It’s 2 AM Pacific and I’ve been up for about 23 hours. The only things still keeping me awake are frustration and the cryogenic conditions of my bedroom. I’ve had about eight different American Airlines representatives thank me for my patience about eleven times, but what they don’t seem to realize is that the last of my patience got used up about eight hours ago, when they told me the carry-on bag that I haven’t seen since Monday was going to be finally arriving in Orlando on Wednesday night at 7:53, 54 minutes after my flight back home was scheduled to leave. Which explains why I was standing outside SFO in Walt Disney World shorts and an Animal Kingdom Lodge T-shirt at 1:30 AM in 50-degree San Francisco September weather, writing blog entries in my head to prevent the onset of hypothermia.
When I was writing this in my head before, my original opening line was “with such a gross level of incompetence, I’m amazed that American Airlines can even keep a plane in the air.” But I had to scratch that, because apparently I’d been giving them too much credit. I think I would’ve been better off flying Oceanic. It’s a good thing overall, though, because the last leg had taken off on-time and loaded everyone with no problems; that’s just un-American.
- Leg 1, SFO to Dallas: Took off roughly on time. Arriving at Dallas, we were left sitting on the runway for about 15-20 minutes to get assigned a new gate; the plane that was still occupying our gate was having mechanical problems and couldn’t leave.
- Leg 2, Dallas to Orlando: Because of the delay, the plane had already been loaded by the time I made it on board. There was no space in the overhead bins. About six of us were wandering the aisle, looking for a space to put our carry-on bags, while the passengers who’d filled up the overhead bins just glared at us. The flight attendants decided the best way to help us find space for our bags was to stand at either end of the aisle and repeatedly announce over the PA that we must sit down so that the plane could take off. After five times repeating the message, they told us to come to the front and check our carry-ons. I did as I was told, stood in line behind the others and gave the bag to the person at the gate. That was the last I ever saw of it.
- Leg 3, Orlando to Dallas: Began boarding five minutes after the scheduled take-off time. Finally left about 30 minutes late.
- Leg 4, Dallas to SFO, Plane 1: Was boarding as I arrived at the gate, loaded without incident, took off on-time. This was troubling. Luckily, about 20 minutes into the flight, just as I’d started to drift off, I was jarred back awake when I noticed the plane was descending fairly rapidly. The captain came on the PA system and announced that a warning light had come on in the cockpit, and he needed to turn around and land back at Dallas.
- Leg 4, Dallas to SFO, Plane 2: Got everybody off the plane (after the airport had apparently shut down, so no dinner for me), switched to the next gate and loaded onto a new plane. Got underway a little over an hour after the scheduled departure time. As we were taxiing towards the runway, those of us on the left side got to see the lights of a landing jet getting closer and closer, while our plane was picking up speed. Apparently we lost the game of chicken, because our plane screeched to a halt before getting to the runway, less than a minute before the other plane landed.
The delays aren’t that big a deal, but they don’t exactly inspire confidence, especially when you’re getting to be afraid of flying again as I am. What really bugs me about their losing my luggage is:
- It was a carry-on bag. I was careful not to bring anything that didn’t fit in a carry-on bag, specifically to avoid having to go through baggage claim.
- The jack-ass stewardesses who just glared at us and repeatedly told us to sit down, instead of helping us find a place for the bags or asking other passengers to move bags out of the bins to underneath their seats.
- The lead jack-ass male stewardess, who kept making announcements over the PA system attempting to be wry (or I guess since it was Dallas, “folksy”) instead of actually being helpful. First he kept ordering us to sit down, then he kept making sarcastic comments about people using cell phones and reminded everyone to use only the bathrooms in their assigned cabins. The worst, though, was when he made sure to point out, “Although our primary role is your safety, the flight attendants will be offering a beverage service after the plane departs.” Look, dude: I’m sorry that you’re in your early 40′s and are only now realizing that you’re an air fairy on a shitty airline and everybody probably instantly assumes that you’re gay, but don’t put your delusions off on us. You are all about the beverage service. Well, that and actually helping passengers get their crap stowed away before the plane takes off. Just accept that, show everybody how to buckle the seat belt and remind them the oxygen bag doesn’t inflate, then sit down and shut up until it’s time for you to bring me my Coke.
- All six of us who’d had to check our carry-on bags waited at the baggage claim until it was empty, then had to go and wait at the “baggage irregularity desk.”
- All three of the people working the “baggage irregularity desk” were apparently taking English as a Fourth Language, and those classes were taking up all the time they needed to bone up on basic computer skills.
- They pointed out that another flight from Dallas was arriving in about 30 minutes, so we were welcome to wait and see if our bags arrived with that baggage claim. In my last fit of optimism, I did wait.
- I’d forgotten that this was American Airlines, so that next flight’s baggage didn’t show up until about an hour later. Of course, my bag wasn’t on it.
- When I called their service number this morning before my meeting, they reminded me to check back at the “baggage irregularity desk” before I left, to see if the bag arrived. So I had to leave Disney World early to make it to the airport 2 and a half hours before the flight left.
- Five minutes after I called, they called me to see if I’d gotten any word and still wanted it delivered to the hotel (I’d already checked out at that point).
At least I can’t complain about the food, because they didn’t serve any. I guess their first priority is my safety. And making sure that I use only the lavatories in the economy cabin, not the first class cabin.