Okay, so I wasn’t literally held hostage at the airport, it just felt like it. The source of the situation was American Airlines.
Last week I was on vacation. The actual vacation part was really nice. Getting away helps relieve stress and also makes us appreciate our own space and towns upon our return. It is the getting to your destination and getting back home that has turned into a nightmare.
I don’t live near an airport, the closest is LEX (Lexington, KY) which is about 75 miles away. It is a small airport so there is usually no choice among carriers and flights almost always require at least one connection.
Getting to New England wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t what I planned. My first flight was cancelled. I found out before I left home. It was a pooper because it meant that I would miss the initial gathering for the group tour and a meal both of which I had paid for in advance. I would also arrive in Boston too late in the day to go exploring. The rescheduled flight was delayed which meant I had to run to the gate for my connecting flight with no time to even stop by the bathroom much less grab a stale $20 airport sandwich. I arrive at the gate and read the board which informed me the flight was delayed. They don’t tell you how long the delay will be so you still don’t know if you have time to take care of the desperately needed potty run.
The return trip was Hell. Because I was with a group tour we were all dropped off at BOS at the same time. I had almost three hours to kill before boarding. Finally, five minutes before time to board my phone notifies that my flight is delayed. I checked my connection time for Philadelphia and knew I would miss it. I approached the stand to ask about another flight that might get me home. The person there informed they they couldn’t talk to me because they were busy with a flight delay. I mumbled, “Yeah, me too.” as I walked away. I resigned myself that I would spend another day away from me beloved dog and have to sleep somewhere in Philly. I called my dog sitter and begged for another day.
My phone pings again, telling me I am going to miss the connection in Philly; as if I hadn’t figured that out. My next message was that I might be able to re-book onto another flight and still get home. I took care of that, again on my phone. As I did this I thought about the stress for someone without a smartphone or lower technology skills. How would that person, especially if traveling alone, handle stress of not knowing what to do and airport personnel being unwilling to help. I recalled the Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal. With the flight re-booked I decided I had just enough time to go to the bathroom and couldn’t help but wonder how many time the seats on planes get used as toilets because people had to choose between making their flight or using the bathroom. Yes, I have been on more than one, 2 plus hour flights where you were never allowed to leave your seat. Think about that the next time they tell you your seat cushion can also be used as a flotation device!
I bet you can guess what happened next. The flight was delayed. They told us that our plane had mechanical issues earlier in the day and it’s previous flight had to return to the airport and be exchanged for another plane. They were quite chipper in letting us know that they were trying to repair the problem or get us another plane. By then I wanted another plane, even the one with duck tape and scotch tape from my last trip in January would be okay.
After another hour, they told us that they thought the plane was fixed but the captain wanted to drive it around a little to check it. What? I didn’t see the connection between being able to taxi around on pavement and being able to stay in the air at thirty-thousand feet. Finally, after another 45 minutes we boarded the plane. It was now over five hours from the time I should have had lift off with the original flight and over eight hours in Terminal B. Maybe that is why they call them terminals.
It isn’t over. After we are seated the captain comes over the intercom which is on ear-piercing volume and tells us that the plane is fixed. That we shouldn’t worry because the fix was a pass/fail sort of thing. I still don’t know why he thought that would put our minds at ease. Did the person that decided it was a pass say, ” Yes, this plane is fixed I would put my own family on it and not be concerned.” or did the person say, ” I clocked in at 9:00 this morning and I just want to get home, I think this old contraption might make it one more flight. I would say the odds are 56% there will be no more issues.”
The pilot then tells us that there is heavy fog in Lexington and we might not get cleared for take off and that if we do there are storms over the Smokey Mountains and it will likely be rough flight. By then I was asking myself if I was right with God. I decided I was, said a prayer for safety and another thanking God for the good life given to me.
We made it. Even my luggage made it which completely shocked me. Hats off to the folks that handle the bags!
Through this ordeal I kept hearing the old American Airlines commercials singing in my head. Remember the ones where they say, “We’re American Airlines; Doing what we do best!” I say it is an epic fail, and they don’t care. Crap can happen with any of the airlines but after my last three horrible experiences with American I will drive to a more distant airport to avoid them.
In case you are wondering about the other two times. Here is the short version of the worst one. Flying from Paris to O’Hare. Somewhere over the ocean American Airlines discovers the pilot has too many hours on his log. They make us land in Newark. Before they can round up another pilot we are grounded due to weather. They offered no food, no water and we couldn’t deplane. By the time we finally got to Chicago we had were stuck there for the night and had been on the plane for 21 hours!
The following video pretty much sums up current expectations for flying with a commercial airline, except reality is even worse.
Finally, Just for kicks and giggles, watch this old for Continental Air. “On Continental Airlines, we really move our tails for you!” Ah, for the good ‘ol days!
Thanks to the following for the use of their photos: Ross Sokolovski, Andy Watkins, Nicole Honeywill, Arisa Chatassa, Evan McArthur and Yours Truly.