I was scheduled to fly out of Chicago the other night, having caught a connecting flight into Chicago which was delayed due to poor weather. In fact, most flights were grounded from Chicago O’Hare and given that it is an extremely busy airport, any delays completely mess up the arrival and departure schedules. That is a given.
While I was in the air coming into O’Hare (yes, I know that rhymes), American Airlines had delayed, then cancelled my connection out. No problem. There was bad weather and flight safety is paramount. The next challenge is, did American Airlines help me to deal with the fact that I was stranded in Chicago until late the next morning?
The answer is no.
I arrived in Chicago at about midnight and looked at the departure schedule to discover the flight cancellation. I went to talk to an American Airlines agent, who said she could not guarantee me a spot on the earlier flight out the next day, which was fine, so I told her to put me on the later flight with a guaranteed spot. Not a problem. Then I asked what the policy was for hotels, where should I stay overnight, etc.
“American Airlines will compensate you for half of your hotel stay,” said the agent. I said, “You’re kidding me?”.
Okay, I get it. Bad weather is an act of God. No one can control it. But only half? Not even for the taxi? Nothing?
But, the problem was that American Airlines didn’t want to even help me to find a hotel. They just didn’t care. I had to ask the agent questions about where to go in an unfamiliar city, which is a major hub of American Airlines, so my expectation was that as a company, they would have some kind of familiarity with Chicago; enough to help me find an overnight accommodation without me having to ask a thousand questions.
The agent’s response was to pass me a Travelliance “Discount Coupon” which had almost no information on it except to call a 1-800 number to book some random hotel. So I went away, much to the agent’s satisfaction I am sure, to call the number. When I phoned the number, I heard an automated message that said “Sorry, all hotels are booked”. Sorry, piss off and spend the night in the airport.
I went back to see the American Airlines agents to see what else I could do. This time another agent looked at me and said “Well you can go to blablablla area and pick up a blanket and pillow”. That’s right, sleep in the airport, he said. Keep in mind there was NO ONE ELSE standing at the counter. Just me. He didn’t care to help me at all, to find a hotel, or even to tell me where the hell the supposed airport sleeping area was. I mean, he knows Chicago well, so I guess I should too.
So disgusted, I went away to call my partner. LUCKILY, at midnight, there was someone I could phone to help. I guess American Airlines assumed I would have someone to call for help. It was amazing how easily my partner could find me a hotel. It could have been just as easy for the airline to do the same, but they refused.
On a related side note, Chicago O’Hare is still living in the dark ages of internet access. One can only receive 20 minutes of free wifi service, after which, customers have to pay for it. Are you kidding me? One of the busiest American airports needs to CHARGE people for internet? That is a shame. For that reason I won’t ever transfer through Chicago again.
American Airlines must have also assumed that I had access to the internet as well, so I could easily find a hotel.
When I got outside, there was a mile long line up for a taxi. I have to say for a bunch of tired travellers, everyone was very orderly in waiting for their taxis, and the line moved quickly. So after a $50 cab ride, I arrived at the hotel. Lots of other people had the same idea so, there was also a line up at the hotel. The hotel folks were very quick and friendly sorting out rooms for everyone, unlike American Airlines staff, given they were rammed with people at 1:00 am.
Unfortunately, after hearing the stories of the other folks in the hotel lobby, there seemed to be a major problem with taxis in Chicago. People were charged various amounts for the same taxi ride. Some people were given a coupon for a free taxi ride from their airline to be transported to a hotel, but the taxi drivers would not accept the coupons and were threatening to phone the police if their customers did not pay for their cab rides.
So Chicago O’Hare, I recommend you better organize your taxi transportation, and while you’re at it, get with the times and provide customers the convenience of free wifi internet service.
American Airlines, your customer service sucked, and I recommend you provide customers with the minimum standard of service. If not, there is always the option to rebrand as “Shitty Airlines”. One thing I can guarantee though is that I won’t be taking American Airlines, or Shitty Airlines, ever again.