Misadventures in AA travel.

So, for those who haven’t heard, I was back home in Trinidad this December/January vacation to spend some time with my family. The time spent was great and the rest was much needed after freezing my proverbial butt off in Michigan. So, not to make this note any longer than it has to be, I’ll start off where things get interesting.

The first sign of my impending travel trauma was on my return trip to the United States scheduled for 8:00 am Monday 29th December 2008. As a side note, anyone who is familiar with international travel, knows that a person is required to arrive at the airport at least 2 hrs before departure as to get through ticketing and security checks. With that being said, I arrived @ 5am (3 hrs in advance) as to avoid any unnecessary confusion. But I was in for a surprise the likes of which I cannot even begin to describe. All the events that follow are completely factual and I have recorded most of my conversations with the flight crew/ staff and the notices made from the pilot if anyone would like evidence.
I reiterate: You Cannot Make This Stuff Up.

So after I got passed the check-in points and security, we finally board the plane @ approx. 7:15am. After the usual in-flight safety demonstrations by the flight attendants, we were ready for lift off – Or so I thought… 8 o’clock came and we were yet to taxi out of the terminal. 8:15… nothing, 8:30…. Nothing. At approx. 8:35 am, pilot comes on the plane’s loudspeaker and says that the plane has a flat tire and a spare is needed. First of all, I thought a flat tire on a plane was a bit strange, but such is life right?? Cannot get worse right?? I’ll be back in Michigan sometime later today right??? WRONG..

At 8:40 the pilot once again resumed his in flight announcements, this time with worse news. Apparently, in the Trinidad and Tobago airport, there were no spare tires for the aircraft, so AA will have to contact the neighborhood Caribbean airports to find a spare and have one flown in. Well, the only problem with that was that in the entire Caribbean (including Puerto Rico) there were absolutely no spare tires for this aircraft and one would have to be flown in from MIA. This would mean that the next flight to arrive in Trinidad from MIA @ 4:00 pm would have on board our needed spare tire. So while some people were scurrying to re-schedule their various connectors, I was not too worried since my outgoing flight to Detroit left @ 9pm that night. I had more than enough time to make my flight. At approx. 11:00am, the passengers of flight 1818 to MIA are hit another devastating blow. Flight 1818 has been cancelled. This is due to the fact that the crew is only given a certain window to fly and if the flight was delayed for anytime passed that window they are no longer authorized to fly.

At that time, some people tried to get on the 4:30pm flight leaving Trinidad that day (some with success others not so lucky), others were pushed back to the following morning on a standby basis, considering that all flights were booked solid and oversold. Others complained and argued about the service and others got placed on another airline. I on the other hand opted to avoid the stand-by option and opted to return to Michigan on Sunday 4th Jan 2009. The reason for it being so late was the earliest confirmed arrival for me into Michigan would arrive at 2pm New Years day- which to me didn’t make any sense and I much preferred to stay the extra week with y family and enjoy bringing in the New Year there. Anyway, I was now confirmed on the AA flight 1818 with my same schedule but on Sunday 4th 2009. (A week extra in Trinidad sounds good… right??)

After my additional week in Trinidad, I once again returned to the airport Sunday morning @ 5am to catch my 8am flight to MIA. After standing in the long line for about 40 minutes, we are told that this flight has been delayed until 12:05 noon of that day – The quoted reason being that the plane arrived late this morning and was not ready yet. So I finally got to the counter and checked in my bags and given my one and only meal voucher ($5.00 US) enough for a sandwich and a glass of juice – and left the airport to once again return @ 11:00 am to make my midday flight.

On my return to the airport, we find out that the flight has been delayed again for another 30 minutes. (Not too bad considering, but it only adds to the story) So through security I go. Ready again to board the plane and leave the country. While on board the aircraft, the pilot gives us the REAL reason why the plane was delayed this morning. Apparently, the flight crew, including himself, were out at a party that night which lasted until 4 in the morning and because of this did not get enough rest. So, in other words, the crew needed rest due to a night of late night/ early morning partying. (WHAT?) The more I say it, the crazier it sounds, but the official reason as stated by one of the flight attendance is “crew rest”- so let’s go with that. You would think that is the end of the story right??? WRONG…. VERY WRONG.

