American Helps Make Our Anniversary… Memorable?

Filed Under: American, Travel

Today is not just Sunny’s last day at American AirlinesFord and I are celebrating our four year anniversary. Yay!

What are we doing? We’re jetting off to the Maldives. No, I’m kidding… we’re actually flying to Huntington, West Virginia. Why? It’s a long story, but it boils down to family being more important to us than anything else, and the situation with my mom made us prioritize that even more.

American is one of only two airlines that flies to Huntington — the other is Allegiant, and none of their routes work for us (and there are many other reasons to avoid Allegiant as well).

So this morning we were scheduled to fly from Miami to Charlotte to Huntington. We set our alarms for 3:30AM for our 6:20AM flight (since we still had to pack and board Winston — on the plus side we spent an extra $5 per day to have the dog hotel send us a daily picture of Winston, and it’s the best $5 I ever spent).

It’s now after 6PM — 14.5 hours after we woke up, and eight hours after we were scheduled to land in Huntington — and we’re still sitting in the Admirals Club in Charlotte drinking cheap wine. What happened?

Well, our morning started off as you’d expect. American’s mechanics took our Miami to Charlotte plane out of service, as part of their contract dispute. When a plane rests overnight in Chicago, Miami, or New York, it seems to be a near given that mechanics will take it out of service.

So we all boarded the flight, the mechanic walked on, and 15 minutes later it was announced that we needed a new plane. They found a new plane pretty quickly, and our flight to Charlotte was only delayed by a bit over an hour. Unfortunately this caused us to misconnect.

Not a huge deal, we thought — instead of getting into Huntington shortly after 10AM, we would get there at 2PM. I figured that wasn’t a big deal. We’d have a few hours in Charlotte to work, and we could spend time with family when we landed, rather than working.

We boarded our flight to Huntington on-time, we taxied out, and then the pilots announced that we had an issue, and we needed to return to the gate to have maintenance look at it.

For what it’s worth, in this situation I think it’s a genuine maintenance issue, given that this is American Eagle (which has separate mechanics with separate contracts), and also given that this was discovered after we taxied out.

We were back at our gate by 1:40PM. For the next three hours we were told to just sit in the gate area, as our flight kept getting pushed back by 15 minutes at a time. They kept claiming that the flight would be departing any minute, though that didn’t happen.

Eventually the departure got pushed back to 6PM, and now it’s at 6:38PM. At this point we’re in the Admirals Club having an anniversary celebration, consisting of American Airlines guacamole and house wine.

In this case I’m not even mad at American, I’m just amused at how bad they are. We left home over 13 hours ago, and have flown a grand total of 650 miles at this point. This is actually possibly the worst domestic delay I’ve ever had, all things considered.

I would have rather they just cancel the flight and we be rebooked for tomorrow morning, rather than this 15 minutes-at-a-time situation, which keeps making us think “well we’ve waited this long, there’s no reason to jump ship right now.”

The last time I saw Ford this unhappy was when I forced him to take a very unfortunate mileage run

  1. I’m nearly double your age. One thing that’s surprised me is that as time passes it’s really something how fondly I look back at the things that didn’t go completely right. Trip where Iberia lost all our suitcases and we stumbled around Spain in flipflops and Barca shirts that we bought on the street remains near the top of the list.

    You’re never going to forget the anniversary you spent in the Admiral’s club with guacamole. Never. The ties that bind are sneaky. Give it 20 years. You’ll see. Come back and tell me I was right.

  2. Also if they had canceled the flight right away you could have rented a car and driven – five hours. Not ideal, but you would be there by now!

  3. AA really is incompetent. It’s not that their on time performance is that much better than Delta’s (though it is by a few percentage points) it’s just how atrociously they deal with it every time. I’ve been in the 15 minute-at-a-time push back for the flight departure with a surly gate agent to boot… it’s not fun.

  4. Happy Anniversary, Lucky and Ford. I continue to wish your mom a complete and quick recovery. I hope you will get to Huntington, Virginia safe and as soon as mechanically possible.

