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American Airlines and US Airways Suck – Perhaps They Should Try to be More “United?”

I haven’t posted anything here for a long time and it’s sad that my recent endurance of such awful travel experiences is what’s promoting the rejuvenation of the blog. However, I do not hate complaining about things when the full wrath is fully merited. If you or anyone you know is seriously considering booking a flight with American Airlines or US Airways in the near future, please read this post and share it with any other travelers. I know there’s no way of avoiding their BS, especially in locations like Des Moines in the midwest, but it’s still worth understanding what happens.

Please note that I write this as someone who used to travel almost 100% of the time for work within the past 10 years, flying primarily on Delta and the former American Airlines. During that time, I experienced such crazy mishaps as the pilots being given the wrong half hour to try to land on a runway during the cleanup of a snow storm and being sent back to the land miles away from my home, to having countless flights canceled when I needed to be at work or home. Thank heavens this isn’t my typical life anymore.

I’m going to start at the end of my trip because this is when the shit really hit the fan, so to speak. Pardon my language, but that’s about as much as I can tame it given the circumstances, and let’s be real. I don’t really tame it that much anyway.

This story takes place on 3/2/15 as I attempted to get home to my child, dogs, and home office. Al and I headed to Pittsburgh plenty early. I printed my boarding pass, didn’t need to check a bag because I rolled with the smallest roller bag you could get. We said our goodbyes and I got lucky – got to go through the TSA pre-approved line! I had some breakfast, did a little work, then went to the bathroom. Well, the US Airways folks at the gate decided to board everyone early, so even though I was in Group 1, by the time I rolled over moments later, they made me gate check my very small roller bag. Yet they wouldn’t just planeside check the thing so I could pick it up when I got off the plane. I was to pick the thing up all the way at the gate in Des Moines when I got there…or more apropos, if I got there.

At this point, I didn’t think all luck was against me. I got to sit in row 4 behind first class, the place with the most leg room. We were going to push back from the gate early. Then there was a medical emergency (fortunately everyone was ok), but we had to wait as an extra flight crew got to replace the seats of the folks who had to exit the plane. The flight finally left, and it was totally “smooth sailing” until we landed. I sent Al an IM with the status and he said he was glad I was sitting down.

Oh shit.

US Airways had canceled my flight to DSM for no reason. Now, they never bothered to tell me that. I received no phone call or email. If Al hadn’t told me or I didn’t have Google Now cards set up, I wouldn’t have known until I looked up at a screen or tried to board the next nonexistent plane. To make matters worse, I was stuck in DCA, Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. Such a pity I’ve never had to deal with this piece of crap place before. After waiting 15 minutes in line to speak to customer service (note: at most airports you can just talk to a gate agent for help), I finally spoke to a kind gentleman who tried his best to get me the hell out of there. Guess what US Airways’ best attempt to get me home was? Anyone? The same unstable flight to DSM the next afternoon. They could rebook me on flights to other locations, but by the time I’d arrive, it wouldn’t matter, as all flights from anywhere else to DSM had no seats. I asked him what reason they listed for canceling. There wasn’t one. So no mechanical issues and no weather issues. They just plain canceled and stole everyone’s money or air miles in the process. These types of actions deserve explanations followed by refunds.

And that was nowhere near the end of the adventure. I did not want to be stuck in D.C. by myself. It’s a great city, but I didn’t want to pay for a hotel in a nice enough area to then sit in the room when I was supposed to be home picking my daughter up from preschool. By the way, this is Miss Harper. Are you telling me someone could resist wanting to fly the plane herself to get home to this?


And even worse, I had to leave this wonderful man, who is also this awesome to my wonderful little girl:


I finally weighed the amount of time I was going to waste likely never getting home by air, and told the guy to please just book me to ORD (Chicago O’Hare) and I’d suck it up and drive the rest of the way home. He gave me a curious look but listened. What I didn’t know was that this caused a new problem to arise. I wanted my bag to end up at ORD unless there was by some miracle a way to catch one of those 45-minute flights from ORD back to DSM. Even though AA and US Air are now supposed to be one company, and they love to force you to fly on one or the other when it’s convenient for them, they still tell you the boarding passes and anything related to the flights can only be handled by one or the other. So I was handed a printout of gibberish and sent on a bus into the abyss that was the other set of gates at DCA, where somehow, an American Airlines rep was supposed to help me.

I road the bus like a refugee who didn’t know the language, then was forced to roam the halls trying to determine who might be an AA employee and able to assist me. I selected wrong and continued to roam. I was then met with someone who seemed annoyed I existed and was practically shouting at me, yet printed my boarding pass. I told her my boyfriend, who booked the flights, was told by AA on the phone that I could get on standby in Chicago and that only 1 person was in the queue before me. But the woman I spoke to said she had no idea what I was talking about and that I’d have to go get my ticket reissued. At this point, I had no idea what the hell that meant.

