The New Year’s That Wasn’t, Part I

In theory, it was a good idea. We delayed our return to California until New Year’s Eve as a) it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than flying on the 28th, 29th or 30th and b) NOBODY flies on New Year’s Eve. (This theory was supported when I checked the seating chart for our two flights online to find the cabins completely empty.) But then Snowmageddon Lunageddon happened and, per the norm—per my norm—nothing went as planned.

I could just take the easy route and blame it all on American Airlines. In fact, I’ll just do that. Had it not been for them, my car would not have been towed, I wouldn’t have nearly been mugged by some hooligans from “the wrong side of the tracks” in Memphis, I wouldn’t have spent New Year’s Eve drinking “redneck champagne” (Sprite) and eating Domino’s pizza in a dingy airport hotel in Nanconnah, and I would have made it to my niece’s 7th birthday party in Sacramento. But American Airlines had other plans.

It all started when I was hanging out with my lovely family in Memphis for a few days. In fact, here are the cousins and our granddad being festive and generally merry two days before SVV and I got screwed, royally.

(And a princess in a tutu for good measure.)

((And the newest member of our extended family, Baby Margaret.))

On Thursday, my parents left early to drive back to our hometown, so we stuck around Memphis to hang out with my cousins (aka my favorite people on the planet) and play with McKayla and Baby M. Around the time Kelly and Andrew had to head back to Birmingham to host a New Year’s soiree of their own, I got online at Rebecca and John’s house to check the status of our flight, thinking with six hours still to go, there’d be no update.  Not so much. Our incoming plane already was scheduled to be a minimum of two hours late, which would put us in Dallas just as our connection to San Francisco was departing. No bother, we called up American Airlines to right this wrong.

Or rather, that’s what we were hoping for.

Instead, the customer service rep told us that if we took the flight to Dallas, he couldn’t rebook us on another plane to California until Monday at the earliest. (And before you go thinking, “psst, winter weather; why are you complaining, woman? It’s always the same ol’ story,” I should tell you now that it was SIXTY-NINE DEGREES in Memphis that day. I was sweating in a T-shirt, jeans and TOMS. For once, the weather was not to blame. They cited the ever-vague “mechanical issues” reasoning instead.)

Now, I’m sure Dallas is nice and all, but I hardly wanted to spend three days stranded at a crap airport hotel where I don’t know anybody. We asked if he could just reroute us—Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, anywhere closer to where we live.  SVV even suggested them flying us as close as they could get us, then giving us a rental car to drive the rest of the way. The airline rep said that unfortunately due to the blizzard and its repercussions across the country and the fact that we were flying over a holiday weekend, there was absolutely no alternative until the following week. Great. So we had Rebecca drive us to the airport, where we were hoping for better news.

The airport was a ghost town. There was one other family in the ticketing area, and that was it. The odds were looking to be in our favor. (I forgot that this was me we’re talking about. The odds are never in my favor.)

We approached the American counter. The agent was very kind. He said, “oh, it looks like they already rebooked you to Chicago on Sunday.” Only problem was, we didn’t want to go through O’Hare, not ever but especially not during the dead of winter with all the flurries, and we didn’t want to travel on Jan. 2, one of the busiest travel days of the year. “That won’t do,” SVV piped up. “You’re going to have to find us another route.”

After much searching, the man finally found he could put us on an American flight the next day to Dallas, then onto Reno, then Skywest from Reno to San Francisco. Perfect. He gave us our tickets and then blinked at us, as if to ask, “aren’t you going now?”

“Uh, aren’t you going to give us a hotel or something?” I asked. He blinked again.

“Oh, you need somewhere to stay?” DUH.

So he booked us into the Courtyard. “They’re pet-friendly, right?” I clarified. After all, we had paid $200 to sacrifice a carry-on and take our six-pound pup instead. With those sorts of fees, Ella should get her own AAdvantage miles, don’t you think?

“I don’t know,” he eyed me wearily. “It’s the only one we work with. It will have to do.”

Of course they weren’t pet friendly—we had to smuggle Ella in just as we had to do for two days previously in the Hyatt Place Germantown; luckily, she’s an absolute angel and seemed to know it would benefit her to lie low and be quiet—and of course we had to wait an hour and a half for the shuttle to come pick us up. After calling the hotel twice, the driver eventually showed and deposited us at the Courtyard; we were met with the most ghettofied two-story Marriott in existence, completely gated and protected as Nanconnah isn’t the safe area in the world. We checked in without Ella being detected in the slightest, were pleased to see that while very snug the room was clean enough and had a king-sized bed and a flat-screen TV, then tried to make a game plan.

