On Friday the 18th of November I was in LA to tape a TV show and talk about things people can do to make their travel more fun, affordable and efficient. I took the redeye home to New York on AA10 Friday evening (November 18th), and what started as an incredibly smooth and uneventful on time departure turned into the worst, most painful flight of my life. Everything that’s happened since has been no different…

It’s Probably Easier To Explain The Incident Via Video…

About two and a half weeks ago I had a ridiculous incident on American. I’ve held off talking about it publicly because I believed that the airline would want to handle this professionally, promptly and courteously knowing how severe this was, and what large safety concerns had been raised. I was totally wrong on all fronts. This video was made not long after the incident and I have since heard from American, which has been more frustrating than NOT hearing from them. Details on that below…

For those without sound, a beverage cart came loose shortly after takeoff from the galley in between first and business class. I was seated in the first row of Economy on the aisle. The cart accelerated more than 30 feet down the aisle and smashed into me. Since it was an overnight flight I had my eye mask and ear plugs in. Never saw it coming. Carts are supposed to be latched, braked and stowed, it’s a safety mandate, and this could only have happened due to negligence…

Why bother sharing? Because I happen to have a voice in the travel industry, whereas most in this situation would not and I believe that it’s important to highlight how poorly this has been handled so that someone with less reach will hopefully receive much better in the future…

The Very Serious Issue Here And What Could’ve Been…

Many of you know that beverage carts are to be latched and stored in a secure compartment away from passengers, with brakes securely applied for take off and landing to prevent this exact occurrence. It’s a safety mandate. Brakes should always be applied when the carts are not specifically moving, even if the cart is out and about for service, which it was not. During this juncture of the flight when beverage carts are mandated to be stored and secured, there are two fail safes to keep them from getting loose from the pressure of take off. If a latch fails, the brakes should stop the cart from rolling, it should just topple over in the galley, which happens from time to time. I’ve seen latches fail, but each time the brakes have immediately stopped the cart and it has just toppled over. Clearly, that did NOT happen and there was nothing special here to explain WHY. This was NOT an act of god, it was NOT turbulence, it was a standard, uneventful take off in clear beautiful Southern California skies I was so envious of as I headed back to cold New York; and this could only have happened due to negligence. Every person in every cabin, every crew member and every soul on board was seated, seat belts on. There is no explanation other than careless error. 

 I’m 6’2”, rather athletic and have very strong legs. Had this been someone elderly, someone shorter or someone with a limb at the wrong angle, the speed could have quite literally damaged a much more essential part of their body in a life threatening way. I was **** lucky. I am still constantly replaying the “what if’s” and though I remain in pain I am grateful that I’m here, conscious to tell the frightening tale, not experiencing the worst of outcomes. Hobbling and playing the experience over and over again in my mind sucks, but it’s so much better than the alternatives.

Why I’m Now Furious Weeks Later…

I expected American to reach out within hours to see how I was feeling and assure me that I would be dealt with appropriately, as I described in the video. The incident happened Friday the 18th, I sent them pictures of my wounds via Twitter Saturday the 19th, and I did not hear a peep from them until Tuesday, and even then that was initiated by me. Assurances from the head of Customer Service at JFK that they were on it and cared deeply the morning of the incident clearly fell on deaf ears! On Tuesday, the big communication I received was just a Twitter message saying “your issue is important to us, someone will contact you”. Whoopee. The virtual “your call is very important to us, keep holding” message. The pilot filed a report, the purser filed a report, head of customer service met the flight. It was taken seriously at the airport, it’s not like some random “oh this guy says he got hit”… the plane almost diverted, people met me at the gate, I was wheeled out of JFK. I insisted that the plane not divert which was the pursers intention, as to not inconvenience other passengers.