  5. Happy Anniversary Lucky and Ford. I continue to wish your mom a complete and quick recovery. I hope you will get to Huntington, Virginia safe and as soon as mechanically possible. Winston is so cute and adorable. He should do some reviews on the various pet hotels. Tell Ford to smile and enjoy the “memorable” 4 year anniversary.

  6. Happy Anniversary Lucky and Ford. I continue to wish your mom a complete and quick recovery. I hope you will get to Huntington, Virginia safe and as soon as mechanically possible. Winston is so cute and adorable. He should do some reviews on the various pet hotels. Tell Ford to smile and enjoy the “memorable” 4 year anniversary.

  7. that’s my biggest peeve with AA at this point… the rolling 15 minutes delay. Give a more accurate delay update and we can work on other stuff like finding a different flight, cancelling and driving, etc…

  8. @TM, when my wife and I lived in the States, we gave up almost immediately. We drove several times across the country and back, through 35+ states over two years to avoid the absolute shambles that is the American airline industry. It’s so pathetic.
    Anyway, Happy Anniversary to you Ben and Ford! It might sound cheesy, but you know, drinking cheap wine and lounge guacamole in Charlotte is better than being alone. Glad you got each other to keep yourselves company 🙂

  9. First of all, Happy Anniversary! And I hope your mom is doing better.
    And I agree with Greg, if they would only cancel right away you could’ve easily rented and driven and I’m assuming you booked with a premium card that offers you trip cancellation/delay protection and would’ve covered you? And in case you don’t fancy driven the same route back again, I am sure you know that Silvercar has a location in Charlotte but unfortunately not Huntington, WV.

  10. AA Customer Dis-Service at its finest. Congratulations on your anniversary! And thanks again for the meetup at LAX this Monday. It was very fun!

  11. I recognize that look on his face behind that wine glass…that’s me! I’m ready to spit fire so I take a drink and hold my tongue. I just had a 26 hour delay last week getting from FLL to DFW…what a nightmare. I was due one since they seem to occur every five years. I hate summer flights.

  12. You’re in Huntington? Come over to Charleston. Hearing these stories first hand would hilarious. We have more air service too:)

  13. Happy anniversary and so sorry to hear about your mom — I had missed the post back in May. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. You’ve provided me and my family with hours and hours of vicarious entertainment and actionable knowledge over the years with this blog.

  14. Happy anniversary, but I suddenly feel so old. Is it 4 years together or 4 years married? I thought your marriage was much more recent.

    [insert marriage joke here]

    Again, apologies as I may be having a senior moment. 🙂

  15. How cute is your dog?! I’m avoiding AA until this whole thing blows over. Happy anniversary!

  16. I recently retired from one of “The Big Three” for reasons you mentioned, among other reasons, after 29 years. It was amazing to me what they get away with such as delaying flights for up to 24 hours so documented completion factor could be protected. Airlines do their best to treat customers badly. Unfortunately, so much of it is done behind the scenes and decisions made by people that never have to face the customer, as I did. I’ll never forget a letter I read from a customer over 20 years ago. Your story made me remember that. The customer wrote , “You did not delay me three hours; you delayed me 15 minutes 12 times.”. I’ll never forget that. The customer was saying, “tell me the truth. I can take it and make better decisions than sitting in the gate area.”. There’s another caveat to all of this. The passenger has become more demanding and more selfish in the last 20 years. It used to be if an experienced employee like myself saw a lengthy delay coming I would send the high value customers to the lounge and tell them we’d make an announcement when things were getting better. That’s not allowed anymore because people complained that the lounges became too noisy. Yep the lot of you that complain we hold you hostage at the gate are the same complainers who say we don’t keep you informed in the lounge and the first to bitch that there are too many announcements in the lounge. As an airline employee, and now retiree, I drive even though I have free flight privileges. It’s much less stressful. Yeah it’s more expensive, but our entitled society has forgotten that. THAT’S why airline travel is so stressful because we’ve all forgotten just how fast and convenient air travel is, despite all it’s problems.

