Thursday, October 5

American Airlines: Guest Post

People like to share their disservice stories with me. It makes us, like, sympatico. However, this one is truly worthy of the first ever Customer Disservice Guest Post. (It helps that I know the victim quite well in "real life" so I know this was not embellished!)

First, meet Annie. Annie, these are my devoted readers. Devoted readers, Annie is married to Mike; their sons are Isaac (3) and Sam (1). Collectively we shall call them the N family. They flew American Airlines to attend a wedding on the other coast and were innocently trying to make their way back home when they were struck by Disservice Lightning (my apologies-- I think I'm highly contagious!) The witticisms herein are hers.

4 a.m. PDT: The N's stumble out of bed.

5 a.m. PDT: The N's arrive at the airport in Oakland, CA. They check luggage, make it through security. Woohoo. The plan is to fly from Oakland to Seattle to Chicago and then home to Baltimore at 10 EDT.

Oakland to Seattle flight: uneventful.

Seattle to Chicago: preceded by 2-hour layover. They board the plane at 10:30 a.m. PDT.

11 a.m. PDT: pilot announces weather in Chicago is stormy. Time is needed to ensure a safe flight and landing are possible. Another 45-60 minutes on the tarmac are necessary. Isaac is distracted by Goldfish crackers and Magna-Doodle. Sam enjoys making Mike's bladder function as a trampoline.

12 noon PDT: pilot announces that not only is the weather in Chicago worse, but the plane is now experiencing mechanical difficulties and a repair must be attempted.

1 p.m. PDT: passengers become restless and leave plane to stretch. The N family follow suit. Annie realizes she has only 1 diaper and 2 bottles of formula left for Sam. She finds a diaper dispenser in a restroom and purchases an extra.

1:20 p.m. PDT: Annie considers buying food for the kids, but the flight crew are rounding up passengers to re-board. She decides to make do with onboard snacks. Editor's note: cue giggling from the peanut gallery as they see where this is going.

1:30 p.m. PDT: the N family are safely onboard. Many passengers have grown tired of waiting and rebooked their flights; as a result, American Airlines resells these tickets-- and the flight is overbooked. A family of 4 has been sold four seats, but none of them are together.

2:00 p.m. PDT-3:00 p.m. PDT: The flight crew spend an hour attempting to reseat passengers in an effort to seat the aforementioned family together. People are kicked off the plane. Children are crying. The people in front of the N's get fed up and leave altogether, scrapping their trip. The aforementioned familly now has a place to sit. However, the flight crew are now absent, ostensibly pouring over the new flight manifest.

3:00 p.m. PDT: the plane finally pulls away from the gate, only to join the end of a long line of planes waiting for the runway.

3:30 p.m. PDT: plane is safely in the air. Passengers are invited to purchase American Airlines snack packs. Cheese crackers, raisins, and Lorna Doones for only $4. The N's decline.

8:45 p.m. CT: plane is circling Chicago. Pilot informs passengers the weather is still too hazardous to land. Oh, and the plane is low on fuel. Without clearance to land soon, plane will be diverted.

Isaac is now awake from his nap and begging for food. He has no further interest in the Goldfish crackers or granola bars his mother has available. Crackers and raisins now sounding more appealing, Annie flags down a flight attendant. She is informed the snack packs are all gone. Mike inquires about the availability of peanuts. Or pretzels. Or anything edible. Flight attendant informs them they are up shit creek without a paddle. Editor's note: I admit to taking liberties with the precise phraseology. More probably her words were "You guys are way screwed."

Isaac cries. Sam cries. Nearby passengers begin throwing bananas, cookies, and leftover Lorna Doones at the N family.

9:15 p.m. CT: plane is diverted to St. Louis.

9:45 p.m. CT: plane lands in St. Louis. Cue Annie's panic about the diaper/formula situation for her baby. Plane sits on tarmac. The influx of diverted flights means there are few available gates.

10 p.m. CT: pilot announces, "Folks, this just isn't our night." Editor's note: they're really channeling Meg now! Audible plane-wide groan ensues. Pilot explains a gate has been found, but it's not owned by the airport. Rather, it's owned by the city of St. Louis, and nobody at the airport has a key. They need to go wake someone up. Editor's note: no, they are NOT kidding.

10:45 p.m. CT: key is found. "Fasten Seatbelt" light goes off. Everyone stands up. Pilot announces, "Folks, you're going to need to sit back down." The flight crew, unfamiliar with this particular gate, have not lined things up properly. The plane must pull ahead another few feet.

Isaac wails. A voice calls out, "Cry your heart out, little man!" Annie cries too.

11 p.m. CT: the N's are free of the evil clutches of American Airlines.

11:01 p.m. CT: the N's discover their gate-checked stroller is not waiting for them. They trek on foot, then collapse in the waiting area.

Mike produces his blessed Blackberry and books flights that way rather than standing in the long lines now formed at the agent desk. Then he approaches an agent and requests a hotel or food voucher. Agent explains that while vouchers are normally given for mechanical delays, technically this flight was delayed due to weather and therefore no vouchers will be given. She gestures to a box of toothbrushes by way of compensation.

11:17 p.m. CT: Mike contemplates homicide.

11:18 p.m. CT: Annie begins asking every family with a baby or stroller if she can borrow a diaper or formula. She scores a too-small diaper and 4 ounces of formula.

11:45 p.m. CT: the N's are in their hotel room and fall asleep quickly, praying Isaac does not have a nighttime accident in the hotel bed.

1:30 p.m. EDT, following day: the N's arrive in Baltimore after an uneventful flight . . . only to discover the airline has lost their luggage.

Folks . . . it doesn't get much better than that. "Congratulations" to the N crew and American Airlines for warranting an unprecedented guest entry in my hallowed blog. And Annie? I suggest vodka.