I travel all the time. I have been traveling abroad since I was twelve years old. I have had canceled flights, missed connections, and lost luggage. I’ve even handled a situation of lost luggage of six students and two adults on an educational trip to London with a smile on my face. But I have never experienced the traveling hell that is American Airlines and the Miami international airport.
First, my flight from Dallas to Miami was late AND had just come from Germany so needed to sustain a thorough security check before it could be deemed a domestic flight. I have never heard of an international plane substituted as a domestic one before. When I first reached the gate, the board said it was going to be a 25 minute delay. The anxiety bugs were poking around, but they were behaving. By the time I got back from a Cobb salad and headphone hunting (the only item I accidentally left in my car), the board said it was going to be a 40 minute delay. That Cobb salad started to churn uncomfortably close to the surface. Nevertheless, the ticket agent assured me that I would make my flight with about 10 minutes to spare. We boarded the massive plane and we started moving onto the tarmac. Then we sat. Sweat dripped down my back as I watched the arrival time inch closer and closer to my international flight time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We seem to have a bit of a problem with a tire pressure light. We need to head back to the gate for a bit and get it checked out by maintenance, and then we should be on our way.” We’ll that was it. I was going to miss my flight to Uruguay. By that point panic was gone and frustration was tagging in, but there was little I could do but call American and figure out my next option. They booked me on the same flight for the following day. So I emailed my school, my realitor, and called my mother. Then I sat back and watched Gifted (emotional crack, btw) knowing that my next step took place in Miami. There was little I could do in the air.
We landed, we disembarked. It was 11pm. I booked it to rebooking (pun intended). That’s when I came across this…
One hour later I made four new friends, saw a Hispanic family lose it at each other and finally progressed to the roped off queue. One more hour later I made it to the front of the line only to be pulled by an agent to another line. At one in the morning I was given food vouchers for four meals and a cot in an auditorium. Yep, they had run out of hotel rooms and would not be able to get me one until 7 the next morning. Oh, and no I could not retrieve my carry-on that they checked because of bin space issues in San Antonio. So sorry that my extra clothes and contacts were in that case but it was a no go. I was too tired to cry and too tired to eat, so I headed through the exit and made my way to the fourth floor (or as I now call it, the annex for the displaced.)
Let me describe American Airline’s displacement camp: cots are in a large auditorium where I assume presentations are given during normal hours. There were airplane blankets that only covered 2/3 of your body. There were airplane pillows (thankfully, I had my own). There was water and cliff bars. There was also 150+ people and emergency lights. On my right was a freight train, marathon snoring Indian man. On my left was a little Asian boy with his father sleeping on the floor beside his cot. At my head was the leader of a mission trip with all of his teens semi-circled around him like lion cubs around their protector. Every other second there was a snore and the shuffling of someone digging through a bag. Every 15 minutes a phone buzzed or rang. Randomly people turned over so the creaking sound of the cots zigzagged up your spine. Oh, and remember those blankets? Well it was 65 degrees in the room, so you had to decide which part of your body was okay being cold. Thankfully, I brought my sleep eye-mask, so I shut out the light and did my best to ignore the sounds around me.
Fitfull 15 minute bursts of sleep finally got me to 5am. I made my way back downstairs, and into ANOTHER line to get my new boarding pass and hotel room. I won’t bore you with that 45 minutes of my life. At some point sympathy turns into pity. Long story short, American WILL NOT compensate or upgrade me for this debacle. A hotel room for 8 hours and $48 in meal vouchers is sufficient for my suffering. Let me tell you, when I got to the hotel (The Westin Element) and the front desk attendant was nice to me, I finally burst into tears. This lovely woman gave me deodorant, a toothbrush, fresh clothes so I could wash mine out (which I did with shampoo in the sink and hung out my window to dry while I crashed), and a king-sized bed. I gave her copious amount of tears and gratitude.
Needless to say, I did not make it to Uruguay this morning. And anything with the words ‘American’ or ‘Miami’ makes me a little nauseous. So here I sit, semi-laundered, showered, and rested waiting for my 10:35pm flight. The nerves about moving are gone. Now, I just want to get the F#@$ out of here!