Bully Pulpit: Why Not Fly Aeromexico to Oaxaca?

Aeromexico, are you listening? Why is it so hard to have a decent customer service experience with your airline company? I’ve been debating whether to publish this and decided to go ahead. Maybe it will get a decision maker’s attention. There is no customer service feedback link on your website!

I arrived in Mexico City from the U.S. on June 4 from San Francisco on United Airlines, in time to get from Terminal One to Terminal Two and the Aeromexico counter. I wanted to buy a ticket to arrive in Oaxaca on the same day, despite the one-way ticket cost of $217 USD.  I rationalized that the cost was worth the wear and tear to avoid the overnight bus.

At the Aeromexico counter,  I pulled out my passport and credit card and gave it to the agent to buy the ticket. I signed the voucher and put my bags on the scale to weigh.  She said, I need your credit card back to charge you $50 USD for the second bag. (She was holding my ticket and my passport behind the counter.)

I said, you still have my card. She said, No, I gave it back to you.  I said, No you didn’t, and searched my wallet and handbag six times. We went back and forth: I gave it back to you. No, you didn’t.

A supervisor ( whose name is Mr. Cisneros, I was told) came out and watched as she rifled through papers and searched the counter. He did not help in the search for my missing card. In frustration, I pulled out another credit card to pay for the second bag and pushed my luggage around the side of the counter.

No, he said, blocking the way, you have to put it on the scale. I said, I already did that. She knows how much it weighs. I was traveling with my cane because of my recent knee replacement surgery, but that didn’t seem to matter either.

By now 30 minutes had passed and the window was closing on when I could board the plane. The scale was blocked by another customer.

I said, please hurry. Is there enough time for me to get through security and get on the plane? I heard him mutter under his breath, I don’t care.  

I was startled. What did you say? Did you say you don’t care if I make the plane or not?  He stared at me. I said, As a courtesy you should put my second bag through at no extra cost. You lost my credit card, I’m going to have to call the company to cancel it, it’s a huge inconvenience and I’m going to have to run to make this flight.

Mr. Cisneros was steadfast. Crossed his arms. Glared, then said, I don’t believe you. You hid the card in your purse so you could ask us to send your bag through free. Then he turned on his heels and walked away to the back.  I asked the agent to cancel the ticket and give me his name.

When I got to TAPO regional bus station and after I bought my bus ticket. I called Chase and cancelled the card. The card never turned up in my bags or luggage when I unpacked. Chase sent a new card via UPS Express to Oaxaca and I received it within three days!

What to do? Fly Volaris or Interjet to/from Oaxaca and Mexico City? Take the ADO GL or Platino bus (a six-and-a-half hour ride when there are no roadblocks)? Fly directly to Oaxaca from Houston on United Airlines? Avoid Aeromexico at all costs?

I did not buy an advance ticket on Aeromexico because if you don’t check in two hours before scheduled flight departure, they have the right to bump you. That’s happened to me before and I lost the value of the ticket. Planes are delayed. Lines at immigration and customs can be long. Odds are not good you will make a connection if you are not flying on a Delta codeshare with Aeromexico.

My friend Lee Ann who lives part of the year in Puerto Escondido, says, When you cross the border, never ask why and always look down? In many places in the world there is an attitude of why try, it is impossible to change the system.

We always look down here to avoid the potholes and pitfalls on the sidewalks so as not to stumble and fall. The subtle connotation is to look down to avoid confrontation. One becomes acculturated not to challenge authority based on upbringing and country of origin. Never asking why means accepting things as they are, of knowing that it’s not your right as a visitor to effect change. It’s a lesson I’m still learning.

26 responses to “Bully Pulpit: Why Not Fly Aeromexico to Oaxaca?

  1. Beverly in Connecticut

    Just checked the United site for flights out of Houston to Oax, which start daily again as of Sat Oct 24.
    AeroMexico, as many have said, there have been good and bad experiences. We have booked from the Hartford area on Delta, which uses AeroMexico as their Mexico partner. It is easy making connections in the new terminal in Mexico City which Delta, AeroMexico and a few other airlines use. Maybe ticketing on Delta stock does help. We did have an AeroMexico flight cancelled while on the runway going from Cancun to Tuxla. They did rebook us, got us to and back from where they put everyone up, in an ok quality all inclusive hotel in Cancun. We did lose a day, but that can happen with any airline.
    We have also had difficult times with AeroMexico in the past. Lost reservations, overbooking, late, late, late, etc.

