Sunday, May 1, 2011

American Airlines - The Worst Airline in The History of The World

Okay.  Maybe that's a little harsh, but BOY did we have a horrible time getting to and from the Bahamas last week. 

It all started a few weeks before our trip was scheduled to begin, when Gordy got an email from American airlines informing us that they had changed our early morning departure time to an afternoon departure time... and they had also changed our afternoon return trip to an early morning return trip thus shortening our four day vacation to three days.  We were not pleased, but these kind of changes have happened to us before and AT LEAST we'd have three full days to enjoy the warmth and sunshine and that's probably enough for a pale family of five like ourselves.

We didn't let it bring us down.

And then the morning of our journey, Gordy called American Airlines:  The Worst Airline in the History of the World to check our gate status and discovered that they "were probably going to cancel our flight to Miami because of mechanical problems."  This was annoying on so many levels, but Gordy started with the basics:  Why didn't we get an email alerting us to this problem earlier so we could have rescheduled on another flight and why didn't American Airlines find another plane to replace the one with problems? 

The representative from American Airlines did not know the answer to either of these questions, nor did she like the implication that American Airlines:  The Worst Airline in The History of The World was at fault in any way.  Nor was she able to help us find another way to get to Miami airport in time for our connecting flight to Nassau.  In fact, she chirpily informed Gordy that the only way we COULD get to Nassau would be to fly to either Chicago or Dallas, TX, spend the night there and then take a connecting flight to Miami the next morning followed by a late afternoon flight from Miami to Nassau.  In other words, American Airlines:  The Worst Airline In The History Of The World was suggesting that we cut our already short vacation down to Two Days there / Three days travelling. 

Notice I'm not even getting into the strange logic of taking three children hundreds of miles WEST of their current location to end up in a destination that is only a three hour plane ride south of their home.  I mean, what can I even say about that? 

The American rep was not being helpful, so Gordy asked to speak to a manager.  I did not hear the manager's side of the conversation, but apparently during the hour she was on the phone with Gordy, she accused him of "getting angry at her when it was not even her fault."  I know this because I was privy to Gordy's response which included an oversized snort and the words "well, it's certainly not MY fault!  It's YOUR company that decided to cancel our flight without providing an alternative!" 

Can you imagine the gall?  What kind of company hires a customer service manager who doesn't have the sense to say "Gee, sir, I'm so sorry this has happened to you.  Let me work with you for however long it may take to work out an arrangement that helps you and your family get to your vacation as soon as possible."  I mean, even if we still had no choice but to fly across the country in one direction before heading back in another, at least a calm, polite tone would have made Gordy feel like someone was apologetic and proactive.  This is simple Customer Service 101. 

In the end, the manager decided that she had to get off the phone with Gordy at all costs and so she told him to bring us to the airport and MAYBE the plane would get fixed and we'd get to Miami on time that day.  We rushed out the door and drove like maniacs to the airport, because by this time, we were late enough to be cutting it extremely close for the international check-in time.

Of course, there was no need to worry.  You already know that we had the worst travelling experience ever and you won't be surprised to read that things still did not go our way.  It was like we were stuck in a Lemony Snicket novel.  When we arrived at the airport, we were informed that the plane was still "about to be cancelled" but this time we had a little bit of luck.  The American Airlines:  TWAITHOTW representative must have missed her classes on how to be rude and unhelpful because she was the exact opposite.  She typed away on her computer and, low and behold!, she found that in four hours, there was a JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale that had five seats available.  We'd still miss our connecting flight to Nassau, but if we rented a car and drove to Miami that night, we'd be able to catch the 8:30am flight to the Bahamas the next morning and only miss one night and one morning of our vacation.  Of course, we'd have to pay for that rental car and pay for the hotel room near the Miami airport... and we'd have to pay for the hotel room in Atlantis that we weren't using.... but at least we weren't spending the night in Dallas (no offense to all my wonderful Texas relatives.  I know Dallas is a great place but in this instance, any city that was not Paradise Island, Bahamas was going to be awful to us).

We took the representative up on her offer and we began the long trip to the other terminal and to JetBlue.  We used our smart phones to find a hotel near the Miami airport and we decided that it made more sense to get car service to drive down from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami rather than rent a car. 

We had four hours to kill and three children to entertain so we got out the portable DVD player and got down to business:

I said "we" but I meant "me."  Gordy went to sit in the row behind us and pretend he wasn't with us answer some work messages.

It was a long four hours, but we survived.  And we were happy because we would be getting to the Bahamas eventually and we were determined to look on the bright side.

JetBlue left on time and arrived as scheduled in Ft. Lauderdale.  JetBlue is The Most Wondeful Airline in the History of The World.  We got our luggage, found our car service and made our way to Miami.  After a miserable night spent in one of the most miserable of all miserable airport hotels, we found ourselves riding the skytram in Miami to our American Airlines flight to Nassau:

But don't worry.... American Airlines did not lose their title, The Worst Airline in The History Of The World that morning.  No indeed.  When we got to our gate, we were informed that one of the Flight Attendants had gotten ill and our flight would be delayed while a new flight attendant was located. 

