Not loving the new car smell just yet

The password for 2018 is “Irony,” apparently. I was going for “patient,” but I got both.

After all I wrote last week about the new year being a metaphorical new car, my 2018 began (not ended) with a busted-up hoopty, one that I shall refer to as American Airlines.

Now I’m thinking things can only get better, right?

After spending the last week 2017 with our kids in South Carolina, my husband and I flew back on New Year’s Day, sort of.

I try to begin each new year with a word and this year’s word was “patience,” which comes after “irony” in the dictionary. I just didn’t know it would be tested immediately.

Enroute to the Greenville-Spartansburg airport Monday, I got the first text alerting me at 1:40 that our 4:00 p.m. flight had been delayed until 4:19 p.m. Thus began my emotional affair with America Airlines, and it didn’t end well.

In all, American Airlines and I had a very short romance that felt like it lasted forever.

Ten hours and 19 text alerts of flight delays later,  we finally took off for Dallas after midnight. On a school night.

The day was a intimate study of human nature under stress, with responses that ranged from quiet indignation to rage, and that was just my husband. At the end, I was just angry they had taken several precious hours with my family from me; as well as sleep.

Shared rage usually brings people together, and this held true in Greenville that day.

As the crowd at our gate dwindled with people taking alternative flights in order to catch their connecting flights, I got to know the 50 or so people who chose, like us, to wait it out.

We laughed, we cried, we rage-Tweeted American Airlines.

A couple tiny samples:

“So, @AmericanAir, hi. After 13 flight delays in six hours, we’re still stuck in South Carolina … because we chose you. It’s not me, it’s you. #breakingup “


“Hi, @AmericanAir! It’s me again. Up to 17 flight delays now. Can you have someone work for me tomorrow? Also, is your slogan “If we aren’t on time, just wait longer?”

Spoiler alert: Nobody from AA showed up to work for me Tuesday. Also, it appears I accurately guessed their slogan.

Luckily, there was a bar at our gate showing two huge college football playoff games, that everyone at the gate shuffled in and out to see as they took turns standing in line at the customer services deck to find out that

A) there was a massive crew shortage;

B) after that was resolved, the parking brake of the plane coming to take us away “came out in the pilot’s hand” at DFW and had to be replaced;

and C) they were very sorry about the … ‘extended travel time,’ which is like calling the flu “an extended cold.”

Since most everyone on my flight was receiving text alerts (cheating cheaters) from American Airlines, every time all of us heard our text tones, the entire gate had a collective anxiety attack, with smatterings of creative curse phrases, open weeping and wishes of ill tidings to AA’s home office.

Being a firm believer that the customer service clerks had nothing to do with the fact that the parent company completely screwed the holiday pooch, I went out of my way to be nice to them. Besides, there was a line a mile long of people taking their turn to express their rage, while the people who were responsible sat at home watching the Rose Bowl.

We walked into our house at 5 a.m., and I was at my desk in the office at 6 a.m.,  reminiscing about the last all-nighter I pulled when Prince Charles and Princess Diana married … in 1981. Turns out the royal wedding was a much happier event.

Ultimately they offered us the equivalent of less than an airline ticket in AA miles so that we might get to enjoy “extended travel time” with them again in the future.

I don’t know what they offered the lady who was almost out of insulin or the women who had infants and toddlers to keep happy during this imprompu extended vacation, but I suspect it wasn’t enough for them either.

Next time, I’m driving my own car since I know both the crew and parking brake are pretty reliable.

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First Class for a Day

I flew to South Carolina a couple weeks ago, and during the trip experienced a paradigm shift regarding air travel.

I’m normally pretty frugal about flights and always try to find the least expensive flight, because seriously it’s only three hours of my life, right?


At least it was until I flew into Charlotte in what was one of the worst flying experiences of my life. This experience prompted me to fly first class on the return trip home, something that made me wish I was a wealthy broad.

