Reflecting on our return flight from Delhi to O’Hare on American Airlines, I wanted to write something that helped you understand our experience. In my ongoing effort to accentuate the positive, I came up with:
American Airlines Supports Olympic Torch Run in Delhi!
Now for the story behind the headline: While we were in India, American Airlines continued their new-found passion for disrupting the lives of people flying with them by canceling myriad flights for “maintenance compliance checks.” Realizing they might have over-reached their goal of creating frustration and chaos, the president of American sent out a blast email assuring passengers (especially, of course, those of us who have a metallic qualifier attached to our name—platinum, gold, etc) the airline promises to improve.
I took comfort in the president’s message and I “assumed” we’d experience a problem-free journey…you know what assume means, don’t you? It makes an ass out of u and me!
Arriving at Delhi International Airport, we checked in with the expert assistance of Greaves India’s airport service manager. He truly helped us through the maze of searches, xrays, frisks, and long lines (yet another reason I recommend Greaves!!!). When we arrived at the ticket counter, we asked if we had been upgraded to Business Class (we were waitlisted for the privilege of sleeping at less than a 90 degree incline!). The service attendant saw the request upgrade and told us we were already on the list and to ask the gate clerk…our first tiny, itty bitty hiccup…there is NO gate clerk.
Still, I remained hopeful and certainly grateful we had only moments until we boarded the 777 and headed back home. At the stated boarding time, people began to queue up (ahhh—to sound so British or Indian!). Sheep instinct winning out, we joined the queue and waited…and waited…and waited. By boarding time our line had become an interesting contemporary artform snaking its way through the waiting area (where’s a snake charmer to straighten us out when we need one?). Finally, a sari-clad young woman inched out of the “Do NOT enter for Fear of Death or Worse Area” to inform people one by one that there was one teensy weensy little problem—we had no flight crew!
Thursday the Olympic Torch passed through Delhi and the event created a huge traffic jam. Apparently, the well-intended flight crew got caught in the snarl and was unable to yet arrive at the airport. Sounds plausible, doesn’t it? I don’t think so! A Boeing 777 seats anywhere from 301 to 368 people, depending on seat configuration. Interestingly enough, all 301-368 of us managed to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to be at the appointed gate at the appointed boarding time. Somehow, all of us had managed to get to the airport despite the “Olympic Torch” traffic snafu—all of us, that is, expect the flight crew.
Not to fear—the crew did finally appear, harried and disheveled from their trying ordeal about 1 1/2 hours after our scheduled departure time(I can’t resist repeating that none of the passengers experienced their pain!). One more carryon luggage check and body search (can I keep lining up for this?) and we were finally ready to take off—except for one more teensy, weensy, little problem—a malfunctioning fuel pump. After a quick 20 minutes, the pilot informed us that the pump could not be fixed but we really didn’t need it to fly safely from Delhi, India to Chicago, Illinois, a mere 7500 miles nonstop.
The captain apologized for the 2 1/2 hour delay from our scheduled midnight departure (can we say when the big hand is on the 6 and the little hand is on the 2?) citing the Olympic Torch urban legend. Flight attendants picked up on that story and used it to justify their rude manner, irritable voices, and lack of service (or just maybe they were that way already???).
We had flown all over India on wonderful non-US airlines which sported new jets, hospitable crews (they even smiled and looked like they wanted to be of service!), and relatively ontime departures. This fact led me to relinquish one more piece of the prejudice I seem to carry, that American myth that the US has the biggest, the best, the most advanced, yada, yada yada. In today’s world of air travel, the US air carriers trail in quality, efficiency, and age of aircraft. Only one US airline, Midwest Air, occasionally makes the list of the Top 10 Airlines in the world. Attendants on many flights I’ve taken act like I should be grateful to have a seat—just shut up and leave them alone! Maintenance of aircraft is a forgotten art (should it ever have been an “art”?), and pride of employment is just too passe. Pass me another round of entitlement, please!
Thus, the Olympic Torch title is not what it’s cracked up to be. I offer some alternatives:
Fly American—Experience New Lows in Service!
American Airlines—Service with a frown!
We Put the Con in Continental!
Delta Airlines—Do We Look Like We Care?
Northwest and Delta Merge—Double Your Trouble!
United—to serve ourselves!