Once upon a time, not long ago, when people wore pajamas and lived life slow, my wife and I were invited to a wedding in Dallas; ya know, deep in the heart of Texas. Because I believe that there’s nothing you should do today that you can put off until tomorrow—I don’t actually believe this, but my airplane ticket purchase history might suggest otherwise—three weeks before the wedding (scheduled for July Fourth weekend), I hopped up on Orbitz to purchase some airplane tickets.
As it turns out, we were making one of those multicity journeys, going from Washington, D.C., to Dallas to Atlanta and then back to D.C. Obviously, that ticket purchase wasn’t going to be cheap, but ya know, sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick. Non sequitur? Tuesday.
I made my perusals and found a pair of tickets on American Airlines (fuck American Airlines; we’ll get to this, but I might say that every time I mention American Airlines) for roughly $1,300, flying from D.C. to Dallas on July 3, at 4:45 p.m. ET and arriving at around 6:45 p.m. CT. A week before the wedding, I talked to the bride and she let me know that the actual wedding ceremony was happening the day we arrived at 7 p.m. CT. To know Dallas is to know that it is huge as the fuck. There was n0 way we were going to get in at 6:45 p.m., get our luggage, pick up the rental and get all the way to her home in Frisco in time for the ceremony; hell, it took us over an hour to literally get OUT of the airport after arriving. I told her that since we were coming for the wedding, we’d change our tickets to get in with enough time to witness the ceremony.
This is where I think Brick killed a guy.
And by “Brick,” I mean American Airlines (fuck American Airlines) and by “killed a guy,” I mean fucked with my money. Also, let me just say here, some of this will read like I’m at fault. But if you don’t know what you don’t know then what can kill you is what you don’t know. American Airlines (and most airlines) are living that trife life, fam.
After I talked to the bride, I called American Airlines to inquire about changing my ticket, for a fee, to an earlier flight. This exchange ensued with the quite, quite rude woman on the phone:
Them: You can’t change your flight, you got the basic (bitch) ticket.
Me: OK, so if I need to fly out earlier, are you saying I need to buy a ticket to get there earlier?
Them: Pretty much. Anything else I can help you with?
Me: I guess not. You were sooooo helpful. Thanks.
Them: Mhmm. Click.
(I’m only being slightly hyperbolic here, I promise.)
So I took my unhappy, nonplussed ass on over to American Airlines (they continued to be the cheapest) and found a flight leaving an hour-plus earlier and spent another $500 bucks for two one-way tickets to Dallas to make sure we could get there for the ceremony. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s $1,800 total, so far. In my head, we’d just fly out an hour earlier, make it for the ceremony and then pick up the rest of the flights I’d purchased out of Dallas and call it a weekend.
Some of you know where this is going because you’ve either been there or know somebody who has. Others of you may be about to learn a lesson that can save you some money. I do this for the culture.
On Thursday, July Fourth, after going on a shopping spree at Dallas’ NorthPark Centre, dropping bands on dresses for weddings and other fine accoutrements, I get an email from Orbitz (not American Airlines, who’d been sending me flight updates directly) around 2 p.m., which would be less than 24 hours before our flight to Atlanta, saying that there was a change to my flight details; my flights had been canceled. As my stomach dropped, I went to the American Airlines website to check my flight, and lo and behold, the whole itinerary was nonexistent.
At this point, I called American Airlines, on July Fourth and an hour before the wedding reception, to find out what the hell was up. And it turns out, I was a victim of the “no-show policy” that American Airlines, and many other airlines, employ that states that if you miss the first leg of your flight, the rest of your ticket is canceled. No refund. Because I changed my flight out of D.C., and only my flight out of D.C., I lost the rest of my flights. I wasn’t aware of this policy, but I am aware of missing flights because lots of people miss flights. It’s damn near an American tradition and depending on what airport you’re flying out of, damn near a rite of passage. After several tense phone calls with managers and obviously exasperated because I’d just been told that I was effectively OUT over $1,300 (for the remainder of the flight), I got on the phone with a manager and this convo ensued:
Me: Ma’am, I’m sure you’re aware of my situation.
Them: I’m aware that you didn’t show up for your first flight and that your flight was canceled because of that. That’s what I know.
Me: Excuse me? I’m out of a lot of money and this is how we start the convo? OK, cool. So you’re saying that EVEN THOUGH I spoke with your employee who wasn’t clear about the fact that I’d lose my whole ticket EVEN though I bought a new ticket on American Airlines and MADE THAT FLIGHT I have no recourse? If she was clear we’d have taken the flight I booked!
Her: There’s nothing we can do for you. You didn’t take the flight. You forfeited the rest. Anything else I can do for you?
Me (to my wife): This woman is an asshole...yo.
I hung up the phone to stop myself from saying anything else uncouth because I was definitely in an uncouth mood at the fact that I literally just lost over a $1,000 on a flight EVEN THOUGH I specifically called to inquire about changing a flight.
At this point, my wife and I were weighing options on how to get to Atlanta on Friday (we were going for another wedding on Sunday) and back to D.C. We lobbed the idea of renting a car and making the whole thing a road trip but nobody wanted to spend 20-plus hours in a car, plus it wasn’t that much cheaper than buying flights. I ultimately ended up buying tickets to Atlanta and back to D.C., and guess how much THAT set of tickets cost?
If you’re keeping track at home, so far, and not even including the hotel rooms and rental cars, we’re at $3,200 JUST for flights. Once you factor in the hotels plus rentals, the whole trip was probably around $4,000. That, my G, is a trip overseas staying in the finest of villas.
To add insult to injury, let me tell you ABOUT the actual flight from Dallas to Atlanta. And yes, it was still on American Airlines because the times worked AND the tickets were still the cheapest. Never again, though.
The first plane we got on was trash. After an hour and a half on the tarmac, they let us know that the plane had a malfunctioning engine. We deboarded and had to wait more hours for a new plane. Right before boarding that new plane, we were informed the new plane was ALSO trash. A few hours later, we finally were able to board a plane, only to find out that the crew had been summoned to fly to Salt Lake City so we had to wait ANOTHER hour for a crew to hop off an inbound flight to take us to Atlanta. We left Dallas seven hours later than our ticketed time, but at least the plane wasn’t trash. And for our time and trouble, American Airlines sent me 2,500 miles. Yay, bitches. Yay.
Let’s talk about this no-show policy right quick, which is at the crux of my issue. I had no idea this was a thing. Maybe I should. A quick Google search showed me that we weren’t the only ones unaware of this policy. Apparently, lots of people find out the hard way that if you miss your flight and don’t board it—say you grab a rental car and drive to your destination or buy another flight—you just might end up fucked out of the remainder of your trip. Most airlines do this. I’d have done better to check myself into that first flight even if I didn’t actually board the plane. I didn’t know. I know now though. Oh yeah, I KNOW NOW.
What I also know is that the woman I spoke to at American Airlines in the first place could have told me I needed to book a whole new flight. She could have done that. She knew what I was asking. But instead, I’m out an extra $1,400. Thank you, American Airlines for being trash. Fuck you.
And for the rest of you, look up the no-show policy for whatever airline you’re flying and make sure your ticket is changeable. I learned a lesson the hard way, and even if it could be chalked up to being my fault, it stings no less because an agent of the company I spoke to decided she needn’t tell me the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
So dearest American Airlines, fuck you. Signed, sealed, delivered, I hate you.