I had completed my trip to Seattle and looked forward to the 8,600 miles posting to my account.

A few days later the miles posted but there was a problem: they missed one of my flights.

I got credit for the flights from Austin to DFW, DFW to Seattle, and DFW to Austin. Somehow they missed my flight on the Saturday night red-eye from Seattle to DFW. Sometimes this happens, so I waited a few more days but the miles never posted.

Eight days after the flight I still did not have the miles so I called AAdvantage customer service and explained the situation. I thought AA could check their system and see that I had actually taken that flight but apparently not. The customer service representative asked for the ticket number on my boarding pass. Thankfully, I still had it and I learned an important lesson; hold on to your boarding passes until your mileage posts.

I gave her that information, she confirmed that I had taken the flight, apologized for the problem and said the miles would post in the next 2 days. She was very polite, I thanked her and was glad that the situation had been corrected.

There was only one problem: four days later I still did not have credit for the miles!

Willing to give the benefit of the doubt I waited another few days; in fact I gave it a full week but still no miles. I called AAdvantage customer service and explained the situation to the representative and gave him the number from my boarding pass.  He apologized, said he’d take care of it and assured me the miles would appear on my account in 48 hours.

Did I wait 48 hours to see if those miles had posted? No, I waited 72. Three days after the call I checked and sure enough, still no miles for that flight! Did I get angry at this? No, I decided to give them another few days, maybe they would post on the next cycle.

I again waited a full week but the miles did not post.

This time I wrote to customer service, explained that I did not get the miles after the flight or after being promised them twice. I even scanned my boarding pass for them. I hoped that would be enough.

Thankfully it was. Later that day I received this e-mail.

Dear Mr. Happyflier,

First, allow me to thank you for being one of our valued AAdvantage Platinum® members.  At AAdvantage® Customer Service, we are always glad to hear from you.

Unfortunately, I believe there is a system glitch. Therefore, I have posted the flight as November 7 as a cancelled flight. This will still give you credit.

Whether you are traveling this holiday season or staying at home, we wish you all the best as the new year approaches.

Regards,

XXXXX YYYYYYY
AAdvantage Customer Service
American Airlines

P.S. Do you know how easy it is to earn AAdvantage miles when you catch up on the news of the day? You can earn 1,000 miles for a 4-week EZ pay subscription to USA TODAY. Please visit www.myusatoday.com/aadvantage for full details. While you’re online, visit www.aa.com/subscribe to learn about other ways to earn AAdvantage miles, receive exclusive bonus offers from name-brand companies and hear about discounted fares. Make the most of your membership!

I worked many many years in customer service, and with that background I can say that this is a good letter but some things are missing.

The good part is they are glad to hear from me, they appreciate my Platinum status and they have given me my miles.

Here is what is missing:

  1. We’re sorry you have had so much trouble getting your miles.
  2. I’ve contacted our technical staff and asked them to find the cause of this problem and fix it so that other travelers do not experience the same problems you had. This should have happened after you notified us twice that you had not received your miles, so I am also forwarding your message to a supervisor to see that we do better the next time.
  3. I’ve placed X,XXX miles in your account to thank you for letting us know that we did not handle your situation correctly, and to thank you for being a customer of American Airlines.

Item #1 is so obvious I was surprised that it was not there. Any time a business makes a mistake on a customer’s account, they should apologize. When I missed a connection in Boston last year because my flight was late and they would not hold my San Francisco flight for 4-5 minutes for me to make the connection, I complained to them. In their letter back to me they said “We certainly don’t want to leave customers behind and I’m sorry things worked out like they did on this occasion.” They also explained that planes must leave on time and they cannot delay them for a passenger to connect. When I had a flight a few months later delayed for 20 minutes so that some passengers could connect I wrote again; they wrote back with an apology and a clarification of their policy.

In this case, where the issue was totally American’s fault, they are apparently not sorry I had this problem.

Item #2 is basic customer service; we’re going to fix this technical  problem and we’re going to find out why the first two people you dealt with did not handle it appropriately. Apparently that isn’t going to happen.

Item #3; every other time that I have had a problem with AA, they have put some miles into my account as a customer service gesture. They could have done that this time. The number of miles does not matter, it could have been 500 miles, 750 miles, 1,000 miles or whatever they deemed appropriate; I don’t care how many it is. The point is that it is good customer service to do that. I didn’t expect a refund on my ticket, I did not expect a cash voucher for future travel, but I did think that something would be put in my account. I was wrong.

And finally, they spent almost as many words trying to sell me on a subscription to USA Today as they did taking care of my problem. That’s one of the worst things customer service can do: when someone has a problem, fix it and don’t try to sell them something else. All that does is make them think that the most important thing is to get their money. I have no doubt that AA does want my money, they are in business to make money and I am happy to spend it with them, but a customer service letter is not the right place to try to close a sale.

My red-eye from SEA departed at 11:59 p.m. That means we pushed back from the gate on Saturday, but actually took off on Sunday. Could that be the problem? I don’t know. I do know that I had the same problem a few years ago with getting miles for the Saturday red-eye from SEA. I posted a description of the problem on FlyerTalk.com. The next day I got a phone call from AA customer service in which they apologized and actually asked me how many miles they would have to give me to make it good. He and I had a good laugh when I asked for 750,000 miles (a request he refused), but I did get some miles. That was great customer service!

This time was not. It all worked out because I did eventually get my miles but American could have done a much better job of handling this situation.