American Airlines receives backlash over lost-luggage communications

The airline was presented with several complaints from angry travelers who were without luggage for several hours due to a conveyor-belt malfunction.

American Airlines faced heavy criticism for poorly communicating to hundreds of customers their bags never made it onto flights from Miami late last week.

The conveyor system at Miami International Airport faced technical difficulties that resulted in eight hours worth of flights sans baggage, but travelers said the airline waited too long to relay the situation.

“The conveyor belt system in Miami had some kind of breakdown this morning,” American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed told International Business Times . “It meant the passenger bags couldn’t move through the system for several hours.”

Freed later issued the following statement:

The system was back online this afternoon and we are working to reunite those bags with our passengers. Should a customer have a question about their delayed bag, they can work with the baggage service office at their destination or call 1-800-535-5225.

He followed that up with a seemingly caustic response to an IBTimes reporter who asked why they would allow the flights to leave without baggage: “What would you expect them to do? We had to get passengers to where they were going.”

Customers, who were justifiably angry, said the company didn’t do enough to communicate the problem. Several tweets back up claims about the communications failure:

American Airlines has been responding with apologies and information to send customers to 1-800 numbers, but the company didn’t seem too eager to give a fuller explanation of how this happened and why it apparently misled customers about their baggage.

If the airline is looking for some good news, however, a recent report claims that customers actually like paying for baggage fees. Hunter Keay of Wolfe Research published a report last week that stated in part:

Maybe that sentence would be better received if we had said ‘customers like paying only for what they use.’ Well, guess what…that’s the same thing. Part of the airline evolution is about airlines segmenting their customers and treating good customers better than bad customers.

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