Tag Archives: american airlines

Adventures (I’d rather not have) on American Airlines but they did try to remedy

We didn’t have much luck with our flights to and fro on American Airlines between Austin-Des Moines. Our outbound flight was cancelled due to weather. That was somewhat expected. Our return flight was cancelled just as boarding began — due to mechanical problems. Which meant we had to stay overnight in Dallas. Not fun.

I get that planes sometimes have mechanical problems (although two flights in a row from Austin-Dallas had mechanical problems on the night we were traveling). My issue is more with the “customer service” reps whose mercy you are at. The reservation agent I got on the phone was snippy and not the least bit sympathetic. The gate counter agent in Austin was kinder. (She assured me that yes, we’d get a voucher to stay at a hotel once we got to Dallas at 9:30 p.m. The reservation agent on the phone made no such guarantee).

In Dallas, at the “customer service counter” I had a really nasty guy. He asked if I had my boarding passes for the next flight. I replied “yes.” Then he said “You told me ‘no.'” Then I countered “No, I told you ‘yes.'”

It was downhill from there. He booked us at a hotel for the night and gave us a voucher. It was 10:30 p.m. and the airport was shutting down. When I asked how we got to the hotel, he mentioned a shuttle. Where do we pick up the shuttle?  He wasn’t sure. The agent next to him chastised him and told him to call the hotel and arrange the shuttle and pickup spot for us, which he did begrudgingly. He also gave the shuttle driver our cell number. I asked how long it would take for the shuttle to arrive? He said 20 minutes.

Outside the terminal, in a dim garage area that I wouldn’t have enjoyed waiting in on my own (one poor older woman was waiting solo and she looked nervous), 20 minutes came and went. I called the “Country Inn.” The shuttle was coming, I was told.  Another 15 minutes came and went. By this time several other people were waiting. I called the hotel back. Oh, the woman at the hotel desk said, “the shuttle driver went home for the night. He couldn’t find you.” GRRRRR….It was now almost 11:30 p.m. We ended up getting an Uber with a young guy who was supposed to be in Florida early the next morning because his dad was having open heart surgery.  The next morning, we took an Uber — we missed the shuttle driver again.

I did get an email from American two days later, apologizing for the flight mishap and giving me 5,000 miles on my frequent flier account. Thanks. I emailed my account of  what followed the flight cancellation. Surely they can do better. They agreed, responding promptly with a personal email that included another apology and 5,000 additional flight miles. That was a pleasant surprise and made me feel they were listening. Maybe others won’t have the same bad experience…

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About those “basic economy” Plane fares….buyer beware!

Yet another way for airlines to nickle and dime us: the “Basic Economy” fare. It means different things depending upon the airline. United’s basic economy does not allow you to stow a bag in overhead (let alone check a bag) so you’ve got to pack very lightly.  Dirck tried this out during a recent trip to Albuquerque (where he was staying with relatives so he could borrow clothes, if need be. Plus   it was only a long weekend trip.) He did have to check in at the counter — he couldn’t get his seat assignments or boarding passes in advance online. And he got closely scrutinized by the counter person who seemed to think he was going to try to smuggle on a bag to go in the overhead. Meanwhile the ticket fare was by no means cheap (about $340) and both of his planes traveling to ABQ were delayed due to mechanical problems so he lost half a day of his trip. Thanks United.

I opted for American’s Basic Economy fare during a recent trip to New Orleans after I read the fine print and found out that I could bring a bag to stash overhead. The fare (a reasonable $240) was about $70 cheaper than the Economy fare, I think. I ended up buying advance seat assignments on both flights for about $9 per flight (two flights each way).  I was in the last group to board, regardless — in the ominous-sounding “Group 9,” which wasn’t that big an issue except when it comes to finding overhead space to put a bag. I didn’t have this issue because Dirck had an Economy ticket (that his employer paid for) and had checked his bag  so he took mine when he boarded with Group 6.

One irritating thing did happen when I tried to buy seat assignments on the way home.  I went online, picked out a specific seat for each of my two flights at a specific price. But instead of giving me the seat I chose for the first flight (an aisle seat toward the front of the plane, so I could get out faster and make my connection) the automated system gave me a seat I never would have purchased (a middle seat way in the back).  I was charged $16, rather than $18 for the two seat assignments. And there was no recourse. I tried calling the airline but they said I’d have to wait until I got to the airport and switch — which I did but the seat I originally selected was no longer available. I did switch to an aisle seat but way back in the plane. It’s a cockamamie system — as I complained to the American ticket agent, it would be like buying a specific book from Amazon and Amazon ending me a different book, at a different price, with no option to correct my order. Consumer be damned….

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Adventures with American Airlines

So we are flying home from Boston on Monday night, perfect weather (when there was supposed to be a storm) and we are feeling cautiously optimistic that we will get to Des Moines. At O’Hare we have to get from the end of terminal H to the end of terminal G to catch our next flight. a long haul debut we have time…about 40 minutes. after a few minutes, the monitor that just seconds ago showed our flight leaving on time at 9:40 pm now suddenly says it’s leaving at 11:40 pm, because our plane is due for an inspection. (at 9:30 pm??) This is not a good sign.

