Unfriendly Skies (Or, Why does American Airlines hate their customers?)

I am never flying on American Airlines again.

So, I’ve heard it said that you should get to the airport at least 1 hour ahead of your flight’s departure time for domestic flights. In the several times that I’ve flown up to San Jose from LAX, I’ve found that an hour is a bit excessive. I usually get there 40 minutes or so ahead of time, and spend 10 minutes getting to the gate, and sit around for half an hour.

This time, I inadvertently booked a flight on American Airlines; apparently I forgot the last time I flew with them and the awful experience that was.

My flight was for 7:55. The traffic gods smiled upon me, and the 405 was virtually traffic-free, so I ended up getting there right at 6:55. “Well,” I thought as I stepped off the parking shuttle, “at least I’ve got a laptop, so I won’t be bored while I wait around at the gate.”

How very very wrong I was.

I walked up to the self-service no-baggage-check ticketing kiosk, and swiped my CA driver’s license, like usual. Can’t find me. I enter my name and flight number. Nothing. Try my Visa card, my ATM card. Nada.

An American Airlines employee suggested that I try the other kiosks on the other side of the terminal. Same results.

At 7:12, I went to the employee who helped me, and asked her what was going on. She told me that I’d have to wait in line. I told her that my flight leaves soon, and at this point, if I wait in line, I’m going to miss my flight. “Well, then I guess you’re going to miss your flight, because I’m going to help the next person in line, and that’s not you.”

So, somewhat disgruntled, I walk to the end of the line and wait. 10 minutes later, at 7:23, I reached the head of the line, and got the pleasure of speaking with the same American Airlines ticket nazi who cares more about proper queue etiquette than service to her employer’s customers.

She told me that I waited in the first class and business class line, and I was *supposed* to wait in the regular line. I said, “My flight is about to leave, can’t you please just print my ticket? I just spoke with you a second ago, the kiosks aren’t working, otherwise I’d already be done with this.” “I’m sorry sir, but you’re not first class.” “You’ve got to be kidding me.” “Sir, you have to wait in the right line.” “But you *told* me to wait in *this* line!” “I’m sorry sir, but you’re just going to have to wait in the other line. It’s not my fault that you didn’t read the sign.” I was completely exasperated. I stared at her for a full 3 seconds. She didn’t move a finger or say a word. Knowing that the violence I so desperately craved would be a momentary relief at best, and would only delay things further, I turned and walked to the other line.

15 minutes passed while I walked back and forth through the fuzzy ropes. It took all of 3 seconds to print my ticket, at 7:40.

I raced to the other side of the terminal, up the escalator, to the American Eagle security checkpoint. You see, short flights on American Airlines are actually operated by American Eagle. To get to the actual plane, they route all American Eagle passengers through a single metal detector and set of x-ray machines. The line was unbearable.

Finally, I exited the security check and raced to the “gate,” where I would have to board a bus to take me to the plane.

“I’m sorry, that flight just left. It was on time. It’s 7:57 right now.”

A few phone calls and a failed attempts at resolution, and plenty of cursing later, I’m writing this on a plane that will land in San Fransisco at 9:30, and I’ll then have to take an hour-or-so-long taxi to Sunnyvale, and get to where I need to be.

This blog post is a reminder to myself, but let it be a warning to you, as well: Don’t EVER fly on American Airlines.

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