After an amazing trip around the world, my vacation had come to an end and I was flying from Los Angeles to Sacramento on American Eagle. After a semi short three hour layover in the Flagship First Class lounge in T4 it was time to return to work when the end of a great trip took a sharp turn for the worst.
Around 4:10pm on 11/11/14 my partner and I attempted to board the bus to the remote terminal (gates 44A-44J). My partner had a boarding pass for a flight to JFK shortly after my departure and I was flying to Sacramento from the remote AE terminal. As his flight was after mine he wanted to escort me to the gate to say goodbye before heading back to his gate to depart. After all, this was the first time we had seen each other in nearly three weeks.
When we attempted to board the bus, the 3rd party bus dragon refused to allow him to board because he didn’t have a boarding pass for gates 44A-J, but instead a boarding pass for a flight form Terminal 4. I asked the bus dragon (who is not an AA employee) if I could ask to a supervisor or an AA agent and she directed me to the counter where a middle aged Latin man was working (AA Agent). I explained the situation to him and he told me “absolutely no” and that there was NO way my partner could escort me to the gate despite having a same day boarding pass. I then informed him that as of September 8, 2014 LAX and TSA allows all passengers with a same day boarding pass to access all gates referring to the article written earlier this year by James. He told me the article was hodgepodge and that I was misinformed. Needless to say, I could not find the official tweet at that time from the LAX airport and all I had on my side was James’ blog post.
The AA agent continued to tell me I was misinformed and that he would call the police if I pressed the issue any further or if my partner tried to board the bus. I then asked for his name, and he sneered, “Jose*”. Being a very common Spanish/Latin name, I followed up by asking him for his last name. After all, if I was going to complain I wanted to be sure I had the correct agent identified. He informed me that his last name was private information and that he would not provide it and he again threaten to call the police. At that point, I noticed his badge had his entire name listed, so I addressed him by his full name and said, “thank you Mr. Jose Garcia*” and I walked away from the counter. I said my goodbyes to my partner, and after a few minutes of conversation we exchanged a quick hug and kiss and my partner returned to the Admirals Club.
When the next bus arrived, I approached the boarding door and the bus dragon asked to see my boarding pass again. My hands were full as I was holding my phone in my right hand and a bottle of water and boarding pass in my left so I turned my left hand slightly towards her so she could examine the ticket. She nodded and I continued walking towards the bus without saying a word. I was about 2 steps onto the tarmac when Mr. Jose Garcia screamed at me, “GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE! YOU NEED TO LEARN SOME RESPECT!”
I turned, walked back into the lobby and is a state of dismay responded “are you kidding me… you just said get your ass back here?!?” I honestly think my jaw fell to the floor in shock! He proceeded to tell me to stay put and screamed some more “you need a lesson in respect!” and continued with “someone else is going to deal with you!” Once back inside the lobby, he aggressively ripped my boarding pass from my hand and continued his rant. If his verbiage was not bad he enough, he then started to point his finger in my face, similarly to the way a mother tells a naughty child no, and scream, “YOU NEED TO LEARN A LESSON!”
Needless to say, by this point I was stunned by the scenario that was playing out. With 20-30 other customers awaiting their bus and witnessing this ordeal, I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed for myself, or for the agent.
I waited patiently at the desk, texting my partner telling him what was happening, without saying a word as this agent continued his tirade. In between outburst he smacked away on his keyboard and called/radioed multiple times saying “I need you now….I have a situation.” Each time the person on the other end of the radio asked why and he responded with his location and that he needed assistance immediately. I continued to wait while he screamed into the radio and hacked away at his keyboard and intermittently told me that “I was going to learn”.
When the police arrived, one officer talked with the agent while two others stood by. I casually strolled up to the other two police officers and told them that I was the alleged disturbance and told them exactly what had happened: My partner who was also flying AA and I tried to board the bus, they refused him entry because he didn’t have a boarding pass for gate 44A-J, I asked for a supervisor or a policy/explanation, explained the new rules at LAX to this agent, asked for his name, said my goodbyes to my partner, I tried to re-board and then I was screamed at by this agent and had my boarding pass confiscated.
During the entire ordeal I was calm and collected and the police could tell that I was absolutely no threat. After hearing my story the police officer said, “you didn’t break any laws by asking a question or asking for this agents name, therefore no police report or action would be filed or are necessary.” The retrieved my boarding pass and then told me to board the bus before I missed my flight. Then, as policy the police escorted me to the remote terminal.
During the transfer the two officers, who were my escorts, and I made small talk about Latin American politics and corruptions after I noticed one of the officers had the same last name as my partner. The officer was from Mexico, whereas my partner is from Venezuela. As we arrived at the remote terminal, the other officer said to me, “you know in the post 9/11 world everyone is more nervous and certain individuals do not like to have their authority questioned.” He then joked that it is better to be a silent in the shadow type passenger versus someone who ask questions, even if/when the airline employee is wrong.
Once we arrived at the remote terminal the police officers wished me a pleasant journey, watch me walk to the gate, and then turned and left the remote terminal as I waited for my slightly delay flight to board.
Overall, I am still shocked by this entire experience. In my 10+ years of flying and now flying every week for work, I have never had a customer service agent grab a boarding pass out of my hands or cursed and screamed at me. Not once did I raise my voice, use profanity, or even become slightly disruptive. The childhood behavior was oneway.
Stories like this one are becoming more common. It appears that more and more airline agents have little man syndrome and are punishing passengers who ask for their names and/or complain about services. I truly believe this agent only responded the way he did because I specifically asked for his name as I planned to complain about my interactions with him. Similar stories of passengers being punished for complaining include: a family being removed from a Southwest Airline flight for tweeting about bad customer service and an Easyjet passenger who was threatened to be denied boarding for complaining via twitter.
I guess the moral of the story and the lesson I was taught on tuesday would be: if you are going to complain, discreetly obtain the agent(s) name and complain after. The headaches they can cause are best avoided.
I have filed an official complaint naming this agent with American Airlines and am waiting for a response.
*the agents names in this story was changed to protect his privacy