Traveling: Missing My Flight

If you’ve been traveling for as long as I have, you’re bound to eventually experience that one flying disaster from hell.  (And if for some reason you never do, I envy you 😉 )  Mine came as I was coming home to Japan, on an American Airlines flight from Dallas (DFW) that got re-routed from Chicago (ORD) to Los Angeles (LAX).

Long story short, there were some maintenance delays with the aircraft that caused me to miss my connecting flight in Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita (NRT).  Well technically I didn’t miss it and arrived at the gate 10 minutes before take-off, but they refused to board two other guys booked for the same flight as myself, probably because they had given our seats away to stand-by.  Irritating, but hey it happens.  Little did I know a shitstorm of bad customer service and excuses was next to come.

After being refused boarding, I followed the other two guys to the American Airlines customer service desk located inside the terminal.  There was long line of people and only two staff members at the counter.  One of the staff members decided to take his lunch break about five minutes after we arrived.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a good omen.

When our little group finally reached the woman at the counter, she decided to split us up and serve me after the two guys.  This was fine and expected since we weren’t a party traveling together.  Since most flights to Japan stop during the afternoon due to the time difference, and the fact that it was still the holiday season, I wasn’t holding out much hope for another same-day flight.

As I thought, the rest of the flights for the day to Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND), Tokyo, were booked full and they were going to have to wait until tomorrow to fly out.  On top of that, they were quoting icy weather conditions as the cause of the delay, so they couldn’t be held liable to provide accommodation and food.  This was completely untrue, as there had no ice at Dallas/DFW at any point the previous night or that day on the way there/while waiting at the airport, but it wasn’t my battle to fight and the guys seemed pretty resigned to accept their lot.  In the meantime, I needed to form a plan of action.

When it was my turn to go up I first tried to see if I could get a flight to Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka or a connection to any other airport on the main island.  I recommend using the same tactic if possible.  Say you wanted to get to New York, but all direct flights were full, you could possible take a flight to an airport in another state and to connect to another flight with room going to New York.  Unfortunately there was nothing else the woman could offer me for that day.

Okay then, how about getting back to Dallas (DFW)?  Even if it would be backtracking, having one more day at home would be much more preferable to spending a night at the airport or in a hotel.  You might also want to consider this a possibility rather than being stuck for a day.  However nope, luck was not on my side and all flights back to Dallas (DFW) were also full.

To make matters worse, the woman had just given the last two seats on American Airline’s only available flight to Japan the next day, so she would have to switch me over a flight by United.  Switching airlines would require me to retrieve my luggage from AA and then re-check it with United.  I had checked two suitcases, one oversize, and wasn’t sure of United policies regarding free checked luggage and carry-ons, and voiced my concerns.  She told me it would be fine and printed me off a luggage voucher to show the United check-in staff the following day.

I then inquired about the delay misclassification and was told there was nothing she could do to re-log or reverse it, and that I would have to call AA customer service.  Alrighty then.

So first things first, I exit the terminal and go to get my luggage.  It’s not there.  AA luggage claims tells me to go to United baggage claim office, and so I walk all the way over to the United terminal.  United has no idea why they would send me to their office, so they tell me to go all the way back to AA and ask again there.  Annoying, but this just seems par for the course at this point.

AA actually does have my luggage, but they refuse to hold it overnight until I’m ready to check in with United the next day.  In between all of this I’d been giving my mom a heads up about the situation, and she replies back that a family member remembers United having 24 hour check in.  Great, I think, so I haul my luggage back down to United and they tell me that no, that is no longer a policy.

I’m getting pretty frustrated at this point.  It’s ridiculous to require someone to carry their luggage overnight at an airport.  How can you keep your eyes on your bags while you sleep on a bench or when you can’t take them into the restroom with you because they don’t fit?  Ridiculous!  :/

On top of that, since there were no restaurants or shops after stepping out of the terminal, I had to start thinking about how I was going to eat.  I didn’t have enough American cash on hand to take a taxi to somewhere to eat and back.  So I decide to attack the problem from a different angle.  If they aren’t going to make it easy for me to stay overnight at the airport, I’ll try to get a hotel room.

Easier said than done!  LAX is notorious for having a horrible wi-fi connection, so I got disconnected three times trying to deal with AA customer support over the phone.  At this point my mom had already offered to book me a room, but all of the hotels near the airport had a rule about the name on the card being having to match the name of the guest staying.  Wtf, ya’ll!

I finally had to go back to the AA check-in assistance service counter and fight with two different representatives before they were willing to take any responsibility and was offered a hotel voucher and some food vouchers.  I was so happy I could cry!  I guess the moral of the story is to keep fighting (as politely as possible) until they eventually get tired of you and give in.

The dinner voucher was barely enough to cover something off the appetizer menu at the Holiday Inn they booked me for, but hey at least it was something.   All I know is I was a lot better off than those two guys ahead of me that just resigned to staying overnight at the airport.  The room was great and I was so tired after all the trouble I went to that I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. and slept for 10 hours straight.

That wasn’t the end of my woes, though.  I get to the United counter only to find out they only allow one free checked bag for international flights.  Basically the lady had lied to me.  What’s more, is the voucher she had printed out was totally fake!  I wouldn’t have minded paying the check fee, but since the hotel had required a hold be put on my credit card as a deposit for any room damage that they hadn’t taken off yet, it had rendered my credit card useless.

I didn’t have time to go back to AA and fight it out because it would risk making my flight, so I had to try and call my mom.  Of course, with the shoddy connection it was pretty impossible.  Luckily the United staff had mercy on me and let me use his phone to call her and she sorted it out.  After that I made it through security just in time to use my remaining food vouchers before boarding my flight.  Just FYI, I had go to a few places first before finding an eatery or shop at the airport that would accept them, though.

The flight to Japan was fine, and over 48 hours after I had first started on my way back home, I finally reached the apartment.  The downside on top of that is that it had cost me two of my last three days off before work began. 😦
– J

P.S.  As of writing this I’m still trying to get the $100 United bag check fee refunded from AA.  They’re doing well to try and ignore me as best as they can, but hey I have Skype and their number is toll free, so I plan on badgering them until they finally relent.  😉

What about ya’ll?  Any flight horror stories to share?


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