USA 06/22 – EVERYTHING Goes Wrong by Mega-Lite
It was finally upon us. A trip discussed in mid 2019, planned in early 2020, delayed and adjusted more times than I care to remember. This was the big one, the one we’d all been waiting for, the even greater follow up to my favourite trip of all time (USA 2019, which you can read here).
We were ready, but it would turn out that the World still wasn’t…
If you read my recent Florida trip report you’ll remember that we had a rather close call checking in for our flight thanks to the (at the time) mandatory Covid tests. This time though, we were prepared.
A friend drove us to the airport, and I made sure to ask him to get us there early. I’m talking early enough to do the Covid test and still be early enough to be at the check in desk before it even opened. He did us 1 better, he got us there even earlier than that.
Even better, the queue for the Covid test centre was far less than it was when we needed it for our Florida flight. This is going to be a breeze…
Just as expected, we were Covid free and in the first group of people to be at the check in desk ready to go.
Boarding passes in hand, luggage checked in, it was time to head to security.
This was the era in the UK when security queues at airports were on the news daily for being 6 miles long and 4 hours at all times.
While I can’t say that didn’t happen at some point, I can say that although the queue we entered looked awful, it was in fact only about 40 minutes long.
We did the maths while we queued, we should still be about an hour early for our flight even after this mess. Also various budget airlines were combing the queue and fast tracking you out of it if your flight was nearing. I’m certain that the team at American would do the same for us if we were in any risk of not making it.
So we get to the front of the security queue and have to go through the barriers that let you into the main bit with all the scanners.
We scanned our boarding passes and were both presented with a message to seek assistance.
In the confusion of scanning it a 5th time to see if it was really us or a Heathrow problem a security bloke came over and asked us where we were flying, and then escorted us off to the side where several other poor souls were standing.
“Your boarding passes aren’t letting you through because American Airlines deem it impossible for you to get through the scanners and to your gate in the over an hour you have left. You’ll have to go downstairs to the check in desks to get them to sort it out”.
Many questions were floating around now, such as, “why didn’t anyone come get us out of the queue then?”, “we joined security straight after we checked in, straight after check in opened, what more could we possibly have done?”.
None of that logic mattered though, as the security bloke just told us there’s nothing he can do, you’ll have to go see American downstairs.
So we all headed there. To a closed desk…
So we all headed back to exactly where we left off, back to the same security man at the side of the scanners.
He started phoning people while still going on about how this is 100 percent an American Airlines issue and not Heathrow.
5 minutes later an American team member came sprinting up behind us, shouting “let em through!”.
A wise girl in our group of stranded souls asked him a simple question that we were now all thinking. “Because of all that running about we’ve just had to do we are now getting a bit tight on time, can we fast track what’s left of security?”.
“If you get through these barriers, you’ll get on the flight”, he replied.
What was left of security didn’t take all that long, but with time now tight, nearly all of our stranded few decided to sprint to the gate.
It was all for nothing though…
We got to the gate, plane still sitting there, “sorry you’ve missed it.”
It was at this point I was glad that all the other stranded passengers were American and from the parts of the US where words don’t get minced and tempers fly high.
The duty manager was summoned, he wasn’t much use though…
“First off, no one is getting on that flight.”
Cue all the previous comments made at the security man but this time angrier.
“Chill out guys, we’ve got, hundreds of flights to the US departing today, you can fly anywhere you want, free of charge, you won’t even need to go back to check in, there’s a special desk between gates X and X.”
Off we went, all feeling defeated, but hopeful. If there really is that many flights, maybe the wait won’t be long and maybe we fly somewhere that might make things slightly easier. It would mean Heartline would have to rejig the plans for the 50th time though…
We all get to the desk, and it wasn’t great…
No shade on the lady working there, she was friendly and understanding, and clearly not in the position to do anything close to what the man had promised us.
We had 3 choices. Fly in 3 hours to New York, fly in 5 hours to New York, via L.A., or wait 23 hours for the flight we just got screwed out of.
Option 1 please.
This meant we’d need to switch terminals, and go through all the security faff again at a different location though…
Would we miss another flight today?
I’d struggle to call it a victory, but there would be a silver lining to this mess. In the queue for security I contacted BA asking them to urgently phone me because I’d need to change my pick up location for the car. At the gate a friendly lady phoned me and told me that changing my location will save me nearly 500 pounds, that makes this sting slightly less.
Once we finally got in the air the flight itself was fine, as it always is with American. But now it was time to let it sink in that a 4 hour drive to almost Kennywood, had just become a 6 hour drive to almost Kennywood, and we’d also be arriving much later than before. This was going to be a rough night.
We landed ahead of schedule and immediately launched as fast as we could towards the hire car pick up, where thankfully there was no line, just a man complaining that the car he was given through choosing the “wildcard” option didn’t suit his needs, well yeah…
The car we were given looked like it had been attacked with an axe in several places, but we were in a rush and didn’t want to go through the faff of changing it, if we even could. We brought the damage up with one of the staff members as we left though, she made a note on our forms and commented, “I’ve told them not to rent this one out anymore, and that was 3 renters ago!”, yeah that sounds about what I’d expect.
The sat nav told us we’d arrive at our hotel between 1 and 2am with no stops, and because we’d now past the free cancellation window it was set in stone, we’d have to make it there no matter how ruined we were.
We phoned the hotel when we around half way there to let them know we’d be arriving so late. I mean you shouldn’t have to, but we’ve been burned before by not making the effort.
“I’ll be here all night sir, arrive when you arrive”, “awesome, thanks”, “could I just check the name though?” “sure”, *gives name*, “oh I’m sorry, we’ve been trying to contact you all day, the card you used to book the room has expired, so we’ve cancelled your room, don’t worry though we have rooms, and we can check you in for the day rate price once you arrive”, “I see….”.
I’ll make a very long saga short here. Wyndham hotels are one of the most useless companies out there, with an awful website and terrible customer service on their helpline.
Because this trip had been booked so long ago and changed so many times, most of the Wyndham hotels were booked on a previous credit card. When booking more recent hotels for the trip a new up to date credit card was used and stored on the website.
It turns out though, the hotels are only able to use the card you originally booked to stay with them on and will make no attempt to sort this out.
They will not contact Wyndham or use the website to get the up to date credit card, nor will they phone you to ask for an up to date credit card. They just get to 6pm, see your card is expired, and then cancel the room.
Needless to say this was quite the situation and not one you want to deal with at midnight when your flight has already messed with your plans.
We decided we’d attempt to deal with sorting the hotels for the rest of the trip tomorrow, and tonight we’d just forget our previously booked hotel and find one that means less driving tonight.
So, while I was feeling like death, and Heartline was begrudgingly eating a McDonalds, we found a decent looking and well priced hotel right next to Hersheypark, a park we were very excited to be revisiting later in the trip.
This trip would end up redefining the phrase “oh, I’ve stayed at worse” and it all began tonight at a hotel with views of Skyrush.
The hotel room was dirty, dated and falling apart, and located next to a major road, that from 3am onwards was nothing but trucks, all using their horns.
This led to me probably getting 2 hours sleep on my bed that was seconds from falling apart while it sounded like the jump scare from the Dark Knight coaster was endlessly replaying outside, a rough night indeed.
Thank you for reading, click here for day 2 of my trip report where we visit the awesome Kennywood and ride the outrageous Phantom’s Revenge.