A Comedy of Airlines: no to Air France; maybe to American Airlines

If you harbor concerns about your flight and are flying into London Heathrow, look for  troubleshooting agents in the left-hand corner before you approach the gates.

Magic — like walking through the brick wall to Hogwarts in Harry Potter books — may win the day for you, as it did for me.

American Airlines kept changing our flights to Madrid, then Bordeaux, France, the start of Claire & Sheila’s Excellent Adventure. Claire — a Maine friend of more than forty years — and I booked “reward” tickets more than a year ago.


Flying over Spain.. one of my favorite photos

On May 14, our meeting date in Madrid, long-made plans turned topsy-turvy. My flight arrived an hour early so I quickly texted Claire: “I’m running to get on your morning flight to Bordeaux!” Meanwhile, she texted me, “I missed the flight because of a workers’ strike. I’ll be on your 4:20 p.m. flight.” Searching for each other in the Madrid airport, which turned out to be way more complicated than expected, we finally met outside.

“Can you believe it, we’re finally starting our excellent adventure!” We laugh heartily.


We boarded a red double-decker tour bus to tour Madrid in a few hours, staying awake after long flights across the Atlantic.

Claire and I spent hours prior to the trip grumbling by phone about “Evil AA (American Airlines). “I’m so done with them!” we frequently told each other.

We tried to get on the same flight across the pond — Claire from Boston and me from Philly — but AA’s phone reps wouldn’t have it.

The only other thing we grumbled about  was the weirdly mispronouncing GPS that was supposed make driving around in France go smoothly.

“HA, I hate her,” I often pronounced, following GPS’s garbled directions over narrow, curvy mountain roads, trying to reach tiny villages only an hour away…

Our trip is now a rose-infused, shiny-leafed vineyard, bike-riding, two baguette plus Rose wine dream.

Still, it’s only right that I commend the ponytailed AA agent, who on June 4, persisted in changing my flight home to Tucson at London Heathrow, otherwise I would have waited for seven hours in Dallas (my least favorite airport, in tornado heaven).

“Smashing!” she announced, when she managed to get me on an earlier flight to Phoenix. Magic, indeed.

In flight when I woke from my four-hour nap, flight attendants were passing out GOURMET chocolate ice cream. What a lovely surprise. AA redeemed itself.

Air France: Printed on my May 24 boarding pass from Charles de Gaulle  to Florence was Gate 47. Two minutes before takeoff my name blasted over the PA calling me to Gate 54, where I met a nasty agent, yelling: “I’ve cancelled you from the flight! Yes, you weren’t here for boarding. ”

“What?? I didn’t hear any announcements about a gate change,” I replied.

“Well, we can’t do that because it’s too noisy.”

I finally boarded the flight after more arguing, already unhappy about paying AF 44 euros to check a small suitcase.

My June 3 return flight from Florence to Paris, was delayed for six hours due to “technical reasons.” Exhausted when passengers finally lined up, a French lawyer explained “Watching the grounded plane I didn’t witness any mechanical crews. Mon dieu, It’s a personnel problem. Air France does this all the time. They’re so unprofessional.”

On board, a so-called “flight attendant” dressed in jeans and a t-shirt wore a security pin. You can’t get a glass of water without paying. Finis, Air France!

Fellow/Sister adventurers, don’t let airport mishaps stop you! And, there’s always Turkish Airlines where the pilot addresses the “dear children” before takeoff.  There’s a menu welcoming you on your seat, which features better than edible food and a smashing chocolate mousse.










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3 Responses to A Comedy of Airlines: no to Air France; maybe to American Airlines

  1. Dan Cobbledick says:

    On second reading I liked it better. It’s still a little muddy, but I understand you had lots of anecdotes to include (plus it’s only a blog post).

  2. doreen scherf says:

    What a nightmare, Sheila. Thanks for the info.

    • sheilawill says:

      Looking back, I meant this post to be funny (except for the six-hour delay in Florence). I should have called it “A Comedy of Airlines.” Claire and I laughed and laughed when we found each other outside of the Madrid airport. You never what may happen when traveling, although we had carefully planned for a year. I wanted to be a tiny bit instructive, like maybe it’s a good idea to check your flight gate no matter what it says on your boarding pass or ask a question about your flight. I’m forever grateful to that caring agent at London Heathrow who got me on an earlier flight home. She’s a wizard! Part of the fun of traveling is that you never know what might happen, and I figure the best way to accept mishaps is to concoct funny stories. Doreen, you’re not the only one who saw my flight experiences as a nightmare. At the time, I wasn’t happy. Now I’ve got some funny stories, although I may be the only one who sees it that way!

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