vendredi 22 août 2008

Amerikanski Aeroflot

One of my closest friends got married in Puerto Rico this past weekend. While the wedding itself and all the festivities surrounding it were a lot of fun I got to catch up with friends I had not seen in a long time, getting to the wedding itself was an ordeal I hope never to repeat. Alas, I have no one to blame but myself for this travel horror story, as I opted not to pay extra money for a ticket from a real airline and instead decided to fly out on Amerikanski Aeroflot, aka American Airlines

Mind you, I refer here to the old Soviet Aeroflot because Diego has flown the post-Soviet Aeroflot and he assures me it is far superior to today’s American Airlines; to boot, they are not stingy with the vodka. I already expect a lesser standard of service from U.S. airlines, and I can do without the TV dinner and miniature alcoholic beverages if need be. But even if the skies are no longer as friendly as they used to be, at least I don’t expect them to become downright hostile.

The trouble started on the Paris – JFK portion of my trip. We were lucky enough to be served by some disgruntled flight attendants that make the stereotypically surly French waiter look like a perky TGIF waitress. One flight attendant in particular would sigh heavily anytime a passenger asked for something, or else would ignore requests altogether. For example, during one of the beverage services, she neglected to ask me if I wanted a drink, and forgot to deliver my seatmate’s requested tea. She also had a disgusting habit of chewing gum with her mouth open and scratching her head while serving the meals. And when faced with some of the French passengers whose English was not 100% correct, she would loudly call out to her fellow flight attendants and state that those passengers did not speak English. I’ve gotten better service from pimply teenagers at my local McDonald’s.

The real fun, however, started on the JKF-San Juan leg of the trip. Some of the Puerto Ricans at the wedding told me that the American Airlines flights from New York to Puerto Rico are dubbed la “gua gua voladora,” (the flying bus), and I can see why. First, the flight was delayed because of severe weather in New York. Although not even the flight crew knew when we would be able to depart, they decided to board the passengers after the plane was cleaned. Little did we know that we would be stuck on the runway for about three hours in a stuffy, unairconditioned cabin (in the middle of August) with nary a drop of water to drink (when the water did finally come, it was not from a bottle, but was instead served from a carafe and had an oddly sweet taste to it...I’m trying not to think too much about where it might have come from).

During our time on the runway, I was the first person to use the bathroom; although the plane has been supposedly cleaned before boarding, the toilet was lined with wet toilet paper. Not only that, but the bathroom itself was falling apart. As soon as I pulled on a piece of toilet paper from the wall dispenser, the wall opened up, scattering paper towels and toilet paper all over the tiny, dirty bathroom. Since I could not put the wall back up, I had to hold it up using the toilet seat for leverage as I peed. Good thing I’m bendy.

Worst of all, the plane staff was thoroughly unprepared to deal with frazzled passengers. At one point, some passengers began yelling and complaining loudly enough for the whole plane to hear, asking to either be let off or given a drink, yet it took about an hour before anyone from the cabin crew did anything about it. I have the slight suspicion that the mostly American staff was somehow scared by the rowdy Caribbean crowd, because it was a Puerto Rican flight attendant that bravely came forward to deal with the crowd. Although the passengers were not able to convince him to give them free alcoholic drinks, at least they calmed down afterwards.

After three agonizing hours, the pilot finally came on the speaker to announce, in his official pilot-speak, that we have been cleared for take-off and would be the third plane to take off. Immediately afterwards, the Puerto Rican flight attendant gets on the loudspeaker and his Spanish translation of the pilot’s message was very succinct: “¡Gente, nos vamos!” (translation: “People, we’re off!”)

The rest of the flight was calm and I mostly slept as I was jet-lagged. I did wake up shortly before landing because, while we were still up in the air, the passenger behind me starts making numerous calls on her cell phone! Turns out her mother’s JetBlue flight was also delayed, and her abuelita was getting worried about them. Good thing they all had cell phones to keep in touch mid-air.

Luckily, my flight back from Puerto Rico was much less eventful, although I was puzzled by some of the marketing speak bandied about by the flight crew. In particular, as the attendants stand up to showcase the snacks for sale (mind you, that an airline even has to charge for potato chips is pretty pathetic), they stated that they had “complimentary beverages and snacks for sale.” How can the items be complementary if they are for sale?

Note to self: next time, fly with a real airline!

2 commentaires:

Angela a dit…

Oh my, what a horrid flight. New rule, American Airlines only for short domestic flights.

Diego a dit…

The real Aeroflot rules!