A few weeks back, I posted the tale of an email exchange I had with an American Airlines customer service rep over a series of problems I had on a recent flight, and it was one of the more impressive, thoughtful apologies I've gotten over the years. I particularly liked it because I tend to fly American, and have for decades, and have fairly substantial miles in their AAdvantage Club. In fact, I recent decide to make the leap and got an AAdvantage credit card, where you earn double-miles and get other bonuses for flying American.
And it all seems for naught.
The reason is uncommon and wouldn't affect most people. And it isn't a case of being upset with the Airline over bad service. But it is a big problem that doesn't seem to have a resolution one would like.
Setting the background to the story, several weeks ago I applied for a permanent TSA PreCheck. I have it applied randomly and if you've ever had reason to take advantage of it, you know it's wonderful. But "randomly" is the problem, since you never know. So, for just $85 over five years, just $17 a year, I applied for a standard PreCheck where you get a KTN -- Known Traveler Number. The process was extremely easy, you apply online and then set up an appointment to answer a few questions, get finger-printed, and pay. Then they do a background check -- and shocking as this might be to some people -- I passed. It takes a few weeks to get the letter of approval, but I got an email the very next day.
So, now on to the tale.
A couple weeks ago, I flew American again from Los Angeles to Chicago and was dropped off at the main terminal at LAX. It turned out that American is doing construction at the airport, and so my flight instead left from the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Fortunately, I’d left enough time to walk over, but that's not the problem.
As you might imagine, it’s a bit problematic not knowing where to be dropped off for your flight. One can always call ahead of time, and I suppose should, but I suspect most people don't.
Anyway, after reaching the Bradley Terminal, I then headed to the gate. To those who've never flown from this International Terminal, let me explain that it's a journey. Having enough nourishment ahead of time helps. So, there's more time you need to leave ahead of. But that's not the problem either.
The problem is the International Terminal does not have TSA PreCheck facilities, which defeats the entire purpose of having just paid for the TSA PreCheck approval. (Again, fortunately I left early enough, even though expecting the short TSA PreCheck line.) My hope was that the construction work would be completed soon, and then the world would go back to normal.
I wrote back to my American Airline customer service buddy and explained this all, and asked if he knew when the construction would be finished. I got yet another lovely note back from him -- since my email addressed some other points, as well -- and then he came to the kicker.
He had looked into the issue. The good news is that the construction should be finished soon. The bad news is that American Airlines has no plans to stop using Tom Bradley International Terminal as a departure point for some of their flights. And the further problem is that the International Terminal has no plans to put in TSA PreCheck facilities.
This is not A Good Thing.
Not knowing which terminal one's plane is going to fly out of is not good. Having to make an incredibly long walk to your gate is not good. But permanently using a terminal that does not allow for TSA PreCheck is a deal breaker.
As I wrote back to the fellow, I thought it was likely that I would end up cancelling my AAdvantage card -- and eve more, probably stop taking American Airlines. There's no point, it's just too inconvenient...and on a lot of levels. And the thing is -- he understood and agreed. He said he hated to lose me as a long-time customer, but he said he couldn't make an argument why I should continue.
As I said, this isn't a situation that would affect most people. For starters, you have to live in Los Angeles. And also, you have to have a TSA PreCheck KTN. And probably having an AAdvantage card probably helps. But unfortunately, I fall into those cracks perfectly.
I'll still fly American on occasion, because I still have a lot of miles to use up. And I'll do my best to get flights that leave from the main American terminal. I don't know how possible it is, but I'll try, even if it means changing flights the day before -- which one can do when using AAdvantage Miles. And maybe they'll stop flying from the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Or who knows, maybe I'll move elsewhere. But until any of that happens, I'll likely be ending my long run on American Airlines.
Of course, an additional loss is that I'd finally found a wonderful pen pal at American Airlines with who I could write with my concerns. But now, that's gone with the wind...
I've already gotten another double-miles card for air travel. It's not the same -- having an airline's own card gives you benefits, like first group boarding which has become very valuable in this day of full flights. But that's the way of the world.
And so we move on.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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