Monday, August 20, 2012

The Security Breach

As I intimated in the last post, my trip home from Canada was rather exciting. All six of us arrived at the airport at the same time since Jill and I were only leaving thirty minutes after the rest of our group. Canada international travel is somewhat interesting as you have to clear customs there before heading into the United States. That was fine with me as Jill and I only had 50 minutes to make our connecting flight in Chicago, which would have left no time to go through customs there. Jill and I checked in with the AA agent at the counter, using Ted's credit card to check the two bags. We figured since we were arriving in St. Louis before the guys, we could go ahead and collect the luggage while waiting for them to arrive. The agent gave us the receipt for the luggage and then our boarding passes. Next stop was with an employee of the airport, who scans the boarding passes and advises you about how many checked bags you have listed. First clue that something was awry is that the gal told Ted he had checked one bag, which he had not. Jim was advised the same thing. Jill and I, however, were told we had checked no bags. In looking at the baggage claim receipt, we saw that the AA agent had checked the bags through LaGuardia with Ted. I am assuming that was because we used his credit card, so she just attached it to his ticket. A minor inconvenience, but no biggie. Rather than go back out and try to correct this, we just let it go. But alas that was not all the AA agent had screwed up.

When we arrived at the next employee who would scan our boarding passes before sending us on the customs area, Jill was ahead of me in line. She had just gone through when I happened to glance at my boarding pass to make sure I gave him the one from Montreal to Chicago, and not the one from Chicago to St. Louis. My boarding pass said James Wolterman on it! Jill's said Ted Spaid! So not only had the agent sent our bags to New York, she was sending Jill and me there too! It is important to note that both Jim and Ted had gone through these same two airport employees, and nothing sent up a red flag to them that four boarding passes had been issued in the names of only two people. It would have been interesting to me to see how far I could have gotten with the incorrect boarding pass. Since the custom agent looked at my Chicago to St. Louis boarding pass and didn't say anything, I am thinking he would not have noticed either. I think the only time they would have seen that anything was wrong is when they determined that Jill and I had the same seats as Ted and Jim.

But instead of pushing our luck, we went back out to the same AA agent, not bothering to wait in the long line again. I figured since she screwed up we shouldn't be penalized for it. When I pointed out her error she said, "Oh really? I just figured since you were traveling as a group it wouldn't matter." You didn't think it would matter that you put the boarding passes not only in the wrong name, but on the wrong flight?!? She tore up the incorrect passes and gave us new ones. We proceeded without further incident through customs and down to our gate. Coincidentally, our flight was leaving from the same gate as the flight to New York so we were able to sit in the gate area together.

Their flight ended up being delayed, which meant that our flight got moved to a new gate. It didn't matter as the plane we were waiting for was also delayed. By the time it deplaned and we were allowed on, our connecting time in Chicago had shrunk to ten minutes. Of course we fretted about this on the plane and our flight attendant had absolutely no sympathy for our plight. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the new flight would depart from the same concourse we would arrive at. But that was not to be - we arrived at the end of H and the St. Louis flight was departing from the end of G. Having barely made our 40 minute connection through the same configuration on the way to Montreal, I figured we were just out of luck.

When we landed we pleaded with fellow passengers to allow us to get off first (we were in the 10th row so that helped), and most of them were very kind. One other man from our flight was headed the same direction. We took off, running like O.J. Simpson through the airport. I didn't run for long as the blisters on my feet quickly let me know they were having none of that. I did walk very fast though, keeping Jill and the flip-flap of her flip-flops in my sights. As we neared the gate they were just beginning to call the names of the standby passengers. I am sure three of them were cursing the fact that we showed up just in the nick of time. We had middle seats, one behind the other, near the back of the plane. I plopped in my seat, for all the world sounding like one of the contestants on The Biggest Loser. I was just hoping I didn't smell like a homeless person. Just as I was beginning to breathe a little easier, a ruckus began across the aisle.

That side of the plane had only two seats per row, while my side had three. An older man was sitting in the window seat, but the aisle seat was empty. The flight attendant noticed, and was going to put someone in the seat. The man told her she could not, as he had purchased both the seats. Assuming he meant someone was still coming, she proceeded to place the other standby passengers in empty seats. When the aisle seat remained empty, she asked the man about it. "I tried to tell the AA people inside the terminal that I bought the seat for my granddaughter, but her dad picked her up in Chicago and she wasn't finishing the last leg of the trip with me. But they didn't want to hear about it."

"So she isn't joining you?"

He glared at her. "Didn't I just say that?!?"

"Then I am going to put someone in this seat."

"The hell you are! I paid for that seat and no one else is going to sit in it!" The attendant went to the front of the plane and came back with three other attendants, and the poor woman who had been sold the aisle seat. I said to the woman next to me, "Man, I would hate to be the poor person they sit next to him." "I know, he is going to take it out on her", she replied.

The attendants explained to him that his granddaughter was a no-show, and as such they could resell the seat. He told them they could go ahead and sell it - after they gave him his money back. This was something he would have to take up with AA, they told him. They said if he had put both tickets in his own name, then he could have taken both seats. (That would not have worked out well for his granddaughter, now would it?) By now the copilot was joining the fray, as the man told them it was a bunch of shit that they could sell the seat twice, and this is why they are going out of business since they don't treat their customer right. Finally he was advised that he could either get off the plane and talk to AA inside the terminal, or he could sit down and be quiet, but they WERE putting someone in the seat next to him. He wisely chose to stay in his seat, and the woman sat down beside him. To his credit, he turned to her and said, "Nothing against you ma'am. They sold this seat twice and that just makes me so damn mad!"

The remainder of the flight was blessedly quiet, and we arrived in St. Louis right on time. And I guess I got some good blogging material out of all the excitement.

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

Wow, that was exhausting. I can see that man's point, but then I wasn't a traveler desperate for a seat. Do you think it was right that his extra seat was taken?