  17. You guys had to connect anyway, why didn’t you fly Delta? I get using AA for the nonstops being based in Miami, but any flight with a stop is one I’d book away from them.

  18. Happy anniversary! I also somehow completely missed the post on your mother, so thanks for linking it – it’s beautifully written and I’m so sorry to read about what she’s going through.

  19. Happy Anniversary! Mr. FB and I will be celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary on July 3. When we board our Lucy, we also pay to get daily text pictures of her, but the place in Tampa where she stays only charges $3 per day.

  20. Happy Anniversary!

    As Geoff suggested, you could possibly get a flight to Charleston, WV. American does fly there, and it’s only about an hour drive from Huntington.

    Have some well wishes from a West Virginian, who’s currently in NZ.

    And someone tell Stanley (Stan) that West Virginia and Virginia are different States (though you’re totally forgiven if you aren’t from the US)

  21. I think this is a great way for a avgeek to celebrate – American Style , lol. I just wish Ford was more into it 🙂

  22. I am a mechanic at AA, and I have never been asked to slow down or find items to write up, to cause a delay. I hope people understand that this is no longer AA except in name. This company is America West from the top down to lower management. The former top executives at AA are gone, and replaced with America West top executives, and they are also the executives that took over at US Air. It is America West maintenance practices that are being used now. The differed maintenance is causing a lot of problems that we never had before. That is a management problem, not a problem caused by negotiations. Mismanagement is making it harder for us to do our jobs. It is my job to see that the aircraft is safe, even if it is going to cause a delay. Safety is the #1 priority.

  23. Happy anniversary! Give up, rent a car, and drive…it’s only 5 hours, and practically guaranteed to be more spacious than any AA domestic seat!

  24. By the way, Samuelson is an idot. He worked on subway tracks before he became the President for our union, and he knows nothing about the aircraft business. I don’t know of a single Aircraft Maintenance Technician that agrees with anything he said to Robert Isom at a recent townhall meeting. AMT’s are professionals, and Samuelson obviously is not. Samuelson’s big mouth has given AA’s management a way to blame the mechanics for their mismanagement.

  25. This is really getting out of hand Lucky. I have similar issues with American lately.
    Can we all get an address and send letters? What do you suggest? Their twitter team always say the standard crap all over when they fail, which is EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT!

  26. I feel you, Ben. AA truly is a miserable company when it comes to customer service. Here are two recent experiences I have had with AA.

    1. Yesterday, I was on the 8:25 AM flight from SFO to PHL, scheduled to arrive at approx. 5 PM. The moment my Uber pulled up to SFO at 6 AM, I received a notification from AA that my flight was delayed until 6 AM. Yes, PM–as in approximately 10 hours after the scheduled departure, and more than an hour after the scheduled arrival of the flight in PHL (which, mind you, is a transcon + 3-hour time difference). (At least they were not doing 15-minute rolling delays for 10 hours, right? Wrong. Read on.)

    AA was unable or unwilling to re-accommodate people promptly (since this was just a delay and not a cancellation???). Thankfully, my company’s travel department re-booked me promptly on a United flight to Newark and I took the train to Philly, arriving roughly when the AA flight was scheduled to depart SFO. As I arrived in Philly, I received a notification that AA had cancelled the original flight. I feel sorry for the people who were stuck at SFO for 10+ hours only to have their flight canceled, and then faced with either an unplanned overnight in SFO or an unplanned redeye on another flight (assuming they could find one with seats).

    2. Last fall, I was flying from ATW (Appleton, WI) to PHL through ORD. It was an 11:30 a.m. ATW departure arriving in ORD at 12:45 p.m., leaving ORD at 1:45 p.m. and arriving in PHL at about 5:00 p.m. We boarded promptly at 11:00, pulled away from the gate at 11:30 and then sat until 1 p.m. due to a ground stop from ORD. Out of AA’s control, and the connection from ORD to PHL was also delayed, so not a huge deal. At 1 we went back to the gate and were offloaded from the plane. Then the 15-minute rolling delays started.