After waiting awhile, we are suddenly told our flight will leave at 10:30 from gate 7 so we leave gate 21 and head to 7, uprooting other passengers who are now told to move elsewhere. Before we can get comfy, we are next told to move back to Gate 20. Just before we board, the poor people en route to Madison who were reassigned to our original gate 21 (and presumably our original plane) are told their flight is now leaving at 6:30 am. Really? At least our ferry ride from Provincetown was a little calmer!




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Prague Castle and thereabouts

133.JPGAnother day of perfect weather Sunday and we joined hordes of tourists — no joke, I’m talking Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade size crowds, Iowa State Fair Size crowds, Obama’s (first) inauguration size crowds – crossing the fabled Charles Bridge to head up the hill to the Prague Castle complex, a series of grand buildings centered around the massive St.Vitus Church, where we watched the rather amusing changing of the guards, who wore shades and powder blue uniforms designed by Hollywood director Milos Foreman’s costume designer Theodor Pistek (at the then-new president Vaclav Havel’s request, no less!). (see bottom photo) Church construction began in 1344 and ended in 1921. yes, you read that right. Although the glorious Alfons Mucha art nouveau stained lass window came later, in 1931. (This trip has made me a mucho Mucha fan.)

Much of the complex required an admission ticket, alas, which we didn’t feel like paying. We did pay to wind down from the palace through some lovely terraced formal Royal gardens (
Zahrady gardens) and landed at Besada, a surprisingly good restaurant in Malostranska Square for lunch that we just chanced upon, that served surprisingly good hearty Czech food- snitzel, pork medallions, potatoes, potato and sauerkraut pancakes.

Next stop, we walked up and up and up steps of a nearby park to the funicular, which we used to sail down the north bank. Then we walked along the river, admiring the boats and the Sunday strollers until we reached the Charles Bridge again, this time dominated by a French food fair and a boisterous French brass band that the locals and tourists seemed to love.

Back at our pension, the lovely Green Garland Pension (Pension U Zeleneho Vence) on Retezov Street, we had one last coffee (tea for some) at Montmarte, an atmospheric cafe across the street and excellent gelato at a good place near the hotel, Creameries Milano ( 12 Husova) before bidding a sad goodbye to our London friends who flew home to London. We had adequate Italian food near our hotel at Olive Nera, enjoying eating at the outdoor cafe overlooking a pretty square and people watching. (Our evening was marred only briefly by a garbage truck that parked right in front of our table to pick up, slowly, the trash. On a Sunday night no less.)

On Monday morning we took one last wander around the area behind the big church in the Od Town square, finding even more gorgeous art nouveau and art deco buildings. And then off to Prague’s airport where I flew to London (on a decent British Airways flight) and then to Chicago (on a worn-out American Airlines plane)  after going through three security checkpoints for that flight alone. (Another in Prague.)






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Paying to reserve a seat on an international British Airways flight. Really???

So now I understand why my return flight from Prague to London on British Airways doesn’t include a seat assignment. Apparently I can only get a “free” seat assignment (for a very costly flight, I might add) 24 hours in advance. If I want one before that, I have to pay – and the fee isn’t listed up front.  (I finally found it after searching for too long.  It costs about $12, talk about nickle and dime-ing. For details see: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/paid-seating-terms/public/en_us-  OR http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ba6.jsp/paid-seatingprime/public/en_us

That is really irritating!! I booked this flight via American Airlines – which I’m flying outbound from Chicago to London and on the return leg from London to Chicago (after I sit in a lousy seat I was assigned “for free” 24 hours in advance) apparently.  American kindly granted me reserved seats – who knew this is now a perk???

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flying American – between the merger and the sequester: who knows?

We are not flying American anytime soon (our next flight – to Phoenix on Saturday is on Delta) but between the pending merger with US Airways and the potential budget cuts if the sequester situation isn’t dealt with by Congress, it’s hard to know what to expect. A recent USA Today story about the effects of the merger (not the sequester) offered this info:

  • The merger will probably take months to finalize and to combine operations. So just keep buying American or US Airways tickets until you’re told to do otherwise. (Eventually there won’t be any US Airways. It will go the way of Northwest, Continental,  Republic, TWA…)
  • Your frequent flyer miles on either airline will be safe! It could take up to a year to consolidate the miles from both airlines into one American account.
  • One likely benefit of the merger is that the new American will increase the number of international flights offered.
  • One  likely downside: fares will likely rise on some routes although one study found that two recent mergers (United-Continental; Delta-Northwest) didn’t result in jacked up fares. Some say creating a third mega airline is better than having two mega airlines as far as fares go….
  • As for sequestration, if Washington doesn’t get its act together, there could be major delays in air travel starting in April at major hubs (chicago, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta) that will muck up travel for all of us.

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