Trust me, I really enjoy travel. But today I’m in a funk. Standing around an airport trying to confirm my flight doesn’t count as “travel”. Welcome to Saturday in Hong Kong, where Brian tries to fly home. Sounds easy, but it’s not.
Sunday’s flight to Hong Kong got routed through Dallas, which unfortunately experienced a five hour delay … something about lightning hitting the airplane and having to redirect a flight crew originally headed for London. The flight back to Dallas today was cancelled. No explanation. American Airlines flat out cancelled a major flight destined for a major hub. No big.
Everything seemed ok on Friday, when a helpful phone agent rebooked me through Chicago via Cathay Pacific. This morning I discovered that “rebooked” actually means “standby on an overbooked flight with no confirmed seat” and that I couldn’t actually check in until the airport service counter sorted things out.
This is where I share a dirty little secret about most US airline counters in major international airports like Hong Kong … they’re not staffed by airline employees. They’re contractors. In Hong Kong, an army of customer service representatives in peach jackets and upsettingly bland ties bounce between airlines as they issues tickets, food vouchers and terribly small amounts of information about why you still don’t have a seat after 30 minutes at the airline counter. Or why they bothered to put you on an oversold flight. Or why they thought maniacal laughter was a “yes” to the three-stop itinerary they proposed as an alternative to your original flight plan.
Their stake in your ultimate happiness seems pretty low. I know that it’s hard for an airline to get 200 people routed on alternate flights after such a massive clusterfornication, but it would be nice if they cared enough to check for things like the oversold status of partner airline flights. Or maybe they could stop overselling flights. The fake customer service smile is nowhere to be found, just lots of reminders to come back at 12:15 after they’ve changed the signs from “SkyTeam” to “Star Alliance”.
So here we are, preparing to take the middle seat on a flight from Hong Kong to … hang on a second … Toronto. Bounced around like the last kernel in a popcorn popper by someone who doesn’t care how long it takes before you finally pop.
For all intensive purposes, American Airlines is done with me for the day. Sure, they got my company’s money for this transportation service, but I’m now Air Canada’s problem. This doesn’t factor into the formula for my mileage status, but it does give me a lot of time to ping the poor soul stuck handling their Twitter account. Even if that person doesn’t care, they’re pretending pretty well. I hope the folks in Hong Kong can at least try that with the rest of the folks that won’t be going to Dallas today. It’s not much but it goes a long way.