Air travel is not what it used to be, you hear that all the time from people who have to travel frequently. Here is my airline travel horror story.
It started with an American Airline ticket for travel on Sunday, January 6, from Orange County to Chicago O'Hare, with a stopover in San Francisco. The flight was due to depart at 2.40 PM, so I called at about 10 AM to verify the flight would be on time. Mysteriously, American Airlines thought my daughter and infant son would still be traveling with me, even though I had changed the ticket & their flights for a different time a few days ago. I recorrected the information for the flight, it would just be me.
When I got to the airport at a bit before 1 PM, I saw that the line for American Airlines stretched the entire length of Terminal 1. There must have been about 300+ people waiting to check in at the American Airlines counter. Every other airline there at John Wayne Airport had a few people checking in, but American Airlines was the only carrier with a stupendously long line. I reached a ticketing agent by 2.20 PM. I explained to the agent that I could have made my flight, if not for starting at the far end of the terminal. She said that I could go on a non-stop flight to Chicago at 4.00 PM.
Ticket in hand, and luggage checked, I processed myself through security -- the line there was negligible. At the gate, when the plane arrived, we were told there was a mechanical problem with the plane. The American Airlines employee at the gate said that a part had to be sent from Los Angeles. Then, the attendant said they were not sure when the plane would be ready. Then, we were told to stand by for more information. At about 4.00 PM, we were informed our flight was completely canceled. Hotel vouchers would be provided for people who did not live in Orange County.
Another long line formed at the gate counter. Only one American Airlines employees was there to process us, so the progress was slow. Soon, three Orange County sheriffs showed up, and stood there staring at the crowd. One was on a Seqway, and as we stood there barely moving, he'd twirl around on it, showing us, I guess, how skilled & important he was. For a short time, there was another American Airline employee helping, but then after about 20 minutes she left. We'd have traded three cops and an idiotic Seqway demonstration for one extra American Airlines employee, but it was not to be.
While we stood there, because the line was moving so slowly, several people (including me) asked the woman at the gate politely if more American Airline employees could help hand out vouchers. We were all told that there were no other employees available. Absolutely no help would be coming. After about two and a half hours of standing in line, I got a hotel voucher, and a "dinner voucher" for 10 dollars. We were told that everyone on the canceled flight had been booked for a non-stop 7 AM flight the next day at the same gate, and we should keep our boarding passes. American Airlines said in the morning, there would be a special place for us to drop our luggage off, and to keep the tags on the luggage. When I checked into the hotel, I discovered the meal voucher was not redeemable at the hotel, only at the airport.
So I woke up at 4.20 AM the next day, got to the airport a bit before 5 AM and there was no one there who knew where we should be handing our luggage to. People from the canceled flight stood in the international departures line, and so American Airlines processed us there. When I got to the ticket counter, I was told that there was no 7 AM flight to Chicago. I was scheduled to depart at a 9 AM flight. The agent switched me to the earliest flight, which was a 6.45 AM. My luggage was retagged.
At the gate, waiting, at 6.20 the agent said that the plane waiting at the gate was the wrong plane, and needed to be switched with another plane. It seems that American Airlines forgot to move the broken plane from yesterday & it sat there all night. We were able to board the new plane by about 6.50 AM. Once aboard, we were informed that we would have to sit on the tarmac at John Wayne Airport for about an hour, due to President Bush landing at Chicago O'Hare. After about 30 minutes, we did take off.
Basically, the take from all of this is my time (or any other traveler's time) is not important, or valuable, in any way to American Airlines. American Airlines demonstrated quite clearly customers are trivial, treated with no more concern or feeling you'd expend on bags of luggage. Having the longest line for checking in, forcing people to stand in lines for hours for vouchers with the police in the background, denying us extra personnel to speed things up, it shows the airline doesn't give a damn how much time they waste. American Airlines could care less if you make it home on time -- and when things go wrong at the airport, there is no customer service when the public interfaces with actual airline employees.
I know there are worse travel related airline stories out there...it shows how off the mark and arrogant, or just indifferent carriers are today, post 9/11. Once they get a traveler into that controlled airport environment, they can do anything they want with you.
A special thanks goes out to Chicago O'Hare....when I asked, there were no door-to-door shuttles to take me home. I ended up renting a Lincoln town car for $67 bucks to get me to my front door.
Labels: Air Travel