Greedy union bosses have targeted our country’s top two domestic airlines for destruction.
Throw in typical summertime thunderstorms, the grounding of the 737 Max, and packed planes oversold with summer vacationers and you have a tinderbox of chaos the unions are igniting with unprecedented flight cancellations and delays.
It’s officially the “Summer from Hell” for airline passengers. As your editor here at Proud American Traveler — and daily victim — I’ve got a few insider tips to help you survive the summer.
The disputes between the mechanics’ unions and Southwest and American Airlines are not new. In fact, I wrote about the problems at Southwest back in February.
As I predicted in February, Southwest caved into the extortionate demands of the union bosses and gave them a new contract.
What happens when you give in to terrorist demands?
More terrorism. Of course.
Within hours of inking a new contract with Southwest, the mechanics’ union bosses launched a new terror campaign against American Airlines.
A federal judge stepped in to slap down the greedy union bosses, ordering them to stop disrupting the lives of Americans who simply need to get from Point A to Point B.
It hasn’t helped.
At American, delays and cancelations dictated by the mechanics’ union have skyrocketed since the June injunction ordering them to stop the work action.
In June, 4,000 American flights were cancelled, more than double what is typical for the month. July is even worse and on pace for triple the cancellations.
John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers of America, threatened to wage “the bloodiest, ugliest battle that the United States labor movement ever saw” against American Airlines and its customers.
“We’re going to shut this place down,” he promised.
Look, I’m no fan of the airlines either, as you know. But in the union’s desire to destroy the company that employs them and signs their paychecks, they are also disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of American travelers.
Just to provide you a small sampling of the misery I’ve personally experienced, here’s a quick summary of my last three weeks flying with American and Southwest.
American flight from Norfolk to Philadelphia to Grand Rapids: CANCELLED
I made it to my layover in Philadelphia two hours late. But that’s as far as I got.
After sitting on the plane for hours, the flight was cancelled at 1am. I had to cancel my million dollar business meeting in Grand Rapids, find a $200 hotel in Philadelphia and book a $400 Delta flight home because there were no available seats on any American flight out of Philadelphia for at least the next two days.
American Airlines refused to reimburse me for the hotel or the Delta flight, not to mention the missed business meeting.
But get this…
…it took three weeks of arguing with American Airlines representatives to get them to EVEN REFUND the cost of the Norfolk to Grand Rapids flight I paid for!
For almost a month they actually argued they only owed me a partial refund. Afterall, I had the privilege of boarding their two hour delayed flight to Philadelphia and getting stranded there with no accommodations.
Only American Airlines would strand you somewhere you don’t want to go, refuse to provide alternate flights or accommodations — and then have the audacity to charge you money for such an honor.
And just to remind you, I am a Platinum Elite American Frequent Flier who has flown over a million miles with them. I can only imagine how they treat other customers.
American flight from Cincinnati to Chicago to El Paso: CANCELLED
American canceled this one as soon as I got to the airport.
I ran to the other terminal and bought a ticket on Southwest while they were literally boarding the plane. It was the only other option to get to El Paso in time for my meeting.
Southwest flight from Cincinnati to Chicago to Dallas to El Paso: DELAYED
Southwest doesn’t cancel as many flights as American, but their flights are NEVER on time.
Unfortunately an hour delay on the flight to El Paso meant I missed another important meeting.
American flight from El Paso to Miami: CANCELLED, rebooked, CANCELLED, rebooked, DELAYED, rebooked, DELAYED
This was a fun day. American rebooked this flight three times. Long story short, I landed in Fort Lauderdale — not Miami — at 1am, seven hours after my original arrival time.
Southwest flight from Jacksonville to Baltimore to Albany: CANCELLED
At least Southwest had the courtesy of letting me know the flight to Albany was cancelled before I left for the airport. Unfortunately, unlike American, Southwest doesn’t bother to rebook you on the next flight. The useless so called “customer service” representative told me I had to rebook at the airport.