    They kept claiming a ground stop at ORD due to weather, but the weather map showed everything had cleared, and any website I could find with info showed the ground stop had ended at 12:30. We had rolling 15- or 30-minute rolling delays until about 4:00 p.m. By then, our ORD to PHL connection was about to leave, but there were still other ORD to PHL flights that day with room, so we were working on being re-booked. At 4 we re-boarded and began taxiing. A minute in to taxi, the pilot made an announcement that we were returning to the gate. This time it was mechanical. Once de-planed, AA made an announcement that a mechanic was being sent from Milwaukee (1.5 hrs away), and they were pushing our departure to 8 p.m. At this point, unless the last flights out of ORD were delayed, there was very little chance we were making it to PHL until the next morning, even if ATW to ORD took off (suspect given the mechanic driving in). We decided then to take matters into our own hands.

    We got the AA EXP service desk to re-book us on the ORD to PHL flight at 10 p.m. and headed straight to the car rental counter. We were on the road by 6 p.m. We made the drive in 2hr45m, and by the time we returned the rental car and hit the departure terminal it was 9:15. Of course TSA Precheck closed at 8, so we had a long line. But because it was AA, the 10:00 p.m. was delayed until 10:45, so we were saved somewhat by AA’s incompetence. We arrived in PHL sometime after 1 a.m., but at least we made it. When my phone got service in PHL, I received an AA notification that the ATW to ORD flight was rescheduled to 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

    AA handled the situation extremely poorly in so many respects. For example after we returned to the gate at 1pm, I asked the gate agent if she could rebook me on a 5pm direct from MKE (only 1.5 hours away) to PHL, and she said that would be a bad idea because the ATW to PHL flight would likely be “leaving any minute now” and I would end up getting in to PHL sooner by staying the course. By the time we realized that was not the case, it was too late to try to try to make the MKE flight.

    Again, I feel much worse for the people who held out faith in AA even longer than I did and got stuck overnight.

    AA truly is the most miserable company for customer service.

  27. Congrats on the anniversary! I would so welcome to the state were I grew up. Hope you get to Huntington soon, but why not fly to Charleston, WV and rent a car and drive an hour? They have plenty of flights from Charlotte to there.

  28. Mazel tov on your anniversary. Hope your Mom continues to improve. Your Winston is one very cute fur baby; I’d have a tough time leaving him for any reason.

    I totally agree with @ Larry. A life lived gives you some perspective.

    Thanks for your blog. We’re just down the road from Tampa, in Bradenton. My hubby is an AA FA for the last 16 months, based at DFW.

  29. Happy Anniversary! Y’all coulda drove to Virginia at this point.
    I miss living 10 minutes from LAX. Now I’m in Houston and tomorrow night I’m flying IAH-LAX-PVG-HKG. All in first and business but now I’m anxious. One delay and my entire vacation will be cancelled. Fingers crossed. Common’ American. Please.

  30. Happy anniversary. I’m sure Ford isn’t amused now, but many years from now, he’ll look back on this and laugh. Like my mom and dad did when they’d think about their anniversary the year a storm knocked out the power to our entire county, so they drove 42 miles to the next town with power to enjoy dinner, and ended up celebrating at Pizza Hut because the place dad wanted to take mom to was closed on Sundays.

  31. American has been a mixed bag recently with a 13 hour delay from Miami to Asheville in may but an on time departure and return to Boston this week .
    Does anyone know if the Miami to Philadelphia flights are getting through without delays and cancellations?
    Have a close connection on to zurich in early September with Miami departure in afternoon.
    Wonder if would be prudent to try and switch to the morning mia phl and chill out at phl until zrh flight.

  32. American has been a mixed bag recently but an on time departure and return to Boston this week .
    Does anyone know if the Miami to Philadelphia flights are getting through without delays and cancellations?
    Have a close connection on to zurich in early September with Miami departure in afternoon.
    Wonder if would be prudent to try and switch to the morning mia phl and chill out at phl until zrh flight.

