Tag Archives: JFK

Red Hot South East Asian Summer

18 May

How do you prepare to live in a foreign country for three months? I had a paranoid feeling that I was forgetting to do something or bring something or let someone know I was going to be away. And before I knew it, literally it happened in about 2 weeks… The adventure of a lifetime has begun! The morning of my flight I was frantically last minute packing and tidying up the apartment before James drove me to JFK. Thanks to a handy travel scale, courtesy of mom, both of my bags were underweight. Airline baggage fees have become outrageous and I’ve been in line behind many people who had to repack bags or pay ridiculous overage fees. Luckily credit card companies have gotten smart and now offer free bags in their annual fee. Since there is no delta sky lounge in Terminal 4, I bought a bunch of “I Love NY” gear to give to new friends I anticipate meeting along the way, and headed to the gate. Some of my last minute errands included calling my credit card companies, my cell phone carrier, my parents and my grandma. And of course taking pics of my delta lay flat bed on the upper deck to Tokyo Narita. The two inter-continental Delta flights were very comfortable and my gluten free meal request was honored and delicious. I kept the same seat on both flights and didn’t need to recheck my luggage in Tokyo. Upon landing in Manila, I went through customs and made my way to the Shangri-La lounge area on the opposite side of the pick up/drop off lane. There, coincidentally, was my coworker from Chicago and two other coworkers that have been here for at least 3 weeks and were nice enough to come to the airport to meet us on a Saturday night. After getting checked in it was time to try and sleep before our first day of work. Everyone at the office is extremely nice and the service at the hotel is impeccable. The buffet breakfast is outstanding and similar to what I experienced in India. It’s attached to a mall which is a very popular hang out spot in Manila. The mall of Asia here is actually the third largest mall in the world.

I was asked before I came here whether or not I liked Filipino food. Of course the person that asked me this did so with a scowl on his face, therefore indicating that he did not like the food. I had no idea what he meant until I came here and realized how sweet most of the food is. “Sweet beef” you ask? How can this be? I have no idea, but it surprisingly really good, especially for breakfast. American restaurants are incredibly popular here. Apparently when IHOP opened there was a 4 hour line for the first couple weeks. However one thing that is definitely not the same is Dunkin Doughnuts. While I am not a fan of their coffee I decided to get one with my coworker anyway. We were walking around apartment hunting for me which is no small task in 93 F degrees with over 100% humidity. The regular iced coffee was so bad it was undrinkable. It was literally like drinking sugar with some coffee flavored water in it. We took a couple sips out and quickly ditched it. I guess we’re sticking to Starbucks.

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American Air and Holiday 2013

10 Mar

“Here’s your itinerary” … The wonderful words that start the email when you’ve booked a trip. Typically for me they come from American Express Traveler, for both work and personal, or from Delta. Today’s email was from the personal American Express Traveler for booking my annual American Airlines ticket to STT for Christmas and New Year’s with my parents.  This is the point where everyone jumps on me for booking my ticket ridiculously early. BUT, for any of you who have wanted to buy a last minute ticket at a holiday, you know I made the right decision. Flights to the Virgin Islands over the holidays can be upwards of $1300.

While I am relieved and excited to have my ticket taken care of, I get nervous every time I have to take an American Airlines flight. This is the main reason why:

In 1989 I became an American Airlines frequent traveler, with my own AA number. I was four. Since then my family has almost always preferred American over other airlines. So much so, that I had Gold status by my junior year of high school with 4 upgrades in my queue. (I had no idea how great I had it at the time, but I rolled with it.) My dad is an American Million Miler and my mom will most likely earn the status this year. I, obviously, lost my coveted Gold status in college, but once I joined the corporate world I quickly became obsessed with racking up points and miles. Four years ago I noticed a serious decline in American’s customer service in the form of massive delays, frequent schedule changes, and overall rudeness from airline personnel. Then one fateful weekend I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago to meet my parents and their friends for a 60th birthday party. I was so afraid to be late and miss my flight Saturday morning that I jammed most of my belongings in my rollerboard and high-tailed it to the MSP in record time. I paid the customary $25 to check my bag and waited to board. Once we landed we sat on the tarmac and waited for a gate, which had become the norm for American. My parents had somehow arrived early and were waiting for me at the Avis near O’Hare. Once we deplaned I waited for my luggage, which never came. Another woman from my flight was in the same boat and we both received baggage claim information. For the rest of the day and the following day I continued to call customer service and was given every answer in the book including the unforgettable “Ma’am we are not UPS”. Ummm….wow, talk about rude! I even asked about getting my $25 refunded, but was told that would be impossible. Hmm … okay, so I basically just paid you $25 to lose my luggage.  Awesome. On Sunday my flight was cancelled and American put me up in a Hilton Double Tree fairly close to the airport. But I had no clothes, make-up, underwear, etc. and I needed to return to Minneapolis for another week of work, sans suitcase. If American would have tracked the number of times I called customer service I’m sure I would have set some sort of record. The following day I was re-routed from Chicago to Memphis to Minneapolis because that makes sense. NOT. But I really had no other choice if I wanted to get to Minneapolis before 5pm on Monday. I’m sure I smelled like an absolute peach when I finally showed up to work at 2pm. Thankfully, Minneapolis has the Mall of America, along with no tax on necessities, ie. Clothes and shoes. My understanding coworkers took me to mall and helped me shop for a decent work wardrobe for the remainder of the week. When I went to leave Minneapolis, the maximum reimbursement the clerk could give me was $350. When a bra at Victoria’s Secret is $50, that money goes quickly. Fortunately, I had written down a lot of the clothes I had brought in my effort to put outfits together in a regular rollarboard for 14 straight days of work travel without wearing the same exact outfit twice. This made completing my baggage claim much easier. However, a couple weeks after sending in my claim I received my first rejection notice claiming that American was “not liable” for my lost luggage. What a shock that was. How can you not be liable when I have a claim ticket to evidence giving you my luggage? I also emailed customer service, of course, to complain about this whole situation. Their answer, “here’s 10,000 frequent flyer miles.” I don’t want frequent flyer miles, I want cash to cover the bag and the contents you lost, and the inconvenience of the entire situation. I told my tale of woe to whoever would listen. I was outraged that a company would treat such a long standing frequent traveler in such a rude and unfair manner. With the help of a client and friend, I drafted a letter to the CEO and sent it, along with all my prior claim history, to the CEO of American. What I got back was virtually the same rejection letter from R. Spraggins (no first name, address, or phone number) telling me they re-opened my case and came to the exact same conclusion. I was understandably heated and furious. I looked into small claims court, but flying to Dallas and paying legal fees would be almost as much as claim I was filing. I ultimately gave up. So now I must be satisfied that by telling my story to all my coworkers, and only flying American when absolutely necessary I will make some sort of  dent in their business. (Don’t worry I’m not that deluded  but a girl can wish right.)  I also only book flights with AA through American Express because I refuse to deal with any AA customer service representatives for any reason. Perhaps this merger will make them realize how badly some of their policies and procedures have hurt them in the past.

Ultimately, AA has the best schedule and price when flying to STT from NYC. So I’ll suck it up and take the flight, but always remember never to put my faith in one airline.