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1 January 2012 – American Airlines has lost what it means to serve the customer.

January 1, 2012

1 January 2012 – I woke up this morning to drive to Elizabeth’s house. Her parents were then going to drive us to the airport. As I was getting in my car, my cell phone rings and it is an automated notification telling me that my flight was cancelled and do I want to speak to an agent. I put the car in gear while I shout agent into the phone. Agent 1 (whose name I never got) told me that the flight from DFW to LAX was cancelled due to weather and that the earliest next flight out would be January 3. I told her I could not make a decision until I consulted with my fellow traveler. She told me that if I did not either take the January 3 flight or cancel by 8:55 AM (the scheduled departure of the KCI-DFW leg, we would lose the tickets. I explained that I did not know if I could still get the car, what the availability of lodging, etc. would be by 8:55. She said there was nothing she could do. I pulled into Smithville, 26 minutes after first getting the call, stunned at the lack of assistance I was getting from American Airlines.

I got to Elizabeth’s and we thought we could still get everything done on the shorter timeline so I called American Airlines back. I got someone named Sheila who would prove to be pretty useless in the end. While on hold, Elizabeth looked up the weather in Dallas – 45 F and sunny. When I mentioned this, Sheila told me that the plane was coming from San Diego and the weather issue was there. Oh, the San Diego everyone wants to move to because the weather is always perfect????

Anyway, she told me that she could not get me on the flight on the 3rd but that she might be able to reroute me and get us out today. It was either that or the 4th and eventually William Jewell College would stop paying me for not being around to teach classes. So, I asked her if we should start making our way to the airport. She said yes. While on the way, Sheila worked on getting us onto a Frontier flight to San Francisco and then to LAX where we would pick up our already scheduled itinerary. We headed to Frontier. We waited in line but by the time we got up to the counter, there was no ticket for us (in spite of Sheila’s insistence to the contrary). In talking to the Frontier counter person, it turns out that Sheila had not done something called “pushing the ticket” and finally the flight time for the Frontier flight was upon us and the ticket never came through. So, off to the American counter with Sheila still on the line. When we got there, Sheila told me that the counter person there could get us rebooked. Kelly, however said she could not do it without an authorization code in the record. Sheila told me that she had done it and before I knew it, I was the unwilling go-between the two of them who were having a disagreement about a particular procedure. We wanted to extend our stay since we were not leaving when we had planned. This evidently required the approval of someone at a higher pay grade than Sheila. And Kelly was not going to do anything unless the computerized record said she could. I kept asking Kelly if she could just talk to Sheila who was still on my cell phone over an hour into this situation but she said that was not allowed. Ultimately, Sheila called a supervisor who cleared everything and Kelly got us rebooked but at the end, Sheila apologized profusely and used the excuse that she had “never done one of these before”. I assume she meant rebooking a flight. But I wonder. Perhaps she meant, “working for American Airlines” or “working in the airline industry”. Who knows, but shouldn’t she have asked for help earlier? Shouldn’t the first agent at 6:45 AM worked harder such that we would not have been so pressed for time when we got to the airport? Clearly, there were ways to fly out today and there was, at 6:45 AM, plenty of time to “push the ticket”, whatever that means. The call with Sheila last 1 hour and 56 minutes. Plus the 26 minutes on the first call. Plus the time in between when Elizabeth and I decided what to do. Go figure. Luckily, Elizabeth’s parents were kind enough to stick with us through it all.

Ultimately, we are on a flight tomorrow and hopefully things will go more smoothly but I have to say, it is no surprise that American is having difficulties. I have been a loyal frequent flyer there since my grad school days. But I am really unhappy with them at the moment. In spite of being very tenacious, Sheila just wasn’t any good at her job. She did not know how to get things done or what was required.

So, I am heading back home when I realize that I ate all my food in preparation for the trip so I have 7 beers (a subsidy from my older sister over Christmas; Shiner, yum) and an orange in my refrigerator. Such is life when you don’t work on a model organism or something that lives near your house. And it reinforces the realization I came to some time ago which is that I like the “doing of” field work much more than the “planning for” and “getting to” of field work. And now I need to look for an airline I like. Continental is off my list and American is heading there. Anyone have any suggestions?

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