“We could go to a liquor store,” I suggested. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, and it seemed we’d be spending it in a shoddy hotel room. One Google search determined we were located within miles of industrial park and there was nowhere to walk to. American had not given us any transportation or dinner vouchers or anything, and getting a cab in that area—let alone on New Year’s Eve—was a moot point. Next alternative.

SVV searched Yelp. “Hey, look! There’s a barbecue place [Corky’s] that delivers here!” If we were indulging in Memphis BBQ, I was hoping for Rendezvous, Central or Germantown Commissary, but beggars can’t be choosers. I called them up. “Oh, we don’t deliver, and if we did, we’ve never come out there,” the snide woman remarked. In the end, we settled for a gourmet NYE feast from the only joint who would deliver: Domino’s. Pizza, Cinnastix and “redneck champagne” was to be our last meal of 2010.

It was just 6pm, so I found Minority Report airing on HBO. “Sweet, at least we’ll have entertainment!” Famous last words. It was then that the satellite reception went out thanks to all those deadly tornadoes in Arkansas that were quickly moving in on us. Our pizza came, we scarfed it down, and I turned on my laptop. I had the last disc of Breaking Bad on hand, so all was not lost. I got out my computer and plugged it in just as the power went out completely—on the whole block.

SVV, being a master of all trades, went to the front desk to try and help while Ella and I shivered in the dark. It was official: This was just not our night.

To be continued

COMMENTS
  • January 5, 2011

    Wow New Years really wasn’t your night. My flight from Tokyo was canceled and they offered to reschedule us for new years eve but I was too scared I’d end up in your situation….hmm and this is only part 1?

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      It does get worse! And the part that angers me the most is that I’m gold status on American, and after all our trouble they wouldn’t upgrade us on any legs of the flights, nor did they so much as give us ticket vouchers or compensation. When I was stranded similarly on United, I got a first class seat, a nice hotel, $250 travel credit and a free RT domestic ticket!

      Hey, didn’t you get engaged over the holidays? Seems your luck was better than ours! 😉

      Congrats!

      • January 5, 2011

        Yikes! especially as a gold status member, tisk tisk. And yes I did get engage my luck this holiday was great, flight was canceled home but we were able to reroute no problem.

  • January 5, 2011

    The good news, it’s the beginning of a new year, your mileage starts again. Use any American mileage you may have for a freebie and then, pick a new airline to bond with- one with a more enlightened customer service policy,, perhaps.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      The bad news is that on Dec. 31 I gave up my United premier status for American’s. Wrong decision, eh? Though among United, American and Delta, I’ve never gotten any benefits out of having “status” (aside from waived baggage fees). Do you have a favorite airline program? I’ve deduced that none of them have the loyal consumer in mind anymore!

      • January 5, 2011

        Uncancel! These days I am not flying one airline enough for it to matter. I remembered an interesting experience I had on American that may shed some light on your experience. DM me with your email address if you want to hear it.

  • January 5, 2011

    Ugh, I know exactly where that hotel is, and that is probably the worst location in Memphis in terms of trying to eat or do anything. What a bummer of a New Year’s.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      TMG: Agreed! We would have loved to go out in Memphis since we were stranded there already–and the Peabody even invited us to their NYE bash over Twitter!–but we were not about to leave the puppy in that craptastic hotel (especially when she was not allowed to be there in the first place!). It’s a shame because there’s so much to do in Memphrica–just not out in Nanconnah, HA.

  • January 5, 2011

    Um. That is effing CRAZY PANTS.

  • January 5, 2011

    You’re already scaring me. Stop it!

  • January 5, 2011

    Ugh, I am so sorry! You probably should have just flown through Chicago. I was there and we left on the 1st and the weather was great. New Year’s Eve has never been very good for me so I don’t go into it with high expectations. Even with my low expectations i would be pretty pissed at American Airlines!

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Well, the problem, Becs, is that even getting us to Chicago would take a full two days from when we were supposed to have left! Though funny enough, you’re not the first to tell me they had no trouble at all flying through Chicago over the holidays. I flew through there in the height of summer last year and was stranded for 36 hours even then!

  • January 5, 2011
    Bethany

    Wow, what a nightmare!

