My Bad Experience With American Airlines

American Airlines

While browsing through plane ticket deals for a round trip from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, I wasn’t able to find anything within my budget.  I was late to the game, the flight dates were during summer, and I didn’t want to settle on Korean Airlines.  And I had already bought my EDC tickets, so there was no way I was backing off now.

And then I remembered.  Luckily I was walking by and remembered that American Airlines was doing a promotion for setting up a route from Hong Kong to United States, some ad I came across.  So I went to their official site, did a search, and bam.  Cheapest airfare I could find for a reliable airline.  It wasn’t going to be a direct route, (Hong Kong -> Fort Worth, Texas -> Los Angeles) which I’m usually OK with.  It usually means more mileage for me anyway, plus I haven’t had any bad experiences with transfers… until this trip.

The trip going there was great, everything went as smoothly as expected.  So far so good.

After my trip in the west coast, it was time to make the flight back to Hong Kong.  I tried checking in online, but after doing so twice, it told me that I had to see an attendant to assist me.  I arrived at the LAX airport and attempted to use the self check in counters, and yet again it told me I needed to request for an assistant.  It was early when I arrived, about 5 or 6 am, and literally there was only one attendant there to help with all the self check in passengers.  I waited for at least 30 minutes before the attendant was able to assist me and get the permissions for me to check in.

Thankfully, I still managed to get to the boarding gate with a few extra minutes to spare.  I thought that would be the end of my problems, but it was just the start.

My first flight back was from Los Angeles to Fort Worth.  I told a flight attendant to let her know that I had about 45 minutes to make it to my next flight.  I did this because I thought flight attendants would let the connecting flight know that there were passengers on board needing to make the next flight.  She assured me that I would make it on time.

As in most flights, the flight duration is a bit longer than expected.  Additionally, the time to completely park the plane and to wait for the passengers in front to get off isn’t accounted for.  Also, the airport for Fort Worth is huge.  The next flight I was taking was in a different terminal that was located about 10 minutes away, optimistically speaking.  I was going to be late.

I got off and there was a guide holding on to to a sign that said, “Hong Kong”.  Immediately I told her I was headed for the flight, and she told us (there was also another couple taking that flight) to hurry up because we were behind schedule already.  To be honest, I wasn’t worried.  If American Airlines knew there were passengers connecting to the flight to Hong Kong, they would arrange a guide to wait for us (which they did).  So I assumed that they had it all in order.

Until I got there.

The guide asked the attendants to let us through, and guess what – the attendants told us that our flight had just left.  We were less than 5 minutes late to the boarding gate.  The guide looked at us, shrugged, and said “sorry” and left us bewildered on what to do next.  She leaves.  My temper started to boil.  I mean, why would you arrange a guide to wait for us, meaning that obviously the company knew about the passengers connecting to the next flight, and just take off?  How unprofessional is that?  Shouldn’t they have a better communication system to let the pilot know that the first flight arrived a bit late, so that he should have to wait for us?  I mean if we arrived more than 20 minutes I would get it; we can’t have the whole world catering to us, that’s fine.  But for less than 5 minutes?

So I asked the attendants at the counter about this, and they said they had to leave on time because there’s a law that states that the crew members cannot work overtime, otherwise it’s illegal.  Now I don’t know anything about airline regulations, but what I was pissed off about was that the burden now laid on us (the passengers) when it wasn’t even our fault.  American Airlines knew about the connecting passengers (they had a guide waiting for us), had a poor communication system (otherwise the 2nd flight would have known about the delay of the first flight), or maybe they did know about the delay but were very unprofessional about this.  In fact, what made this even worse was that I had purchased the round trip flight directly on American Airlines website, and they gave me the flight itinerary including the one stop layover for 45 minutes.  So pretty much they were the ones who suggested this idealistic schedule for me.  Sure, you can argue that American Airlines might have known about the delay, and had to fly because of the law, but the company made a minimal effort for compensation.  I complained about this on their Facebook page, and received no response.  What is that to say about them?  When bad things happen to them, the burden’s on the passengers.  Sounds like a good company.

So yeah, I had a choice.  Either wait for an extra 4 hours for the flight to JFK Airport in New York, then wait another 4 hours before taking the flight from JFK to Hong Kong, or wait for 24 hours for the next direct flight to Hong Kong.  I took the first choice as this was the faster option; I was still more than 12 hours later than the original arrival time.

This doesn’t end here though.  I wanted my mileage.  Badly this time.  I have kept all the boarding tickets and information.  Weeks have passed, and their last registered mileage for me was from LA to Fort Worth.  Yep, they didn’t register my miles from Fort Worth to New York, or from New York to Hong Kong (the flight was operated by Cathay Pacific under a codeshare, but I use Asia Miles so that will also qualify me for Cathay Pacific flights as well).  Now I have to deal with the trouble getting the miles for what I deserved.

So tell me, am I right to be frustrated about this episode?  Should American Airlines be more responsible?  What other unfortunate flight experiences have you had?

Note: Reading this post might make you think twice in choosing American Airlines for your next long distance flight.  Now, I believe this may be a one off experience, so yes I would fly with them again given that they have the right price for me.  But I am sure as hell choosing flights with longer layover times.

*Image via Wikimedia Commons

**Originally published on Aug. 2, 2014

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