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Is this really ‘The American Way?’

This is a tale about how one bird turned a large flock of American Airlines passengers into a wake of angry buzzards.

After five delightful vacation days in The Bahamas, Nadine and our friends Nancy and Jeff Gordon boarded American Airlines Flight 1762 for Charlotte at 4:30. The misery began 10 minutes into the flight when the captain informed us that the plane had struck a large bird on take off and we had to go back to the Nassau airport to check the damage.

The plane returned to Gate 44 and we were told a mechanic needed to check for damage and if all was well we’d be on our way.

FOUR HOURS LATER, we were on our way — to even more aggravation. The pilot said there was no damage but a lot of paperwork was necessary, nearly four hours worth of paperwork as it turned out. And we sat on the plane the entire four hours. Snacks while we sat? Sure. Only $5 for a small bag of trail mix.

Once airborne again the passengers were told that nearly all of us had been rebooked on later flights and that nearly everybody had been accommodated and would make their connections.

What a crock that message was.

When we landed at Charlotte, we were told to report to the Service Desk at Gate B8. When we arrived at B8, the line was 100 yards long and more than 500 people stretched down the hall. Bad weather throughout the country caused delays and cancellations and the Charlotte airport was a zoo, only smellier.

AND IT ONLY GOT WORSE. We were rebooked for a 7:35 a.m. flight the next morning to Dayton. We tried to find a hotel near the airport, using a kiosk near baggage claim. Everything within 15 miles of the airport was booked. No room at any inn.

When we tried to return to the gate area through security, TSA was locking up. We couldn’t return. It didn’t matter because all the restaurants were closed. Several passengers were congregated in chairs and on the floor near the American check-in counters.

Some asked for bottled water. They were pointed in the direction of a drinking fountain. Some asked for pillows and/or blankets. American said no.

Most of the stranded passengers remained in the gate area and some became so hostile that security/police were summoned to keep the peace.

ONE WOMAN WAS PARTICULARLY angry because she said her flight from Charlotte to New York City didn’t leave the tarmac. “They loaded us up and started taxiiing,” she said. “Then they headed back to the gate and told us the pilot’s time was up, he had been flying too long. Why did he even take that plane away from the gate? He had to know his time was up.”

Meanwhile, all the counter personnel at American went home to their comfortable beds while the passenger peons found chairs and floors on which to waste a night. Some of us entertained ourselves by staging wheel chair races down the empty hallway in front of the check-in counter.

Some people received food vouchers, most of us didn’t. Oh, and our luggage? Never saw it. They said it would be flown to our destination. Clean clothes? Toiletries? You American help us in any way? No way.

I guess it’s The American Way.

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