I love American Airlines. I’m 6’2″ and frankly, I don’t fit in the seats on any other planes, so unless I want hours of cramps and sitting sideways I only fly on American. The other day I decided at the last minute to fly out to Chicago to help Caryn with the art fair that sixspace was a part of. She’d flown out earlier in the week and when I found a round trip, there and back for the weekend ticket for $200 I grabbed it.
Anyone who has flown American out of LAX since 9/11 knows the new set up is a little weird. After getting your boarding pass you have to walk to the end of the terminal where a guard checks your pass and lets you go up an escalator to the second floor to wait in line to go through the security check point. Depending on when you are there, this line might take hours.
When I got my pass and look up to see a line of people snaked back and forth several times the length of the terminal that’s what I was expecting, however the guard had other plans. As I approached the escalator the guard was looking to make sure only ticked passengers went to the second floor. Each person in front of me was given the go ahead. When he got to my pass, he stepped in front of me and told me to go wait outside and pointed to a small line of people waiting on the curb. I asked what was up since I had a plane to catch in 2 hours and he replied “Just go wait in that line.”
I head out side and get in line with several other very confused people. No one seems to have any idea what is going on. A few other people are directed from inside out before a bus pulls up and a lady with an American Airlines uniform gets off. She says “everyone on the bus, now!” There’s 10-12 of us at this point, and one person asks her what the crap is going on. She says something to the effect of “the security line upstairs is taking an hour, so we’re providing this service to some of our customers” then leaves. No one knows what service this is, but we don’t have much of a choice.
The bus takes off and circles LAX twice before finally stopping in the international terminal. Doors open, we’re let off, bus drives away. We’re all standing there clueless half expecting to now have to walk back to the American terminal when someone comes up with a little “AA” sign and asks if we’re the people American just sent over. We are. This person says “Go inside through security and meet back at gate 118” then walks away. Half the group doesn’t hear this. I did, and I’m just doing what I’m told at this point.
I go in, clear security, and head to 118. It’s vacant, but there’s an open door leading out to the tarmac. I stick my head out and see another bus with some people waiting on it. I talk to them and find out that some 30 minutes ago same thing happened to them and they had been waiting ever since. I grab a seat.
After about 15-20 minutes about half of my original group shows up. The other half must have gotten lost along the way. One lady, who hasn’t shut up since this all started announces “I’m going to find out what the hell is going on” and takes off. 10 minutes later she comes back with an American Airlines employee who says “Weren’t you all told what was going on?” to which everyone responds “No!” She goes on to say that we should have been told in the beginning that because of the long lines they were routing us though the back door of the American terminal and that this process would only take 30 minutes versus the hour the security line takes. Several people who were on the bus in the first place note that they have been waiting for an hour already. “Oh.”
She gets on her walkie talkie and argues with someone for a while, eventually she just walks away without telling us anything. A driver walks up, shuts the doors and drives us away. We’re on the tarmac now, weaving through planes and luggage carts going god knows where and finally he stops, opens the doors, and says “Get out.” We get out, he drives away. We’re just standing there on the tarmac for several minutes. At last someone opens an “emergency exit only” door and lets us back into the American terminal were we just wander off to our own gates. I get to my gate 10 minutes before boarding.
OK, so, what do we know at this point? This was supposed to be some kind of time saver that ended up taking longer than the thing is was trying to avoid, and no one at American has any idea what anyone else there is doing. The big complaint here isn’t that this happened, it’s that no one ever bothered to tell us what was going on, and treated us, paying customers, as if we were in some kind of trouble for most of the experience.
In Part 2 we find this isn’t an uncommon situation.