Friday, June 29, 2007

Road Trip from HELL

I write this in the lobby of a cheesy hotel in a city I never intended to visit since I can't sleep. It's Friday, and I am wearing the same clothes I put on Wednesday, and don't currently expect to get home until Saturday night. Who knows where my luggage is.

"What happened?" you ask?

I was in DC for the American Library Association Annual Conference. The third Council meeting ended slightly ahead of schedule on Wednesday at about 11:30 am. Checked out of the hotel, and headed to Regan National Airport for the 3:30 flight to Chicago (ORD) and then on to Minneapolis (MSP). It was a nice, uneventful cab ride. Checked in, and got in the long, slow line for security. Then headed to the gate (right next to the bar!). Eventually, after three trips to the podium, the flight disappeared from the list.

Mid-afternoon the trouble began. American Airlines canceled all its flights to O'Hare and half of its flights to Dallas because of weather. I stood in the line and finally got re-booked for a Thursday noon flight to MSP via DFW. I asked for a voucher, but was told, because it was weather an act of God that I was not entitled. Then they announced that the flight was canceled......great. OK....I collected my luggage and called one of the hotels on the list the gate agent told me was nearby. That was where the trouble began.

First, the hotel was further away from the airport than the downtown hotel I had left. It cost $31 in metered cab fare (not including tip vs. the $21 including tip from downtown) to get there. Ahead of me in line were two separate women who were also "refugees from American." What began to get me really aggravated is that they both had vouchers for the hotel and for a meal!!!! They were going through Chicago and their flights had been canceled for the same reason.

Here is where it really started getting bad. The hotel "restaurant" was a pizza place with only wine and beer, and they even ran out of at least four of the beverages (brands) on the menu. The rest of the night went relatively uneventfully, since it was a newer hotel, and a quite nice room.

Thursday morning, and back to the airport. Since the hotel was fairly close to the Metro. They offered a free shuttle there. I got in line to take it (with my luggage). However there were all these TOURISTS who were also going, and one really rude lady tried to push her way ahead of me in line (after I had watched the van go back and forth three times). The Metro ride was uneventful, but the airport was a mess. It was chaos. It was totally out of control!

American's counter is in the middle of the terminal. When I got there, the line to check in, at both the self-service and regular check-in stations went almost to one end. It was so long that airport police were there to be sure that other travelers could get across the line, in several places, and go down to security. I stood in line for about an hour and a half and got about half-way through when an agent told us that the self-check machines were working......ugh. I went to check in. When I got to the screen which asked about bags, it showed 2 bags already checked and asked how many bags I wanted to check. What would you say if you saw that? I answered "0" since my bags were already checked! Turns out that is the wrong answer.... Bags got checked, and security was a breeze. The gate was where I had spent the previous afternoon, and eventually a plane arrived and we got on.

But wait, the adventure continues. Because National has a short runway, the airline had a choice, leave 30 people behind, or stop in Nashville for more fuel. They chose the latter, and actually that part went well. We landed in Nashville, and got gas (without opening the door at the gate or any other delay). Then the flight arrived in Dallas.

At first, I could not find the "board" and went to a counter where there was an AA staff member typing away. I asked him, and he rudely pointed to the monitors. But.....the flight was not listed. So I went back! Standing there, wearing a uniform, AA id tag, and typing at the computer he rudely said, I'm not working. I pressed and he looked it up. I arrived at Gate A-35, he sent me to D-37.

It has been about a decade since I was last in DFW (and it will take another act of God to get me back here). The signage to get between terminals is lacking. Finally I found the tram, and got to D-concourse. But the flight was not listed. The gate had a different flight being boarded. I finally asked an agent who said "Oh, that flight was canceled for mechanical problems, go to Gate D-34 to be re-booked." Needless to say, there was a line. It moved incredibly slowly. After all, they had to find us flights. I got on the phone with the airline. The best they could do was book me for Saturday night! I still needed to work the line for a voucher. The agent suggested that I could get on a flight the next day on Sun Country Airlines, she gave me a print out and said, go up there right now and pay for the ticket. I went up and found the place.....but all the windows were closed!! Later in the evening, I finally found a phone number and Sun Country says, we don't work with other airlines, and we do not have a seat for you! I was fit to be tied.

So that gets me to Friday morning. Sitting in clothes I have worn for days. Looking at 48 hours in a place I never asked to be in, have been to before and hated and have incredibly strong negative feelings about on so many levels and without any of my clothes.

What upsets me most about the airline is that they will pay for ONE of the two nights, one meal out of six, and have given me nothing for clothing, while I chose NONE OF THIS! [I may even not ever choose this airline again.] They have taken two work days from my employer PLUS one of my days off. The loss to me is incredible.

This journey through hell cannot end soon enough!


  1. I think the conclusion to this conference will go down in ALA annals as the worst since Midwinter 1977 in Chicago. A blizzard closed O'Hare. I wound up leaving two days later.

    Perhaps we should ask Councilors to share their horror stories.

    I will post mine as soon as I can get into Blogger.

  2. Michael, this is awful! You're in my thoughts. (There is just NOT enough bourbon in the world for a struggle like you're going through... hope you have at least a few books to read!)

  3. Karen mentioned your woes on Twitter. I'm aghast. I hope you're home soon, and safely.

  4. I hope to god you're home by now, Michael! PLEASE relax for what is left of the weekend. This will certainly keep *me* away from American Airlines.

  5. this is so terrible. enough to make any sensible person Never Go Anywhere Again. Maybe since it's now a day later you're finally home. I hope, I hope.

  6. It took me close to 48 hrs to get from NYC to Nashville on American after ALA. I was never offered a voucher for anything, only a rebooking. I finally switched to Jet Blue (paid for by me) and made it home. I'll definitely think twice about flying on American again.

  7. I am so sorry you had to go through this, Michael. Hopefully you're home by now and will have some time to rest before you need to get back to work. Dealing with the airlines when things go bad is almost always a nightmare, but I think yours really takes the cake. My deepest sympathies go out to you.