Jan 5, 2012

24 Hours in Miami (Fuck You American Airlines)

As you can see from the last post, I recently spent some time in the gorgeous Turks and Caicos Islands. The problem was, the trip that I needed more than I need a Pepsi after taking too much Xanax at work, started a day late. Why? American effing Airlines. I think when (if) they come out of bankruptcy they should change their slogan to, "Eh, fuck it." Or maybe that's what it is now. So, here's what happened. 

My friends and I headed to JFK (pretty sure the F here also stands for "fucking") at 2:30a.m. I was running on an hour of sleep, Sara two or three, and Ann the rockstar had just stayed up. The security check wasn't open yet when we arrived at 3:30a.m., but the employees were there delicately polishing the 3-1-1 sign, because, well, that's important. 

I am a cranky air traveler, never mind trying to travel and function on one hour of sleep. I couldn't wait to get on the plane, pass out, and wake up in Miami. I got the first two...but I was woken up by the captain saying something to the tune of "mechanical failure" after we had taxied away from the jetway. Turns out, the de-icer wasn't working and after an hour of trying, they couldn't fix it. We would need to change planes. But, there was no jetway available so they intended on keeping us on the plane for awhile. Picturing the germs being spread around the plane in the recycled air and a missed connection looming on the horizon, I was quickly becoming unhappy. 

The captain then told us a representative would be coming on board to discuss connections. This never happened. Once we were allowed off of the plane, we were told to NOT talk to the representatives, they had other things to do, we would have to call their 800 number for connection assistance. Customer service fail number one.

Once all 200 and some odd people filed off the plane and lined up to get checked into the new plane, with the representative yelling, "If you keep lining up on the wrong line, I cannot go to the other line to check you in. Do not speak to me, call the 800 number." Customer service fail number two. Logic fail number one.

Ann was on the phone with the airline seemingly getting nowhere, we were at the end of the line which was not moving, so I decided to go get some water. This is when I discovered there were no American Airlines employees at the beginning of the line to check people in, and the other rep was still unable to figure out how to walk away from the counter at the old gate and continued to tell people to not talk to her. Awesome. 

So the reps on the phone told Ann (and later me when I called not willing to accept no help as an answer—after being on hold for 26 minutes) that they couldn't do anything over the phone, that we had to speak to someone at the airport. Customer service fail number three. 

We finally boarded knowing there was no way we were making our connection and our trip was not going to be off to a good start. I boarded the plane after telling the rep how awful she was. I'm productive like that. As we were walking onto the plane, the flight attendant was announcing that, "in business class you will notice you have much more leg room on this aircraft than the last. You will be much more comfortable. In coach you'll notice, we added pillows and blankets." Well hell, I'm about to lose a day of my vacation but thank christ you gave us some pillows and blankets! Golly gee we were lucky!

As expected we landed in Miami well after our connecting flight had left. Next step was to visit the Rebooking Center—because American Airlines knows they are so awful they have an entire gate devoted to rebooking people. Again, awesome. We were told we were put on standby for the 6:40p.m. flight (it was now 11:30a.m.). The rep said we didn't have a good chance of getting on the plane but that we'd be in the first three standby spots. If we had to stay overnight, they would provide hotel rooms in what some bar goers would later compare to a hotel they had seen while at war in Baghdad. 

We decided to take the chance and wait for the later flight. This gave us the opportunity to do several laps of the Miami airport, bar hop, and meet a guy who told us all about how medical marijuana is so much better than anything they had when he was young. He had recently tried to get high with his mother (this man was easily in his late 50's) but his mother was afraid, "old school" as he worded it. This guy's mom must be beaming with pride. We also got to take this picture:
That's right, eff you and your Christmas display American Airlines
So at 6:20p.m. we headed to the gate fingers crossed, mustering every ounce of positive energy we could find. This was a wee bit harder for me since I was irate this was even happening in the first place. As we approached the gate what did we see? We were not so much the first three spots on standby but halfway down the list and no one could explain to us why we had been bumped down. Customer service fail number four. 

Sad and defeated we headed to the hotel that was so shady you needed a room key to even get in the elevator. The next morning we couldn't get out of there fast enough. We were finally headed to Turks and Caicos. Ann explained our entire ordeal to the ladies at the gate and they said it sounded horrible and while they couldn't upgrade us, they could get us a free drink on the plane. It was a start.

When it was time to board, the three of us were randomly selected by the same woman who noted how bad our trip sounded, to have our bags sized in the antiquated "here's how big your luggage should be" rack. Ours didn't fit, because no one's fits, because my feet don't even fit in that thing. 

"This luggage has been with me on every flight," I told her. "It fits on the plane."
"It has nothing to do with the plane," she said.
"What does it have to do with?"
"What is that exactly?"
"You need to check your bag."

Red faced and cursing, I boarded the plane...only to see that the overhead spaces 1) had plenty of room and 2) contained bags much larger than mine. Customer service fail number five. Here's where I will give some props—the flight attendants on this leg of our trip listened to our story and gave us a lot of alcohol. Probably too much for the one hour and twenty minute flight. Now that's the way to start a vacation.

We did arrive safely in Turks and Caicos. It was beautiful and we all had an amazing time, but were sad we lost a day. (See previous blog post for how beautiful the island is.)

But that wouldn't be all for the illustrious American Airlines. On the flight home, which was a lunch time flight that offered meals for purchase—which made us quite happy because we hadn't eaten since breakfast—we were informed American Airlines, despite printing shiny new menus and even after the flight attendant read off the food that was available, had actually not loaded food onto the plane. Customer service fail number six. 

I will leave you with this article from the New York Times:
American, which filed for bankruptcy-court reorganization in November, has struggled with its operation for several years. For the past five years, American has been among the worst three airlines at on-time performance, a key measure of an airline's operation since it impacts mishandled bags, bumped passengers and even canceled flights and customer complaints.
Last year, American was worst among major carriers at baggage handling and had the highest percentage of canceled flights. The rate at which American canceled flights was 70% higher than at United, Delta and the industry average for major airlines, which the DOT defines as those with more than $1 billion in operating revenue.
American, which replaced its top operations executive last month, says its aging fleet has led to increased cancellations because of more mechanical breakdowns. In addition, American said its hub cities seemed particularly plagued last year. A severe thunderstorm season last spring in the South took a toll, along with a tornado in St. Louis, a fuel-farm fire in Miami and a hailstorm in Dallas that damaged 50 jets.
The carrier has placed large orders for new replacement jets and stepped up baggage scanning to improve accuracy. It now hopes bankruptcy reorganization will allow the same kind of cost cutting and work-rule changes that have boosted operations at other airlines, said Jon Snook, American's vice president of operations planning and performance.


Anonymous said...

Lol! I actually was crying a little from laughing so hard while reading this recap.

Frank Nguyen said...

Yes!!! You were right!!! I got the worst experience in my entire life tonight at the airport! All I can say is "disgusting" attitude and language of the AA personnels

-Frank Nguyen.