Fear and Loathing at American Airlines and the TSA

Well, I didn’t think the time my wife and I had an airliner door closed in our faces (on Delta) on the first leg of a European vacation could be topped, but I think AA has done it.

And I’m sorry to say that I say this because I know both Doug Parker and the recently departed Scott Kirby from their days at America West, and they’re both savy airline guys otherwise smart on customer service and running an efficient airline.

But, maybe the cuts have gone too deep; my flight out of Denver recently was about the worst experience possible.

  1. American had a nifty new checkin site (with baggage handling behind the counter) at the bottom of the garage where the busses drop off, but the gate agent looked and acted like the checkin process might be a near death experience. He referred me to  the main checkin counter, which was about 15 minutes away in the main concourse, and of course didn’t give me directions. So much for diversity hires and apparent lack of training.
  2. At the main counter, I encountered world’s worst counter person in Sheri. She didn’t want to check in my single bag because I was 2 minutes late for the 90 minute bag checkin rule. It would be nice if American informed me of this rule; we could have left for the airport earlier. I don’t like to do a carry on because my bag is on the limit for size. So, I missed the first flight…..no way I could get through the dreaded TSA and still make the flight.
  3. So I waited for 3.5 hours. But I did make a new friend with an Egyptian businessman flying back to Cairo via London on British Airways who thought the whole situation with American rather comical.
  4. And then the AA flight was delayed about 2 hours, probably because of weather, but no one at the AA gate informed us why the flight was delayed, they just posted the new arrival time and departure on the board. How hard is it to pick up the mic and say a few soothing words? Jeez.
  5. And then there were the usual funnies involving TSA. The good news was that they jumped me ahead of about 15 people to go through a new line they set up. I was shocked; Denver TSA is legendary for being inefficient. But, Denver’s  TSA rep caught up with it when a TSA gate agent wouldn’t look at my basket until her supervisor did (another diversity new hire) and didn’t tell me I couldn’t take my bottle of Acquafina water on the flight. A supervisor had to do it. No employee empowerment here. No mentions of water as a prohibited item, either. How hard is that? I hope President Trump makes the airlines pay for TSA, and uses the Israeli model for flight security.
  6. At least American improved my seating position to the exit aisle window. I think first class was sold out, in their defense.
  7. Do I hear any calls for Business Class, which is what my Egyptian friend was flying on British Airways? I’d pay more to do it.
  8. BTW, kudos to Super Shuttle for being on top of all delays and only making me wait about 5 minutes to catch a bus from Sky Harbor to home. I’ve ridden with them since their inception, and they’ve just gotten better, even as they’ve expanded nationally.

So, it’s small wonder that flying on the airlines is an adventure and most airlines have such a bad rep. Guess I’ll buy a backpack and fly Spirit Airlines at 50% off the American rates.

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