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American Airlines and How They Handle Latinos

November 25th, 2009

po_dI am really torqued!

Recently, my wife and I flew back to the US and we used American Airlines (AA) for our flight to Dallas. It turned out kinda ugly. It seems AA, or at least their international flight attendants, have an issue if you do not speak English!  Rather than re-write it all, here is the email I sent to AA:

I am VERY upset about American Airlines treatment of Latinos, in this case my wife who is Costa Rican.

While flying to Dallas, a flight attendant named “Sherrill” (or similar) was VERY rude.  There were three of us in the row. Sherrill asked first the man in the window seat what he wished to drink.  After that, she asked my wife in the center seat and I replied, “she would like apple juice”. The flight attendant then states very loudly:  “Sir, I am talking to the woman not to YOU!”  So I replied “that is fine, but my wife does not speak English so you must speak to her in Spanish”.  Sherril then said: “I do NOT have to speak Spanish,  I am an American and I live in Texas!”

This remark was heard by a large number of Latinos seated nearby and was VERY insulting both to them AND the 3 other folks who later told me how bad they felt.

If you do not want Latinos to fly American, SAY SO! I always thought international flights required bi-lingual attendants and were the plum jobs. This rude person insulted MANY people, not just my wife. If at all possible we will NEVER fly AA again and this story will appear on my two blogs (http://blog.therealcostarica.com/ and http://www.hisfault.com/) as well as in Facebook.

You should be ashamed and while I am 99% sure NOTHING will happen to this employee, no apology, NOTHING, I WILL do what I can to spread this story so other Latinos know how AA stands on flying Latin minorities.

That should be clear enough!

As I found out later, AA policy is that only ONE person need speak Spanish on a flight to/from Costa Rica.  ONE person for what… 120 people or more? In this case, that person was the head flight attendant in first class (John) and as we all know.  the first class attendants never associate themselves with the hoi polloi or in Spanish, la chusma.

To the many Ticos and other Latinos who I know read my blog, I would urge you to let your spending show AA that this kind of rude treatment is not acceptable.  Delta, Spirit, Jet Blue, Taca, Lacsa and others all have service to the US.

I am pretty sure I will get the “canned BS” from AA if I get a reply at all.  That flight attendants union is pretty strong so she will certainly be permitted to continue venting her disrespect for Latinos…

If I do get a reply, you’ll see it here.

18 Responses to “American Airlines and How They Handle Latinos”

  1. MP on November 25, 2009 9:25 pm

    I’m not surprised. I witnessed a similar scene on an AA flight from Buenos Aires.

  2. Len Petry on November 26, 2009 4:00 am

    I can’t imagine that the outspoken Tim left the conversation at that! I would have been expelled from the plane for the comments I would have made.

    Whether she is required to speak Spanish or not, there’s no excuse for her ill-bred behaviour, especialy given her position as public representative for AA.

    I hope Tim does receive a response from AA, but I fear with him it will be a white-wash.

  3. Cy Bolinger on November 26, 2009 7:53 am

    Tim: Personally, I am unable to find polite airline employees in either language (AA, Continental and others). However, this situation definitely cuts both ways. Here’s one example: When I shop at Wal Mart in the states (Texas), I’d better speak Spanish or stand a good chance of not getting waited on. When I finally find an English speaker, usually a rude gringo supervisor who can’t speak Spanish either, I’m mightily scorched. While I personally speak enough Spanish to get by, quite many other gringo shoppers haven’t a clue about another language besides American English. Even many in-store signs are written in Spanish.
    Often I find a rude TACA employee and that certainly goes for smaller airlines in Central and South America. Plainly, customer service does not mean much here in Pura Vida. I regret the fact that you wife encountered shabby treatment. Again, these airline folks and many others are, more often than not, rude in either language. AA could care less and the same applies to Wal Mart.
    Cy Bolinger

  4. Michael on November 26, 2009 9:05 am

    I too have encountered the same treatment in reverse in Miami’s Latino community. I, like us, usually communicate for my non-bilingual guests. I have heard some mighty rude remarks about us in Spanish until the clerk/salesperson became aware that I was bilingual. What a nicer world it would be if we all treated each other as we want to be treated!

  5. Tim on November 26, 2009 10:09 am

    Oh I was VERY tempted Len! I am probably not known well for reticence. 🙂

    On my lips were a variety of prime comments, but because my wife (who really did not catch what was going on), is a Tica and like most Ticos, is generally very polite and may well have been embarrassed, I let it go.

    I got the canned response as expected:

    “Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. This is an automated acknowledgment of your message, giving me a chance to share with you right away what is happening with your email. ” etc.

    We shall see. but apparently others have had similar experiences with AA. I doubt they give a damn.

    To Cy… if you want a very pleasant experience, fly Taca. A bit more money, but sooooo nice and the flight attendants, mostly if not all Ticos, are polite, businesslike and make the trip quite nice.

