American Airlines Trip from Hell

This blog is very off topic for me. However, due to what this trip was like due to American Airlines I have to share it wide and far.

I received somewhat of an early Christmas present from one of my bosses. The trip was originally to be a business trip to New York City. However, after booking the flight the meetings were cancelled.

My boss decided to allow me to go to NYC anyway as well as pick up the cost of a hotel which would have been part of the original business trip.

This became an early Christmas present as it meant a trip at no cost to me except for what I decided to spend while in NYC. Thank you boss -J

Sunday morning December 12th, 2010 I arrived at the airport at 5:00 A.M. to be able to clear security, etc prior to a 6:10 A.M. departure. This is all well and quickly.

The flight entailed going to NYC from Fargo, ND via Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The airline is American Airlines!

So far, so good!

A little over an hour into the flight one begins to notice we are circling; usually this means we are about to begin making a decent to the ground but air traffic control has not given clearance as yet. Awhile later the pilot comes over the intercom to confirm what has been suspected and he expected to hear more from the ground by the top of the hour.

The top of the hour comes and goes without any word. At the bottom of the hour he says we have been cleared for landing and will begin our decent and should be on the ground within fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes comes and goes and we are still in the air!

A short time later however we notice the plane is beginning to descend and we even begin seeing very clearly houses and other buildings on the ground.  Yeah, I might just still make my connecting flight to NYC.

Suddenly without warning rather than landing the plane makes a quick upward turn to ascend. This happens for almost fifteen minutes before the pilot communicates with us.

He indicates that air traffic control said crosswinds were 50-70 knots and they gave him two choices:

A. Continue circling for an hour in hopes the crosswinds would lower and they could get us on the ground.

The plane only had enough fuel for another half hour so this option was not chosen unless we were to fall out of the sky.

B. Divert to Louisville, Kentucky.

This was the obvious choice! Eighty percent of the passengers were to make connecting flights at O’Hare and of course now none of us would be doing so and new arrangements would have to be made in Louisville. Arrangements would also have to be made to somehow get the other twenty percent back to Chicago since that was their final destination.

We are on the ground in Louisville and it appears the airline has prepared for the event by having extra agents at the inbound gate to try and make arrangements for all concerned.

We are talking 120 folks having to be taken care of…how long would this take.

First part of airline trip from hell is over and part two is about to begin!

I waited in line about an hour before it was my turn to find out my fate. Others had already been told they would be spending the rest of the day/night in Louisville and I didn’t want that to be my fate as well.

The agent working with me attempted several different options and none of them were working out. Finally she had had option to present to me. They could get me yet today to NYC but it would be sitting in Louisville for six hours and backtracking to the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tx airport. This flight would get me into NYC at eleven P.M. I would lose almost half the time that had been allotted for NYC but it was better than nothing.

It also would mean cancelling my hotel reservation since by the time I actually got into the city from the airport it would be almost one A.M. and the room would not be of much use. I called and got the cancellation and got a full refund for what had already been paid for the night.

Six hours later and high dollars later as airport food is not cheap would end part two of the airline trip from hell or would it?

The plane has loaded, even with a few others who had flown with me from Fargo. We are ready to fly!

We sit at the gate with no word as to why. Finally the pilot announces they just finished the last of the loading of luggage and should be on our way shortly. We continue to sit!

Again the pilot talks to us. To push out of the gate airlines use what is called a tugger which pushes and the pilot is then able to start the engines. Apparently the airline’s tugger is not working and they are attempting to borrow one from another carrier. I cannot believe they do not have their own back up!

Finally they get a tugger and we are pushed from the gate. Due to cold weather and the fact it has been snowing the plane needs to be de iced before it can go anywhere, pilot says it should be long!

By this time I have already missed my connecting flight in Dallas for NYC…I am NOT a happy camper!

We continue to sit in place. Where is the truck with the de icer spray???

About twenty more minutes pass before the pilot announces the truck has no de icer spray and has to go and refill the truck….I fringing cannot believe it!

Two and a half hours sitting on the plane it has finally been pushed from the gate, it has been sprayed and we are ready for takeoff.

Part three of the airline trip from hell is over.

We have arrived in Dallas; I have missed my connecting flight which I knew was the case even before taking off from Louisville. I am at this point thinking if it is it to continue on to NYC as I don’t see a way of getting there before morning and I would only have to turn around in a few hours to go back to Fargo.

