Wow, talk about a connection to beat all connections.
For starters, we learned Saturday evening that the Sogndal airport cancels about 50% of their flights due to heavy fog, so we chose to drive the six and a half hours from Solvorn to Oslo/Gardmoen and spend the night at the excellent Radisson SAS Oslo airport hotel. I highly recommend the hotel.
The connection through Heathrow was uncomfortable, but not as bad as expected. Luckily, the check-in counter agent from British Airways in Oslo was exceptionally competent, and checked us and our bags all the way through to Iowa. The flights from Oslo/Heathrow and Heathrow/Chicago were as planned, with the exception of some strong headwinds that had us arrive 90 minutes late in Chicago for our three hour connection.
This is when the fun started.
I fly internationally often. I fly internationally through Chicago often. I exclusively fly United when I do this, and generally I do not check any bags.
We flew B.A./American on this trip. I still have very good experiences with British Airways, however I had given up flying American years ago when I had Advantage Platinum status and was informed by a testy gate agent that my fiance and I would have to sit on opposite ends of an aircraft bound for our valentines in Hawaii, rather than the seats together that I had confirmed. I have a personal problem with domestic airlines and their complete lack of customer service, especially when they are receiving not only my revenues via ticket sales, but also my tax dollars in the form of multi-billion dollar bailouts when they default on their own obligations.
Today was a unpleasant reminder of why I do not fly American Airlines. When our flight arrived ninety minutes late, and our bags took thirty minutes to emerge from the baggage claim, we were greeted with the line-of-the-damned at the international bag-transit area. With United, there are three muscled men who stand there when you emerge from baggage claim/customs, take your bags, and you are on your way. With American, there were five very angry and testy women who were yelling (yes, yelling) at anyone who approached them with a question. There were no posted signs, no definite queue, and no process as far as I could tell.
I wish I had a) taken a photo for the blog of the queue, just for illustration purposes, and b) taken a photo of the screaming employees, to include in my letter to American Airlines.
After a substantial wait in queue purgatory, we finally took matters into our own hands and took our sizable baggage, two young children, and two seniors up the escalator to the train, went to Terminal three, ran to the checkin-counter to recheck our already-checked baggage only to be rudely snapped at by yet another American Airlines employee. With 20 minutes to departure, we spotted the x-ray machine nearby and were able to convince the attendant to take our checked bags for the flight, then sprinted (as much as you can with a four year old, a stroller, and two octogenarians) through security. My wife then took the stroller and literally ran from the security checkpoint to G concourse, to the end (G19, of course!) where she was able to convince the only-redeemable-AA-employee gate attendant to hold the gate open one more minute until the rest of the entourage arrived sweating, crying and puffing.
Total time elapsed in Chicago, 83 minutes. In all of the airport connections I have ever done, that has got to be the most amazing connection I have ever made (still traversing the security checkpoint in Chicago security 8 minutes before flight time?).
We arrived tired but intact in Iowa, where the American Airlines folks had lost our luggage (second time on the trip). We chose not to wait at 11pm, and will sort it all out later this morning.
Why do we, as a country, continue to bail out our broken industries, like airlines, automobile manufacturers, and the like? This is a perverse incentive, and gives the airlines an entitlement perspective that encourages bad behavior and performance. Can you name one other industry that can get away with screaming at it's customers and continue to exist, other than government-supported monopolists like the airlines and the Local-Exchange-Carriers?
It makes me want to start a political movement.
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