Tales of holiday travel suckiness, courtesy of American Airlines.

I hate to say that American Airlines sucks as an airline, but the truth is that American Airlines sucks as an airline.
Photo by Alfred GF

Here's why sucks in my estimation. This recent , I recalled a Christmas past that fully justifies my assertion. The year was 1999, or maybe it was 2002. Whatever, it's not important. What is important is what happened when American Airlines (@AmericanAir) flew my new wife and I home to spend the holidays with my family. And they blew it.

Why American Airlines sucks as an airline.

It was about 20°F in New York, and JFK was bustling with travelers excited to see kith and kin at Christmas. We'd flown in from without issue (amazingly), and checked the connections board for a puddle-jumper flight headed . When we found it, the board listed it as “canceled.”

American claimed “mechanical issues,” but it was probably because there weren't enough passengers to make the trip profitable.

Look, I get it, planes break down, connections get missed, pilots get drunk—shit happens. So we went to the gate to check if we were really going to be stranded in Queens for the . At the gate, however, we were informed that, yes, the flight was indeed canceled, but there was some good news!

American Airlines' idea of good news meant good for them.

Instead of putting us up in a nice, heated hotel room with free dinner and maybe HBO, the American Airlines gate agent informed us that “alternative transportation” had been arranged for us and the six other passengers headed upstate. Hurrah!

They put us in one of these rickety deathtraps. @IFCAR

The agents then proceeded to herd the flight's passengers—all of whom had paid American Airlines actual money to FLY to a town in Western New York—into an idling Ford Econoline van and its driver.

That's right, American Airlines wanted all eight of us to spend seven hours in a van apparently designed for transporting felons to prison.

Yeah, an effing VAN! For a SEVEN-HOUR drive to upstate New York. A trip of three hundred miles in the kind of van pedophiles might use to kidnap children whose comfort and well-being they're not too concerned about.

Oh, but it gets worse. So much worse.

Our view for seven effing hours. @Ricky Esquivel

Getting pawned off onto a 1980s-era Econoline was bad enough, but upon heading out onto the highway for this involuntary road trip—two hours to get out of the city, and another five to drive upstate—our driver learned that the van's heater didn't work.

Or, to be more accurate, all the passengers told the driver that the heater didn't work. Valiantly, he fiddled with the switches a lot, but the heat never kicked on. And by that point in the drive, it was too late to turn around.

This is far better than the actual view. @Travis Rupert

Here's why I think that American Airlines sucks.

“We're gonna be about 5 hours late.” @Josh Hild

So the eight of us all sat there, on shitty vinyl bench seats, and froze our asses off. Did I mention that it was a seven-hour ride? Oh, and that it was 20-effing-degrees outside? Or, more to the point, 20-effing-degrees inside the van?!?

Seven long, miserable hours later, we arrived at the airport in upstate New York. I don't remember if my parents waited for us to arrive, because we didn't have cell phones back then. But, I imagine my folks probably called the airport to ask about the flight's arrival time.

American Airlines tried to make it right—sorta.

New York winters suck. @Tom Fisk

American Airlines “compensated” us with a voucher worth $300, good for another hellish American Airline flight. (Um, …? Wait, why does this voucher have an expiration date?!? Is there a statute of limitations on screwing your customers?)

American's voucher was hardly sufficient compensation for canceling our flight, making us drive, and nearly ruining our holidays. In their defense, however, American Airlines did give the seven of us something more—namely, hypothermia.

To reiterate, we spent SEVEN HOURS huddled in a van with NO HEAT during a in New York.

I wrote a letter saying, basically, “American Airlines sucks.”

“Dear American Airlines…” @Castorly Stock

Naturally, I was upset about this unacceptable treatment and wrote a physical letter to American Airlines' customer relations (this event occurred in the pre-Internet days…).

I regaled them about “The winter of my discomfort,” and asked for additional compensation. I explained that a time-limited voucher for another flight was of dubious value to someone who rarely flew anywhere (again, this was a while ago).

In a reply letter from the company, I was professionally rebuffed by the head of customer relations, who essentially told me: “Tough shit.” (I may be paraphrasing.)

I appealed to this sucky company, twice.

“Dear American A-Holes…” @Castorly Stock

Shocked by American Airlines' callous treatment, I wrote back. This time their response was more conciliatory, “We apologize for the previous miscommunication. Exactly what part of ‘Tough shit' didn't you understand?” Such Scrooges.

These less than “pleasant” memories came flooding back to me this past Christmas as I grudgingly flew American Airlines once again. It was a 6-hour, cross-country red-eye to see my wife's family in and, true to form, the experience sucked. Like that frigid van, our plane had no heat either. These basic mechanical problems made me wonder what else on their planes didn't work. And frankly, I didn't want to find out the hard way

In my considered opinion, American Airlines can suck it.

So much money lost, bros. @K. Grabowska

As a result of American Airline's continued incompetence and indifference to its customers' comfort or welfare, my wife and I never fly American Airlines anymore. And, as you can tell from the number of reports I've written, my wife and I now travel a lot.

Generally, we fly United Airlines despite what my friend, Steve, thinks about them. I wish I could tell American Airlines exactly how much money we've given to United and other airlines since their huge van debacle. The amount is both substantial and horrifying.

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