Author’s note: This is the second part of a true story about traveling on American Airlines. If you haven’t read Part I yet go here.
I can’t sleep. I drift off only to be brought back to wakefulness. Finally, I doze off but my dreams are fitful and Antun shakes me to free me of them. In the morning I am sleepy but cheerful. “Let’s go to Dallas or Fort Worth. There’s a modern art museum in Fort Worth.” Antun agrees and so we plan an afternoon at the Kimball Art Museum and the modern art museum across the street. Our plan is to take a taxi but the hotel concierge tells us, “You’ll have to rent a car.” Even with our “Gold status’ renting a car is expensive, but we need diversion and want to make the best of the circumstances.
The Kimball Art Museum is a delight. Designed by the architect, Louis I. Kahn, the building plays on space and light providing luminosity and, at the same time, protection from the heat of the Texas summer. The collection is small but so carefully chosen that as I move from piece to piece, My “ahs” became more and more audible.
Of course, I have my favorites. First is the portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero painted by Goya with his stylized dress, piercing Iberian eyes, fine black hair with graying sideburns, and hands that are both powerful and artful. Then there is the portrait of the young Jewish man by Rembrandt. This is not a handsome man, rather, I marvel at how the artist’s brush creates light and vulnerability. Then there is Cezanne’s Maison Marie with a view of Chateau Noir, a jumble of cubes and rectangles and colors of the earth and sky. As I look at it I start making up a story about Marie and her humble life in the shadow of the great chateau. I am relaxed but with the afternoon’s passing I start to feel anxious about the flight tonight.
On our way back, we stop for a coffee. While we are sitting at the counter Antun’s cell rings. He answers and I see a strange, twisted smile light up his face. He puts the phone back in his pocket and says, “The flight is delayed to 11PM tonight.”
“Delayed, you’ re kidding. Right?”
“No, I’m not. It’s delayed. Let’s get back to check this out.” We drop off the rental car and board the bus that takes us to Terminal D. We head straight for the American monitors. The flight is there and the departure time is 11PM. We go to the American counter to see if we can glean any more information. “Is the flight to Santiago Chile going tonight?”
The agent looks down at her computer. “Yes, it is going. It says here the delay is mechanical but that it is a go. It’s just going at 11PM.”
We look at each other without really seeing one another. Each one is lost in his thoughts. I think mechanical problems, again. What’s going on with this airline? This is not a good sign. Antun is wearing a frown, something that he’s not accustomed to doing. I don’t have to ask him what he is thinking; I already know. There is nothing to do but to get something to eat and then check ourselves and our two bags in for the flight.
It is early, 7PM. We head for the gate. After an hour, the gate changes; then it changes again. We’re passing the time reading. Every few minutes I check the monitor. Still an 11PM departure. Finally, I look at my watch. It is 10PM. I touch Antun’s shoulder. “The flight will be boarding soon. Let’s go to the new gate. It’s the next one down.”
On our way, out of habit, we stop to look at the monitor but don’t see our flight. It has vanished. My heart is knocking hard against my chest. Antun looks around. Another couple is nervously looking too. “What happened to the Santiago flight?” he asks them. “They just canceled it. We’re trying to go there too. We have to get rebooked.” I am limp. Antun’s mother’s birthday celebration is tomorrow afternoon and we won’t be there. I’m getting the feeling that American Airlines won’t be able to fly us from Dallas to Santiago Chile tomorrow night either.
When it is our turn to talk to an agent, the news is bad. We try routing through Los Angeles. The LAN flight only has one available seat tomorrow. There are two Miami flights tomorrow but, American can’t get us there in time and claim the other airlines don’t have any available seats either. It gets worse. Realizing how ridiculous the situation is, the agent becomes agitated; we get more and more dismayed. I’m leaning against the counter holding my head in my hand. Tomorrow’s flight from Dallas to Santiago is overbooked. The international customer service manager, who is there at the desk, says plainly, “We always have trouble with this flight. And, tomorrow it is sold out.” She doesn’t look up or seem concerned. This is business as usual.