Huh? Have you been to an airport when a flight is cancelled? 170 passengers trying to get the attention of one airline employee for a rebooking is not a pretty sight.
By the time I was off the phone, the alternate flight I wanted was sold out.
Eventually I rebooked a brand new ticket to Hartford (which was delayed two hours), landed in Hartford at 2am and drove two hours to Albany.
And it’s not just me this has happened to.
One colleague got stranded by American Airlines in Kansas for the weekend last Friday. Another was stranded in Little Rock.
Southwest stranded that same guy in Baltimore a few days later.
My boss had no better luck on United where bad weather cancelled a flight to Michigan and another one to Texas.
And that is just the tally of airline-caused catastrophe over the past three weeks!
It’s going to be a long, hot miserable summer at the nation’s airports. Our commercial aviation system is literally breaking down before our eyes.
If you have travel booked this summer, plan ahead for your plans to be disrupted.
Fortunately for you, as someone who endures this misery on a daily basis, I can offer you a bit of advice.
1. Drive. Don’t fly.
Seriously. Just don’t do it.
If where you need to go requires a connecting flight and the drive is less than 10 hours, you need to give some serious consideration to just renting a car, loading your smart phone with a long playlist of tunes and hitting the highway.
Trust me, the front seat of your car is SOOOO much more comfortable than a middle seat in coach. And no forehead-vein-popping TSA wannabe-petty-dictator is going to try and save America from terrorism by confiscating your contraband tube of Crest.
You don’t like long drives?
Please reread the above paragraphs describing my three weeks of flight misery and do the math. The “Summer from Hell” = Cars > Planes.
2. If you must fly, don’t fly American or Southwest
Okay, well, sometimes you have to fly.
If you do, try to book a flight on Delta.
Delta is the least unionized of the major airlines and, as a result, seems to be more immune to “we-hate-our-customers” mentality prevailing this summer at American and Southwest.
Even when those inevitable summer thunderstorms shut down Delta’s Atlanta hub, the airline just seems better equipped to respond and recover from catastrophe.
Yeah, in a worst case scenario, you might get stranded for the night in Atlanta. But chances are Delta will automatically rebook you on the next available flight tomorrow. No need to wait on hold or stand in line. Just check your Delta app.
American and Southwest? Good luck getting anyone to even answer the phone.
3. Book a backup flight.
I realize this is not an option if you are a vacation traveler. But if you are flying on business, and your boss absolutely positively expects you to be there tonight and your company is picking up the tab, then book a Plan B flight.
I will book a fully refundable alternate flight on another airline, preferably a little later than my primary flight… just in case.
When catastrophe inevitably strikes, I’ve got a backup plan already booked.
If the gods are smiling on me and the union decided not to sabotage my original flight, then I simply cancel the backup flight at the last minute and get my refund.
Do the airlines hate people like me who do this?
Yes. Yes they do.
Do I feel the least bit guilty about it?
Hmmmm. Let me see if I can muster a tear for the airlines…
…nope. Nothing. Just reread the above paragraphs about how the airlines have ruined my life for the last three weeks.
4. When catastrophe strikes, get creative.
Sometimes there is more than one way to get where you need to go.
When my flight from El Paso to Miami was cancelled, I rebooked myself on a flight to Fort Lauderdale, 45 minutes north of Miami. When that flight to Fort Lauderdale was cancelled, I rebooked on a later flight to Miami. When that flight to Miami was delayed for hours, I jumped on a flight to Fort Lauderdale that had been delayed all day – but just happened to be boarding when I walked up to the gate.
So a bit of flexibility goes a long way — which is also why we tell you do NOT check your luggage. Ever.
5. Just Stay home.
Unfortunately, there is no sign that this union sabotage is going to end any time soon.
Even the executives at American Airlines seem to have given up hope.
“The combined effect of the mechanics’ refusal to comply with the temporary restraining order has been brutal,” the airline said in a recent court filing.
You know it is bad when the airline itself is telling you the flying experience is going to be “brutal.”
Staying home this “Summer from Hell” never sounded so good.