    • Thanks, Beverly, for this very helpful comment. Yes, it’s random and variable. I guess after all the traveling I’d done, I was just plain travel weary and wanted/needed everything to go smoothly. Then reality settled in once more! I think you will have the best luck going all the way through on Delta/Aeromexico. Let’s hope so. All my best, Norma

  2. Hi, Norma. I just got back from Ohio, Columbus to Houston to MEX and then ADO home. It was a nightmare, flight out of Houston cancelled 5 times. Thought there was a very late bus to Oax but was wrong, so I sat in the bus station for 7 hours and caught the 7AM, arriving one-ish yesterday afternoon. Had checked in Ohio on a flight to OAX from MEX, $108 (!!!) on Aeromexico. Couldn’t believe it and glad I didn’t. My children had a similar experience as Evelyne’s, with flights cancelled and trying to put their (then) 10 year old on a separate flight!! Ugh. I do agree with flying Interjet to Tijuana for the West Coast, it’s how I visit my daughter in San Diego and other friends in the North West. Most of the time I am very impressed with the kindness of local folks here in Mexico but there are a few times when the meanness and pettiness of some people really hurts.

    • Faith, thanks for sharing this experience. I hope you have caught up on rest and sleep after your very long travel day. I’m hoping to keep doing this back and forth for a good long while! But, it seems the older I get, the greater the wear and tear. I appreciate that you speak from your own experiences and we have the ability to share how to get from the U.S.A. to Oaxaca with as little distress as possible! Descanse bien. -Norma

  3. I am sitting in Madrid at this exact moment and I had to laugh. Martha sent this to me. My kids and I fly into DF tomorrow and I saw that we had plenty of time to catch the 940 flight to OAX. The miracle was how inexpensive the tickets so for 3 days I have been trying to buy the tickets and I get a confusing reservation but in small letters it says contact Aeromexico. It says we can buy online , takes my card info and reservation but it is not really reservation. We called the Madrid phone number twice and they want to charge a high fee to do it over the phone. Defeats the low price . It’s not the first time this has happened but In Oaxaca they waived the fee,not here . I gave up and Tapo here we come.

    • Elizabeth, it shouldn’t have to be so hard! I did the same thing. Tried to buy an Aeromexico ticket online in California, took my credit card but it wasn’t a real reservation. I had to talk to a ticket agent buy phone and give my credit card number again. That’s when I found out that unless I check in 2 hours in advance my seat can be forfeited. Take ADO Platino. It’s a fraction of the airfare and at least you know you will get there. It leaves TAPO at 11:15 pm and you get to Oaxaca at 6:30 am. Buy your ticket at the bus station!

      • I wonder if it could have something to do with having a foreign (US-based, not Mexican) credit card? When I went to Peru I couldn’t use my US-based credit card to buy an internal flight on StarPeru because it couldn’t accept foreign cards. I wound up using Cheapoair.com to get the StarPeru flight which worked out fine, fortunately. Maybe Aeromexico has similar limitations if you don’t have a Mexican credit card? Just an idea, I don’t know. I’ve never personally had a bad experience with Aeromexico, I’m using them to fly to ORD-MEX-TGZ next month so we’ll see, fingers crossed that all goes well!

        • Buen viaje, Jenny. Yes, all fingers and toes crossed. And you are likely correct about the “foreign” credit card and good to k ow about using Cheapo.air. Problem with buying from a consolidator is you have no recourse if something goes awry. Let’s hope this trip is smoothe for you.

  4. It’s like you just can’t win. We are returning to Oaxaca in October and wanted to fly on a Friday. In October has Houston to Oaxaca flights only on Saturdays. They told me it is because it is a very slow time for travel to Oaxaca. What about all the people coming down for Muertos. One flight a week on that lovely little 53 passenger plane .

    • OMG Jo Ann! This one takes the cake! I just had to burst out with a cynical laugh reading your reply. Wonder what algorithm United is using to reach this conclusion.

      I think if one travels Delta/Aeromexico all the way through to Oaxaca odds are you get better treatment. Despite everything, it’s still not that easy to get here and air travel generally is feeling more like adventure travel unless one pays more for upgrades and frequent flyer status. Even then?

      So it looks like I opened a Pandora’s box.

      It’s a good place to vent! I’m sympathetic.

