Friday, December 19, 2014

On Flying Home for Christmas:
An American Airlines Misadventure

Dear Once-Valued Airline,

I must be getting old.  I can remember the days when American Airlines went the extra mile to make its fliers happy.   I was on one flight where the pilot announced that there would be a short delay:  they were waiting for passengers to arrive from connecting flights.  He told us how many passengers they were expecting, and even where they were coming from.  Neither I or the other passengers already on board minded the delay.  And the late-arriving passengers were thankful for the extra courtesy extended to them.

My have times changed!

My daughter Anita, and her four children (ages nine, eight, five and two),  two dogs and one cat,  recently moved back to Florida from Texas.   Her husband died last July, and she wanted to be closer to family.  But instead of driving cross-country, she thought it would be less stressful if her and the kids and the dogs and the cat all flew, and Grandma and Grandpa met them at the airport.   I couldn't come out to help her move because the West Texas cold and dust nearly did me in two years ago.  On Christmas Day, 2012, her husband Jamie sat on his couch and cried because I was dying. Now I am the one who's crying.

When my daughter booked her flights, she noticed there was only a forty-minute window before the departure of her connecting flight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  But American Airlines assured her that she and her four children, two dogs, and one cat would have no trouble getting to her connecting flight on time.

The trouble began when she arrived at the airport in Midland, Texas.  She forgot the car seats for her two younger children in the car (Grandma bought replacements).  Then it took an hour and a half to process the pets.  When she finally boarded the plane,  an American Eagle, she could hear Shae, her border collie/husky breed, barking up a storm in the baggage hold.  She wasn't going to bring Shae to Florida, but her oldest son Dylan didn't want to lose another part of his family.

Shae kept on barking.  The aircrew told my daughter they'd keep Shae on the plane; but, because of her aggressive behavior,  they couldn't guarantee she'd be accepted on the connecting flight at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  So Shae stayed in Midland, and a friend returned to the airport to pick her up.

My daughter's flight departed Midland sixteen minutes late.  And when she finally arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport,  it seemed to take forever for her and the four kids to get off the plane.  Her connecting flight was at another terminal, and it took six stops on the Skylink, and a mad dash to the gate to get to the plane on time. But they were one minute too late, arriving nine minutes before scheduled takeoff time.   American Airlines, as per normal procedures, closed the gate ten minutes prior to scheduled takeoff time.  But her baggage, one dog, and one cat, made it to the airplane on time, and arrived in Tampa eight hours before she and the kids did.

Instead of departing Dallas/Fort Worth Airport at 12:30 pm on Dec 16th,  my daughter and her four children spent eight hours in the terminal, and finally departed Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:40 pm that night.   They arrived at Tampa Airport dog-tired right around midnight.

It was a long stressful day for both her and the kids, which could explain why one of the kids left her Kindle Fire HD on the airplane, and another left his Nintendo DS on the airplane.  A call to American Airlines Lost and Found proved fruitless.  But someone surely had a nice Christmas.

It will be a merry but melancholy Christmas for all of us, but the kids are happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa.  I'm just sorry my daughter had such a bad experience with American Airlines.

If I could make one Christmas wish for other passengers, I wish American Airlines would return to the days when they really cared, and monitored passengers from connecting flights.    Then and only then could airline employees say:

Merry Christmas to All!
And To All, 
A Good Flight!

Your Once-Valued Flier,
Jerry Morris