  33. Ongoing complaining about AA is apparently Ben’s preferred option rather than figuring out a practical work around. Like a non-stop to a hub then drive. In that scenario you have way more control over your outcome. The “I’m captive living in an AA fortess” is tiresome.

  34. Happy anniversary to a lovely pair. As an aside my father worked for Holland-Suco – where Suco stood for Southern Ultramarine Color (think comic books) he flew some sort of single engine Cessna between Holland and Huntington – I got a ride once – very cool!

  35. Happy Anniversary – if you can survive the dramas of flight delays and disruptions you can survive anything as a couple….

    We are almost 26 years and you will look back and laugh at this

  36. Yes, I regularly fly into CRW and take the car to fabulous Huntington. Funny story: last summer we came into CRW on DL while my brother’s family did HTS on AA. We had no problems. My brother, on the other hand, shows up at the airport three hours early and the check in agent announces that they’ve canceled the ticket of his five-year-old son. Said kid now starts bawling. Then they try to foist the family off on a call center. They managed to just make their plane.
    For the return flight, they got the ol’ equipment change in CLT, and the 15-minute delays. From my laptop in Huntington, I can see the inbound equipment, and tell them how long it will be, but, being my brother, he won’t listen, and sends the wife to ask the gate agent, who threatens to call security.
    We followed my brother a few days later, but ex CRW with DL. Misconnected, but ended up getting a hotel room, meal vouchers, $1000, and, most of all, treated decently.
    Enjoy the Admiral’s Club, ‘cos there ain’t no PP lounge in CLT.

    Tend to agree about AA mx: if you outsource heavy maintenance to a part of the world that can get away with a couple LAMEs and a lot of semiskilled help, then regularly defer line maintenance, things are going to break, all the time.

  37. It’s amazing how fast four years can fly by isn’t it? Happy anniversary!

    On another note, what dog breed is that cutie? It looks just like our 8mo cavapoo. Must. Hug. Doggo.

  38. Happy Anniversary!!!

    As a former crew chief, it sickens me to see the shit show AA has become. If a bird was broke on late night arrival, you busted your ass to get it ready for it’s next early morning departure.
    Just another example of how unions f up productivity….. No one mechanical is going home feeling like they achieved, especially the great crew chiefs knowing the turds are breaking planes left and right……

  39. Cheap wine and guacamole. What more could anyone ever want ??? Happy anniversary guys. Have a drink for me.

  40. Although I’m a regular reader somehow I missed the earlier post about your Mom. I wish her, and all of you, good fortune in her treatment. But as a Mom myself, Ben I assure you your mother undoubtedly feels truly blessed to have a son who loves her so much. I know she has been through heartbreak as a mother. But just continue to let her know how much you love and value her. You are a good son!

  41. HTS is my home airport, and I feel your pain. I’ve driven home from CLT more than once because the last flight to HTS cancels (which causes the last flight to CRW to have no seats and the first flight the next day to HTS to be full). Hope you enjoy the Huntington area…if you’re still around, check out our Pride events today!

  42. Welcome to my nightmare, HTS is my home airport as well and this is a regular occurrence. I have my National App ready to go as soon as they start announcing 15 min delays, 1/2 the time the inbound it still on the ground somewhere and AA announces a 15 min delay I am like WTF ?

    Anyway as a few posters already pointed out, I try and get on the next flight to CRW when this happens and use a free day from National to get a car and drive to Huntington. Not the best use of free days but that is what it has come down to when you fly AA and need to get somewhere.

  43. I say this with complete sincerity, but when will you finally stop with American? I admire your loyalty, but they are a complete sh!t show. You joke about Allegiant, but if you looked you’d realize you would have been there on time.

    It’s time to walk away from American. ANY other airline is better than they are right now…..

  44. Ford looks so sad
    Like you’ve just told him you spent $2000 on airline amenity kits XD

    Happy anniversary!!!

  45. Wow four years already?? Congratulations to both and thanks for providing the link on your mom’s situation, I missed that write up completely!