  5. Thank you, Norma Schafer, for being the voice of many travelers. Those of us who travel regularly between the United States and Mexico have the battles for customer service. Will Aeromexico listen? Espero.

  6. I’ve flown in and out of Mexico on United via Houston. I’ve also taken the Delta via Mexico City route. On the way home in 2014, on a Saturday night, United dumped us at Dulles. We waited at the gate for 7 hours waiting for a late crew. At around 10 PM they cancelled the flight. We waited in line for an hour and a half to find out that the flight was cancelled due to “weather” but they would generously provide a 50% voucher for a hotel room that night and could possibly get us out of there on Monday morning. No one answered the toll free number to claim the voucher for lodging. We took a taxi to D.C., stayed at a hotel and flew out of Reagan the next day on another airline. Thank goodness we had travel insurance, which covered everything. Others in the same line with small children and thinner wallets were not so fortunate. The complaint we filed with United never received a response. I travel a lot domestically (U.S) and have had similar bad experiences with Delta and other airlines. Like Dulles, I thought the airport in D.F. was a nightmare. I waited nearly 2 hours in the customs line and when I finally got to the front of the line was met with rudeness, ditto security. I thought if I made my connecting on Aeromexico and if my luggage made it to Oaxaca, it would be a miracle. I did make it and so did my luggage. I wish I knew the name of the person to thank for that. My point, I guess, is that airline travel anywhere is a crapshoot.

    • Annette, thanks for the sobering reminder that no airline is immune from poor customer service. I appreciate your story and the missive that travel by air can be an ordeal or go smoothly and it’s random. Bankruptcies and mergers give us fewer choices at higher prices. I guess we should all be grateful we arrive safely! Perhaps it’s all we can expect.

  7. We experienced nothing but the finest service with AeroMexico SFO-México City-Oaxaca. My only objection was the $400+ (USD) penalty if we wanted to change flights with a new reservation…

  8. Norma and Evelyne.
    It is easy to see that you both share an attitude that promotes the experiences you have had.

  9. Passed the story on to my Travel Agent wife. Bruce ( Zelda Fan)

  10. Hi Norma! Where is the “like” button? I’m thinking back about getting bumped off a flight from Oaxaca even though i had purchased my ticket months in advance! Six of us were bumped and while they got us on the next flight a couple of hours later, six people from that flight were bumped and on down the line. Ugh! I avoid them if at all possible.

  11. ==As an addition to the comment, we are not afraid of standing up for our rights (in the words of Bob Marley) but when faced with bovine stubborness, there is not much one can do…..

  12. We have never met, but feel as though we know as we share many mutual friends. Anyways your story with Aeromexico was funny as well as tragic as it is so typical of their “lack of service”. We go out of your way to avoid them ever since our children took 48 hours to get here from SFO (can you believe it, shocking) due to Aero Mexico plain stupidity AND the luggage did not get here until the next day AND they would not deliver it to San Agustin Etla… So ever since then, we travel Interjet to Mexico City or to Tijuana if we are going to the West Coast, then connect in San Diego…. not easy but at least you will get there at a definite time…, the staff is pleasant on Interjet, whereas the staff on Aero Mexico is down right rude…My husband and I had a battle with them once on the way back from Paris, they wanted to send us back to Paris to get the ticket to Oaxaca, a situation.right out of Kafka….Not afraid of standing for our rights, but in front of bovine stupidity, it becomes impossible..Being of a certain age, we wonder if it could be dislike of older people? Who knows? Pero no mas Aero Mexico… Hope your knee operation was a great success…

    • Ah, Evelyne, thanks for commiserating and sharing your story. I will try Interjet next time. Seems like a good idea. Knee operation is doing me in good stead. Able to walk distances and even dance a little. Thanks for asking! -Norma

  13. That is one incident. Your past issue with Aeromexico (you wrote about it here) happened because you flew in with another carrier and came in late. That isn’t the fault of Aeromexico.
    I have flown with them many times and they have been terrific to me. One year an international flight with them was cancelled and they put me up in an excellent hotel with a free taxi service to and from the airport and dinner & breakfast covered.
    Flying within Mexico I have used all three airlines but Interjet has been the cheapest and most efficient. No extras, but I don’t need them.
    I hope you have better luck next time.

    • Irene, appreciate your thoughts and encouragement to see it as one incident in the experience of many. I hope I have better luck next time, too, and I’m glad your travels with AM have been successful, pleasant and supportive.

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