Flier's hopes grounded

The Baltimore Sun

I was flying on American Airlines from Boston to Chicago when hundreds of flights were grounded for a wiring inspection. My traveling companion, an 80-year-old, and I were told we needed to wait to see an agent - a two- or three-hour wait. Instead, I booked one-way tickets on another airline, which cost me $261.50 for each ticket. American is willing to reimburse me only for the return portion of my ticket, which is $131.50. Shouldn't I be refunded the difference?

Of course, you should. Will it happen? Of course, it won't. Here's what American spokesman Tim Smith had to say: "We understand the lines were daunting, but many passengers had been automatically reaccommodated as soon as their flight was canceled. She could also have checked for her new itinerary online at AA.com, at one of our self-serve kiosks at the airport or by trying to get through on the phone to our reservations group. When you book with us, we ask you (even online at aa.com) how you would like to be notified of any changes to your itinerary: cell phone, PDA, e-mail, home phone, etc. Many customers fail to give us a good way to get in touch with them, including their preferred ways in the middle of their itinerary away from home."

It's clear: This was not your fault - nor should the blame be shifted to the passenger. So how should one deal with this? I asked Johns Hopkins University professor P.M. Forni, author of the book The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude, what he would have done. "I would do exactly what she did. Spend twice as much and then write a nice letter. ... I think it's really up to the good heart of the company how much they will reimburse her."

The fast thing, the smart thing and the right thing are not necessarily the same thing.

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