A Long, Sordid Tale of A Very Exhausting Trip

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by CharlesG, Apr 6, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    Apologies in advance for the length of these posts...

    I had one of the more eventful 24 hours of travel that I’ve ever had this week, coming back from a quick trip to Buenos Aires this week. I think AA made several questionable choices, but I’d be curious to hear what others think.

    I know you are supposed to give yourself lots of time to check in and clear security, especially when traveling internationally, but the experience I had this week (Monday) at EZE flying American was really one of the worst airport experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I’d be interested in learning from those of you who regularly fly AA out of EZE if this is how it always is, or if I was just supremely unlucky.

    I was flying on AA #956 to JFK, which departs around 8:00 PM. For those of you who are unfamiliar with AA’s operations at EZE, there were two fights (both on 777s) leaving around 8:00; my flight, and another to Miami. Then, scheduled to depart approximately an hour later was a flight to DFW, and a little after that, another to MIA. I arrived at EZE at 5:00 PM, giving myself a full three hours. As it turned out, I would need every minute.

    Apparently, AA had decided not to have any agents at the counters to check in passengers; all passengers were to check in using the self-service kiosks in the airport. When I arrived, there were exactly two kiosks operational, and a line that was already close to two hours long. Two kiosks for two full 777s, and no check in agents. I was stunned. After waiting on the line for an hour and a half (and still being far from the front), I was told that several other kiosks had come on line, and I could check in on those. So I dashed off to a small cluster of four additional kiosks (for a grand total of 6; by this time the DFW and second MIA pax began to arrive at the airport), waited 10 minutes, and finally checked in. I then had to wait an additional 25 minutes on the bag drop line (damn you, bottle of Argentine wine!), and then a final hour to clear security and emigration. I was running to the gate catch my flight at 8:05.

    Well, I needn’t have hurried—about a third of the plane was stuck in the lines behind me, so we waited at the gate an additional half an hour for everyone else. Even give the three hours standing in line, and the delay at the gate, things still only amounted to a minor annoyance; we were only going to be a half an hour late landing in JFK. If this is where things had ended, I would have been happy.
     
  2. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    Alas, it was not to be. After take-off, and the dinner service, I noticed on the seat back flight tracker (I am in coach) that the notification had changed ominously from ‘Time to New York’ to ‘Time to Buenos Aires’. I pointed this out to my seatmate, and we laughed, agreeing that it must be a mistake. Two minutes later, the captain informs us that for some reason, the plane is unable to access the fuel from the center tank, and because he doesn’t believe we will make it all the way to JFK with just the wing fuel tanks, we need to return to EZE. I never complain about delays that arise due to safety concerns; I respect the pilot’s judgment. So back to EZE we went, landing around 10:30.

    There was a good deal of back and forth about what AA was going to do with us at this point; it was suggested that we would deplane and they would try and fix the aircraft, then it was suggested that we would be put up in hotels for the night and would try again the next day. Both of those plans were deemed unworkable, so finally it was decided around 12:30 AM that we would fly to SJU (we could make it there with just two fuel tanks), where we would deplane and clear customs and immigration while the plane was re-fueled, and the crews were changed. We would the re-board the plane, and head to JFK. After another hour waiting for our revised paperwork, we took off (again) from EZE, at 1:30 AM. Eight hours after arriving at EZE, I was finally on my way; not to home exactly, but close enough. Our original schedule was depart EZE 8:10, arrive JFK 6:30 AM. Our new schedule: arrive SJU 7:30 AM then depart at 11:00, with a 2:30 PM arrival at JFK.

    So I am totally fine with this plan at this point. It gets me home safe, on the same day I had planned to arrive anyway. Clearing customs at SJU at 8:00AM was a much quicker process than it would have been at JFK (we were the only flight in; hey, gotta find the silver linings somewhere!). Boarding began at 10:30, and we were airborne promptly at 11:00.
     
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  3. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    So here’s my next gripe, and the one that I want people’s opinions on. As the drinks service began, I asked the FA if there would be food for purchase (I did not expect a third meal service, especially as this was no longer an international flight—but it was a 4+ hour flight that went directly through lunch). He was very apologetic, and said they had not been re-stocked with food. I was visibly upset (mostly at myself; I should have bought something to bring on at the airport, but there wasn’t much I wanted that was open, and frankly, I was so tired I wasn’t thinking straight). He could tell by my reaction that I was a little upset, but I thanked him, and took my drink. He did later smuggle me back a piece of chocolate pound cake, and a cup of nuts, which really took the edge off my hunger, and made me much happier.

    So I know nothing about how airplanes are supplied, but I really think AA should have put on at least a snack (Pretzels? Nuts? Something!) or food for purchase. A really grand gesture of goodwill would have been a free lunch for our inconvenience, but I didn’t really expect that. I did expect to be able to buy food though, and as that wasn’t the case, I would have appreciated it if they had announced at the gate that we should buy something before boarding. Were those things unreasonable expectations? I never complained to the flight crew (who were, by the way, excellent—both crews, our original crew, and the replacements), but did write several e-mails to AA customer service when I arrived home, through the aa.com website. The first two were complaints; one about the check-in process at EZE; one about the lack of food from SJU to JFK. The third was an e-mail complimenting the crews, especially the FA who brought me food. I was credited 18,000 AAdvantage miles, which I was happy with, and a very detailed response to my concerns. The customer service response, and the professionalism of FAs and pilots were really the only bright spots.

    Sorry for the marathon posts. If anyone has read this all the way through, I’d love to hear comments!
     