It’s time to talk with an agent. The agent says there is still one flight for the night to go to NYC but doesn’t know if any seats are still available and would arrive in NYC at three A.M. I stop the agent right there. I tell her there is only one way at this point I would fly into NYC and tell her of the day’s travails. I have been flying or sitting in airports since five A.M. and I should have arrived in NYC twelve hours earlier. I tell her I can understand the weather situation which caused us to be diverted to Louisville but I cannot excuse the unprofessionalism by airline works, not including agents who were very professional, and caused us to get in the air to Dallas two and a half hours late. I could not see going to NYC at this point for only a few hours and then have to return to Fargo.

I would do it only on one condition that is if a seat was available on this last flight of the night. The airline had to approve without cost to me a change on my return flight so I could still spend a night in NYC. They would have to approve me returning home on Tuesday evening rather than Monday. She said she herself could not approve it but would get her supervise.

I repeated the same sad, sorry story in detail the supervisor. She said to first let’s see if there is a seat available on this last flight of the day. There is…it is the LAST available seat. She pauses for a few minutes then says, “I wouldn’t normally due this but considering all you have been through today I am going to approve your request and issue you a new ticket for your return flight on Tuesday instead of Monday.”

Yahoo….something is going right finally; unfortunately this meant arriving in NYC without a hotel and not being able to make one for Monday night until some hours after arriving in NYC. I didn’t care at this point. I would worry about that later.

Part four of the airline trip from hell is over!

I arrive at LaGuardia at three A.M. as told. I go out to take transportation into the city .itself. Lol and behold transportation stops at eleven P.M. and doesn’t resume until 5:30 A.M. There are two other options; take a taxi and having lived in NYC before I know taxi drivers and things they do so that option is immediately off the table; second option is to take a public bus via Harlem and catch a subway down to Grand Central Station. I want OUT of any airport so I choose option two!

Just after five A.M. I arrive at Grand Central only to find out that due to 9/11 it now closes at night from two A.M. until six A.M.

I find a police officer who I have enjoyable conversation with until the station opens.

After a few hours I am able to get a new hotel reservation at a different hotel than planned, even nicer, and my time in NYC turns out to be everything I knew it could be.

You will see that by the photo album, which I will provide the link for it just a bit; unfortunately there is one more part of the airline trip from hell!

My airline trip from hell which I thought was now behind me returns to haunt me.

Tuesday afternoon I arrive back at LaGuardia early due to the stepped up security process there due to 9/11. I go to the self check in desk, put in my credit card and it comes back it cannot find my itinerary try the flight number. I try the flight number and it again says it cannot find my itinerary and proceed to an agent.  

I proceed to the check in line to see an agent. I tell her what happened and give you the new ticket given to me in Dallas changing my return flight to today rather than yesterday.

She checks the system and says there is not flight info for me as the supervisor in Dallas did NOT cancel my original flight and when I didn’t show up for it the airline cancelled it as a no show.

It would take almost a half hour of her speaking with her supervisor and then waiting on the telephone for another supervisor to approve the reissue of the ticket as it was suppose to be and get me on my return flights home.

The return flight home went from this point without a hitch; arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare early, arrived if Fargo on time.

I have taken flight before that may have had an issue along the way but never ever had I been involved in such a nightmare.

I give the ticket agents a lot of credit as they did their job courteously and professional, except the error by the supervisor in Dallas, which I understand she will hear about it.

The delays which they have no control over were not caused by the agents rather so by the ground crews and air traffic control. Air traffic should NOT have has us circling the airport so long before making a decision about us landing in Chicago as they waited too long to divert us. The ground crew in Louisville was not prepared to push back the plane, de ice the plane which caused further problems.

If anyone asks me if I would recommend American Airlines for travel I would answer without hesitation NO!

Here is the link to all the photos taken while in NYC….to me, despite the airline, it was worth going!! You do not need to be a member of Facebook to view them:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=343737&id=721232585&l=bb0706a8d6

4 Responses

  1. WOW!!! I’m glad you managed to have fun and have a positive (considering the circumstances) attitude.

  2. American Airlines Trip from Hell « Reflections of a Foster Youth…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  3. For the record, ATC has no part in an airlines decision to have an aircraft divert. We, as controllers, will hold aircraft until the pilots tell us that they are ready to divert to their alternate airport. When and where they go is completely the choice of the airline.

    Sorry you had a bad experience.

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