May 19-20, 2019
The Arrivals/Departures display screen on the wall of the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman was not reassuring us that this would be an easy trip to Washington State.
The ticket booking with American Airlines was Grand Cayman to Dallas/Ft. Worth with only a one and a half hour layover, followed by a flight that put us into Seattle just after midnight. We’d have to get a hotel near the Sea-Tac Airport until morning when the shuttle service resumed that would take us a couple of hours north to Anacortes, WA where Kris’ mom lived.
Only, the screen was now saying that our departure from Grand Cayman would be an hour and a half late. With only an hour and a half layover, it already wasn’t looking good.
“Maintenance issues” was the official line… a good excuse. In my opinion, one of the only things worse than a delayed flight was “a flight with maintenance issues that wasn’t delayed.”
The attendant standing behind the counter at our gate confirmed the obvious. “It doesn’t look likely that you’ll make the connection.”
The next question seemed a bit odd. “Do you have to get to Seattle?”
Amused, I replied, “Not necessarily on that plane. But unless you are offering roundtrip tickets to Europe or something like that instead, I think we’ll have to stick with Seattle as our destination.”
After a pause, she looked up from her computer screen and said, “I can get you to Seattle, but it may take three or four days.”
Less amused, I replied, “We’re definitely gonna have to come up with an alternate solution.”
And to this hard working woman’s credit, she did just that. After at least a half hour of talking on the phone, as well as comings and goings from the desk, she had delivered the goods.
Keeping our current reservations (“just in case we made up enough time in the air or the connecting flight was delayed”), as backup she had also found and booked another flight to Seattle leaving Dallas/Ft. Worth shortly after noon the following day. When I inquired, she assured us that, if we missed the connection, American Airlines would cover the hotel there.
We thanked her profusely. It turned out she was the diamond in a company many would argue is largely full of shit.
Though it came as little surprise, even without checked luggage, in the huge Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport where we had to take a train to get us from one terminal to another, we ended up missing our connection by only about three minutes… damn!
However, as we nonchalantly wandered over to the American Airlines Customer Service desk, we were stunned to find ourselves at the end of a line comprised of about two hundred people… two hundred really pissed off people.
Evidently, a rash of violent storms had delayed or cancelled upwards of fifteen hundred flights that day, and we were looking at part of the aftermath. People were being told it could take days to sort out their connections; and, because it was weather caused, were not being offered up free hotels.
In fact, the only free things being offered were fruit, vending machine chips, and drinks. Except, they were completely out, and now only empty baskets teased the already hostile mob.
We quietly waited as the line slowly inched its way back and forth, zig-zagging through the maze of retractable belt stanchions, all the while watching the dozen or so Customer Service employees desperately trying to wade through and placate the angry customers, some more successfully than others.
We eventually reached the counter and were meekly told, “Good evening,” by the employee on the other side of the counter.
I replied, “Seems like a much better evening to be on this side of the counter than that side…”
She seemed to take that as a bit of reassurance that she was not about to be yelled at again and smiled a bit more.
We explained our situation, which made her even happier. Our replacement flight had already been booked, and the “maintenance” status of the delay meant she could make us smile even more by providing us with a complimentary hotel voucher that included breakfast, round trip taxi service, and two $12 vouchers we could use at any restaurant in the airport… sweet.
As bonus, while we’d been at the counter, the snack baskets had been re-filled so we got to stock up on snacks as we were leaving.
The taxi drivers, both to and from the hotel, couldn’t talk enough shit about American Airlines. “Every day there are over-bookings, delays, missed flights, cancellations. Nothing but problems and angry customers. These American Airline vouchers are as common as twenty dollar bills here.”
I joked that maybe they should change their name to Un-American Airlines.
Still, in the end, we really had very little to bitch about. We arrived at Kris’ mother’s house only about six hours later than originally planned, and we got a free hotel in Dallas instead of paying for one in Seattle. In addition, we got complimentary breakfast, taxi fare, snacks, plus an airport Bloody Mary and Long Island Iced Tea thanks to the $12 vouchers to top it all off.
Had we been one of the weather affected passengers that didn’t get shit, we would have come out with a very different taste in our mouths. Had we not been helped out by the very conscientious and dedicated woman at the gate in Grand Cayman we would have been screwed.
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow…
Even if it’s not what you thought, it is what it is.