Sunday, September 28, 2008

Travel Disaster made Easier - Thanks American Airlines

I was in Long Island, NY on Friday doing a lecture. My schedule (and that of the airlines) was such that I couldn't leave Friday night, but had to leave early Saturday to return home. My flight from JFK left at 7:45 a.m. bound for Chicago with a very brief 35 minute layover and then on to KC and home.

My first good experience was being reseated. I was near the back of the plane and mentioned to the gate agent I had a tight connection. She managed to move me forward from the 20's to row 15. Then shortly before takeoff, I was paged to get my belongings and contact a flight attendant. They had found a seat on the bulkhead in row 7 for me. Things were looking up.

We had been in the air about 20 minutes when I noticed the flight attendants having people return their seats to the "upright and locked position". Strange. I then noticed the flight attendants waking a flight attendant who was a passenger on the flight and dozing. Stranger still. It was at this point an announcement came from the flight deck that we were experiencing engine problems and would be landing in Newark. Landing with engine problems is never a good thing. A few prayers and quite a bit of silence later, we were safely on the ground in Newark.

Now the fun really began. Everyone on the plane needed to be rerouted since our plane was going nowhere. American brought in extra gate agents and began the heavy lifting of getting well over 100 passengers to their destination. I was fortunate enough to be number 3 in line. I was confirmed on a 1:00 flight to Chicago and then on to KC. I'd end up getting home about 5 hours later than originally planned.

Ticket in hand, I headed to the Admiral's Club to wait it out. Upon checking in, the nice guy Preston at the desk asked why I wasn't on the 10:45 flight. I told him I had been told it was oversold and my chances were nill. He did some checking and told me he could put me on standby as #4 with a great chance of getting on. He also said he would monitor my status and if I made the flight he would book me on an earlier connection home from Chicago.

Well, thanks to Preston, I made the earlier plane. I ended up back in KC only 2 hours behind schedule. Thanks to American Airlines and to Preston in particular. I now have a new favorite airline thanks to outstanding customer service.

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