That’s one of the headlines on CNN.com today. (Visions of the Denzel Washington movie flash through my mind.)
But it’s not only because of this disturbing episode (which by the way they say is “rare,” small comfort), that I am disgusted with this airline. I am also basing my decision on an experience I had last summer at La Guardia. I never got around to writing about it before, since I was much too irritated. A little distance is better. Now I can be merely sardonic, sarcastic, and mean. 😉
First off, the gate on my boarding pass is stamped, let’s say, A7. I dutifully head on over there about an hour before boarding. (I like to allow lots of time; better too early than too late!)* I notice there are hardly any people sitting in the waiting area, which is rather odd, but I figure, “Oh those blasé New Yorkers!” (…notwithstanding the fact that the passengers on this flight are probably going to number at least 50% Montrealers like me.)
There is also no sign anywhere showing the flight number or even destination! Now I’m worried.
Then I see an American Airlines ticket agent – or whatever her title is – approaching the kiosk. She looks harried. This does not inspire serenity in me. I show her my boarding pass and ask if this is indeed the gate for my flight.
She says she is not sure yet. Oh? I look at my watch. She ignores me, shuffling papers, then talks in a near-whisper to another employee who has come over to her. I am (still) ignored. I look around. Now there’s no one else sitting here. A few minutes later I ask another worker I spot, but am basically told to go sit down. Apparently there is a bit of confusion, understatement intended.
At that most opportune moment, comes an announcement over the PA system: “American Airlines Flight 422** to Montreal will be leaving at Gate A3. Please proceed to Gate A3.”
Oh for Pete’s sake. Gotta move. I schlep my carry-on, phone, purse, coffee, water bottle and jacket over to the newly assigned gate. I don’t know why it is that the damn gates are so far apart – that walking from 7 to 3 should feel like a mile! I grumble to myself. Okay. At least now there are other passengers sitting here. I am more hopeful. A tad more serene, if you will.
Unbelievably, just as I get settled and start to read stuff on my phone (Thanks at least for the free WiFi, La Guardia!), I hear yet another announcement.
You guessed it. Back I go to Gate A7. I’m in good company now; we settle in our seats. Ten minutes later… why, yes! This gate-shuttle game continues at least twice more. We all would be laughing by now, if we weren’t so annoyed!
Now it’s about half an hour until boarding. As I try to reconnect with my phone to WiFi, it cuts out. The airport’s system only allows you 30 minutes for free! Thanks a bunch, La Guardia! Sigh. I start to play games on it instead; no WiFi needed.
The AA agent, the same woman as earlier – she is now very harried – makes a pleading announcement. It seems that the flight is overbooked! She begs for “volunteers” to give up their seats. In exchange, they will each be given a $300 voucher, good for a year, for another AA flight. Not one taker! There are a few more attempts, during which she warns that if no one volunteers, they’ll have to bump the last four people who booked.
Finally she starts to follow through with this threat! You cannot imagine the chaos that ensues. Well, maybe you can, if you’ve ever flown with AA before. They call up people to the kiosk, one by one, and go through everyone’s papers. At the same time, they’re handing out customs declaration cards which we all have to fill out. Usually one does this on the plane! Here, no! There is WAY TOO MUCH GOING ON I tell you!
In the end, four people are indeed bumped. The plane takes off an hour late. It’s a little Embraer; only about 40 of us are on it. Such a small plane this is, just three seats abreast – one seat, aisle, then two seats. And it only cruises at around 8,000 – 10,000 feet. It flies under, not over the clouds. I’m thinking to myself, Why? Can this crate not manage to stay up, any higher than that?!
There is, of course, no entertainment system. My phone is almost out of battery juice, so not even games are a distraction for my spoiled 21st-century brain. Plus, my reading light doesn’t work, so I can’t even read!! Arghhhh!
But we make it home to Montreal. And then my hearing aid cuts out.
*I’ll post another time about a certain return charter flight that almost didn’t happen – after my honeymoon!
**Made up number. I can’t remember everything!