I just returned from the worst trip of my life, thanks entirely to American Airlines. In all, American ended up booking me on five flights on its own airline and one on Alaska Air. The only competent travel I had out of those six flights was thanks to the great folks on Alaska Air. American Airlines is a study in dysfunction. It is marred by consistently late arrivals, poor maintenance, impossibly short connections and awful customer service. To consider it a linchpin in our national travel network is a joke, as is the airline.
I was scheduled to fly out on #2519 at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, and switch planes in Phoenix at 8:07 for arrival in Boise at 11:09 p.m. The initial flight loaded and left the terminal, only to have the pilot tell us they had mechanical problems and had to return. We were told it would be easily more than an hour, meaning I would miss my connection. I was given a number to call and American gave me a choice of either waiting in the airport and flying to Phoenix to wait there for a morning flight to Boise, or going home and coming back for a morning flight to Phoenix. I chose the latter. I later learned the original flight never got fixed and was cancelled after leaving people waiting for several hours.
American rebooked me on #1468 departing at 7:05 a.m. and arriving at 9:08 MST. My connecting flight #625 was supposed to board at 9:10. That two-minute window was what they gave me. Naturally, #1468 had mechanical problems again and left at least 20 minutes late. By the time we arrived and I ran through Phoenix airport, my plane had gone. Now customer service (a misnomer) told me the best they could do was book me through Portland, leaving at 4:45 p.m. and getting me from Portland to Boise at 11 p.m., a day late. (Sorry, I donít recall the flight numbers.)
I asked ďcustomer serviceĒ if this was the best they could do. They told me yes. I informed them I was going to spend my seven-hour layover criticizing the company on Twitter since I had nothing better to do. About an hour or hour and a half into that, I heard from American on Twitter. Suddenly, the airline was able to do better for me. So, the only real way to get American to handle your complaint, is to bully them into it. This time they booked me through to Sacramento and from there to Boise. I tried to help a family of three in an identical situation, but since they had not embarrassed the airline publicly, American seemed less helpful. They did not join me in Sacramento although the plane had open seats.
The flight into Sacramento was, of course, late. Not only that, I was being routed from one terminal to the next, but you have to leave security and go back through to do that. My plane landed at about 4 p.m. My flight was already boarding and allegedly closed doors at 4:10, when I was just arriving in security. I raced through security with the help of the good people ahead of me and got on Alaska Air, which had both paged me and apparently held up a bit waiting for me. It was thanks to them that I didnít miss my nieceís wedding. I arrived at Boise about 7 p.m. or roughly 20 hours late.
That wasnít all. I flew out of Boise Saturday, Aug. 20 on #526 to Phoenix. It was, as apparently all American flights are, late. Thankfully, when I arrived in Phoenix, so was my connecting flight, #1597. It was on the board for another 25 minutes late, but didnít even start boarding until 40 minutes later. Naturally, it arrived late to Baltimore. And the saga wasnít over. American couldnít even connect the flyway correctly and we were stuck waiting in the plane for about 20 minutes.
I had planned two full days in Boise plus breakfast Saturday before going home. I figured I would sleep in my hotel Wednesday night, be relaxed enough to tour with my brother and his family who I rarely see on Thursday, and then spend all day Friday with my nieceís wedding. Instead, I lost almost all of the daylight hours Thursday. I was exhausted from running through two massive airports and traveling literally across the nation to Boise Ė 3,081 miles total. I never got to see anything other than downtown Boise at night when it was mostly closed and the only reason I didnít miss the wedding was because of Alaska Air.
Iím not just looking for lost money. Iím looking to be compensated for having half my vacation ruined. And no, I donít want airline coupons for American. I donít intend to fly on this Mickey Mouse airline ever again. I would like the FAA look into delays and maintenance problems at American Airlines. Everyone I met throughout my trip had similarly awful stories to tell of American's delayed flights, breakdowns and shoddy service.