I flew into Chicago (ORD) from Denver on my way to London Heathrow. My transfer between the two gates was convenient as both flights were in the same terminal. Arriving at 15:45 and scheduled to leave at 18:10, I was pleased that it wasn’t too long of a layover. The international terminal has quite a few options for food so I decided to get a bite to eat before my next flight.
When I was walking to get lunch I stopped to check the departure screen and noticed my flight had been delayed by 15 minutes, which wasn’t too bad.
However, 15 minutes into my meal I checked my cell phone and found I had missed a call from an unknown number. When I listened to the voicemail, it was a recording from American Airlines informing me that my flight had been delayed until 21:30. I promptly texted my friend whom I was meeting in Chicago and she told me she had already made it through security, which was too bad because had American given ample notice of such a extensive delay, she could have enjoyed dinner with her family before even arriving at the airport. At this point it was about 16:00 and I realized I would now have to wait over 5.5 hours to board my next plane.
British airways also had a flight scheduled to go out at 18:10 and it did not experience any delays. I wish I could have switched my ticket to that flight.
After finishing my meal, I left for the gate to meet my friend. The announcement that was made as to why our flight had been delayed was that the airplane had not been serviced; a new aircraft had to be flown to ORD. At the gate, announcements were also being made for those on our flight to line up to receive ‘meal vouchers’. After waiting in a line of about 100 agitated customers, we were each given a $12.00 meal voucher, which we later learned had to spent all in one place so if you just wanted a coffee you either had to use it all or lose it.
After waiting at an empty gate for over 5 hours, we made our way to our original gate only to find the flight before us, to Beijing China, had around 200 angry, yelling passengers lined up at the desk demanding refunds and explanations. We quickly referenced the departure board to figure out what was going on where we saw that the Beijing flight had been delayed until the next morning at 8:00 am. Our flight was then the last international flight for the night and for the next hour or so I was worried it may get cancelled all together as well. Because of the chaos going on, a few minutes later announcements were made that we were now changing to a gate just a few over. With only 10 minutes left before our delayed departure time, there was still no airplane and staff just kept announcing that they were trying to figure out when it would arrive.
Finally at about 21:40 the airplane got to the gate and they set to cleaning and boarding the new crew. Announcements were made that this process would take between 25-45 more minutes and our departure time was again changed to 10:30, another hour delay.
At 22:15 we boarded the plane and were seated in our new seats.
Both my friend and I paid for ‘preferred’ seats on this flight. I prefer a window seat at the front of the plane so I can sleep in flight and get on and off quicker, but I was annoyed to find that my friend’s seat would not recline as far as it should and my tv was almost completely dead. For a ‘preferred seat’ I would have hoped I could at least watch a movie happily. I can honestly say that I haven’t been in an airplane with such a tired interior in over 10 years. I had a hard time justifying what I had paid for. Not only were the seats so worn that I felt as though they didn’t have any cushion left in them, the functioning of the technology was poor as well. The remote (which still has a telephone on the other side) had buttons that would stick, the tv would freeze and the colour on the screen was completely shot. I had to turn my brightness all the way up to try to see my movie clearly enough as there were about 10 lines running through the screen. There isn’t any extra legroom or additional amenities to these seats; the aircraft felt like a very old plane to me. I can only reason that what makes these seats ‘preferred’ is really just that you are towards the front of the airplane. I was seated in 24A and would not pay the extra 70$ again.
Once we finally took off, at about 22:30, the flight was smooth from there. In economy, we had the choice between chicken and pasta for our dinner and I chose the chicken. It was decent with a cream sauce on top with rice and side salad. It arrived about an hour after take off. After finishing my meal I promptly fell asleep and woke up an hour before we were set to land.
At this time the attendants came back around to pass out a small breakfast snack, which was a muffin and yogurt with granola.
We finally arrived to Heathrow at about 12:00 pm, as opposed to 8:00 am, the original time we should have arrived had our flight not been delayed. After the 10-minute walk to customs we found a long line that was barely moving, which ended up taking about an hour to get through. Upon reaching baggage claim, we found all the bags had been pulled off the conveyer belt and were placed in clusters all over. After weaving my way in and out I found both my bags and we finally left the airport around 13:20.
I was very unimpressed by both the quality and efficiency of this airline. Aside from the terribly long delay, the airplane themselves are in desperate need of some updating. While I do understand that delays happen, I believe the way in which American handled this one was less than satisfactory. The process was very chaotic, I often overheard staff members snapping at customers, and for a long time, no one seemed to know what was going on or if we would even be getting an airplane. Unfortunately, next time I fly internationally, I will try to use another airline as this experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.