The agent helping us says she can confirm us on the flight but not in business class for which Antun has paid and I have upgraded to by paying with my precious miles and a fee of $300.00 for the privilege of using them. Between us we have paid American Airlines over $10,000 for this trip. Then, she says, “I can’t give you seats in economy either. I’m sorry. You’ll have to sort that out tomorrow night.”
Antun looks at me and says, “American can’t get us there. Let’s fly back to San Francisco and try another time. I’ll reschedule my business meetings.”
“OK, but I feel terrible.” The reality has settled in. I, too, have lost confidence in American’s fleet and in their ability to get us to Santiago.
“Fly us back to San Francisco tomorrow morning, please.”
“OK, let me see which flight I can get you on.” The agent scans her computer screen. “I”m really sorry but there are no available seats to San Francisco tomorrow.”
I am incredulous and feel the panic starting to grab my throat. I can hardly speak. I sense danger. This can’t be. What’s happening here? This airline is falling apart and we are stuck here in this hot and humid concrete maze. We are nowhere. What else is going to fall apart? But then I find my voice.
“What about San Jose?”
“Which San Jose?” says the flustered agent.
“San Jose California. Can you fly us there tomorrow?
“Let me see. Yes. we can. There are a couple of seats left. We can send you to San Jose in the morning at 8:45AM.” She quickly types something into her terminal. “Go to D16 baggage claim for your bags. American Airline buses are waiting to take you to a hotel for the night and will bring you back in the morning.”
I look at my watch and see that it’s heading towards 11:30PM and we’ll have to be up at 6:30AM. If we use the airline’s hotel, we still have a bus ride of we don’t know how long in front of us. I look at Antun. he looks at me. He says, “You go to see if you can get us a room here at the airport. I’ll go to get the bags.”
The Hyatt at the airport can give us a room which relieves me. I call Antun. ” I got the room.” I say trying to sound upbeat.
Well, I didn’t get the bags.” he replies deadpan.
“What do you mean? We’re not going to Santiago now.”
“Well, they say there will be no bags released, that the bags will go tomorrow to Santiago. We’ll have to talk to American in the morning.”
Another fitful night with little sleep passes. We get up early the next morning and head for the American check-in. We tell the agent that we are not going to Santiago and have to get our bags back. We ask, “How do we do this?”
“Oh, I’ll do a CBO.” Then, she types something into her computer. Just then her phone rings. She listens, but does not talk. Then she hangs up.
“I’m sorry but baggage says they have two thousand bags down there and besides they don’t have any manpower to find bags now. But, I’ve put a trace on them. When you get to San Jose, go to the baggage claim desk and make sure the trace is there. We’ll get the bags back to San Francisco.”
There is nothing more we can do about the bags. “OK, thank you. We will.” We go through security and take the train to the gate in Terminal A. Boarding is at 8:15AM. We drink a coffee. We don’t talk much. What is there to say? “Maybe we should have tried one more time,” I murmur even though I know there is no use.
“We’ll go another time,” I’ll send my speech for the office celebration and have Victor give it on my behalf. He’ll have to do the CORFO meeting, too. Antun says as he puts his arm around me I’m thinking of my plans to do research for my novel.
8:15AM comes and goes with no boarding. But, I am numb and don’t react. Half an hour later, at 8:45, we board. Half an hour after that we are on our way to San Jose. Once on the ground, we go to baggage claim. The man at the desk takes our baggage receipt. Antun points to the CBO number written there by the agent in Dallas. We repeat what she has told us to say. The man stares at the screen but doesn’t seem to comprehend. After awhile he acknowledges that he sees the two bags in the system and that they are coming to San Francisco tonight. We thank him and walk away. But something doesn’t seem quite right to me.
To be continued…
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E. Slocum