‘American’ Horror Story: A Travel Nightmare Occurs

white american airplane parked on airport
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What should have been an enjoyable and relaxing trip to the birthplace of the American Revolution turned into a hellish journey reminiscent of the horrors experienced during the Salem Witch Trials.

On June 7, 2023, my wife Kendall and I purchased tickets from American Airlines to Boston, Massachusetts (BOS), so we could visit friends as part of a vacation to experience Salem and catch a baseball game at the historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. We were scheduled to fly out of Wichita, Kansas (ICT), at 7:44 a.m. on July 4, 2023. We were to be on flight AA1038 in seats 20D and 20E as we traveled to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas (DFW). From there, we were to be connected to Boston on fight AA1163 in seats 24A and 24B, which was scheduled to leave Dallas/Fort Worth at 10:48 a.m. We were then to arrive in Boston at 3:39 p.m.

Then, we were going to return to Wichita on July 8, 2023. We would be following the same route home as we took to Boston. Our flight for July 8 was scheduled to leave at 6:26 a.m. We were to be on flight AA2527 in seats 32C and 32B. After connecting in Dallas/Fort Worth, we were to leave for the final leg of our trip at 10:39 a.m. on flight AA3550 in seats 21C and 21A, putting us back in Wichita at 12:05 p.m.

All of this was confirmed and our record locator number was ZCDADU.

However, we would never experience what we had actually purchased.

Upon arriving at the Wichita airport on July 4, we found our gate and settled in for a brief wait until boarding began. 

That wait turned into six hours after arriving at the airport at the recommended time for our scheduled flight. 

The plane we were supposed to fly out on didn’t have power, so we had to wait. 

Kendall and I anxiously watched the digital display to see when we would be able to leave, and to our horror, the time continually got pushed back. 

Eventually, it became clear that we would miss our connecting flight to Boston if something didn’t change, so I spoke with the gate agent. I asked if there was any likelihood we would be able to make our next flight, and she said, “I’m not a very positive person.”

That sealed it. We knew we had to do something. 

After some prodding, we finally got the agent to book us on another flight, which also meant our entire itinerary got adjusted.

We ended up being booked on flight AA3550, which was scheduled to leave at 11:47 a.m. and would take us to Dallas/Fort Worth. Due to this change, we had to incur our first of many unexpected costs. We had to eat an early lunch at the Wichita airport for $30.

Once we arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth, our next flight was supposed to leave at 2:12 p.m. However, this flight was not to Boston as we had planned. Instead, due to the initial issues in Wichita, the toppling of the dominions resulted in us being booked on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to New York (JFK) on flight AA820. From there, we would get on flight AA4743 to Boston, which was to put us at our destination at around 10 p.m.

This would have been 6.5 hours after we were originally scheduled to arrive. However, this didn’t come to fruition either.

Upon landing at JFK around 7: 15 p.m. and turning my phone back on, I learned a new issue had arisen while we were in the air. Our flight to Boston had been canceled. 

At this point, we were stranded in New York, so I went to talk to a customer service representative at the JFK airport who was located at a customer service station in the terminal.

The woman said there were no flights leaving JFK for Boston and all the flights the next day were also booked. She told us our only choice was renting a bus or a car. 

Faced with such choices and no other help or guidance in terms of travel or lodging other than a QR code or a phone number that would lead to an automated system, we elected to rent a car from Budget Rental

This was yet another expense we incurred that was brought on by American Airlines’ issues. 

After paying $426.46, we embarked on the 3.5-hour drive to Boston. 

Being forced to take this step to reach our destination resulted in several additional issues. We missed the Fourth of July celebration we were scheduled to be a part of in Boston with family and friends, were unable to go on a tour we had planned to take in the afternoon, and we no longer had a ride from the airport to our hotel. Also, we incurred a $43.35 meal at a McDonald’s in Fairfield, Connecticut, and we only ordered two meals off the value menu (two Double Quarter Pounder with cheese meals).

We finally arrived in Boston at 12:45 a.m. July 5, 2023, which is nearly 9 hours after we were originally scheduled to arrive. 

Because the rental car had to be returned to the Boston airport, we went straight there. We dropped off the car and then had to order a Lyft to take us from the airport to our hotel. This cost us an additional $35.82, which we wouldn’t have had if our travel had not been disrupted.

Finally, shortly after 1 a.m., we arrived at our hotel in downtown Boston, which had to be checked in by a friend (who had to miss part of their Fourth of July celebration) because we were going to lose our reservation due to our late arrival. 