Mind you, the diversion would have cost American Airlines a minimum of $10,000 dollars, and that’s a very conservative estimate…

A friend working for one of the largest media outlets wanted to run the story, since I hadn’t heard from American I said go for it. The night before it went out I emailed American to voice my displeasure and let them know that this was happening. They reached out very quickly (as opposed to before when they left me waiting like I did not matter) and assured me they were very sorry and were taking it seriously and that “my call is very important to them” and someone would reach out to take care of my bills and provide me with a strong gesture of good will. I decided to be professional in hopes of meaningful resolution, especially since I am not your “ordinary” once a year flyer…

Here’s how I think things should’ve gone: Day 1: here’s a gesture of goodwill (could be wings like they give kids) and a call from someone taking real interest Day 2: flowers, phone call or card, saying hope you’re feeling better, we’re sorry we injured you, we’re just checking up. Day 3 (a work day): phone call from senior offices talking about the safety issues, how apologetic they are and how the matter will be taken seriously in crew training. Day 4: Full resolution with meaningful good will delivered and a check for medical expenses sent via express delivery. NONE of these things happened…

** Goodwill gestures are not limited to miles or money. I am a travel journalist, they could get creative, they could send chocolate, I love chocolate…**

Getting Somewhere…? No.

After my phone call on Tuesday I thought this meant we were getting somewhere, so I asked not to publish the story. Days went by and I finally heard from someone that they would cover my medical bills for my orthopedist visit and all other medical dealings. They offered a $600 voucher if I agreed not to sue them, which was a gesture purely provided for any future injuries I may have. I had gotten the good news from my doc that no tears had occurred, but some of the most severe bruising he’d ever seen had. He said he suspected I would make a full recovery, and my time is limited to wait by the phone for an airline, as would be any working persons, so I said fine. I believed that a real apology, a promise to look into future safety and hopefully a more heartfelt gesture of goodwill would SOON follow.  The voucher delivered at that point, which is not cash, and not equal was not from a customer service stand point, only a “here’s some money in case you need to do some rehab on your knee” or something. I hate lawsuits and despite many lawyers jockeying to take the case, with no permanent damage I decided to take the high road. I said $600 was insulting, and that I hoped American, now able to consider things from a customer service standpoint, realizing they were not dealing with a combative enemy would be much more adept in handling this. WRONG. So wrong.

Today The Gloves Are Off, American Is RIDICULOUS…

Basically three weeks on from the initial event, I was finally was contacted via telephone from a customer service (as opposed to liability and risk management team in response to an injury) to be offered a whopping $200 voucher as a final gesture of good will, or if I opted, instead 10,000 American AAdvantage miles. What’s perhaps most hilarious, is that they called yesterday and could not leave a phone number, so I just had to pray that they would call again when I would not be in a meeting. I politely expressed how ridiculous that was, got nowhere, said I will not stop you from issuing the voucher, but it certainly won’t stop me pursing a more reasonable means of making amends. I find the dealings totally insulting. I find the fact that it’s only being remotely addressed at all almost three weeks later even worse. I am PISSED.

Let’s not forget, vouchers are not cash. Airline tickets cost cash, medical bills cost cash..

The Full Math And Dealings HERE…

I paid $602 (American says $594) for a one way ticket. 

I have NOT been refunded, nor will I be in Americans eyes thus far.

I had $200 in out of pocket medical expenses.

I AM still awaiting a check which theoretically has been mailed.

I received a $600 AA travel voucher from risk management as a gesture of good will toward my injury and future medical issues I may have from it, not addressing the inflight experience, or customer service. A $600 voucher with an expiration date and red tape is NOT equivalent to cash.

I  received $200 a $200 AA travel voucher for my customer service experience and injury. No other considerations. 

Basically, I paid $600 for the flight, which American does NOT plan to refund, have netted $200 in “travel vouchers” for weeks of pain and suffering (I am still severely bruised and hobbling on steps) and am still out $200 waiting on a check. So I as of today am at ZERO. This is NOT about the money, it’s about a complete failure to care for a passenger injured and inconvenienced by negligence under their care, on one of their planes. That’s an emotional failure on American’s part to remotely care for a passenger…

IS THIS FAIR? LEAVE A COMMENT WITH YOUR VIEWS….