How unbelievingly uncaring can American Airlines be to unnecessarily separate a 95-year-old women, who required a wheelchair, from her son for a 3.5-hour flight?
Outbound flight: could not check in or select a seat so my wife and I were separated NYC to Atlanta though I could see empty seats.
Return flight: Could check in and pay for seats together, fine from Liberia to Miami but Miami to NYC was an unnecessary inconvenience caused by AA.
We had about a one-hour layover in Miami so sat in a cafe near our gate where we could see and hear all flight schedules. Our flight was scheduled to leave 7:35 pm so got to our gate 25 mins ahead to find nobody there. We asked an attendant who said the gate had been changed last minute, though we heard or saw nothing to that effect. The gate change was miles away and though we got to the gate with 15mins to spare they had already closed the gate that wasn't supposed to close for another 5 mins. Bang! Missed our flight. The gate women claimed that she made an announcement well ahead though we and two other couples disagreed. None of us had heard the announcement. We figured people at the first gate were told to go to the new gate so made their flight but us naughties who just wanted a coffee apparently were deaf. This is where it starts to get interesting...
We had to go to another desk to change our flights and the not so pleasant attendant says she can put us on standby for the next flight. Standby!? It was then I noticed a monitor behind her that showed the list of standby passengers and there were 14 of us! Unlike the guy behind us I hadn't totally lost it yet, [censored] happens, so pleaded to have confirmed seats, which she hesitatingly agreed to. I told her we had paid extra for two seats together, but she looked at me as though I was asking for an upgrade to 1st class, so we were once again separated. After a 2.5 hour wait, we got on our next flight okay, as did at least one of the other couples, so things were looking up. Though we had paid for seats together (our missed flight we would have had two seats on their own, no third seat even!) my wife was squashed in the middle of two people, which she is really uncomfortable with. I always give her the window seat. In the meantime, I'm looking around for two seats together and had to go to the toilet at the back of the plane. I had to wait for a gent to come out and saw that he was sitting in a middle seat towards the back, next to a very old and frail looking woman in the aisle seat (found out she was 95!). To get in his seat, the woman's son had to get out of his very back seat about 4 rows back, unstrap her, lift her up, while the other gent got into his seat, put her down and strap her in again. When he came back, I asked why he couldn't get two seats together, he had been told there weren't any spare or pairs. Suddenly I didn't care so much about our seating position and was thinking how terrible it must be for the old women and her son. When I got back to my allocated aisle seat, there was nobody in the other two seats, so I figured I'd stand until they got in. In the meantime, I asked the gent in the seat next to my wife if he would mind swapping, which he happily agreed to. Passengers were talking and moving around and I realized another four couples, just around us, had been separated and were all working together to swap seats!
Then the strangest thing happened. Though the guy in my original seat had no one next to him, it was announced we were about to take off!? He had the all 3 seats to himself the entire flight! I looked around and saw quite a few empty seats and gauged that, every single couple could easily have been seated together! WTF!!??
Can you believe when we finally got home, our Consumer Report mag waiting for us, had a feature article on why we were all just treated so unnecessarily badly!
Did you know there is a new kind of economy class? We didn't, and it's called "basic economy". We figured we had bought regular economy tickets, where treatment can be bad enough but wait until you get stuck with "basic economy"! It's why we couldn't check in or choose seats, even if we wanted to pay the extra. Our return leg was regular economy so we could, and even that didn't work out so well.
In a nutshell, it is a ploy to unnecessarily piss off people so much that you would prefer to pay more for regular economy, where you can choose your seats, though at an extra cost. And it works! We will never buy basic economy again! And hopefully never fly American Airlines again.
BEWARE of that crazy "cheap" ticket and NEVER TAKE BASIC ECONOMY! Unless you want to be treated like a piece of dirt and in the end, possibly, with all the hidden costs, pay more than regular economy. And It's not just AA doing this of course. Read this illuminating CR report: https://www.consumerreports.org/airline-travel/airline-travel-survival-guide/
BTW: any kind of refund for paid seats we didn't get, impossible!