Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Apologies to Joe Brancatelli for stealing his line (AA-holes). It's the most apropos description of American Airlines managers, and I thought it was worth repeating: AA-holes.

In addition to cancelling over 1,000 flights, American’s phone systems suffered a complete meltdown today with the tidal wave of inbound traffic. I tried to phone the Exec Platinum line for over an hour, and each time went through a lengthy menu process before being put on hold to music for about 5 minutes, after which I was transferred to a busy signal. I'd hang up and try again. And again, and again.

I was trying two phones simultaneously, my cell and a landline. I finally got through, and they assured me that my flight tomorrow was operating. All RDU-bound flights from ORD before and after had been cancelled, the very nice agent in AA's Connecticut rez center said.

An hour later AA’s automated call system rang my cell to say my flight tomorrow had been cancelled. The message stated that I should contact an agent for rebooking (i.e., I was not automatically rebooked on anything).

To be honest, I wasn't surprised. I don't think the agent in Connecticut was lying to me. I believe her systems were giving her bad information.

Assuming that's true, think of the irony: Thousands of people trying to get through and being turned away by a busy signal for hours. When they finally reach a real person who works for AA, the company's official agent gives out wrong advice because American's systems don't have the right information.

Consider that this is happening even on its super-elite Executive Platinum desk lines: can't get through, and when you finally do, get bad info. What further proof do we need that American doesn't care about its customers, not even its very top customers?

Knowing, finally, that my flight was cancelled, I again tried to reach AA on two phones simultaneously for another hour (over 80 tries) before finally lucking out and getting a real person. He offered a morning flight on an MD-88 but advised that “it will probably be cancelled; I don’t know why it shows still operating.”
I said, no, thanks, so he put me on two AA Eagle RJs connecting through Louisville from O’Hare.

Louisville! The connection’s a sheer coincidence, apparently. There’s an Eagle flight in from ORD just an hour before another Eagle flight is scheduled to RDU. So that’s my Thursday plan now.

In light of this reprise of AA's March fiasco, and with demonstrative proof that they didn't learn anything from either experience AND don't care about their customers, I've pondered whether I should stop flying on American.
But if I dump AA, who do I then fly on to Chicago from Raleigh?

AA and UA and Southwest have the only nonstops to Chicago from RDU. Southwest is an uncomfortable cattle car operation with managers who systematically manipulated FAA inspectors and ignored safety concerns that might have killed a planeful of their customers. They are also notoriously late into and out of Midway week in and week out.

Too, Midway Airport is out of the way for my Chicagoland clients (read: long drive in bad traffic for me).

United is worse than AA—most of the time—and they don't even PRETEND to care about their customers.

I am real tired of connecting (on DL, NW, CO, you-name-the-carrier). Not only is connecting a terrible time-killer, but I can’t trust the connections any more. And it doubles the pain, especially if I don’t get an upgrade.

So I will reluctantly stay on AA, knowing full well their senior managers are fools and imbeciles who hate their customers and routinely disregard safety-related maintenance to save a few bucks, even if doing so risks killing some of their clientele and employees.

Just like every other airline’s management.


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