Saturday, June 16, 2012

And so we are home Part I...Or - how American did Delays MUCH Better than Delta

Actually, this double post is about much more than that, but let's get the yucky stuff out of the way first.

You all remember the LOVELY experience we had with Delta getting to Orlando, right?  You know - 2 hour flight delay that read "On time" up until 1.5 hours after the flight was supposed to leave Lansing causing us to be late for the Detroit to Orlando airport?  Upshot of that was a room that was not very comfortable or near the hotel - not relatively clean; $6 per meal (breakfast and dinner) and a wake up call I don't remember receiving.  But regardless - it was a port in a storm, just not a very good one.  Oh - and the Delta person who was "helping me," helped me to a bunch of attitude.  I said "Hi.  I am sure you are having a difficult day."  She interjected with "Oh no, honey.  I always have a good day.  Nothing phases me!"  Making me think that perhaps she didn't have much compassion for the passengers she was tasked with rebooking.  Turns out I was right.

We left our temporary home with minimal temper tantrums (amazing for a kid of 5 going to Disney and being told that he can't get there quite yet) and left for Detroit Airport a second time hoping the Gate Agent would see there way to putting all three of us together as, at the moment, we were all seated in different rows.  Luckily we got a nice gate agent as he had to do it several more times that morning.  Airlines have us put in our children's ages when we purchase tickets.  Really?  MY KID IS 5 AND LEGALLY NOT ALLOWED TO TRAVEL UNACCOMPANIED - HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT?  Sorry, stepping off soapbox now.

But that screw up - all of it from messing up the travel status to the attitude we received from their personnel to the subpar (really) accommodations we received ($6 in dining vouchers when the cheapest food was $8???) - was all Delta.  All of it.  Gotta love them.  Or do what I will be doing in the future - not flying them if I can help it. Detroit/Lansing will be hard, but watch me.

American on our way home was by contrast a thousand better than the trip to Orlando and there were some similar situations on that flight.  The difference?  Their employees and subcontractors/outsourced employees still cared whether or not their guests (and we were treated like guests) got what they paid for - service with a smile.

Our flight from Orlando to Miami wasn't going to leave much time to begin with between flights.  This alone has pretty much taught me that perhaps I should start using a travel agent again when making reservations.  I only gave my family 40 minutes, which in reality is 30 at most, to cross 40 gates at an incredibly busy terminal.  Whoops!  Then the rain happened, as it always does in Central Florida during the summer.  Usually right around 4 PM.  It hit just a little before schedule this time and we were sitting on the tarmac close to an hour as there were other planes stuck as well.  American allowed us to pull out our cell phones to make calls, laptops to watch movies, iPads to entertain small children - you get the idea.  They didn't tell us to just sit there.

We finally took off knowing we had most probably missed the connection, but decided to try anyway.  I had been told in Orlando that the carts in the terminal were reserved for Admiral Club guests by the gate agent at Orlando before we boarded.  I decided to pull the fibro/disabled card - something I NEVER do.  She looked me up and down as I said "No really, I am." before she said I could wave one down and try to convince one of them but really, it would be hard.

It wasn't.  We were able to flag someone down, I wish I knew his name, who not only took us but two others from our flight.  With a look at our boarding pass he decided his Admiral Club guest could wait the extra 5 minutes because we were in serious danger of missing the flight and drove like a bat out of you know where - or as fast as one of those electric golf carts can - to get us to the gate.  We'd unfortunately just missed the plane, but he did his best and did it with a smile.  He does not work for American - he works for Eleun American (or something like that) but the line was seamless.  He wore a AA like uniform, knew what was going on in the terminal and knew that in American's eyes getting a passenger to the gate for a flight is paramount.  In other words - he was awesome.

We did in fact miss that flight but the awesomeness of American's service in Miami did not stop there.  I went up to the gate agent who was helping everyone on our flight who missed the connection to DC.  There were more than a few of us.  When she printed our tickets the dreaded 3 different rows scenario raised it's ugly head again. But before I could even ask, she was already punching the computer - rather angrily - and muttering.  In moments three new tickets came out with us all in one row.  She apologized saying she has no idea why American INSISTS on separating families with small children especially when they know the children are under the age of 12 - the age they can legally travel alone on an airplane without lots of paperwork and flight attendants being responsible for them.  We were in the last row, but we were together.  We grabbed some dinner and made our way back to the OTHER end of the terminal.  Miami's American Terminal is nice.  I have now seen it from D1-D41-D6, yep - the flight was out of D6.

The flight was originally supposed to leave an hour after we missed our first flight.  It didn't, but no one in the terminal got touchy.  In fact, it didn't touch down until close to thirty minutes after we were supposed to leave.  That was fine - only my son got the wiggles and we got them out before we got on the plane.  They turned the plane around quickly and started getting us on board.  As we were boarding, we noticed a problem near our seats.  The flight attendants were trying to change out seats with seats two rows ahead.  It seems there was a "Maintenance issue" as they said before take off.  Read that - the plane was not cleaned and there was something all over the seats and fuselage. Thing is - everyone was working hard to find a solution, one was found, and even though the plane was again delayed no one - even those affected - did not make a fuss.  I say that is directly related to the fact that the American personnel did their collective jobs.  They worked hard to solve the problem, found an acceptable solution within their empowerment (which has been reduced dramatically) and sent information about the issue up the chain of command before we took off so American would know the issue was coming into customer service and keep an eye out for it, perhaps having a solution available prior to the email.

In other words - the way service you pay for is supposed to be done.  Were there screw ups?  Yes - a lot of them from our not getting to Miami on time to the plane being late arriving for maintenance and then being late for departure for maintenance issues again.  But even with the screw ups IT WORKED.  It worked because the Miami terminal American personnel, unlike the Detroit Delta personnel, care whether or not their customers come back,  Please note - I know there is a difference per terminal, per flight, per flight attendant.  But in this case with American - it worked.  We may have gotten home close to four hours later than planned, but everything worked and we are thrilled it did.

Thank you, American Airlines, for helping us finish our vacation with the same level of relaxation as we had accomplished on said vacation.  More on the vacation - specifically lessons learned for those thinking of planning a Disney World vacation of their own - tomorrow.

There are some letters I have to write about this vacation - some good and some not so good, but mostly good - but over all I would give this vacation a grade of A.  It would take  a great deal to beat the A++ of Greece - extra + for being our honey moon, but still.  So a grade of A is a good accomplishment - especially for those of you who know what a difficult grader I can be,  This will be remembered as one of the top vacations we have taken and I am very glad we did so.

And on that note - good night...or good morning.

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