American Airlines. Doing what we do worse.

| February 4, 2022

Simple gesture of respect denied to grieving family

A West Virginia family has accused American Airlines of disrespectful and unfair treatment, after they say the airlines did not allow them the courtesy of meeting the remains of their fallen Marine at the airport, or assisting the Marine Casualty Assistance Calls Officers (CACO) bringing him home.

In an open letter, the family of Marine PFC Zachary Wayne Riffle called for the public to boycott the Fort Worth-based carrier for the alleged mishandling and disrespect while he was in the care of the airline.

David sends.

Family of fallen Marine claims they were disrespected by airline

William Dean, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.

The family of Pfc. Zachary “Zach ” Riffle, a Marine killed in a military vehicle rollover Jan. 19, near Jacksonville, N.C., did not get to see his body deplane at the Pittsburgh International Airport during his journey home.

“The pain we suffer for his loss and our relief to get him home was vastly overshadowed yesterday by the lack of respect and disregard for our family and, for a portion of the trip, Zach’s two assigned Marine escorts as well as Zach himself, ” Riffle’s family wrote in an open letter to the CEO and incoming CEO of American Airlines, the airline that transported Riffle from North Carolina to Pittsburgh.

Zach, 18, was born in Lawrenceville, Ga., a son of Rebecca Jean Woods Riffle and companion Jamey Ray, of Kingwood, and Robert Riffle and companion Jen Plum, of Independence.

Zach was a high school athlete and was in the band in junior high. He left Preston High School early, enlisting in the Marines. He was a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24, Combat Logistics Regiment 2 and 2nd Marine Logistics Group.

In his obituary, his family wrote that Zach was a hard worker, always smiling and laughing, and was the life of the party. He collected knives and enjoyed dirt bike races, playing Xbox, fishing and helping family with construction work.

When the family arrived at the Pittsburgh International Airport, they were told policy changes were in place because of COVID and staff shortages, the letter states. They also learned the Marine Casualty Assistance Calls officers had to push for better accommodations for the family of four parents and four siblings.

“We cannot thank them enough for advocating for us and Zach, ” the letter said of the Casualty Assistance Calls Officers.

It gets worse.

Yahoo News

Thanks, David.

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AW1 Rod

All the airlines are shit, but Amerikan is the worst. I’ll drive wherever I need to go, rather than give these assholes another dime of my money.

A Proud Infidel®™

I myself hate airlines and detest the TSA even worse. Like you, I’ll road trip as well!

Amateur Historian

“American Airlines” is a bit of a misnomer, because there is nothing American about this.

A Proud Infidel®™

American Airlines was the choice of the 9/11 hijackers, wasn’t it?

FC2(SW) Ron

Yes. American Airlines flight 11 and 77, and United Airlines flight 93 and 175. They were chosen for symbolic reasons but that’s not relevant here. What American did to this family is disgraceful and disrespectful to the highest order. I have personally taken the time to tell them so.


Something is not right about this story.

Does the Pittsburgh International Airport set the ROE COVID restrictions for American Airlines as well as other Airlines that fly in and out of their airport?

Or is it TSA that is providing the COVID ROE for all US Airports?

And this from the article that I question:

“There was also no in-flight announcement that a fallen service member was being transported on the final flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. The letter said this has been done on previous flights and escorts were allowed to deplane first so they could take their positions.”

Have been on many planes that I was not aware there was a casket of a service member on board until it was time to deplane. Have personally witness airline crew members respectly line up to offload the casket and never saw any family members present. Additionally, as many times I have flown, never heard an announcement at any airport that a service member’s remains were being transported.


And this from the article:

“The news that the family would not be allowed to see the plane land or view Zach’s flag draped casket until he was brought into a cargo terminal was devestating..”

Is the family saying that they should of been able to be on the tarmac to watch the plane land?

Something is not right.

Am not being cold about this, because the family losing their son by the vehicle accident is devestating. Not downplaying that he was not a Combat loss (he wasn’t) and completely understand the emotions that family went thru at the loss of a son at a young age.

It’s just something is not right about the entire scenario.


And this from the article:

“Additionally, the family was disappointed to learn during a roughly eight-hour layover in Charlotte, N.C., Riffle’s Marine escorts, who could not leave his side, were not offered food as they waited with him in a cargo terminal.”

So…who is responsible for “feeding” the escorts because of an 8 hour layover? The Marine Corps? The Marines Escorts themselves? The Charlotte Airport? American Airlines?

The Escorts could not leave or did they choose not to leave because of protocol? What is they had to use the restroom? None of them could have asked for food or for someone to bring them food?

Something is not right. Both members of the ninja family not only have been Casualty Assistance Officers, but also had Troops under our watch who died in a Combat Zone.

Just trying to understand. We do have compassion for the Marine’s family. It’s just the story sounds a bit off.


I agree with you. The author of the letter does seem to be looking for a reason to be offended.



Thank You. We completely understand the emotions the family are going thru, but something seems off in what they related to the news media as well as in their letter.

They do need time to heal. Don’t know if the letter or publicizing this to the media is their way of coping or seeking closure.

Thank you again.


