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A Tale of Two American Airline’s Cities

Posted by thetraveldoctor on November 17, 2008


 

New American Terminal at Miami Airport

New American Terminal at Miami Airport

I am writing this on my way home from a conference in Miami FL. I am sitting in seat 28C on an American Airlines 757. I don’t know why, but American can’t seem to give me two problem free flights in a row. 

Let’s start on Saturday morning at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. I had a 9AM flight to Miami. I arrived at O’Hare at 7:20AM. I walked up to the self-service kiosk, checked my bag (for $15 –Ouch!) and was on my way to the gate. The American employees we very helpful and very pleasant.

I made it through security. Let me tell you, that is always an experience. I was behind a family of 3. They had 3 suitcases, 3 carry-on bags, a stroller and various stuff in their pockets. Well, it took them 10 minutes to get every thing on the belt and get it into the scanner. Then of course they could not get through the metal detector. They must have gone through that detector 10 times until they stopped beeping. It was a comedy of errors. I had to laugh or I would have started to cry. They need to bring the “Family Lane” to O’Hare so that people that travel a lot and know how to go through security can avoid these situations.

So I made it through security, finally! I proceed to the gate and waited to board. The boarding process went smooth, even with a full plane and we were off to Miami on time! Wow, what a great flight. I really enjoyed it, all the on board entertainment worked very well, and the seat reclined too, as little as it reclines, it’s still nice when it works. We arrived at Miami 10 minutes early and I was a happy customer. Now remember, I check my bag. I guess that was a mistake. I waited almost 40 minutes for my bag and my bag was one of the first ones to come around the belt. I guess this should have been my first clue that American at the Miami Airport has some major operational problems. I took my bag and I was off to the Hyatt Regency Miami in a cab. I actually got a cab driver that knew where he was going and got me to the hotel in record time.

It was a great weekend conference. I had hundreds of people at my workshop and panel. It was a really wonderful experience.

So it is now 5:30AM on Monday and I am on my way to the Miami Airport for my return flight home. I arrive at the American Airlines terminal and proceed to the self-service check-in. As easy as it was at O’Hare on Saturday, it was that very difficult in Miami. I had already checked in on my computer at the hotel and I had my boarding pass. So I followed the directions on the self check-in machine and I touched “Bag Check Only.” I am good at following directions. It then told me to scan my boarding pass or put in my record locator number. Well, my boarding pass would not scan, so I entered my record locator number. It took it a while but it found me. It asked me how many bags I wanted to check and I pressed 1. It then asked me for my credit card. I inserted my Amex, it didn’t like that one, it said, “Enter another Credit Card” so I entered my Visa. I guess it liked that magnetic strip, and it charged my credit card. It then told me to go to the “Checked Baggage Only” line. And then it printed another boarding pass for me. Why I don’t know. So there are signs all over that state “Look For The Baggage Only Check-in Line.” That’s great, I am looking all over the place for this Baggage line and I can’t find it. I ask one of the AA employees, where is this Baggage Only line for self-serve? She informs me that I should just get in any line, we don’t have a Baggage Only line. Now mind you, I am standing in front of this sign that is telling people to look for this Baggage Only line and this employee is telling me they don’t have a Baggage Only line. So I get in line and I wait 20 minutes to hand my bag to an agent and it is 6AM! Once I get to the agent, she could not print out my luggage tracking tag that I had already put in all the info in the check-in kiosk. Unlike the Chicago Check-in kiosk where your luggage tags are printed out at the front of the bank of kiosks. So it took 30 minutes for me to check in at a very disorganized Miami Check-in area for American. Then you have to lug your bag over to this area where another employee takes your bag. And this is out of the way. They really have to figure this baggage thing out in Miami.

Now it’s off to the security. I figured, 630AM on a Monday morning, how bad could it be. I came around the corner and noticed that the line was not that long. So that was a good sign. Little did I know that the TSA agent that was checking ID’s thought he was Columbo and was interrogating every passenger that had to pass through his post. This short line that should have been no more than 5 minutes turned into another 20-minute ordeal.

Once I got through security, and yes I was behind another family that had at least 120 pieces of stuff to put thought the belt. How do I get so lucky! All I want to do is check in, go through security and get on my airplane. Is that too much to ask?

I now hike to the new gate area at the Miami Airport. American has opened part of their new terminal. It is really very nice, but the hike to the last gate, well, it’s a REAL hike. And there are no moving sidewalks like some other new airports with long walks have. But I make it to the gate with about 35 minutes to spare. I find a nice spot to settle in to wait for boarding. Now I understand how AA wants to board. You have a group and you are to board by group. Well, it kind of didn’t happen, as the agents lost control of the entire boarding process, which in turn backed everything up. It was like watching a keystone cop movie. Instead of having each group board, they boarded the early boards and then they called group 1, then 2 minutes later they called group 1, 2 and 3. And this is on a FULL 757! On the plane, there was not enough space for the deluge of carryon bags that the $15 bag charge has caused. People standing in the aisles shoving these bags that should have never gotten past the gate agent, trying to cram them into the overhead bins. Well, we did leave 8 minutes late, because no one that was in the aisle would sit down. What a nut house!

So we finally get settled and the plane gets pushed back, taxied and we took off.  The crew was friendly and efficient, but the audio system had this terrible buzz that it was very hard to watch the video. After about 15 minutes of the buzz, it started to fade, so I was able to watch the “CBS eye on American” video entertainment on the video screen. They showed 3 sitcoms. “How I Met Your Mother” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “The Big Band Theory.” Now these are prime time family sitcoms right? Well, I guess American doesn’t think so. Get this, they were bleeping out 25% of the dialog. It ruined the video. I was able to read lips at times and the words they were bleeping out were, sex, screwed and full sentences. Folks, these are not programs that are on pay per view, these are prime time network sitcoms. I just don’t get it. Why would they censor these programs? It really ticked me off. I think that American needs to chill out or stop airing video on its aircraft.

 The flight itself was comfortable and the plane was clean. But if you have to fly out of Miami on American, beware! They don’t have their act together like they do at Chicago O’Hare and it could be very frustrating.

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2 Responses to “A Tale of Two American Airline’s Cities”

  1. Teo said

    I can tell you first hand that it’s not just American that needs to get their act together at MIA. When I lived in Miami, I would dread having to leave the city. Mainly because it’s just damn near impossible. No matter what airline I flew, it was always wait in this line for 15-30 minutes, then move to the next line if you have luggage, then once you’re up to the counter, you have to get into the next line over because you have red luggage. By the time you’d reach TSA, you’d have waited in four different lines for a good hour/hour and a half.

    I did have one smooth trip from MIA and it was a red eye out to London. It seems the only time the airport has its stuff together is at the end of the day, when there are three customers. I don’t know if it’s because of all the construction and expansion at the airport, or if it’s just the sunlight had bleached our brains in Miami, but whatever it is, it’s made me consider paying the extra cash to rent a car and fly into/out of FLL.

  2. a let down and the same time swell (-;

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