American Airlines Hostages

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.

This is the nicest way I can tell you what I think about American Airlines

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.

Once you have checked into the airport you are their hostage. There is no one to assist you, no one cares, and they can cancel and delay your flights until we all need snowshoes in Hell!

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.

I took this picture myself in January 2019 aboard an American Airlines plane. See the duct tape? Another place was held together with scotch tape.

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.”

I was so tired and so upset that I started wondering if they would just let us die in the terminal rather than put us in a hotel and try again the next day.

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.

That’s Ridiculous!

  Caution! After reading this post you may experience a heightened awareness to the many ridiculous things that we all encounter on a day to day basis.  Some make us laugh, others may cause us to shake our head thinking, “Huh?” or, “seriously?” Sometimes I encounter over the top ridiculousness that makes me question the intelligence of the human race.

    Vegan leather. That is what the tag read on a handbag that I noticed while out shopping a few weeks ago. Do they think we are stupid? The tag should just read Fake Leather or Vinyl.

    A few days later I was shopping in the gardening department when I spotted Organic Choice potting mix. Hmmmm? Isn’t all dirt organic unless we add non-organic stuff to it? Furthermore, is calling it Organnic Choice the same thing as it actually being organic?

    How about a book (available on Amazon) titled The Ultimate Guide to Fasting.  I admit that I like food so fasting isn’t something I do on a regular basis, but do we need a book to tell us how to not eat?  From what I can see in the book’s description it isn’t a guide for people fasting for spiritual reasons. If that were the case readers might need to know the parameters for their particular faith.  Does anyone actually need 66 pages bound together to say what can be said in two words. Don’t Eat!

    I asked some friends to tell me about things they find ridiculous.  One friend told me about crazy things she has seen on actual product warning labels. For example, a warning on a baby stroller that instructs the user to remove the baby before folding up the stroller.  A microwave oven that reminds us not to use it for drying a pet. A shade for a car’s windshield that instructs the driver to not operate the vehicle with the sunshade in place. The most ridiculous part is that such warnings were likely generated after crazy consumers actually did these things.  They walk among us.

    I bet you have heard advertisements for chicken in which the company boasts that their poultry is free from added hormones.  You can find it on packing throughout the poultry department in grocery stores. Do you know why this is ridiculous? It has been illegal in the United States to give chickens or other poultry hormones or steroids since the 1950’s.  If you are worried about hormones in your food then you need to shift your focus from chicken and pay attention to what is in beef.

    Try hard, do your best, give it your all.  How many times have we heard coaches or teachers say that to a group of kids or athletes. Many also add statements that they want  them to give 110%? Businesses sometimes ask their sales team to give 110% or maybe even 150%.  Ridiculous! All you can do no matter how hard you try is 100%. Yet we wonder why so many kids don’t understand math.

    Several years before I retired I found myself in a meeting with three other school administrators.  The task the principal had called us in to complete as a group was to construct a letter to the parents of our students to explain the meaning of their most recent standardized test scores. That made sense, it was a new test and the scores needed to be interpreted differently than those in past years; it was logical to send a written explanation.

    We all agreed the letter needed to be contained to one page and that it should be easy to understand, free from educational mumbo-jumbo-lingo-alphabet soup as possible.  One of us had previously constructed a draft letter to get us going. Changes in words and punctuation started flowing as rapidly as kindergartners heading to the playground.  I mistakenly thought that we would finish quickly and be able to get on with what I thought were more important tasks such as teaching and interacting with students.

    After an hour passed I excused myself to the restroom. Granted, I didn’t actually need to use the facilities but I was starting to be frustrated at the immense waste of time.  I spent a minute or two in the bathroom stretching and trying to get back into the proper frame of mind.

    I returned to the meeting of the minds hoping that in my absence they had wrapped things up. They were still plugging away on the second paragraph. THE SECOND PARAGRAPH!  I honestly tried to focus on the letter but my mind insisted on drifting off to the expense of the letter. I started guesstimating how much our collective pay was for each hour.  My best estimate was the letter was costing the school system $180.00 per hour. That is over the top, crazy ridiculous. It took over three hours to get the letter to where the powers that be thought it was perfect. One letter, $540.00. I bet the parents that glanced at before tossing it in the recycle bin would have been less than thrilled to know about its cost.