So at 11:30am, on board the plane and after sitting through the pilots attempt at humor after make the entire passenger list pay for his late night revelry, one would think that it would be time to taxi- Nope. At 11:46:25am the pilot came back on the loudspeaker with the announcement that something was wrong with the airplane’s relay system and after trying numerous things (including shutting off the plane and restarting it) could not get it to work. This meant that due to the minimum fly requirements the plane was un-flyable. Un-Be-Lievable .

After deboarding the plane, we are told that this flight will now be leaving @ 12:00 am midnight. And we should come to the counter to arrange our connecting flights. So after doing so, I was given a new flight with AA scheduled to leave MIA at around 11:30 and arrive in Michigan around 2pm Monday 5th January 2009. Or so I thought.

I returned to the airport once again at 11pm and went through security with very little hassle. I arrived at the counter to confirm my connecting flight and to find out exactly what time I will be arriving in Michigan. This is where I got another surprise. Apparently, the previous attendant did not confirm me for that flight and I would be travelling standby for it and it does not look good considering the flight was already oversold. The earliest flight I could get confirmed with AA would be a direct flight to Michigan leaving 10am Tuesday 6th January 2009. The other option would be to fly would be to issue another ticket with another airline. So after weighing the little options I did have, I chose to go with the other airlines (Continental and Northwest to be exact with a connecting flight in Newark NJ).

I arrived in MIA around 4am and got through immigration pretty easily, and ran to catch my flight with Continental at 6:45am. When I arrived at the continental counter I was told that the fly that I was apparently booked on did not exist on that day and I should go back to AA ticketing counter. So I ran back to AA’s counter only to find out that I was never confirmed on any flights and I would have to be reissued another ticket. So the attendant at the ticketing counter did so and I was now confirmed on a flight to Chicago scheduled to leave @8am and take the connector to Michigan @1pm Chicago time.

So I waited in the airport- all this time hungry and tired, and quite irked by the whole ordeal *(I mean, how could you put me on a flight that DOES NOT EXIST!)* But anyway, I digress. I got onto my flight @ 8am to Chicago and I heard the familiar sounds of the pilot/ flight attendant addressing the passengers. So I immediately started recording the message. The message went like this : “…I can get the captain to give you all the technical details, but unfortunately it’s not going to help at this point……The aircraft is being taken out of service and we have just notified operations.” At this point I just had to laugh, because I was sure that I was on a hidden camera game show or something. This cannot be really happening. But anyway, we get off the plane and are guided to another terminal where the flight is now scheduled to leave @ 10:05 am. We board and take off at around 10:20am due to the mass of people trying to arrange their connecting flight information and we arrive in Chicago @ 12:48 Chicago time.

As stated earlier, my Chicago connecting flight was scheduled @ 1pm so I had just enough time to run off the plane to the terminal to make it. Luckily I made it as the attendant was making the last call statements, but I lost my boarding pass in all the running. This was not a big deal, as all was required was my ID and I was issued another boarding pass – but it does add some more flavor to my story.

On the flight, I was exhausted and sweating because of my sprint to the gates. Additionally, I was more than ready to go home. But it seemed like there was one more trick the Airline gods had to play on me. While on this flight, the pilot once again took the microphone and I started my recording protocol. All passengers had to deplane due to a FLAT TIRE. YES! ANOTHER FLAT TIRE! – I told you; You really cannot make this stuff up. We were transferred to another plane eventually and I finally arrived in Michigan @ 5pm Monday 5th January 2009 after a week long bout with AA.

I know this has been a long note, and for that I am truly sorry, but I hope my misfortune gave you an interesting read. I am in the process of writing a formal complaint to AA and both in an email form and a certified letter. I feel like I was treated like a piece of old luggage and I believe that the service given to me was awful. This is not what I paid for when I purchased the ticket and I am going to make sure the heads at the AA customer service desks hear about my horror story. I have missed work because of this airline’s incompetence and if I incur any financial penalties (ANY) I may have to take legal action. I discourage all of my friend’s from travelling with them. AA is # 1 on the DO NOT FLY LIST.

I know some people have airline horror stories, but I dare any of you guys to beat this one. Imagine this, every single flight I got on, I had to deboard. There was something wrong with EVERY SINGLE PLANE. And the only compensation I got was one $5 voucher.

-Abay

Why fly in style, when you can fly out of it.

Why fly in style, when you can fly out of it.

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