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June 26, 2012 / mommy brain

Just when I thought American Airlines couldn’t suck any more, they found a way.

I’ve been a card-holding American Airlines AAdvantage member since I was sixteen…so a few years. No need to mention the exact number of years, but let’s say at least a decade of dedicated membership. I think the first flight I ever took, the one that brought my family to JFK from Europe, was a PanAm flight because it was a while ago I’m pretty old and PanAm was actually around back then, and I still remember looking out the window in awe of the fact that I was FLYING. I ran up and down the aisles, checking out all the cool things on the plane, and, basically, I was hooked. Flying was da bomb (not literally!), and I was determined to go on lots of trips on airplanes when I grew up.

My first solo flight was in high school to the metropolis of Milwaukee, WI, on my way to The World Affairs Seminar nerd camp. Did I mention that I was super cool in high school? Ya, because only super cool kids go to things like “World Affairs Seminars” to listen to speakers from places like the UN hang out with other super cool nerdy kids. Seriously, only like four kids applied for the rotary scholarship that paid for one lucky student to fly to Wisconsin to attend. Can you believe that?

Anyway, that first solo flight was on American, and I’ve been loyal to AAdvantage ever since. Well, for many years anyway. Both my European backpacking adventures were secured with American miles (thanks Dad!), and I’m grateful for those because had my dad not been an avid AAdvantage miles collector when I was in college, I may have missed out on some pretty amazing experiences such as being kicked off a bus in Santorini, Greece. And that would be sad because it’s a really funny story.

Later in life, when I achieved my dream of flying a lot – which turned out to be less glamourous than I envisioned as a little girl; 6AM flights and working on the plane is not da bomb; it kinda sucks  – I even got as far as achieving Platinum status for a couple years. So naturally, while I was upgraded and partaking in the joys of waived baggage fees and warm salty nuts on the other side of the curtain on a regular basis, I was still a cheerleader for good ol’ American Airlines.

Sadly, my long-term relationship with American Airlines took a turn for the worse, and it’s become downright rocky in recent years. I won’t go into all the annoying things that have happened, but ok I will because I’m ranting –

  • Last minute flight cancellations with no explanation – I have on more than one occasion booked my Southwest flight to get to where I need to go while still waiting for the American agent to finish whatever they had to do to get me my money back for the cancelled flight; and I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get that money back on some of those occasions.
  • Dumb and super high fees to actually use your miles (I paid ~ $200 last time I used miles; not a combo of  $ and miles, just fees required for the honor of using the miles! These fees have gotten a lot higher recently.)
  • And worst of all, the difficult employees. Ugh. I know they are underpaid and don’t have a stake in the company like the professional, polite and funny Southwest employees (my new fave airline), but come on, their job is to deal with customers! And of course, I have met some very nice American Airlines employees, even during the recent downturn in overall service, but I would say that more often than not, they are no fun at all and sometimes downright crabby. Perhaps if my platinum card were not expired, this would be different.

Back to the point of this post. (I promise I have one!) Before our recent trip to Mexico, I had flown with T several times, five trips or so. And each time, I gate checked our BOB stroller because (as discussed in the vacation post on items essential for our awesome baby vacay) it helps a ton to have on layovers since, unlike an umbrella stroller, you can recline it so the  bambino can nap. And also unlike an umbrella stroller, you can hang a bunch of stuff no the handles, including your diaper bag, carry-on luggage, your lunch, your baby’s lunch, whatever else you need to haul around on layovers or at the beach or wherever you’re traveling. It’s also key at the airport if you’re traveling solo when you have to use the restroom. Your baby can stay in there while you get the changing table ready AND go back into it so you can also pee after you change the baby.

Here I am with T on one of our flights w/o G. I always put him in the Ergo Baby carrier when it was time to board so I could fold up the stroller to gate check. This worked greatl!

On the way to Mexico, I peed while holding T in an airport bathroom BECAUSE American Airlines found a way to suck even more than they have in recent years. When we checked in, the American agent informed us that we had to check the stroller. She said that it’s too heavy and all strollers over 20 lbs had to be checked. That’s the policy. End of story. She asked if we brought an umbrella stroller? No, we didn’t bring a second stroller in addition to this awesome one we have right here! She explained that the stroller is much more likely to get damaged if it’s gate checked (because thats makes lots of sense) so it’s really to protect us and our stroller that she is being such an enormous pain with this stupid policy. I explained that I had flown many times (on American!) with the stroller carried on, including once just weeks earlier, and so I was skeptical about this policy she claimed has been in place for a while. She wouldn’t budge.

Meanwhile, I called my friends in NY, who were meeting us in Mexico, and they had their jogging stroller carried on (for their American flight!) ready to gate check upon boarding and they were chillin’ at JFK with their bambino napping in their stroller while they enjoyed some mimosas.

Anyhow, I was PISSED. G was embarrassed. He claims that I was once a much more relaxed traveler. And perhaps he’s right. But it’s not because I’m too high strung; it’s because American sucks ass. As we were finishing up the check-in process, I said, out loud, in the direction of the agent, “I wish Southwest flew internationally.” G turned bright red. Whatever. I so wish they did!

T was much more relaxed about the whole thing. He enjoyed lunch at the airport and crawling around on the terminal floor. He was like, “It’s cool, Mom. I don’t need no stinkin stroller.” T’s mom could probably learn a thing or two about chillin out from her little guy ; )  –>

This all came back to mind today because I’m planning an upcoming trip, so I’m dreading the possibility of my stroller being yanked from me at check-in and having to pay for it as checked luggage and pee while holding my 25 lb chubster for fear of him touching nastiness all over the public bathroom. No worries, though. I think I will have G drop me off, so that he can just meet me with the stroller before we go through security. Well, hopefully I will fly Southwest, and it won’t matter because Southwest is awesome.

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