The major US airline that behaves like a low cost one

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Bashing British Airways seems to have become something of a national sport. We’re all – myself included – quick to condemn the UK’s national carrier.

But if my experience with other airlines this year is anything to go by, we shouldn’t be so harsh on poor old BA. Sure the stewards and stewardesses may look matronly but the service – from the friendliness of the staff to food and in-flight entertainment options – is first class.

If only the same could be said for one of BA’s biggest competitors, American Airlines. To date I’ve flown with AA twice in 2014 and, as America’s national carrier, I had high hopes for a smooth journey upon boarding each aircraft.

I have learned the hard way: great expectations will invariably leave you as disappointed as Miss Havisham.

AA’s aircraft look and feel very antiquated. At eight stone, I’m not a large person by any means but in an economy seat on an AA flight from London to Chicago, I felt as squashed as the proverbial can of sardines.

I’ve reached a stage in life where I not only appreciate the finer things, but I expect them and so was looking forward to relieving my seating discomfort with a cheeky alcoholic tipple over dinner. “No problem”, the attendant told me, “but you know we charge for alcohol right?”

Err. No I didn’t. And having already paid above the odds for an economy seat (when it comes to travel, my common sense flies out of the window – I’ll balk at replacing my washing machine but will happily whip out the plastic to pay for a flight) the request for a G&T was swiftly replaced with one for a tomato juice.

I turned my attention to the television screen and decided to kill time watching a film. Only unlike BA, the movies offered by AA are on ‘loop’ meaning you don’t get to decide the time you want to watch the on screen action. Nor are you able to pause/rewind at any point. I managed to find a film that was just about to start, but the the quality of the sound system was akin to something you’d pick up at a car boot sale.

Five days later, I took an internal flight from Chicago O’Hare International Aiport to Dallas Fort-Worth – again with AA. My ticket for this two hour domestic flight came in at around US$300 so I was flabbergasted to be told, upon arrival, that I’d have to pay to check in my suitcase. Admittedly at US$25 it wasn’t a fortune but if you’re a family of four or more… What narked the most was that while AA had outlined that no snacks would be served throughout the duration of the 2.5 hour flight, there had been no mention of a suitcase surcharge.

Everyone knows that with Easyjet, Ryanair et al, you pay to check bags into the hold. However this wasn’t something that I had expected to encounter or come across with a so called ‘proper’ airline.

Its not only AA that I am annoyed at: AeroMexico (Mexico’s national carrier) isn’t any better. I flew from London to Mexico City with AeroMexico during the festive season and sadly, despite phoning and emailing in advance to confirm my requested vegetarian meal, found myself up in the air for 10 hours with nothing to eat save for a small tub of ice cream and a meagre bread roll.

But that’s nothing compared to what happened on a subsequent internal AeroMexico flight. My scheduled 10am flight from Mexico City to Merida was scrapped and 12 hours later, I was informed that I was being re-routed to Cancun. I made it around midnight – if only my luggage had too. It was a frustrating four days before my bags and I were reunited in Cancun, a destination that I had never even intended to touch down in.

My message? It’s easy to knock BA but, as airlines go, it’s not half bad.

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