It's no secret that I'm a miles traveler. This means when I fly, I typically fly using airline miles. Several years back, I acquired many miles through American Airlines (AA) by churning their branded credit card. I used the bulk of those miles to fly my daughter and myself roundtrip to Texas in March of 2021.
When it came time to make my annual trip to Portland (and Seattle, too, this time around) in the Fall of 2022 I didn't have enough miles to fly roundtrip with AA but I did have enough to fly one way. As the miles were going to expire, I wanted to use them. In addition to that, I no longer use the AA credit card because I find AA to be a subpar airline with a subpar flying experience. So, I booked my flight out using what remained of my AA miles. For my flight back home, I used my Delta miles. I love love love Delta Airlines - they are simply the best - so I wanted my trip home to be on my favorite airline.
I booked my flights pretty early in 2022 and as the date got closer, they made some changes to my connecting flight - fairly standard. Instead of a layover in Denver, American had me booked for not one, not two, but THREE layovers - Dallas, Salt Lake, and Seattle - before landing in Portland 16 hours after takeoff in Omaha. I was a bit alarmed, but I knew that one can usually call customer service and get a better route, which is exactly what I did. The customer service lady was incredibly nice and professional and fixed my flight - one 2.5-hour layover in Dallas. Perfect! It was just enough time to grab dinner and a bloody mary before my connecting flight.
The day of my trip arrives, I board in Omaha and all goes well, or as well as can be expected on an AA flight, until we were nearing Dallas. At that point, the pilot comes on over the intercom and tells us all two things:
1. There's bad weather over Dallas
2. The plane is low on fuel
Because of these two things, the pilot informs us that we'll have to divert to Oklahoma City to refuel while we wait out the storm. I groaned because I knew this meant I would probably not be able to get that dinner and bloody mary I was looking forward to, but I understood the situation so instead focused on how I'd get what I wanted when I finally reached Portland.
We diverted to OKC and landed on the tarmac, where we sat...and sat....and sat some more. By the time we finally took off again and arrived in Dallas, I realized that there was going to be little time to catch my connecting flight to Portland. We finally land in DFW at a gate that was clear on the opposite side of the airport from my connecting flight. I start booking it across the airport but was graciously picked up by a guy who runs one of those airport shuttles that drives around. We get to my gate about 15 minutes before takeoff but the crew refuses to let me on. I argue with them because I know the industry standard of closing the plane doors 15 minutes before takeoff but since none of it was my fault and the plane hadn't taken off I felt they should let me on.
Instead, they direct me two gates over to where AA customer service is. I look over to see a ridiculously long line forming. Defeated, I join the line along with a couple who had been on my flight out and were also supposed to be on the same connecting flight. At some point, she noticed the connecting flight was delayed so goes back over to that gate to talk to the crew. She comes back and says that the crew said she could get on so she ran to go get her husband while I rushed back over there. Again, the crew says the flight is ready to take off and won't let me on. This is when I started seeing red flags.
I get back in line, at the back again, and wait for customer service. The couple returned, also rejected from boarding a plane they were told not more than a handful of minutes before that they could. Very frustrating, to say the least. They leave again to do who-knows-what and I end up chatting with the lady right behind me. She tells me she was on her way to Dallas (from a different location than Omaha) but was diverted to OKC because the plane was low on fuel and because there was bad weather over Dallas. She also missed her connecting flight. Interesting, another red flag.
I start talking to the woman in front of me. She came in from somewhere other than Omaha or the location of the woman behind me but had the same story. Diverted to OKC because of fuel and weather, and missed connecting flight. This meant one thing: American Airlines lied to all of us.
Now, if this wasn't bad enough, an AA customer service supervisor started walking the long line and talking to each of us briefly - to tell us that AA can't be responsible for passengers because of bad weather. WHAT?! As the words left his lips, I was thinking of how I was going to have to probably spend the night sleeping in an airport chair so I was ready to unload on him when someone came and whisked him away.
When I finally reached the customer service counter, the agent gave me a ticket for a flight the next morning and vouchers for a hotel (Hyatt Place, one of my favorites), transportation to and from the hotel (Hyatt has an airport shuttle so didn't need those), and for $12 of food in the airport. I wasn't happy to not be on a flight to Portland, but at least I wasn't going to spend the night sleeping in an airport chair.
On the way to the hotel, I told the shuttle driver about the events of the day and he said, "We had no bad weather in Dallas today." Call me shocked. I knew without a doubt that AA screwed us all over. I felt bad for the girl next to me in the shuttle because her checked luggage was on the connecting flight she was denied from. This is one of the main reasons I use a carry-on luggage set. I always have what I need with me at all times. At any rate, I got checked into the Hyatt then went downstairs where I finally got dinner and a bloody mary.
The next morning, after a fantastic continental breakfast, I took the shuttle back to the airport for (finally!) my connecting flight to Portland. My gate was nearby so I went to Starbucks (it was close to my gate) where I used my $12 voucher for snacks. No sooner had I returned to my gate and sat down than I got a notice that the gate for my connecting flight had been changed. Of fucking course it had and of course, it was a long haul across the airport.
Once again, I booked it across the airport, making it to my new connecting flight (that we were given barely any advance warning for) with about 25 minutes to spare - or 10 minutes if you consider the shutting of the door 15 minutes before takeoff where no one is allowed to board thereafter. A handful of hours later, I finally made it to Portland.
The original plan was to fly into Portland the day before I actually made it, meet up with my bestie Lisa (my reason for going to the PNW) at the airport, take the train downtown, stay in a nice hotel there, and get a drink or two before bed. We had train tickets for Seattle, leaving at noon the next day. We were set to arrive in Seattle around 3 pm.
Instead, AA screwed me and Lisa spent the night in the fancy hotel in downtown Portland alone while I stayed at the Hyatt Place in Dallas. We had to rebook our train tickets for later in the day, at an extra charge of $60 which was more than the original ticket and we didn't make it to Seattle until late in the evening.
How do I feel about it all? Well, yes, I was traveling with free miles and they did put me up in a nice hotel that had breakfast, along with transport and snacks, BUT...American Airlines lied to me, and everyone else flying into Dallas that day. They got me to my destination 24 hours behind schedule and caused me to spend extra money on a train ticket I didn't need to.
Make no mistake, American Airlines did this on PURPOSE. Why? I don't know. I'll never know because they will never tell us anything other than the story they presented to us in the first place. All this withstanding, they have other issues that make them not worth flying with anyway - uncomfortable seats, terrible snacks if any are offered at all, no in-flight entertainment except on the rare occasion, all for the same cost as better airlines - AND they treat their employees like shit. After my trip, I found a group on Facebook called "American Airlines Sucks" and the group is filled with stories just like mine. Lots and lots of them.
Luckily, I flew home on Delta. As expected, it went without a hitch, and I sat in a comfortable seat, had great snacks, and watched in-flight entertainment for the same amount of miles as I used for the nightmare above.
It's funny because having flown AA before, I knew they were pretty subpar, and I had a conversation in early 2022 with my friend Keith about how I just wanted to use up the AA miles and be done with them. He responded with, "There are airlines, and then there's Delta." He's not wrong. I still have about 4000 miles with AA, not enough to do anything with, and I'm glad. I'll never fly with American Airlines...ever again.