  • January 5, 2011
    Amy

    I was feeling all sad about my boring night at home, but uh, I’LL TAKE IT.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Amy, truth be told we were going to be spending NYE at home–and maybe watching the fireworks–but shhhhh, American Airlines doesn’t need to hear that! As far as they’re concerned, we had some wild party planned!

  • January 5, 2011

    At least with American you can talk to somebody on the phone. Our flight from Long Beach to Dulles on Jet Blue was cancelled the day after the storm, even though Dulles didn’t get hardly any snow and my brother flew back the day of the storm with no problems. We couldn’t get through on the phone at all to Jet Blue to reschedule. We ended up buying horribly expensive tickets on United out of LAX just to get home. The next day (now 2 days after the storm), Jet Blue wouldn’t even put us on hold on the phone and would just disconnect. I’m still trying to resolve the issue of my unused ticket. I sent an email regarding the issue and got an automated response saying it would be 7 to 10 days on average to get a response and because of the blizzard even longer….I’m thinking of making everyone come to my house next year.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Patrice, you’re not the first person I’ve heard this from! I read a few other people’s Tweets and blogs who said they never could get through to an actual JetBlue rep. That blows my mind, as they’re supposed to be so customer-friendly! Here’s a similar account by another travel blogger:

      http://solofriendly.com/stuck-in-vegas/

      • January 7, 2011

        Here’s an update…Jet Blue responded to my email saying they would refund me for the return trip and then I got another email saying they are giving me 10,000 points (which is worth about $135). Both emails had apogolies as well so they seem to understand they had a massive failure in their system. Hopefully they can prevent this from happening again…but I assume fixing this problem will results in higher fares or more fees, just like after they left all those people on the plane for hours a couple years ago.

      • January 7, 2011

        Although this debacle did still cost us over $1,000 in extra airfare on the flight we did get on United…I think I’m only feeling good about this situation now based on Jet Blue’s response, however I’ll get angry again when my credit card bill arrives.

  • January 5, 2011

    If it makes you feel any better, I spent the last moments of 2010 and the first moments of 2011 sweeping a stage, and Kyle was loading a truck. So goes my life.

    (PS, LOVE the new look! Very professional. It’s like your Reuters.)

  • January 5, 2011

    Oh no! SO sad that you had to drink “redneck champagne” on Hogmanay (and killing myself at the description!). That must be all of your back luck for 2011 out the way now.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      I still think my best New Year’s to date was the one time I actually attended Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Do you go every year? Can’t imagine that being in my backyard!

      • January 6, 2011

        Glad you enjoyed it! I used to go every year but haven’t been for years now, I became more of a fan of going to parties indoors… This year was the quietest on record – we didn’t leave our house! Oh the dizzy heights of parenthood….

  • January 5, 2011

    Oh mind.. I seriously think you can combine all your flight stories to a book! Hope this year will be better luck for you.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Amy, it shall be called: “The Airlines Suck and Why I Continue to Fly Anyway.” =)

  • January 5, 2011

    I want to read part 2 cause it seems AA didn’t screw up. You got rebooked just not for the same day.

    Have u talked to the twitter person for AA? he’s pretty good at getting service complaints bumped up the food chain.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      How did they not screw up? They wouldn’t have rebooked us had we not been so aggressive–in fact, we never even got so much as an e-mail or text alert that our flight was delayed, let alone that we were going to miss the next one. They got us in 24 hours later than we were supposed to get in (and NOT due to weather), we were stuck in an absolute ghetto for New Year’s, they didn’t give us so much as a ticket voucher or travel credit as every airline has done in a similar incident, or even upgrade us when I’m already gold status (told me it would cost us $300 each and were REALLY RUDE about it)–plus, the delay resulted in us missing our niece’s birthday party and our car getting towed, which cost us $700. That sounds like a screw-up to me!

      • January 6, 2011

        I’m not saying they shouldn’t compensate you. I think they totally should and I would be pissed too. I’m just saying reading the story it seemed like you got the best alternative flight you could get. (I have no idea why the first flight was canceled)

        also, do you have their iphone app? It will tell you if flights are delayed.

