Never fly with American Airlines
Or Chicago - London
I was excited and full of happy and eager anticipation to get to London once again. But first, it turned out, I was to have some unpleasant adventures.
Before I get to the main story about how American Airlines treat their customers like shit, here is a warning for all travellers from the metric world who want to go to the US and back:
I bought my tickets from Melbourne to the US and from the US to London together. The flight to the US was with Quantas - an Australian airline (metric world) and my booking confirmation clearly stated that the weight limit for my bag was 25kg. Before checking in to the flight from the US to London (American Airlines, US, non-standard measures world) I have specifically checked using the scales in the airport that my bag did not get heavier. Imagine my astonishment when the clerk at the check-in counter refused to accept my bag! She said that the weight limit was 50 lbs (pounds). So, in the middle of my trip, for which all flights were booked together in one transaction (or so I was told) by the travel agent, I was required to throw part of my stuff away! I appreciate that the airline wants to keep the weight limit to a round number for convenience, that is fair enough, but: 50lbs = 22.679kg. Surely, in many years of operation the airlines could have figured out this difference in bag weight limits and found a way to standardise it. Well, after about 15 minutes of arguing I managed to check-in my bag. I did not yet know that there were more unpleasant surprises to come.
As I said, I was flying with American Airlines (as in the company American Airlines, not an airline from America). Shortly after the take-off I learned from the usual announcements that they will be serving food and soft drinks and that I also can purchase alcoholic beverages at some fairly expensive price. This was quite an unpleasant surprise. Living in Australia and having friends and family in Europe I do fly quite a lot between the continents. On no intercontinental route and with no airline was I ever charged for an alcoholic drink! In fact, drinking is one of the things that make these flights reasonably bearable. I was irritated, but not too annoyed - the giant bottle of whiskey I bought in a duty-free shop in the airport was about to come in quite handy.
Being pleased with the fact that I took the time to find the duty-free shop and not suspecting that anything may be not in order, I asked the stewardess for some cola, made myself a drink and dedicated myself to the exploration of movies available on the flight entertainment system.
I watched a movie and some cartoons, had a few drinks (importantly - a few, i.e. not many) and decided to get some sleep. Before trying to sleep I went to the bathroom. My bottle of whiskey was sitting in my bag on the empty seat besides my own. And here is the deal:
As I stepped out of the bathroom I was confronted by a stewardess who declared that she had taken my bottle out of my bag and intended to confiscate it!!!
I did not know what to say. My bottle? Out of my bag? Why?
She said that I had violated some regulation that prohibited the consumption of own alcohol in a plane. It did not make any sense. Having the same few drinks at several dollars per shot was fine, but my own drinks are illegal? I was so surprised that I did not know what to say. I just figured that I was about to go to sleep anyway and that I would deal with the situation when I woke up.
Several hours later I did wake up. We were going to land shortly and I went to the stewardess to get by bottle back. But she would not give it back to me! At this point my good will came to an end. We had an argument during which I managed to stay polite, but the way the 3 stewardesses talked to me was astonishing. They spoke in a tone as if I was some kind of criminal, not a paying customer.
I must say, if American Airlines (or maybe all US-based airlines) have some kind of weird rule against drinking alcohol - that is fine with me. I will simply nor fly with them again. But the way to deal with the situation during the flight was to approach me and say something like "Excuse me Sir, it is not allowed to drink your own alcohol on this flight. Would you mind refraining from doing that?" And of course I would stop drinking.
Considering how aggressive and impolite the stewardesses were during our conversation I can even imagine another outrageous, but still conceivable scenario: They could have approached me and said something like "Excuse me Sir, it is not permitted to drink on this flight. I am afraid I must confiscate your bottle. Could you please kindly give it to me?"
But none of this has happened. Instead, they simply went and accessed my property (i.e. my bag) without warning or explanation! I hardly think this is legal. If I had a little more time I would be very tempted to check whether I can pursue a legal action against American Airlines for this outrageous behaviour of their staff.
I explained all of the above to the flight attendants in a displeased but calm tone, but instead on apologising they quoted me some regulation in a tone appropriate for a misbehaved child, not for a fucking paying customer. They told me that this regulation was announced, but this was a clear lie as I had listened to the announcements carefully (this is how I noticed that the drinks were not free) and nothing along these lines was mentioned.
This was by orders of magnitude the worst way I was ever treated by an airline.
After telling the story to a few friends who commute between Europe and the US on regular basis I was told that US airlines generally treat intercontinental flights no different than US domestic flights - i.e. similar to the budged airlines that fly within Europe or Australia - no extras and no service. But while doing so, they are no cheaper than other airlines from all over the world who offer real service, friendly staff and proper catering. I do not know to what extend this is true for all US airlines, but I will be careful booking tickets with them in future. And what is certain is that I will give my best to never fly with American Airlines ever again. And if by telling this story I saved at least one person from the horrible experience of flying with American Airlines, then the time spent writing this post was well spent.
American Airlines review bottom-line: never fly with them!
Just before we landed they have eventually returned my property, but I had to leave the plane as one of the last as I could only stow away the bottle into my tightly packed bag after we have landed.
Yet, once I left the plane I had forgotten about the rude idiots of American Airlines. Too long have I waited to be here again. In just a few minutes I would be in London..