American Airlines Marine assault claim

KINGWOOD, W.Va. (WBOY) – A military family says they were assaulted by American Airlines while trying to receive their fallen Marine for his funeral home in West Virginia.

Photo by Pfc. Zach Riffle (Courtesy of photo: Jennifer Plum)

pfc. Zach Riffle was killed in a military vehicle accident in North Carolina on January 19.

The family said they had expectations based on a precedent with other fallen servicemen as they return home.

On Thursday, Riffle’s family went to the airport to collect his body, which American Airlines brought home via a funeral home on multiple flights from Camp Lejeune.

“We went there expecting to see the plane land, as well as see Zachy get off the plane, along with his escort, and receive him on the tarmac,” said stepmother Jennifer Plum.

According to the family, American Airlines told them that COVID restrictions have changed those protocols.

“We were very quickly led to a break room, and that’s where we first heard things that weren’t quite right,” Plum said.

According to the family, American Airlines attempted to place the four parents and four siblings in a small room with few seats, until Marine Casualty Assistance Calls Officers asked the airline to open a secure area that was more accommodating.

“Once we settled in, we learned that due to what was identified as COVID policy changes and staff shortages, we were told we wouldn’t be able to be on the tarmac at all to watch the plane land or see Zach . get off the plane,” Plum continued.

Airline officials confirmed they did not have enough workers on hand to house Pfc. Riffle’s entire family on the slope.

The family pleaded for admission to the asphalt, but was rejected. Plum asked the asphalt manager to record the moment for them, but she said her first request was denied. The airline claimed an employee with those images could inappropriately share it, Plum said.

“Clearly we weren’t going to settle for that answer, so I told them at the time that we would make the treatment we received public and that we would sign a waiver of liability, whatever it took to make this moment.” to get. because they wouldn’t show us,” Plum said.

Finally, an airline used a phone from one of Pfc. Riffle’s Marine escorts to record the disembarkation; the family was not allowed to leave the break room during this time.

“Once we were finally able to receive Zachary, we were taken to a cargo terminal alongside other boxes and crates, etc., and that’s where the Marines held their ceremony,” Plum said.

The family said they felt Pfc. Riffle was treated like regular baggage.

They did receive a reply email from Eric Mathieu, Managing Director of American Airlines Customer Experience, stating that the situation had escalated to senior members of the leadership team and that he was personally investigating the details of the situation.

American Airlines released a statement to Nexstar’s WBOY on Monday:

“We are committed to honoring our fallen heroes. We’re sorry we didn’t meet the family’s expectations and are looking into the matter internally. A senior member of our team has contacted Pfc. Zachary Riffle’s family to extend our condolences and hear more about their experience.”

According to Plum, the passengers on the plane were not informed that they were flying on board with a fallen soldier. Also in question is whether Pfc. Riffle’s body was unloaded first or not. Plum adamantly said it wasn’t. American Airlines officials, however, claim that his body was unloaded first.

Pfc’s family. Riffle wrote an open letter to American Airlines. In it, they asked people to boycott American Airlines and do their business elsewhere.


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