Random Blog A Musing Farf

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I returned this morning from a fantastic holiday in Puerto Rico, marred only by my experience in dealing with American Airlines. (PR stories to follow in later post). If you want to read about crazy fun loving family vacations, skip this post. If you want to read about why I will never fly America Airlines again and, in fact, will actively work to convince others to never fly them, read on…

Generally, my airline of choice is Delta. Husband and I have tons of Delta miles and use them (or a Delta partner) for most of our travel. We fly regularly so I am not a stranger to travel delays on an airline and generally can take them good naturedly (after all, as long as I have my iPod and a book, a flight delay is merely time to relax). But, on this trip, my father booked the tickets and, since he is partial to American Airlines (and paid for all the tickets), we flew his airline of choice.

Note: Those who know me already know how much I hate American Airlines for bumping me from a flight to Bangor, ME because they overbooked (despite having booked tickets early and arrived at the gate over an hour early) two years ago and thus causing me to miss my friend Karen’s wedding, an incident I’ve always regretted. It was at this point I originally decided never to fly them again. But as I said, my father bought the tickets and free is free.

The trip from NY to San Juan was relatively easy. We flew an Airbus 300. I had a terrible seat in coach between the bathroom and I guy who spend the entire flight hacking and coughing (an interior aisle so the nearest window was two rows behind me), but none of this was the fault of American Airlines and I was content. Maybe I had just had a bad experience with the Bangor flight and was ready to give good ole AA a second chance. Until this morning, that is…

Father, being the wonderful dad he is, offered to upgrade me and Sister to first class for the flight home to make up for the awful seat I had to endure on the way to San Juan. We were scheduled to depart at 6:50pm and I expected to be home by 10:30pm – enough time to relax with Husband and Tiki (Husband could not take off work so he did not come on this vacation) and get a good night’s sleep. At about 6:30pm, the American Airlines gate agent made an announcement that due to mechanical difficulties, there was a chance the plane would not be able to depart San Juan, but informed the waiting passengers that we would all fit on the 9:55pm flight and we would leave then. I was skeptical. I know how airlines love to cut costs and I hold firm to the belief that “mechanical difficulties” in this case was code for “We don’t want to spend the money to send two half full planes to NY so we are combining everyone onto the later flight and there is nothing you can do about it, suckers.”

Now, there was a flight leaving for Newark, NJ at the same time that was taking off. But American Airlines refused to allow Sister and I to board that plane because we had checked luggage in order to comply with the stupid gels and liquids rule (I say stupid because I am willing to bet that someone smarter than me could make a powerful bomb out of a quart sized bag filled with 3 oz. of various liquids and gels) and there is a rule that you can’t fly on one flight while your bag flies on another – even if you would have taken the original flight if only it would freakin’ depart! But, I digress….

So, we wait three hours for the 9:55pm flight home (Father had given Sister his liquids and had no checked luggage but generously declined to take the flight to Newark without us). Except, I look at my watch and notice it is 9:35 and we have not boarded. Not a good sign. Sister heads to the gate to see what is going on. There have been no announcements. From my seat in the lounge, I see the gate agent frown and shrug his shoulders. Also not a good sign. Turns out that this plane has a problem with “hydraulics” and will not be taking off until 11pm at the earliest.

Now I am getting annoyed. But so is everyone else. The gate agents offer meal coupons but rescind that offer a few minutes later when they realize the only open food court is outside security and there is not enough time for people to go and come back. We are starving and cranky but spirits are lifted when a band traveling to NY takes out their instruments and performs an impromptu concert. Finally we board.

The plane is freezing. The food (even in first class) is inedible. I can’t sleep and just want to be home. We land at 1:45am and I could not be happier. My anger towards American Airlines even begins to dissipate. We head to baggage claim.

No bag on the carousel. We wait and the area begins to fill. People wonder out loud when the bags will be arriving. Finally, an announcement is made that there is a problem opening the baggage compartment and there will be a wait for the bags. An hour passes without any information. I decide to abandon my bag, but American will not allow me to make a claim for delayed baggage because the delay had not been long enough. Plus, as I later learn, a claim does not mean you will get your bag the next day…or even the next week…so Sister and I wait. Father gives up and goes home. There are no representatives from American Airlines on hand to explain what is going on. Another announcement telling me the bags are still delayed but no estimate on time. The people in baggage services are rude and just tell you to call an 800 number if you have a problem.

