American Airlines values $200 over customer happiness

This evening, I am scheduled to fly from LaGuardia to O'Hare. Tomorrow morning, I fly from Midway to Fort Lauderdale. I could have flown directly from LaGuardia to Miami, but the decision to visit my family in Miami was made long after I had booked the LGA->ORD flight. This is, of course, no fault of the airline, but I digress…

While sitting at the gate, American Airlines gave me a call: my flight was delayed an hour. Their online flight status app confirmed this fact, but oddly enough, the departure board across the hall says my flight is on-time for its 6:40 departure.

It was at this time that I noticed a flight to Miami in the adjacent gate. I asked the desk agent about getting a standby ticket, but he said I would have to reissue the ticket at the ticketing desk (outside the secure area), and that they would charge me a reservation change fee.

I called their reservations hotline to talk to an agent on the phone where she confirmed that I would be charged a $200 reservation change fee and the difference in ticket price to switch onto the LGA->MIA flight. My dad called the airline for me and insisted that they rebook me for free. After 25 minutes, they waived the $200 reservation change fee, but would not budge on the $210 difference in ticket price.

Ultimately, that flight departed with 42 empty seats.

That plane would have flown with 40+ empty seats whether or not I was onboard. American Airlines had the opportunity to transfer me to an empty flight, making me a happy customer. Instead, they made me regret my choice of airline.

It seems that American Airlines thinks $200-410 is worth more than a happy customer. They might have their reasons, but I think I'll stick with Southwest.