Having not flown in almost four years, I took a trip from DFW to Louisville last weekend 9-13 July, on American Airlines. What could go wrong on a short hop like that? I found out. The trip turned out to be like The Odyssey as re-written by Homer.... Simpson. No problem on the first flight on an Airbus A319, except that the seat in front of me was about 8 inches from my nose, sitting upright.
My return flight on Monday was on a Mesa CRJ-900, due out at 1209 [all times EDT 24-hour]. [All quotes approximate.] Rollback from the gate on-time, and then we sat out by the runway until 1244, when the pilot announced "We had a problem, now fixed. Just need to do paperwork." That took another 20 minutes. About 1305, eight seconds or so of acceleration, then heavy braking "We had another problem, returning to gate. Take your carry-on bags."
About 75 of us lined up at the counter, where for almost 3 hours one agent, with a second agent about 1/3 of the time, processed people one at a time. The first general announcement came about 1340: "10 min till mechanic arrives, then about 45 minutes more."
1417: "No more news, another 45 minutes."
1525: "Departure 1700 at the earliest."
1706: Some bags are being unloaded. At 1710, A passenger said he had gotten on the 1824 flight.
I had been talking to two first-class passengers who were flying via DFW to Tucson. They had used 100,000 AA miles to visit their granddaughter on her first birthday. He was wearing a medical-grade lower-face mask to avoid infection, because he was a transplant patient, and he had an appointment for a critical checkup the next day. They had been second in line upon de-planing.
I told them what I had heard and they went to the ticket counter. Sorry, but the remaining seats on the 1824 flight had already been given out. They were given the options of waiting for the original flight, or renting a car and driving to Lexington for a 1946 flight which was scheduled to arrive at DFW 49 minutes before their 2200 flight to Tucson. A storm front closed the Louisville airport in late afternoon, and had moved toward Lexington, so that was a terrible option.
1737: "Found a spare plane, being towed in."
1849: Pushback from the gate 6 h 40m after the first one.
2050: arrival at DFW gate. [1950 local]
The last thing the gentleman with the transplant needed was more stress, but American Airlines certainly provided it, in spades.
-- Inadequate staff to process passengers for re-booking connections.
-- Not making two lines with one for those with connections.
-- Almost total lack of informational announcements from eithe pilots or gate staff over several hours.
-- Booking young, apparently healthy passengers on the 1824 flight, while ignoring the man with health problems, who was flying first-class and had AA Gold status.
When I got home, I found an automated email from American's computer saying it was so sorry, [deep in it's processor, I assume] and giving me 6000 miles. When I contacted the people from Tucson the next day, they had goten the same message. I paid $434.20 for my trip +25 each way for a bag. I priced their trip as cash, and it would have been over $4300, if they hadn't used miles for the trip. So 6000 miles for them seems like an added insult. Way to treat your most loyal customers, American. Seems like they should have gotten more like 60,000.
Good comments. I have little sympathy for US carriers which have erected trade barriers. Here is a note
(from the Delta in-flight magazine for July) from the CEO of Delta lamenting the competition from gulf carriers and trying to get us to join their cause.
BTW I am ok with the new seating pattern as it week give me more elbow room and not have to deal with other’s “man spread”.
$2000 round-trip to Europe? No wonder no one visits me here.
And my friend had a Tarmac episode last week in Munich–trying to fly out to Denmark. So sorry that this problem is appearing here too.
I remember in the 90s I had a 2 or 3-hour delay out of Zurich but they didn’t load us on the plane and leave us there with no A/C (as they did to my friend and her family last week). They told us at check-in that there was a mechanical delay and my boyfriend and I went to the restaurant and had a nice lunch.
What has happened to those days? It just seems like a no-brainer not to board the plane until everything mechanical is checked. More flights, less time, more pressure, and we are the victims. How is this customer service?
Wow, another good treatise from you and your colleagues at FR! You said it most eloquently and certainly factually.
Now, what can the flying public do? How do we counter this situation?
We need volunteers to turn up the heat on Congress, presidential candidates and the Obama Administration, which are awash in airline $ and lobbyists, plus Wall Street financiers.
They are taking no action to stop or reverse public air transportation’s accelerated decline
due to the airline oligopoly.
They get special treatment and/or fly corporate or government jets.