    What you wrote about your self awareness regarding the importance of spending time with love ones was very on point especially to this cancer survivor who recently lost his mother. So ALL the best for your mom to have a speedy recovery!

    Oh, and yes that little Winston should definitely have his own IG account!

  46. Well, as much as I’m sorry for the rough travel day, I am pleased it gave me an opportunity to meet you in person last night at the CLT Admirals Club!

  47. FWIW Happy Anniversary. Absolutely love Winston. The pics were defintely worth the $5! Thanks for documenting AA’s slow death spiral. Hopefully the board will wake up and figure out that Doug Parker should be exited ASAP. He has systematically destroyed what was a once great airline. Worse yet, it seems almost intentional. Rarely do you see a business neglecting and abusing its most valuable and loyal customers. Thanks for documenting AA’s slow-mo disaster so well. Have a wonderful 4th – hopefully without delays and travel misery.

  48. Happy anniversary, you two! At least you left Winston The Adorable at home while traveling. As complicated as it can be to see family, you are smart to give time where it matters. I still miss my mom after many years and am so glad I spent so much time with her during her last year (earned 7 free tickets on SW in one year–no regrets). Love your work and truly send my best to you and Ford.

  49. If you had asked your followers, I would have told you the time to get to downtown Huntington from the airport is longer than if you had flown into Charleston and Uber to Huntington

  50. Next time just drive, its faster than flying on AA and you can always stop for a snack, break etc….

  51. Oy.

    Just stop flying AA already. This storyline is getting old and I’m nearly certain your eagle rating with them is garbage.

    Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is called insanity.

  52. I was more blown away by getting charged 5 bucks a day for a proof of life photo. Nice to have money to burn.
    Aside from my judgemental comment above, happy anniversary.

  53. Gotta say I would have expected you to rent a car or fly to Charleston and rent a car there rather than taking a four plus hour delay with no end in sight. I’m all for lamenting about travel disruptions on AA but you also need to not be a victim. If you’re going somewhere, get there, and work out the rest later.

  54. My dogs kennel sends me a picture FOR FREE and they have webcams IN EACH ROOM! $55/day plus tax

  55. @Benjamin — Did you read the post? AA was the only option. I’m not including Allegiant as a viable option, since even their pilots don’t trust their safety.

    @Jon — That’s well and good, but the point is that AA didn’t say “ok there’s going to be a 4-hour delay.” Instead, by doing it in 15 minute increments over and over again, they take away people’s ability to find alternate plans. I’d obviously much rather be told up front that it’s going to be a massive delay, rather than creating glimmers of ultimately futile hope.

  56. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about AA. The way they handle communication in delays is horrible. Living in Chicago where it’s AA or UA, this is a big driver of why I am loyal to UA.

    Had a recent example flying back to Chicago with colleagues. United announced a 1 hr 15 minute delay. Fine – can plan around that. AA flight that was supposed to leave after my United flight was now earlier with the delay so some people switched over. Then AA starts announcing delays in 15 minute increments. This is despite the fact that the inbound plane still hasn’t left ORD to get to our airport. In the end the AA flight left 1.5 hours after the delayed United flight but some folks stuck out with it because they didn’t know the delay would be what it was in the end.

  57. Happy Anniversary!

    Last time this happened on United I just called and told them I’m not taking the second leg, I’m renting a car and driving three hours since I can’t count on them to actually make this situation better (weather in Miami delayed the inbound plane so we couldn’t get from Houston to Austin). Since I am 1k they refunded that part of my ticket even though it was weather related. Sometimes cars are just better than planes :/ It would be interesting to know if AA would do the same!

  58. Happy Anniversary!

    As someone who lives in Huntington, WV, I was supposed to fly out to Charlotte on June 28th but my flight outbound was also delayed and canceled eventually. It is really a chore to fly into either Huntington or Charleston at times with a guaranteed connection in CLT with AA.

    Hope all is well with your mom. The cancer center in Huntington is an excellent facility with a great medical team there.

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