My wife and I attended a wedding in Key West, Florida, this past weekend. We flew from San Diego to Miami on a non-stop red-eye flight on Wednesday night and arrived there first thing Thursday morning. Then we rented a car and drove down all the way along the Florida Keys, since we had never done that before and wanted to see what that was like. No regrets.
Our return trip was also a non-stop, leaving at 9:20pm Sunday night, scheduled to arrive just before midnight in San Diego. Enough time to go home, get a good (short) night’s sleep to be ready for work on Monday morning.
At about 5:00pm when we got to the airport, the airline alerted us that the flight was delayed to leave at 11:11pm. Ok, not too bad. We checked our luggage and went to the Admirals Club to relax while we waited. When we showed up at the gate at about 10:30, the airline posted that the flight would now depart at 12:18am. The incoming flight was late due to mechanical problems. Then the flight was delayed again to 2:30am, because one of the pilots had timed out of his 12-hour window and they had to find a new reserve pilot. They soon told us they had found one, but it would take time for him to dress, drive to the airport, park, take the shuttle and get to the gate. At 2:30, they finally boarded us, even though there was no captain or pilot on board yet. When we were ready at about 3:00am, I saw a pilot, but no captain. They then told us that we would have to get off the plane, and we would leave at 6:30am, but this time “for real.”
So rather than telling us at 5:00 that there’d be trouble, giving us a chance to rebook another way home, they kept stringing all 200 of us in the gate area along one hour at a time.
If I had known that the plane would not leave until 6:30am, I would have found a nearby hotel and got a good night’s sleep and showed up at 6:30 for the flight. Did they know? I cannot tell. It’s now 4:04am in the Miami airport as I am typing this and I really don’t know if we’re really leaving at 6:30.
This kind of stuff happens too often these days. Weather, mechanical issues, labor regulations, and sheer apparent planning incompetence get in the way, and air travel is no longer reliable.
If this country had a decent high-speed rail system, I would have booked a ticket for the 12-hour ride from Miami to San Diego, I would have slept the night, and arrived on time without stress.
Instead, we are literally trying to sleep on the hard carpet at gate D16 in the Miami airport.
And this is the special hell of flying American Airlines today.