  4. Gaucho
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    Gaucho Gold Member

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    AA needs to get an email from you.... perhaps you will get a few thousand bonus miles as "compensation"...?
     
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  5. Gaucho
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    Gaucho Gold Member

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    On a note related to your posts.... thanks for the heads up about the self-check at EZE... I will be flying AA in a few days and will make a point about checking in online... I assume you can do this, or...?
     
  6. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    I did; I'll post some of the actual response later. the comp was 18,000 Aadvantage points!

    It didn't seem like it when I was in Bs As, but I did when I was headed down. I should have tried to print something out at the hotel. I had a fair amount of trouble with my printed boarding pass at JFK, which was strange.
     
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  7. perryplatypus

    perryplatypus Gold Member

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    That is great that AA gave you the extra miles as compensation.
     
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  8. Gaucho
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    Gaucho Gold Member

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    Yep.... 18000 miles is a nice amount...
     
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  9. Mapsmith
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    Mapsmith Gold Member

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    Good comp. Too bad they didn't include a GC to Morton's to make up for the lack of food. :)
     
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  10. harvson3

    harvson3 Silver Member

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    What was their response to the operational issues? Are they going to change the policies (check-in at EZE, food from SJU to JFK)?
     
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  11. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    This is some of the response I received. Unclear on the food issue, but it does seem they are checking in to the situation at EZE.

     
  12. GenevaFlyer
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    GenevaFlyer Milepoint Guide

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    Charles,

    If I may just offer one suggestion for future posts ... could you either include the AM/PM indication to all times, or alternatively, switch to military time. Until I ran across the 01:30 AM, I was, being unfamiliar with the AA flight schedule, not quite sure if we were talking about 08:00 or 20:00 in your post.

    Thanks!

    GenevaFlyer
     
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  13. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    Edited the previous posts to add a few AM/PMs!
     
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  14. desamo

    desamo Gold Member

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    Now you know why I always always always have about half a dozen protein bars on me during flights and also bring aboard a water bottle with water in it. It never hurts to be overprepared (but then I travel with a sink stopper and a doorstop too, so...).
     
  15. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    Charles, next time you call me. We'll see if we can work a better situation for you on the ground. But do hope you had a good visit to EZE, return flight notwithstanding!

    Oh, and I thought that your communication with AA, as reported, as well as the way you handled yourself were exemplary.

    Tell you what...18K RDMs is nice, but 18K RDMs and maybe an EQM bump would be even nicer ;)

    Hoping you have smoother flights going forward!
     
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  16. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Interesting story. Glad you made it home safely.

    Does AA have 777-qualified crews in sju? I wonder if a crew had to he sent in from Mia?
     
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  17. CharlesG

    CharlesG Gold Member

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    I usually have a protein bar or two; in fact, I had one, but ate it to supplement the breakfast croissant. I should always bring an extra! I also really could have used a stopper at my hotel! ;)

    I would have loved that EQM bump! :D
     
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  18. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I wish EZE would not produce so many odd problems, but it is good to keep in mind that many smaller stations (all airlines) are constantly subject to odd failures that cannot be fixed quickly because of the distance to technical help. For AA in the Southern Cone there is additional problem because there are so many stations with one or two widebody flights a day leaving close to each other and nothing else. With so much of AA widebody fleet based at DFW, ORD, JFK and MIA all it takes to screw up schedules is for any one of those stations to have a problem, such as DFW tornado a few days ago.

    Another compounding issue is that all the Argentines and Brazilians must have US visa, so the OLCI, even when it is used (I always do) still has no effect because everyone must still have a checkin document check anyway. Still, your EZE checkin experience is the worst AA one I have heard about.

    As for food out of SJU, I note that AA does not cater, even in F, for food on domestic flights after some hour in the evening and before their official breakfast hour. Last week MIA-ORD leaving at 21:30 had zero food for F. This is not news, but it is irritating when compared with other parts of the world. In my own historical experiences flights are invariably catered in accordance with policies for origin city-destination city, whether ordinarily scheduled or exceptional makes no difference at all. I do not much like that, but they are consistence with typical US practice.

    At least you did get 18,000 AAdvantage miles. That was nice.
     
  19. TheBeerHunter
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    TheBeerHunter Silver Member

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    Doesn't EZE also seem to suffer from lots of strikes (catering being the last I remember) or am I getting my S.A. Stations mixed up?
     
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  20. wrxmom

    wrxmom Gold Member

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    I know the doorstop (adjoining door trick) but what's the sink stopper for?
     
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  21. wrxmom

    wrxmom Gold Member

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    Enjoyed the posts and will keep that in mind when traveling to EZE.

    I might have dumped the wine in favor of food vs waiting in line. But then I'm not as patient as I could be...

    The 18,000 miles compensation was a nice gesture by AA. :)
     
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  22. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    "dumped the wine"?!:eek: And lose the primary redeeming social value to Argentina.:eek: I buy a case from Gaucho and check it. It works every time (OK, I have only done it once, but for two cases). It is inconceivable to leave Argentina without an expensive visit to Gaucho!@!:cool:
     
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  23. John777

    John777 Silver Member

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    Have there been cases where AA has given EQMs over RDMs for flight disruptions (besides the MegaDo)?

    I know I'd almost always prefer the former.
     
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  24. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    To stop up a sink, of course. :D
     
  25. jetsetr
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    jetsetr Gold Member

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    No idea...my guess is not. But, yes, my experience on the OWMD has admittedly clouded my expectations ;)
     
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