        • January 6, 2011
          Kristin

          Ah gotcha, Matt. I guess what angers me the most is that they were so damn rude about the whole situation (when we were nice, polite travelers–not your angry, stranded holiday fliers) and that we were stranded with a dog at that (then they put us up in a non-pet-friendly hotel), a dog who cost nearly as much as our own ticket ha, but mostly that they weren’t going to alert us that our flight was even delayed. We never got a text, an e-mail, nothing. I get a call every five minutes from Southwest when I fly them keeping me posted on all delays and changes, and I feel if Scott and I hadn’t been so proactive on our own, we would have probably been stuck in Memphis for four days like they initially told us. Though so many people have said they were stranded via JetBlue and never got more than a recorded message, so maybe I should count my blessings, he?

          And I don’t have an iPhone–I have a BlackBerry!

        • January 6, 2011
          Kristin

          Ah gotcha, Matt. I guess what angers me the most is that they were so damn rude about the whole situation (when we were nice, polite travelers–not your angry, stranded holiday fliers) and that we were stranded with a dog at that (then they put us up in a non-pet-friendly hotel), a dog who cost nearly as much as our own ticket ha, but mostly that they weren’t going to alert us that our flight was even delayed. We never got a text, an e-mail, nothing. I get a call every five minutes from Southwest when I fly them keeping me posted on all delays and changes, and I feel if Scott and I hadn’t been so proactive on our own, we would have probably been stuck in Memphis for four days like they initially told us. Though so many people have said they were stranded via JetBlue and never got more than a recorded message, so maybe I should count my blessings, heh?

          And I don’t have an iPhone–I have a BlackBerry!

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Also, Matt, I Tweeted them approximately 20 times and they never once responded. And they follow me on Twitter. We’re going to file a complaint–that’s always worked in the past–but are just waiting until the holiday travel turmoil dies down before we do so.

  • January 5, 2011

    Sometimes it’s hard to believe you’re a travel writer. But then……

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      You mean because I have such downright terrible luck? 😉 The funny thing is that I was completely zen about the entire scenario as it unfolded–I looked at it as humorous and a good blog tale–until we got back to find our delay resulted in my car being towed (and $700 lost)!

  • January 5, 2011

    Yikes I really don’t even know what to say other than I guess this is why AA is being dropped from all of the travel search engines. Jerks!

    • January 6, 2011
      Kristin

      Andi: @santafetraveler told me that they know for a fact AA oftentimes just cancels flights that aren’t full and cites “mechanical trouble” or “weather” and figures out a way to NOT compensate passengers. It’s suspicious, too, hearing that considering I had checked the flight the night before and it was only a third full! Hmmm…

  • January 5, 2011
    Sid

    Your male cousin, with the grey shirt, bending forward = total hottie. Sorry that needed to be said. I’ll continue reading the rest of your article now.

    • January 5, 2011
      Kristin

      Sid, he also happens to be the one who designed this blog! Not just a pretty face, that one… 😉

  • January 6, 2011

    How awful! I can’t imagine how it will get worse from here. I was supposed to fly on Delta on the 30th and had a similar non-weather related delay that would have caused me to miss my connection. I don’t have status, but my dad (who booked the ticket) does and managed to work out a direct flight the next day for me. I had to ask friends to host my NYE party, and I got in 2 hours before midnight, but at least Delta offered me a $200 travel credit. Can’t believe how AA treated you!

  • January 6, 2011

    Good lord Kristin, next year just stay home and Skype!

    • January 6, 2011
      Kristin

      Haaa. Already planning on it!

  • January 6, 2011

    First, Baby Margaret is beautiful. Her eyes are so expressive (plus, I love the name;) Second, this sounds like the worst NYE ever, hands down beating mine at Logan in Boston. Preciously why I’ve given up travel from Thanksgiving to New Years (well, and having a baby puts a damper on the budget). I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

  • January 6, 2011

    This sounds horrific. And I know there’s more to come! You poor things!

  • January 6, 2011

    Ick, I can’t believe it still gets worse! Sorry you had such a rotten New Year. Courtyards in sketchy industrial parks are so depressing!

  • January 6, 2011

    Times like these make me go into a full blown giggle fit. Not because it is remotely funny at all, but because every possible thing that could go wrong did and all you have left past that glimmer of hope that faded is laughing about how God awful the situation has turned.

    (Please note that there are a few times I’ve done this and it drives hubby crazy)

    I’m glad you made it out alive!

    • January 6, 2011
      Kristin

      I complain now–and really only to do so as blog fodder, ha–but we were actually cracking up every step of the way because every time one of us would look at the other and say, “but what could possibly go wrong now?” something even worse would happen. I kept saying, “at least we’re together!” Because I probably wouldn’t have been laughing as much had I been traveling for 36 hours alone!

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