It is unfair to judge a company completely on a sole experience, great or sour. However, I do believe that a bad experience can be judged in it’s own class, within bad experiences asking one simple question: how bad does it get? I had a terrible experience with American Airlines and many decent experiences. Unfortunately, the bad gets very bad and the decent isn’t enough to rave about. Here is my story of that bad experience:
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 7 AM JST
The beginning of my journey starts at Itami Airport in Osaka, Japan. My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:25 am. I arrived in line around 7 but had to wait in the check-in line until about 8:10 ish as there were many people scheduled to take a connecting flight from Tokyo to abroad. When I finally got through check-in, I had to rush to my flight and wait for the JAL agent that checked me in to provide me an excess baggage receipt. They held the plane for me thankfully.
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at ~9:40 AM JST (Total Duration: 2hr 40min)
The Osaka to Tokyo flight went fairly unhitched. It left relatively on-time and arrived at around the time they said (this is what most people expect from airlines and is not true for my experience with AA). At this point I went through customs and told them I might come back to Japan so I held onto my residency card and filed a disembarkment card.
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at ~11:40 AM JST (Total Duration: 4hr 40 min)
The flight from Tokyo to Chicago also went fairly well. It left on-time and arrived at around the correct time as well. I met some interesting people on the plane and had a very pleasant conversation on the voyage. I have truly come to appreciate JAL and their level of service.
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at approx 9:35 AM CST
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at approx 11:35 PM JST (Total Duration: 16hr 35 min)
We arrived in Chicago on-time as expected. My scheduled departure towards Ottawa was schedule for 2:55 PM CST so I had a 5 hour wait ahead of me. Luckily, the U.S. was playing Slovenia where I watched the controversial game at an airport bar and grill.
Ok so here is where it starts to turn sour…
Friday, June 18th, 2010 prior to our 2:30 PM CST departure…
So, I and the other passengers are waiting outside the gate and the weather seems to be as good as it needs to be to fly. At this point, the snobby and irritable flight agent said that the flight was being delayed by 30 minutes due to the flight attendant not being on the ground. My grievance with this is why couldn’t they find someone who was on ground and route him/her to our flight? Is she the only one who can do this job? In situations like this, they could reroute a flight attendant and get someone else on board. Flight attendants are used to travelling and routing another flight attendant would have been the best solution here. Regardless, it was still the air carrier’s responsibility to have a working flight and flight attendant by the time we were scheduled to leave and both of which they failed to uphold (more on the “working flight” part later).
So when the flight attendant finally arrived, she arrived with an attitude you could measure in her tone. The time was close to 4-4:30 pm so obviously my fellow riders were irritated at how much she delayed our flight (and how many “it will be just a moment”s our failed agent uttered). Shortly after boarding the flight, one of the riders needed to go to the washroom and quickly returned complaining of the filth. I remember him saying “turbulence could not have done that”. The flight attendant went inside to check and she was also appalled and phoned in maintenance to come clean it up. Thirty minutes later: the maintenance crew showed up and finally cleaned up it. At this point we were ready to fly.
So it was about 5 pm… We were scheduled to leave at 2:30 but the air carrier let us down by not providing us a suitable air craft (no one checks the aircraft before we board?) or a flight attendant (no provisions to re route someone if the delay is… 2 hours long?)? Anyways, I am sure I will never take American Airlines at this point and will gladly pay first class airfare to never experience this again but unfortunately, it gets much worse.
So, just before we are about to embark, someone behind me says “I hate to say it but take a look out the window. We aren’t going anywhere.” I took a peek and saw a fog engulf the airport. Rain came quickly after with an onslaught of lighting and thunder. Soon after, an agent came in from the still-open exit to the gate saying we needed to disembark the aircraft as all flights were grounded. After waiting inside the aircraft for about an hour, this was painful to say the least.
So around 6 pm the storm subsides and planes start getting cleared to fly again. I see several gates with tickers saying “Scheduled: 5:40 pm, Departs: 6:45 PM”. For some ridiculous reason, our flight said “Scheduled: 2:45 pm, Departs: 8:30 PM”. The reason our obnoxious and irritable flight agent provided us was “the flight is undergoing maintenance”. It is American Airlines responsibility to have a flight ready for us by the time we are schedule to fly. It is now past 6 pm and we don’t have a plane that can fly? What is this? Certainly not good service.
So when 8:30 comes by, our flight gets delayed to 9:10 PM. We were able to board starting around 8:50 PM, which was a pleasant surprise at this point. Everyone got seated, we had our snappy flight attendant and obnoxious agent see us through to the point of disembarkation. This time, thankfully, we actually disembarked! I was expecting that they would pull another fast one on us but they didn’t. At this point, after spending hours in travel from Japan, I took a nap expecting us to be in the air by the time I wake up. The pilot said there was about a 45 min wait of planes ready to take off so we would be on the runway for a bit.