    More recently while working as a freelance writer for a small magazine I was asked to report about an upcoming event that was to be sponsored by the local hospital.  I was given the name and number of the person to contact to set up an interview. The lady on the other end of the phone, let’s call her Margaret, got all excited and started rattling off the names of various hospital and community people that she would need to assemble together for this interview.  I politley informed her that the magazine had recently changed their format and that they had given me strict guidelines stating the story could not exceed 700 words and that they really wanted me to keep it lower than that if at all possible.

    Margaret insisted on knowing my submission deadline and when I told her it was three weeks away she informed me that she wanted to hold off for awhile so that she could give me the most up to date details. I again told Margaret of the 700 words limit, asked her to decide the information that she deemed the most critical to share in the article. Margaret gushed on about how my little article would be so crucial to their event. She said she would contact me the following week with a day and time for us to meet with “her people.”

    When ten days had passed and I still had not heard from Margaret I called her again.  She again went into lengthy details of how this person and that person could only meet at particular times.  I was polite but all I wanted was for her to give me a time and day. When the conversation ended she again failed to do that.  

    With one week left before my deadline She finally called and asked that I meet them late Friday afternoon.  My deadline was 8:00 a.m. Monday. I told her that I really needed to meet earlier in the week because I had weekend plans, didn’t want to work on the weekend and wanted enough time to proof read the copy before I sent it in. That sent Margaret into more jabber about all her people’s busy lives.  I made a mental note that I would not accept future article assignments that would cause me to have to work with Margaret. I actually would have backed out except I knew it was too late for the story to be reassigned and I didn’t want to let down the magazine editor who was very kind and professional person.  We compromised with me meeting them at 10:00 a.m. on Friday.

    It wasn’t surprising to me that half of Margaret’s team didn’t bother to attend the meeting even though she had preached to me about their importance.  My first question to the group was, What were the most important points that they would like to have emphasized in the magazine.  Silence. I looked around the table and four sets of eyes looked back at me with blank stares while two other sets of eyes remained glued to cell phones. Over the next hour I managed to squeeze enough information from two of the people to eek out an acceptable blurb of just under 700 words.  As a freelance writer my pay was low but I wondered how much the hour long meeting with various hospital staff had cost. You can bet it was ridiculous.

    Sunday night and Monday morning I received numerous text messages from Margaret wanting to give me more information.  I ignored her but part of me wanted to reply telling her that she was being ridiculous (and rude) and that her lack of planning was not my emergency.

    Let’s talk about airlines for awhile.  Unless you don’t fly I bet you have stories to tell.  My most recent flight was booked on short notice. I needed to fly to Texas on Christmas Day to see a dear relative for the last time.  I had a previous experience with American Airlines that prompted me to declare that I would never again board one of their air crafts. I had to change my mind because the only way to get from my home to Waco Texas on Christmas was to fly American.

    To keep this post to a reasonable length I won’t tell you about everything that went wrong but I want to tell you about the most ridiculous part.  My first leg took me from Lexington KY to Charlotte NC. When the next plane took off from Charlotte I had an uneasy feeling and I am not typically a nervous flyer.  After about 15 minutes in the air the pilot came over the speaker to inform us something was not right with the plane and that we were returning to Charlotte where they would either fix the issue or put us on a different plane.  Take a look at these pictures of the replacement plane they used. There are things held together with tape! This is the plane that was used because the other one was in worse condition! Say it with me, Ridiculous!! I paid almost $700 to fly on a plane held together with duct and scotch tape!

Now it is your turn to share about ridiculous products and situations that you have encountered. (Please note that I will not approve comments about political or complex social issues)

Thanks for reading and I hope that all of your ridiculous encounters are of the humorous variety.

Photo credits to Hunter-Newton-1 and Aron-Visuals 322 on Unsplash, and yours truly