‘Tis the spirit of the age. Gotta get some of that in, too, or the Pound o’ Flesh for their grief ain’t complete.

Sometimes families do that.

Only Army Mom

ninja – yes, questions, and I fear the answers. But. There are two escorts to accommodate bathroom breaks, etc. I find it hard to believe the escorts “complained”, if so, they need some counseling on the sacredness of their duty. Usually, those selected are fully squared away and often personal friends of the deceased.

As for the family being allowed to see the casket removed, yes. The family is somewhere on the tarmac/in view of the tarmac, usually. Since we are no longer a nation at war and too many forget that even in peace the military is a dangerous occupation, respect for that service is sadly not as recognized as it should be.

As for the announcement and letting the escorts off first, the latter should have been done so they can fulfill their duty of being present. The former is intended more to keep the other passengers in their seats so the escorts can get off the plane first.


Thank You so much for the information, OAM.

Just trying to understand the story.

We are asking hard questions or inquiries because what we experienced in the Army many moons ago might be different from Marine Corps protocol in 2022.

Really appreciate this.


OK. Just performed an outbound of a fallen Navy person within the last 30 days. Most airlines make an announcement prior to anyone boarding that the fallen member will be placed on board. IF there is a USO at the airport, they usually have qualified personnel who liaison with the airlines on this. I know there is a USO at Charlotte who would have loved to feed the Marine escorts. Don’t know who or what ot believe on this story.


Personal Experience: I have done a body transfer at DIA (Charlotte) with a layover for about 5 hours. The airport staff was extremely supportive and understanding. We were escorted with the remains to a holding area and took turns cycling off to go get a meal in the main terminal (food was comped by the airport/airlines, not sure). There was a toilet in the holding area. It was winter, so they even had space heaters to keep us warm.

Nothing but respect for the personnel at the Charotte Airport.


“American Airlines Cargo: Humbled To Bring Our Fallen Heroes Home”:


I get that since a body rides in the hold it’s “cargo” for purposes of the manifest, but I feel like that’s not something that should be advertised. At least make it seem for a moment like what’s in the casket is a person.


Understand, Mason.

Thank You for the feedback!


Yes, it’s not like they put him on the baggage carousel and then lost him on the way to the left luggage office when the family didn’t know he was there to claim him first.


Another question:

Every place I researched, I discovered the Marine Corps set a policy that the remains of a Marine KIA in a Combat Theater of Operations would be escorted by two Marines.

What is the ROE for a Marine killed in CONUS in a vehicle accident?

Something is not adding up. Perhaps the emotional impact of losing a son/stepson took over the family’s thought process when they wrote the letter?

And why make the letter public?

Only Army Mom

ninja- as to the why, I have a feeling based on experience with 3 different airports and several airlines, including AA, some pissant employee(s) took it upon themselves to decide what will and will not happen on their watch. I’ve seen it happen but luckily, each time, said employee(s) were overridden by someone with more common sense and professionalism. Embarrassing the airline for the behavior of that employee(s) may be the point of publicizing the letter. Further, it seems there were lapses at several points, indicating a policy or lack of training and therefore on the airline as a whole.

Ultimately, it won’t do a lot of good as the individuals involved won’t care. If they did, they would have behaved differently from the start. And since we are no longer a nation at war, there will be (hopefully) few opportunities to get it wrong again, rendering any response from the airline moot, particularly for this family.


No longer a nation at war…

So did we pull all the troops from Syria and Iraq? I guess operations in Africa (OEF) no longer count? A more appropriate phrase would be a nation whose media no longer covers stories of war zones due to lack of viewership by the public…

Only Army Mom

Agreed, a lot more appropriate ways to say it and think of it. My wording was sneeringly used. Mea culpa for not making that clear


The above is also the main obnoxiously of all the mask weirdness, not disease prevention, too.

Only Army Mom



I have limited experience vice this situation BUT as a Cargo Puke, part of a bag and tag team in 1987, worked the ramp at Dover, there are protocols in place and it seems like they weren’t met, COVID be dammed. (don’t get me started…bullshit political theater, I was NBC/CBRN NCOIC. If your MOPOP 4 Chem gear can’t stop a fart, this virus and this paper mask crap is
There are a lot of examples of what is correct and what is not out on the Intrawebs.
After reading it, AA Fucked up, (by admitting that they fell short), it seems that a lack of training, miscommunication led to the proper protocols not being followed.
In my experience and training:
They should have coordinated with the local airport, airline and TSA to ensure that the escort team and family would have had access from start to finish and that were there extended circumstances, all of the team & family were looked after. Delta is often commended for this.


“Delta is Ready when you are…” Southern Hospitality, Good Manners, and Professionalism are part of Delta’s DNA. With all of this “woke” business going on, they are losing some of that, but for the most part, the rank and file employees of Delta still have it.


AA dorked the squeakhole… plain and simple. Can’t undo what they and their people did.

Tamara Y Lima

I am so angry at this exhibition of disregard for the very people that protect and serve this country. Alot is happening to get our country back on track and when it is, a house cleaning of the corporations and companies that seem to hate all citizens of the US.

Name edited to protect PII.