An hour goes by. It is 3:30am and the carousel begins to move and bags appear. People clap and cheer, but upon further inspection, it is clear these are not the bags from the San Juan flight. They are the bags from the Los Angeles flight. Children are crying, Sister and I are falling apart. We briefly discuss abandoning forever these bags, but decide against it. 4am and the carousel moves again. This time it is bags from the San Juan flight. Yippee!!!! I scan the bags eagerly for any sight of mine. Four bags tumble down and I am ecstatic. But then, the carousel stops. No more bags. It is now 4:30am. Still no bags. Sister is ready to abandon the entire enterprise and leave. We go to baggage services. There is no one there. There is no American Airlines representative. There is no one who thought about the fact that most people on the plane had not eaten since 5pm NY time (6pm PR time) and showed up with bagels and coffee. I call American Airlines to find out our options. Essentially, we have no option but to wait. At 4:45pm, a full 3 hours after landing we get our bags! I can barely function at this point. Sister and I hail a taxi and I arrive home at 5:28am. I crawl into bed and sleep for a blissful 2 hours until my alarm rings to tell me it is time to go to work. I can barely function. I am exhausted and I hate American Airlines.

So, in a totally vindictive spirit, I would love to hear from anyone else with American Airlines issues. I will publish all of them gladly.

This is added later: Check out this link http://amediacirc.us/2006/12/23/they-know-why-i-fly-and-do-not-care-american-airlines-your-are-the-years-biggest-loser/ The same thing happened to someone else a few days ago. American Airlines Sucks!


BROTHER said...

My first class ravioli and tortilini was delicious. Sorry you missed it!

Father said...

as you know i never comment on (or even read blogs) but in this case i make an exception -sara's e mail was informative and well written but fails to fully capture the outrageousness of the situation which cannot be fully understood by anyone who did not actually live through the odyssey - i fully endorse sara's anger toward american and only add that sara's description proves the point that words do not exist to describe just how disgusting the situation was-i usually tell sara to just let it drop but not in this case

montchan said...

I despise AA. Last year I had to fly them, sadly, from Miami to Quito and back. And they totally destroyed my luggage. Well, first the luggage was delayed, then it couldn't be found. They refused to give me compensation for delayed luggage, because it was delayed for less than 24 hrs.

The bags arrived ripped and destroyed, handles broken off, and wheels missing. And get this! When I tried to file a claim, AA told me that according to their policy, they are not responsible for luggage parts that "stick out" of the luggage piece, which are precisely handles and wheels.

So several hundred dollars of wrecked luggage is basically NOT their responsibility.

AA sucks purple balls! I hate them!

kj said...

On February 15, 2007 I had a confirmed 11:55am AA flight Puerto Rico to Miami. Approximately 12 hours later at midnight I was finally put on a flight to Miami. The original flight out of Puerto Rico was presumably delayed due to bad weather in New York, but strangely enough, flights to New York were leaving and many other flights were taking off to Miami. I say presumably as the gates were not manned, the delays would just be shown on the board. We were made to change gates 4 times, all the while thinking we would soon leave Puerto Rico. At the 3rd gate, we see a sign the flight has been cancelled with no AA employee around to explain what is going around. Finally after being shuffled off to the 4th gate and put on various standby flights for the following day, we are told we have to clear out luggage. Neither vouchers nor apologies are offered

At the baggage clearance area, no luggage for over 2 hours, no AA employee, finally the belt starts moving spits out a few bags, stops, then start, then stops for a long while, finally luggage. No accommodations in the airport (hotel booked). By the way my rant includes the airport at Puerto Rico, I hate them all – mind you this could have been due to just plain crankiness. After awhile, spur of the moment, as at this point I just want to get the hell out of Puerto Rico, ask at AA counter as to the availability of flights out - get this, AA employee checks and why yes there is a 9:35pm flight available that he can put me on, he can't say why I was not put on it originally and he does not know what happened with my original flight – he just can’t say and has no idea why the flight was cancelled!

At the gate for 9:35pm flight, no employees at gate up to 9pm, so people are starting to get antsy, 9:35 comes and goes, 10pm and rumours float around that there is no crew to fly the plane. At approx. 10:30 an AA pilot show up, good sign, but no employees at gate - no one has a clue what's going on. Oh forgot to mention, there was also another flight at the gate at the same date, supposedly departing for Orlando.

Boarding finally started at 11pm, after Orlando flight is bumped to accommodate us, who knows why. I believe, I am truly beginning to hate AA with a passion, kept us waiting and wondering for hours on end then has the nerve to offer us a free set of headphones as compensation.

Thanks for the vent!!!