I wake up around 10:20 PM and we are still on the ground. Again, I see more lightning and showers and no planes taking off. We are on the runway. The pilot says we are getting re-routed and that we don’t have enough fuel to follow the intended route. So, we have to go back to the airport. Sighs echo throughout the aircraft. We get close to the airport and we are not allowed to disembark until a crew can get out and usher out those large ports/gates. We wait for 30-45 minutes in the aircraft in front of the airport until the crews can come out. The obnoxious and even more irritated agent from before comes inside and says the flight is now cancelled and that we would have to make bookings with an agent and that the flight is cancelled… get this… wait for it… wait for it… “due to weather”. I quickly reworded that to “cancelled due to a lack of a flight attendant, lack of a flyable aircraft, lack of service, lack of an ability to check weather forecasts, and finally a lack of competence”. Obviously, our obnoxious agent wouldn’t admit to any of those .
So, we were all expected to get out and make rebookings. No, they would not schedule this same plane full of ready-and-able passengers for the first takeoff in the morning. Instead, you have to go and schedule another flight with an agent. Unfortunately, there are only so many seats available and I was sitting near the front of the plane while my backpack was closer to the back (I gave up my seat so that a father, mother, and two children could sit together). Perhaps if I was with my backpack in my assigned seat, I could have got off the flight and get to an agent in time to schedule a flight the next morning. Too bad though, since by the time I got off the flight, the only flight from Chicago to Ottawa the next day as already full! Oh everyone, sing with me, “I hate American Airlines… I hate American Airlines…”.
So my choices were: take a flight on Sunday at ~8:30 AM CST (remember my first flight was on Thursday at 5 PM CST) or take a flight from Chicago to Toronto at ~11 AM and then find my own way of getting from Toronto to Ottawa. I would have liked this choice if it wasn’t 1 AM CST in the morning and I could call a few people in Toronto for a favour. But it was quite late and I was unable to make any international calls (I tried using the pay phones three times and all times they stole my money and said “we are unable to complete the call”. So, I decided on the flight on Sunday.
The agents were giving out hotel and taxi vouchers. But since the flight was cancelled due to weather and not any of the multitude of other acceptable answers, the vouchers were not 100%. The taxi voucher was 1-way (the hotel was 20 minutes away $30 USD one-way) and the hotel was $85 /day. Oh and even though I was staying for two nights in Chicago seemingly against my will, I would have to COME BACK to the airport to get another voucher as it was “the policy that we cannot print out vouchers for more than one night at a time”. This one agent had no soul.
The first night I was thinking of sleeping in the airport. They had cots in the K section of the airport. All the agents told you to go there and when you went to check and find there were no cots left, the agents had already left so you couldn’t ask them for a blanket and a pillow! Oh and all the blankets and pillows were gone too. I saw people sleeping on the cold floor, on hard benches, on 1 person-seats with arm rests on both sides (which looked terribly uncomfortable). Anyways, it was a dreadful sight and pathetic how little respect American Airlines has for it’s customers. I will tell this story to everyone with 100% confidence those who hear it will never fly them if given a choice.
After finding out that there were no cots left and no pillows or blankets, I went to the closest agent (and certainly not that obnoxious one from before). I asked him if there were any pillows or blankets left. Simple answer: no. I then asked him if he could give me a voucher for two-nights instead of one. He started typing something and printed something out. He gave it to me and said here are three new vouchers. 1 voucher was for 2 nights in a hotel all paid for. The other two vouchers were for taxi cab fare there and back. I had found the only reasonable and nice agent in the building. He made the other agent look even more obnoxious as his “policies” came under question. I left the secured section of the airport promptly and found even more people sleeping downstairs on the luggage tracks behind the check-in counters.
So it’s about 1:30 AM at this point… about 27 hours after starting my voyage in Japan.
After leaving the airport, I got in line for a cab. There were about 100 people in line waiting for cabs. I eventually got a cab that accepted the vouchers (very few of them did and I waited an additional 30 minutes after getting to the front of the line!) and made it the the hotel safely. Another interesting side point is that the bellstaff was all Japanese and they had a famous Japanese channel NHK on TV. I watched that for awhile to feel more relaxed.
Anyways, the hotel was awesome. If I had a change of clothes and some company, I would have enjoyed it more. There was a mall close by that I went to but was pretty much bored for my 1 unenjoyable day in Chicago. Guests are expected to pay for the Internet but when I called the front desk to ask about it they just gave me the password for free so that was nice too. I promptly emailed my family and skyped Chiaki letting them know where I was and what happened. Oh and another thing that annoyed me was the concierge at the hotel. He told me I should leave the hotel at 4:30 AM on Sunday to get to the airport for 6:30 AM for my flight at 8:30 AM. He said there was a lot of traffic at that time! I was like no f*ing way and asked the two hotel front-desks who told me my original estimate of 6:00 AM was fine. I hate bad advice and when people have such conviction in that advice.
When Sunday rolled around, the flight was delayed once again. This time, only by about 45 minutes to 9:15 AM. I was a little distraught and worried it would happen again as the city was suffering from isolated thunderstorms. However, I believe it was because of the strong winds that shut us down that Friday afternoon. Anyways, the Sunday flight took off like Friday had never happened and well like I said, I think it’s fair to judge a company by how bad the bad times get, and this was certainly one of the worst experiences of my life. Glad I can associate it with a brand and just tell others to never fly AA again. It’s like if you buy insurance for your car or home to protect you from certain terrible experiences. The only insurance in this case is to simply not fly them again.
Total Duration: 75 Hrs
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