Friday, December 13, 2013

How American Airlines Ruined My Vacation

Dear American Airlines,

Let me tell you about the awesome vacation my husband and I had planned.  It was to start with a noon flight to Miami, arriving late evening but still early enough to grab some dinner, get a good night’s sleep in our nice hotel, and spend the next day exploring Miami.  Between 2-3 pm we would take a leisurely taxi over to the Port of Miami to catch a 4 night, 5 day cruise around the Bahamas.  We purposely left this extra day so that we’d be sure to catch our ship.  Coming from SLC to Miami in one day is pretty hard, so the extra day’s cushion would remove any stress of not making our cruise. 

This whole trip was a reward for months of hard work on a big project.  We were so excited.  We bribed, begged, and cajoled relatives to watch our 3 young kids.  Because my husband’s client was paying for the cruise, we decided to splurge and get a penthouse suite.  It comes with a BUTLER!  And it’s something we’d probably never be able to afford otherwise.  This was going to be the best vacation ever! 

And then American Airlines entered the picture.  At 4am Sunday morning (Dec 9), we got a recorded call from AA saying that our flight was cancelled due to weather conditions in our connecting airport, DFW.  The recording said we were rescheduled to arrive TUESDAY (a day after our cruise was to set sail).  It said if we needed to change this, to call the number.  So we called the number and were put on a call-back list.  About 6 HOURS LATER (during which we laid awake, stressing), AA finally returned the call.  They managed to book us on a red-eye flight through LAX, departing 7:30pm and arriving 6am.   While a red eye is not ideal, and would replace our fun night in a Miami hotel with a horrible night trying to sleep on a plane, it was still plenty of time to get to our boat.  So we booked a second (cheaper) hotel where we could sleep for a few hours after arriving in Miami, and then we waited to leave for the airport.

We got to the SLC airport about 6pm (through low temps and snow), checked in, and went to our gate.  There our AA flight was delayed an hour due to mechanical problems.  Then it changed to two hours.  We were now going to miss our connection in LA.  I went back down to the ticket desk to see what could be done.  And very little could be done.  All flights through LAX were taken, and all flights out of LAX first thing in the morning were full.  Finally the agent was persuaded to put us on a flight at 11:47 to JFK where we would switch to a flight to Miami, arriving at 10:30am.  Now we had to cancel our second hotel—we would no longer have time to catch up on our missed sleep.  But we would still have plenty of time to get to the boat.   So we waited 5 hours in that cold airport entry with our now unchecked bags.  Then after boarding we sat on the plane for 1 ½ hours while the airport slowly used 1 truck to de-ice the plane.  It caused such a delay that we missed our connection in JFK.    

Not to worry, we were scheduled for our third attempt to get to Miami: on the next flight out of JFK, an AA flight arriving in Miami at 12:30, still in time to get to our ship if everything went smoothly.  But it did not.  That AA flight had mechanical issues as well.  We sat fully boarded on the plane for 2 hours while they kept saying “15 more minutes,” “15 more minutes.”  Finally at noon they got us off that plane to switch to another plane.  I asked the pilot, who was standing at the gate desk, if there were any other flights to Miami.  He said yes, there was one at 12:30 right across from our gate, but ours would be way faster.   As soon as the plane arrived from the hanger, he said, we’d be on our way, well before the other flight.  However, an hour later the replacement plane hadn’t even shown up.  The other flight to Miami across the way was now gone.  And we were still waiting to board.  Finally (1:30 now) the replacement plane arrived and we began boarding that second plane.  It took off on time and arrived in Miami at 4:45pm.  Our cruise port was still 45 minutes away and we didn’t even have our bags.  So, needless to say we missed our ship.  We planned a flight that departed 29 hours before our ship’s departure, just to be safe, and still we missed that boat.   And that is entirely due to American Airlines and their fleet of broken airplanes. 

To make matters worse, the flight we were put on to get to Nassau, where we would wait 2 days in a pitiful hotel until our boat arrived, was….you guessed it!  DELAYED.   Again, due to a broken airplane. 

When we (and the other 10 passengers from AA who missed the boat with us) finally arrived in the Bahamas after midnight, the AA representative who met us was surly and wouldn’t even speak to us for ½ hour.  Eventually she gave us vouchers which she said were for 2 night’s hotel, but the next day at the hotel they informed us that the vouchers were only good for one day.  The food vouchers we were given wouldn’t even cover the cost of coffee for breakfast at the hotel or a sandwich for lunch.  Our rooms were dark, damp basement rooms.  The beds were rock hard.  And did they come with a huge aft balcony or a butler?  Or all-inclusive food?  NO.  Our once-in-a-lifetime vacation aboard a penthouse suite was cut down to 1 ½ days in airports, 1 ½ days in a sub-par hotel, and only 1 ½ days of 5 on our would-be amazing cruise.

I realize that there is nothing can be done about bad weather.  And it is unfortunate that our first leg was cancelled due to ice at DFW.  But every other attempt (four in total!) to get to Miami was delayed due to incompetence and mechanical issues on the part of American Airlines.  How can you justify this?  And more importantly, how can you compensate us for more than ½ of the best vacation of our life that we missed?  How can you compensate us for the time we spent sitting in airports, missing sleep, and sleeping on hotel beds so hard my side was bruised the next day?  How can you compensate us for the time our relatives sacrificed so that we could take this trip?    You can’t.  Plain and simple, you can never replace what you took from us.   But you should be honorable and do your best to compensate us for the monetary and physical portions of this trip that you were responsible for ruining. 

 I can be reached at home at 801-xxx-xxxx.   We hope to hear from you soon and know that someone at American Airlines has a heart, a conscience, and the authority to do something about this unbelievable debacle.