Now we are not mean people and we felt sad for the ill Flight Attendant.  We hate for anyone to be sick.  But, I mean, seriously?  We were delayed, AGAIN?

It really was crazy.  It would have been funny if the clock wasn't ticking and the bills didn't keep adding up.

We did eventually arrive in Nassau.  And we did eventually begin and enjoy our vacation. 

And after two and a half days, it was time to return to American Airlines:  The Worst Airline In The History Of The World and hope for the best. 


Our flight from Nassau to Miami was uneventful and for that, we were thankful, but the rest of the journey was not as lucky.  It was while we were riding the Sky Tram to our gate, when Gordy and I realized that our boarding passes for the next leg of our flight showed that all five of us were sitting in random, skattered seats throughout the cabin.  American Airlines:  The Worst Airline in The HIstory of the World had decided to randomly assign a family of five -- which included three children under the age of 12 -- seats no where near each other. 

We are not kidding.

I took the kids off to find lunch and Gordy went to the check-in counter to See What Could Be Done.  The first step in this process, accoring to American Airlines, is to Berate The Passenger for Booking Five Seats Far Away From Each Other.  Because, obviously once again, this was our fault.  Don't worry that Gordy ordered these seats through a representative over the phone.  Don't worry that Gordy had been assured that not only were we seated all together, but we were also seated close to the front  of the plane (a preference of mine deeply rooted in having an oldest child who once screamed for 30 minutes after the plane landed while we waited for every passsenger to get off the plane before we did).  The second step in this process is to Sigh Loudly and say that nothing can be done.

We braced ourselves to beg people around us to switch seats so that at least the two youngest kids could be near a parent and if that didn't work, we braced ourselves to endure 3 hours of listening to Josie cry for her mommy. 

And then our plane's gate changed.

And why not, we asked?  It's always fun to pick up five carry-on bags, organize five lunches and drinks, replace removed activites from three children's bags and trek a mile away to another gate MINUTES before the plane begins to board. 

But wait... it gets even better.  Gordy manages to find another man with a family of four who has also been separated from each other on the plane -- but don't worry, American Airlines, it was all our fault, I'm sure! -- and he and Gordy scramble around and manage to exchange enough seats so that Josie and I are on the same row, but across the aisle from each other.  Henry and Georgia are in the same row but separated by three seats and Gordy is alone in front of them.  We start to think things are looking up...

And then we wait on the tarmac for an hour while "the catering truck" arrives with the snacks that everyone will have to pay $4 for the priviledge of eating. 

An hour.  On the plane.  Without the ability to use the bathroom.  With no end in sight. 
Could this get ANY WORSE?  Yup.  And yes, it did.

We flew home.  We got back to Boston at 8:00 and we waited in the crowd by the luggage claim for our bags to appear and they did... one!  two!  three!...... where's four?  WHERE'S FOUR!?!?!  The bag carousel stops moving.  All the other passengers walk way.  Our bag is not coming out of the trap door.  What the hell is going on?

A lost bag?  Are they kidding???? 

We trek our three huge bags, our three tired children are two tired and cranky adults plus various carry-on items to the lost luggage counter where we learn that our last bag is on THE NEXT PLANE FROM Miami.  I guess it felt like staying an extra few hours in the warmth and humidity.

This is the exact moment that Gordy snapped.  He wanted to be home and he suggested in barely civil tones that this was going to be the next plan.  We were going to go home - without the bag that held my expensive camera and all of our perscription medications - and American Airlines would have to bring the bag to us.  But I wasn't so sure.  Afterall, the trip had been dismal at best and who was to say it wasn't going to get worse?  What if our bag DID get off the next plane and then someone else took it home or worse, it sat on the conveyor belt for an hour or so before some underpaid, disgruntled employee decided to play catch with it or search through it for souveniers.  What if it was stolen? 

I wanted that bag.  And I was happy to wait the hour for it to arrive.

I won.  But not without some heated words and lots of passive/aggressive sighing (from Gordy).

And with those extra sixty minutes came the end of our horrific luck.  The plane from Miami arrived on time, the bags began to come out of the flap door, our bag was there! 

We went home. 

And we vowed never, ever to take American Airlines again. 

Can you blame us?


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had an awful time.

I dread flying on any US airline. There seems to be a race to the bottom in the industry, with each airline relying on the fact that they are all bad so what choice do people have?

Combine that with nasty border security, and I prefer to travel to most other countries.

Martha said...

You are so right! The airline industry seems to be at all all-time low. We've had wonderful luck (service?) with JetBlue... plus those little tvs are a God-Send to those of us traveling with children. Thanks for stopping by and commenting... come back soon!

Anonymous said...

You are so right American Airlines is the worst ever - my husband just missed his flight because they had no clue what they were doing.

Martha said...

I'm so sorry that your husband had such a terrible experience, too! Do you think that American Airlines ever reads blogs and feels poorly?

I certainly hope so!

Thanks so stopping by!

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