next flight that night.

  • To my surprise. This flight was almost empty. There were about 80 other passengers still standing at the customer service. I informed the onboard staff about the fate of these passengers and they could care less. They told me that ATC would not allow a delay and we left with 17 passengers on board, while many were stuck at the airport.

  • What was supposed to be a 36 hour journey from Bhopal in India to Dayton in Ohio, became a 60 hour journey thanks to American Airlines!


  • When I got to Dayton, I was told that my checked baggage somehow was in Columbus. I would be delivered the next day!

  • My baggage was delivered 16 hours later by a kind lady.

MY QUESTIONS: Through this entire harrowing experience, why was there no AA agent at the gate to help people get on to other flights? Why was there no food voucher, no apologies, no drinks at the gates? Even a glass of water would have been a kind gesture. Why were travelers left to their own fate? Why did stranded passengers of AA5398 not make it the almost empty AA5687?

Every passenger who went through this must be given free international flight vouchers in first class!


I hope you will respond.

Satish Joseph

Dayton, OH

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