  6. Stan on November 26, 2009 12:24 pm

    Sorry that you had to experience that. My wife is with Delta and if everyone else in that airline had her attitude, there would be NO customer service issues. yeah, I’m bragging a bit, but she made supervisor in 23 months, a 1st for Delta.
    Unfortunately, there are the others. I have been on Delta flights to SJO, sitting in Biz class, and have had rude treatment by old biddie FAs who are only counting the days till pension and don’t give a rats azz about the clients. (I am particularly offended when it happens to me because they know who is flying non-rev and who are employees. After all, we are family!??) But if Delta is trying to be a world class airline, they have a long way to go.
    Blogging your issue is a great way to spread the word, and 1000:1 odds, AA may change their policies.

  7. Peter van Duin on November 26, 2009 4:02 pm

    When we fly from europe to Costa Rica via Miami it is always the flight from Miami to San Jose with AA that is the worst part. Very unfriendly people on board of AA, delays, no service, very cold in the airplane etc.
    But for us european the treatment we get in the US is always unbelievable. They treat you as a potential criminal. So in the future we avoid flying via the US and certenly not with AA.

    Peter van Duin

  8. Andreu on November 28, 2009 6:28 am

    I love flying Jet Blue here. Compared to AA, it is WORLDS away from the same experience. Jet Blue costs less too and gives you snack included. Hmm…. AA needs to reconsider how it treats people of it will be headed back to Uncle Sam for more bailout money.

  9. Eddy on December 30, 2009 6:38 am

    This year my family has flown on Jet Blue, Virgin America, Delta and AA. AA was the only one who had at least one rude flight attendant on each flight. Must be their new policy.:) Some of of these people just look on edge, burned out, miserable and hating their job. Just make yourself invisible and you’ll be ok. Get in their way and they will want to chew you up. My pregnant wife needed to use the restroom real quick before getting off the plane. The rude flight attendant didnt want to let her. Another nicer one said he would wait and let her. Only took a minute. My tica mom who speaks english was confused about what to do about her carry on that had to be checked. They started chewing her up about it

  10. Eddy on December 30, 2009 6:50 am

    Cont’ (Sorry, pressed post by accident)….Because of her accent they started asking if she spoke Spanish. I dont know what they meant by that. AA had a good price on the tickets but just make yourself invisible if you fly with them.

  11. Tim on December 30, 2009 4:28 pm

    Nope… No response… and believe me… it was VERY hard to maintain silence. The alternative was a ruined vacation. Sounds like a LOT of others have the AA blues.

  12. Brad on January 6, 2010 12:05 pm

    That’s why I fly on Continental. I have had that same feeling about flying AA, and now that I see your post I really think I will never fly with them, even if tickets are cheap!

  13. Doris on January 10, 2010 2:15 pm

    I will not go through the U.S. when coming from Europe, I take Mexicana who are a super outfit, to avoid the paranoia.
    Don’t they understand the word ‘transit’?

    When I used to take the routes through the U.S. I found that the long haul staff were always fine, Continental, AA, Delta alike, but the service really broke down on the U.S. to San Jose leg, in all cases….except the ever friendly Mexicana.

  14. Bill on January 18, 2010 5:19 pm

    AA- ugh… I’m lucky in a way due my credentials, but I won’t fly AA unlessed forced to (employer), or if it’s a short haul (MIA-SJO). But I never had high expectations. In the US, I’ll fly continental, or US Airways. When I head home to San Jose (I’m assigned in Northern California), I’ll fly TACA. There customer service has never been an issue, and since I do speak English, and Spanish I’ve found there crew members to be very helpful, friendly, and surprising upgrades all the time.

  15. RICHARD UNSWORTH on March 10, 2010 11:52 am

    Wonderful post

    I am so happy I am flying with AA from Miami to San Jose on March 16.
    Is anyone else on that flight.

    If I run into trouble I may shout **** off so if your on board say hello!

    Really sorry you were treated so badly this should not happen but service in most everything these days , can be a thing of the past.

    They dont serve plastic sandwiches like Continental
    do they – please God.


  16. Maddison on July 28, 2010 6:17 pm

    It’s the same every airlines you fly. Not only American. Have you ever flown FRENCH AIR. Absolutely terrible. If she would have said it in spanish it would have sounded just as rude. Rude people are rude people it’s not a language thing.
    What I can say is that the French are rude. Not because of the language but the attitude they have about everything. They are bitter pissy people.

  17. Plane Hugger on July 26, 2012 11:34 am

    There are racists who work at every company in the world. How can an airline have any control over a personal quip that some individual made?

    What the flight attendant said was wrong, but your going on a googlable rampage against the company she works for on account of it is even wronger.

  18. Tim on August 2, 2012 9:09 am

    “How can an airline have any control over a personal quip that some individual made?”


    HUH?? Let me count the ways!

    1. They can acknowledge the issue

    2. They can discipline the racist

    3. They can terminate the employment of the racist

    4. They can answer emails from the thousands who experience the same issue with American Airlines (you should see the thousands of emails I have received)

    5. They can train their employees

    6. They can transfer the employee to a job not dealing with the public, or in this case with Latinos whom, it is clear, this person hates.

    7. They can provide Spanish speaking attendants on international flights to Spanish speaking countries.

    Need I go on????