American Airlines Flight 820 from Seattle to Chicago, 9/10/06

Posted on Monday, September 11th, 2006 at 2:41pm CDT by 5d5bd64c

Company: American Airlines Flight 820 from Seattle to Chicago, 9/10/06

Category: Airlines

I bought three tickets months ago for spouse and child, and paid a higher price for the flight times I preferred. About a month ago, I received an e-mail notification that the flight return time would be delayed by two hours. Ok, went with that although we’d be getting home much later than I wanted and we all had work the next morning. Got to airport to find out that they had too much traffic or a low ceiling or something in Chicago, so they were delaying flights again. Supposed to take off at 1:55 pm, finally took off around 5 pm, after waiting for an hour in the plane away from the gate (airport needed the gate.) Got to Chicago about midnight, hundreds of stranded passengers, no further flights available, no hotel vouchers (they ran out.) We had nothing to eat since early morning, no food offered on plane, nothing offered other than a “cot” in room at the airport since they “ran out of hotel vouchers.” They arbitrarily decided they would rebook us out on a 4 pm flight the next day! At that point, we’d have been on our feet for well over 36 hours. The gate agents who were “there to assist us” said they could and would do nothing for people except book them on later flights, days later. One person was offered a flight on Wednesday! No supervisor at the gate to explain anything to the hundreds of stranded people leaving this flight. A supervisor named Walter appeared later but refused to speak with any customers after the first couple apparently offended him, saying “I am terminating this discussion now.” The two assistants at the gate there barely spoke English and proceeded to make announcements on the PA system that no one could understand. They could not tell us if or where we could retrieve our baggage, which was checked through to another city. After multiple lengthy phone calls to the “secret number,” my spouse apparently located our bags today and American is allegedly delivering it to our home.

Decided we should try to rent a car and drive the rest of the way home or risk spending several days at O’Hare. Hertz and National would not allow a one way rentals from Chicago to Milwaukee airport. They apparently decided that they wanted to offer only round trip rentals, so no luck there, even with spouse’s business account (large Fortune 500 company account.) Fortunately AVIS (we try harder) was offering one way rentals and they were mobbed! A nice gentleman offered smiles, free beverages and said “we know you are all tired and stranded and cold” (line left the AVIS building.) We finally got home around 3 am, after starting at 7 am the preceding day.

Lesson#1: never fly American again. From the flight attendants to the gate people, they were singularly unhelpful, hostile to customers and the entire operation apparently lacks strategies to deal with situations like mass flight delays and cancellations. Customer service skills were non-existent. To tell people to wander around an airport for DAYS until they find another flight for you is unreasonable. This was the worst flight experience we’ve ever had. We heard same comments from dozens of fellow passengers.

The FAA has told American and United that they need to clean up their flight delays at O’Hare since that is causing massive ripples throughout the country, delaying and canceling other flights from everywhere. Other folks on this flight noted that all the United flights that were due to take off after ours arrived on time.

Lesson#2: do not take any flight that puts you at Chicago O’Hare. They are in meltdown there. High risk of being stranded and having to hitchhike your way to your final destination. Under no circumstances will I EVER fly out of or through O’Hare again. There are just too many horror stories, not mine alone. If this means I drive, or take a boat or a train or stay home, that is preferable.

Lesson#3: AVIS really did try harder. When they were under heavy, heavy demand, when no other rental agencies were willing to help stranded travelers, they were and did it with sympathy and efficiency. Without price gouging. We will be AVIS customers for life. My spouse will no doubt give feedback to his corporate travel agency about American, O’Hare and the lack of help on the part of their corporate car rental partner, National.


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