I heard a call on the intercom for a Chicago flight and decided to run over and see if I could catch standby there. Two agents were boarding people; I rarely bother people when they’re so busy. But they’d cleared through the list of people and it seemed reasonable to try to get on the plane. I handed one woman the re-booked ticket I had, this time American-issued, so she couldn’t even claim US Air ignorance, and she asked me what it was I wanted. Just like that. I explained that US Air canceled my flight, I was rebooked to ORD, and wanted to see if I could catch a seat from standby. She responded by looking at my ticket and asking me if it was issued for this flight. Clearly not, dumbass, once again, as I’m still trying to get on this plane. Word of advice to these airlines, don’t treat a customer who has been yanked around like this and still is acting rational like she is dumb or wrong. This is an extremely bad move on your part.

She once again asked me what it was I wanted, and I finally could not deal with dumb questions anymore. I simply, yet pointedly say, “I want to get out of this airport.” She and her equally useless counterpart look at me as if I have insulted some form of bitchfest code they had. She tells me I can get that seat for $75. Excuse me? Your “merged” or “overtaken” airlines canceled my flight, and there are available seats on this one, yet you have the gall to try to charge me again?

After this BS, I continued to roam the gates to see if some nice AA employee actually existed in the DCA airport. The answer was no by the way, and as much as I now hate this airline, I will say that at least the employees at ORD and DSM were completely pleasant and helpful always even if I didn’t get the result I wanted. Why the DCA people had a chip on their shoulders, I have no idea. I finally had a moderately helpful AA person explain that I’d have to hop on that damn bus again to go back to a gate where US Airways attendants roam to start the entire booking process over again…for airlines that are now supposed to be one and assholes who have now canceled numerous flights without actually offering real assistance, isn’t it interesting that they shipped me back and forth as if they couldn’t help me?

By the time I understood what the “rebooking” and “final destination” problems were, I needed to catch my flight to ORD, knowing my gut instinct that then renting a car and driving my ass back close to 6 hours was going to give me a life extension. See, if US Airways stamps your plan with some sort of top secret “final destination” stamp, it’s code to American Airlines to then say they can make no changes to your itinerary.

I was thrilled at least that the plane had a way to charge my cell phone, which I now knew needed 100% juice to use it as a reminder GPS to drive that extra lovely 6 hours home. I looked to book any conceivable flight out of ORD to DSM, and the only thing was, of course, a US Airways seat for the same-day price of over $800. After looking through airline BS, I found I could book a rental car online and was able to secure my Hertz rental from the plane.

At this point, I have to admit that I was dumb enough to assume few things could work out ok. I landed in Chicago at 4:15, went to the bathroom, and headed to the baggage claim. After 45 minutes and a few of us asking, not a single bag from the DCA flight managed to be delivered to any of the belts. Yes, after I chose to fly to a place not my destination, I had to wait for a bag to never get there. And to think, the notion the bag was going to ORD was the reason AA gave me such a hard time about trying to “continue” the ability to fly to another destination to get and get on a standby list. Since I still had to pick up a rental car and pay over $200 for the dumb thing, then turn around and drive up to 6 hours home, I had to give up and leave. The bag was no longer worth it, even though all the walking and waiting had left my feet bleeding, literally bleeding on my heels. I’d have loved to have changed clothes into my slippers and yoga pants if my bag had actually been there.

American Airlines boasts earnings of:

Third quarter 2014 net profit, excluding net special charges, was a record $1.2 billion, up 59 percent versus the third quarter 2013

Does this seem like an earnings report that means we all should get yanked around like yahoos all the time?

I’m just an individual who tends to try to work while in airports and on airplanes. That’s impossible when the airlines force you to either walk back and forth from Concourse H to L all day hoping to get the standby seat or wasting several hours attempting to find a customer service or gate agent who A) knows what he or she is going or B) actually tries to help without treating you like it’s your fault. Each of these last travel days, I lost way more work hours than I needed to.

I bet they’ll send some BS comment about why our trip plans weren’t as important because we didn’t have a high enough status or because air miles were used. Funny thing about those air miles though…ya have to fly a bunch, i.e., pay for a bunch of air travel, to earn the miles.

And for the record, my bag has still not been found, the best AA decided to do on social media, even after Al and I attempted to engage them to be responsible numerous times was this BS (and US Air has remained stone silent):

Twitter screen shot

Alright, this is all I can handle for now. Guess what, this doesn’t cover part 1 of the trip last Thursday, February 26, 2015. I’ll be back for that shortly.



Creating innovative learning experiences for internal and external customers and stakeholders. Listen closely to your project needs to determine the best strategy and deliverables to solve each part of the business problems your audiences experience.I am to keep this process quick, from analysis to delivery, and a pain-free as I can make it!

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