Monday, July 7, 2014

AMERICAN AIRLINES: Descending To Third World Status

Years ago when we took a trip to South America we had what we all thought was a draconian tour director guiding us around Peru and Brazil.  Up at 4 or 5 each morning of our flights, we ALWAYS took the first flight out.  We found out later the first flight of the day  was the only flight that left on time. The second one usually had delays but the third was a toss up, really.

On a recent trip to Memphis we fell into the same scenario.  Friends whom we met there left two hours before us and made it. About the only thing that worked right for us the first day was the limo that picked us up on time and dropped us off in front of AA gate. In fact we were through an awkward checkin where another passenger printed out our boarding passes when the AA personnel couldn't, got checked by the TSA with two hours to go.

We boarded our plane on time, a plane that had come in from Florida apparently just fine. We left the terminal, were literally next on the runway when the pilot says a pressure gauge on the right engine was reading high, too high.  He headed back so the mechanics could check it out. We all groaned as most on this flight had connecting flights in Dallas, some going as far as Munich!

I applaud the pilots caution but I didn't applaud his comment that this plane had had the same problem a month ago but then it went away, well, until today. We finally pulled away and took off from LAX at the exact time we were to have landed in Dallas. We were three hours late.

In Dallas we landed when we were supposed to be in Memphis. There were no more flights so while they did put us up at a hotel, it was to be another day up at 5 am with no suitcases. Luckily my wife grabbed toothbrushes and toothpaste from a big bowl on the counter. Obviously, Airlines have this problem a lot.

We repeated the airport drill at 5:30 am the next day and our plane left on time. While waiting for our suitcases I headed to the rest room. Coming out there was a gaggle of people peering into a glassed in but dark room.  Seeing shadowy shapes of suitcases I peered in too. I saw my suitcase.  Getting my wife, I said isn't that your suitcase? Yes it was. Then probably too loud I asked, "How could our suitcases get here and we couldn't?" A Greek chorus answered me , "Yeah, how come?"

To be fair it's not just American. Friends we connected up with had delays on Southwest. I think the bigger issue, how companies are designed and run today, is that you delay as long as you can. Looking down from the Skytrain in Dallas I saw American Airlines planes at least 30 years old. Do they still fly old Douglas DC-9's? The paint was half gone, the silver of the aluminum stained and dirty. I can remember flying in the old days. You dressed nice, they fed you and your ticket included everything. Today however, it's nothing more than a old Trailway's bus with wings.

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