Masking Tape, Failing Altimeters & Vanishing Employees: One Man’s Tale Of Flying On American Airlines

Maybe we’re piling on poor, beleaguered American Airlines of late, but the carrier sure has been in the news a lot these days, and not for good things. Now a recent opinion piece in the New York Times only bolsters these stories of delayed and/or canceled flights, ticked-off pilots and battered and bruised jets.

“You, American Airlines, should no longer be flying across the Atlantic,” begins Absurdistan author Gary Shteyngart. You do not have the know-how. You do not have the equipment. And your employees have clearly lost interest in the endeavor.”

Shteyngart then details how what should have been a brief (by transatlantic standards) flight from Paris to New York spiraled out of control into a 30-hour ordeal.

The highlights:
-The flight was delayed for a couple hours because the brakes and tires were apparently faulty, or maybe it’s because the staff hadn’t gotten to the airport. No one seemed to know for sure.

-The plane, whose overhead compartments were apparently held together with masking tape, was turned back somewhere over the Atlantic because the altimeter failed.

-Travelers had to disembark at London’s Heathrow Airport, where an AA staffer who was supposed to aid them through the customs checkpoint led them from one closed line to another to another.

It didn’t get any better after a night of rest:

Come morning, you, American Airlines, provided us with a free, daylong tour of Heathrow Airport. By bus. The bus brought us to our new plane, but the doors of the bus would not open. We stood, pressed to one another, in sweltering heat, as the plane was sprayed down for no reason we could discern. It would have been nice, in retrospect, had you sprayed us down, or at least given us something to drink. After an hour, we were told this flight would be canceled because this plane, too, had caught ill. Back to the terminal once more.

At this point, various American employees begin either vanishing or failing to materialize.

“All I know is that with each encounter, I steadily began to feel that your employees were prisoners just like us,” writes Shteyngart, “armed only with their little walkie-talkies from which issued tinny instructions, lost communiqués from some distant Oz.”

We’re assuming that he eventually got home. Perhaps he just clicked the heels of his ruby slippers three times?

A Trans-Atlantic Trip Turns Kafkaesque [NY Times]

Thanks to Max for the tip!