Flying American (or not)

Barcelona, London, New York then Washington. Instead of flying direct to Dulles International, I wished to fly into Reagan National (DCA) airport (~2-3 miles/10 minutes from central DC, as opposed to 90 minutes for Dulles). This makes getting in and out of central DC a snip, instead of a faff with the metro, buses and taxis. As I’d been travelling for a while I got a first class ticket from NYC to DCA, ¢50 upgrade free. The reason for this was simple; Concorde Lounge. Do not under estimate a shower after travelling for 18 hours.

The flights were ticketed and issued in Barcelona, the luggage was checked through to DCA, tickets were given to me and the One World desk checked me in. Short hop to Heathrow, wait for six hours then NYC to DC. However I left at New York as American cancelled my flight, claiming lack of payment;

Dear Mark Peter Iliffe
Thank you for your recent reservation on American Airlines. We were unable to issue your ticket and would need to speak to you to verify the payment details or if yo could provide us with another form of payment since this is the second decline. Please call American Airlines reservations quoting your booking reference XXXXX.
You will find the contact telephone under the Customer Service link for your country.
Our opening hours are Mon-Fri 07:00 – 16:30,
Please be aware that other airlines flights booked via American Airlines are on a request basis only and fares are not guaranteed until ticketed.
Thank you for your attention to this. American Airlines Reservations

I received that at 2228 on the evening of the 9th. My flight to NYC was at 0800 on the 10th. So no time to ring the UK centre – it wasn’t open. I phoned the US one. After being on hold for 30 minutes (at £0.56 a minute) and told they wouldn’t called me back, I cancelled, taking two days in New York instead.

A few things about trying to fly with American and by extension OneWorld.

  1. They can’t spell an automated email message. No-one has ever gone ‘Yo’ at me in an email before. Especially a major airline. This really annoyed me.
  2. First class doesn’t mean first class with them. If there is a payment issue and they can see that the ticket has already been issued, phone and email, don’t just email. For American this doesn’t seem necessary.
  3. I briefly spoke with the BA desks at Heathrow, they were as apologetic as they could be, however couldn’t really do anything. What is the point of clubbing up and staying in the same program if one of the partners just jogs off?
  4. If the person on the end of the phone asks if you can call them back do so. Otherwise you’ll loose their custom.

In the end I had two awesome days in NYC and took the train to DC. Passing through the American countryside at sunset was nice. A shower would have been better.

Written and posted from Washington DC (38.8988,-77.0279)

Author: Mark Iliffe

Traveller, Programmer, Geospatialist and Motorcyclist

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