After flying from Wichita Falls, we landed at DFW (Dallas) in terminal B, and I set out to find terminal E which is like being blindfolded and spun around for 10 minutes or so when you’re at DFW.

I found terminal E 30 minutes later after taking the tram and then walking up and down escalators. I barely made my gate, which was rumored to begin boarding at 3:15 with a 3:45 departure time. Suspiciously – but predictably – the flight time board still read “on time” at 4 p.m., and we hadn’t yet begun boarding the plane.

In fact, we were all just standing at gate 28E, sweating and breathing each other’s air while staring at an electronic sign that was lying to us all.

This confirmed my theory that American Airline/US Airways does not have bad customer service, just ask them. Because in order to have bad customer service, you actually have to have customer service. We finally began boarding 30 minutes after the flight was suppose to depart.

After several stop and goes on the tarmac we finally took off one hour late, or as American Airlines likes to say, “right on time, late as usual.”

On takeoff, somebody in my close vicinity . . . farted. Not audibly, but definitely deadly, which is worse. I put my finger delicately to my nose, the international symbol that means, “I did not make that smell,” something I really needed the men seated on each side of me to know.

One of them already knew it wasn’t me, because I was reminded every 5 to 11 minutes the remainder of the flight that he had most likely eaten bad Thai food in the past 24 hours.

I bring my iPad with me on trips like this so I can write, and I tried. But while I was sitting next to him, breathing shallow as possible, I could hear Nickelback coming out of his earbuds, which ruins any inspiration to write, and eventually began to slowly suck my will to live.

Not surprisingly, soon after takeoff I developed both a raging headache and a sincere need for a cocktail. I pulled my debit card out of my purse and waited for the beverage cart to meander by because nothing washes down extra strength pain killers like vodka and orange juice. Also, I began digging through my purse to find my ibuprofin.

In a perfect American Airlines storm several things happened: 1) I realized I left my bottle of ibuprofin on my desk at work; 2) Stinky McStinkster struck yet again; and 3) My debit card disappeared.

At this point, I needed pain killers and a drink and I could have neither. The serial farter offered to bend over and check under my seat for my card, and I almost passed out.

The remainder of my trip was spent unmedicated with my own earbuds in place, listening to a recording of  nails on a chalkboard to make the pain go away.

I gave up looking for my card until we landed because in coach there is only enough room to pass gas, nothing more.

For those who are worried, my debit card was found hiding under my seat upon arrival to Charlotte.

After arriving in South Carolina, I did something I have never done before: I upgraded my flight to first class for the return trip home.

I had no idea.

Having never held a first class airline ticket in my tight little fist, I had no idea of the swankiness that awaited me.

They treat you nicer everywhere in the airport when you carry a first class ticket, like you’ve been sprayed with a pheromone that makes people behave inexplicably nicer to you, only that pheromone is a ticket and the nicer is most likely disingenuous, and drilled into the employees during training.

But, after the flight I had to Charlotte, I was willing to take a little fake brown-nosing.

I found it’s like being in a secret society, because when the TSA agent checking my ticket to get in the security line saw it was first class, he directed me to another security area with no line, with a wink and a nudge.

And, they treat you nicer on the plane, which I think sucks because the first flights I was looking at were double the price I paid, with no first class included.

I don’t want to sound all ridiculous, but it’s really nice up there. They give you hermetically-sealed blankets so you don’t get the Ebola (too soon?). We got real coffee cups up there as opposed to plastic in coach. But the best part was the leg room . . . sweet baby Jesus, the leg room.


Also, I suspect the seats also have charcoal filters in them for those Thai food fans on the flight, because I smelled nothing but open space and happiness.

And if I had wanted to have a cocktail, which I didn’t since it was 7 o’clock in the A.M. portion of the day, it was included in the cost of the upgrade. So my debit card would never even be in danger of me losing it under my seat.

The $99 upgrade gave me all of this, free luggage check-in, and apparently all of the coffee my heart and bladder desire.

Oh, and freedom from Nickelback and the ghost of bad Thai food.

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