Monday, May 30, 2005

The Journey Begins

And now, a brief trip in the WayBack Machine ... to Friday, when I first went to the airport.

The rest of America was at the airport too.

Wall to wall people.  After I got my boarding card and checked my heavy bag (it was 4 pounds over the 50 pound max -- so I had to pull a few pairs of shoes out and shove them in my carryon), I tried to follow the mob over to the escalator leading up to Security. 

The line was STOPPED a few people ahead of me.  A Security guy was blocking off the line and aiming us onto a bus.  Selected out from the Security Line?  This can't be good.

It was good.  In a brilliant display of logistical maneuvering, we were ushered onto a shuttle bus, which took us over to another terminal.  There, we were met by an airline representative who paraded us (single file) through the terminal to the security area -- where there was NO LINE.  We cleared security and got on another bus.  This one took us back to the first terminal and dropped us off in the gate area -- neatly bypassing an hour+ security line in 15 minutes.

I gotta add something here, because it has been irking me since Friday.  When I travel, I am always extra polite and stuff.  I always wait my turn to board (not crowding the gate area before my row is called), I smile at the security guys, and I thank EVERYONE with whom I come into contact.

So, here's me in the waiting area for my flight to Maryland.  I have a ticket for "boarding group 5."  Gate agent calls pre-boards.  She calls group 1.  Then group 2.  Then group 3.  Meantime, I'm still sitting there.  I even fill in some nice lady who just made it to the gate ("She's on group 3 now; you've still got time.")  Gate lady calls group 4.  Then she says, "If your boarding card doesn't have a group number, you can board now."

And I'm thinking, "Dude, you missed group 5."  I mean, normally, you'd expect 5 to go after 4 and before the people who didn´t even get a number, right?  So, I go up to the gate lady and ask, "Excuse me, but what about group 5?"

And she just tears into me.  Honest.

"I'll get to 5!  You still see people in the boarding area, right?  The plane's not going anywhere.  Just hold on and wait your turn."

So I figure I ought to explain why I felt the need to even mention it.  "OK.  I was just concerned you might have forgotten about us."

And she´s all.  "Just wait!"  And then, she takes her little loudspeaker microphone thing and leans over the counter and says, "Do you want to do this?  Do you want to trade places with me?  HUH?"

American Airlines used to have this program where frequent flyers could give little cards to employees who were really nice -- and they could trade the cards in for valuable prizes.  Right now, I wish there was a way we could single out employees who are just plain rude.

This was also my first flight on American since they began the "Food for purchase" option, rather than serving meals.  For the five hours I was hauling butt across the country, I had a choice of a $5 egg salad sandwich, or a $3 snack box.  I took the food in a box -- a "muffin bar," some "Craisins," a bag of bagel chips (each chip no larger than a thumbprint), and some cream cheese.  I spent a good twenty minutes dabbing little spots of cream cheese on each of the freakin' bagel chips.

Between the bitchy gate agent and the obvious cheapness of making you pay extra for a bag of craisins, I'm seriously questioning whether American is going to remain in business.  This because I'm a longtime loyal American customer -- but this was such an unpleasant experience, I'm seriously considering other airlines for my flying needs.  And if *I* don't want to fly American anymore, they're in real trouble.

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