We thought the worst of the issues were behind us, but, yet again, we were wrong. Our travel nightmare was only halfway over.

As mentioned previously, we were scheduled to fly out of Boston on July 8. On the morning of July 6, 2023, I received an email from American Airlines warning me that the Sumner Tunnel — “a major tunnel connecting downtown Boston to Logan Airport” — would be closed, so we needed to allow two hours of driving time to get to the airport to account for expected traffic delays.

Such an email was welcomed as it was helpful information and seemed to indicate everything with our trip home was on schedule. However, that was not correct.

On July 7, 2023, I started to try to check in for our flight the next day. Oddly, though, I continually got an error message when using the American Airlines app on my phone. Eventually, I called the customer service number to inquire about the issue because I needed to have our boarding passes on my phone.

After waiting nearly two hours for a callback, I was connected with a customer service representative. I explained the issue I was facing, and the woman started to look into it. I ended up learning that when our flight from JFK to Boston was canceled, the automated system and/or a gate agent also canceled the rest of our trip. Effectively, we had no way home.

I expressed my displeasure with this, and the customer service agent agreed that it wasn’t right as she could see our flight got canceled. Furthermore, I have emails confirming this fact. 

After an hour on the phone, the customer service agent was able to book us on flights home. Instead of being able to leave at our originally planned 6:26 a.m., though, we were going to be forced to leave 12 hours later at 6:14 p.m., still going to Wichita through Dallas/Fort Worth.

Again, this late departure meant we no longer had a free ride from our hotel to the airport, so we incurred yet another unexpected expense — a $35.69 Lyft ride.

Also, because we had to check out of our hotel by noon, we ended up sitting in the airport for more than 6 hours, incurring an unexpected Starbucks expense of $13.32

As seems to be par for the course, our flight from Boston to Dallas/Fort Worth was delayed. We did not leave until after 7 p.m., which meant we would be cutting it extremely close in terms of making our connecting flight to Wichita.

At this point, Kendall’s emotions boiled over, resulting in her crying nearly the entire flight because she said, “I just want to see our kids,” who we had to find childcare for while halfway across the country.

Upon arriving at Dallas/Fort Worth and turning my phone back on, I saw our connecting flight was already boarding. To compound matters, the gate our plane was supposed to arrive at got changed, and we had to sit on the tarmac for a while before we could get to the gate. With our connecting flight already boarding, minutes mattered.

When finally stopped at the gate to deplane, we rushed off the aircraft, but, due to how the airport at Dallas/Fort Worth is structured, we had to ride a train past three other stops to get to where we could get off and rush to our connecting flight. 

We raced up one escalator and down another as tears streamed down Kendall’s face. We got to our gate, and the door was closed. Luckily, the gate agents were able to open the doors, allowing us to board the plane.

Finally, we took off and were able to breathe a sigh of relief that we made our flight, the only one on our entire trip that was actually on time.

We landed in Wichita at midnight on July 9, 2023, another 12 hours later than our original itinerary had said we would. Our nightmare travel experience was finally over.

In short, this was the worst travel experience I have ever had with an airline. Slight delays are to be expected, but never sitting in a seat on a plane at the time I had purchased is beyond reprehensible. Furthermore, being forced to drive up the east coast and spend hours upon hours sitting in airports is infuriating. 

An experience such as what my wife and I had should embarrass any airline, so reimbursements for our additional expenses and refunds for our travel disruptions need to be given. It is the only honorable step to take for a company in the customer service and travel industry.

This horror story must be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. It won’t be a happy ending as we can’t go back in time, but our tale’s epilogue can be more positive, perhaps leaving the door open for future patronage of American Airlines.

Unfortunately, American Airlines has refused to reimburse the expenses we incurred due to the organization’s incompetence and inability to comprehend that the extra $586.64 my wife and I had to spend was their fault. Perhaps that sum of money is inconsequential to the employees of American Airlines, and it is surely mere pocket change to the executives of the airline. However, my wife and I are educators with two small children at home. That amount of money is significant to our financial status and household budget. 

Even after exchanging numerous emails and a phone call or two with American Airlines, the issue has yet to be resolved. The individuals I am able to speak with continually tell me expenses such as those we faced are not their concern or responsibility. 

It’s infuriating and unacceptable. Therefore, the next step must be taken, which consists of filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, in hopes of being satisfactorily made whole as far as our finances are concerned.

As it stands, without these issues being rectified, American Airlines will be deleted from the chronicles of my life.

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About toddvogts 843 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.