February 5, 2017

Flying American Airlines with kids

Let me tell you a tale about traveling with an infant on American Airlines...

I've been pretty silent on this subject matter for a while - as an adult traveler I was tolerating them for a long time, but there always comes a moment when enough is enough.

I'm a very frequent flyer, considering I have a six-month baby. Before having a baby, I traveled locally and internationally every three-four months. I love to travel - if you can't already tell from me having this blog dedicated to the travel. And having a baby only slowed down my travels by very little. It happened that in the last four years my husband and I were traveling to his motherland country - Argentina - at least twice a year together and he would travel to Argentina for business as well. And it happened that American Airlines is the only airline that has an almost absolute monopoly over the direct flights from New York City to Buenos Aires. So, we were stuck with it. It's a good thing they have their Miles program because otherwise no one will travel them. And I mean - no one. For the following reasons:

American Airlines is the worst. It's just is. I don't know the exact moment when it became so bad but they were coming to this moment for a long time, starting with cutting the number of the free luggage one can take and starting charging for it, offering their annoying pretzels on all flights, which is NOT a very healthy snack, not caring about the way their bathrooms are, etc. etc. etc.

On top of it, they don't seem to care about their passengers at all. And I'm not talking about their Economy Class only - no words can describe the filthy way they keep their bathrooms, providing no in-flight services that go beyond pushing the cart with the food/drinks twice during a long flight like the one from NYC to Argentina. I'm talking about our recent 10-hour trip to Buenos Aires with a 4-month baby, where I flew Business Class with the baby and my husband was in the Economy.

THE BUSINESS CLASS EXPERIENCE

You'd think that the Business Class, which cost over $4,500 per person, would at least offer the inflight services that qualify as "business class" services, but it was far from it. Here's how my experience was, taken that my baby never cried once or made any sound at his 4-month age during the whole long flight!

The flight attended never came once to check on me and the baby throughout the whole 10-hour flight. No once! I couldn't even use the bathroom because I was afraid to leave the baby sleeping unattended. Not to mention at least bringing me a glass of water. Even when I pushed the button to be attended - the flight attendants never came. They just ignored it.

When I finally was able to catch the flight attendant on her run through the cabin - literally, she ran like a wind, almost like not wanting to be asked/approached by any of the passengers for whatever they might need - I showed her a formula bottle and asked her to bring me hot water to warm it up. She was gone for what seems like for 30 min - maybe this is how long it takes to get the hot water in Business Class. Then she came to me with a very small glass, the diameter of which was about twice smaller than the bottle - which brings me to a question that - as a very polite person I don't like to ever ask - "How stupid are you?" Of course I didn't say, but I showed her the bottle again and the glass she brought and asked her "How am I supposed to fit the bottle into this glass?" To which she angrily responded "We don't have any other glasses..." I was literally shocked not only by her ignorance and rudeness, but by the fact that about 3 hours ago the flight attendant from another section brought me a "whisky" wide glass with hot water that I could warm the bottle in. (And it didn't break it!) So, they did have such glasses!

So, I told her that I need this kind of a glass. Guess what she told me? She said: "It would break the glass with hot water."

First of all - for a $4,500 ticket, I don't care if I break a few of these five-dollar glasses - I really don't care. I have an infant with me. Second of all - how about you bring me the damn glass anyway before my baby breaks into a hungry cry and wakes up the whole business class?! What's more important - to keep the mother and baby happy with a glass that costs $5 or have a Business Class full of angry, annoyed passengers? Really?! The priorities are very off here...

Finally when I couldn't hold it anymore and no flight attendants would come to my seat, I literally had to leave the baby unattended and rush to the bathroom. When I got to the section where the flight attendants were - the scene I saw really made me angry and prompted me to want to write about it even more.

Even though my service button was on requiring their attention - when I came to the back of the cabin, I saw our flight attendant sitting and reading a magazine. I thought "And this is what they call "We rely on our team to remain polite and professional..." when they twitted back to me after I shared my experience on Twitter:



And this is not the end of my Business Class experience with the American Airlines.

During the night I noticed that there were small lights all around the seat that were in the face of the baby and I didn't know if I could turn them off so I approached the flight attendant with this question. She said that she didn't know! She actually didn't know how her work place worked! In about half an hour, she came to my seat - it was maybe 3 or 4AM - and loudly started telling me that these lights can't be turned off. The whole cabin was asleep, including my baby. She spoke in such loud voice that I was afraid she would wake up the baby, so I told her in a very quiet voice to lower her voice because she would wake up the baby. She literally gave me A FACE of anger and disguise and rushed away from my seat (probably to resume her magazine reading). From that time and on - until the landing at 8AM, not only she didn't come my way but when she brought out the breakfast, she threw the tray on my table and didn't even offer anything to drink - coffee or tea or whatever.

Besides "my needs", I was shocked that in Business Class the bathroom was so disgusting and not taken care of at all that I was wondering why we even care to pay almost $5,000 for a ticket where we are treated like shit?! Like a cattle...

To say that my flight experience was absolutely horrible - it's almost like saying nothing. I was repelled. I felt discomfort. I felt sick. I felt that something should be done.

Upon our return, my husband submitted a feedback via their online customer service portal. I launched a twitter campaign. You think they cared? No. And unless there will be more airlines - direct competitors - American Airlines would continue to not care about their customer service, because people would still need to fly with them to get to their destination/s.

All they did is to send me this pathetic response via Twitter:


That's all they did to "fix" the situation.

On the way back we flew the Economy Class, which I didn't even know how to write about. I just wanted to forget about that experience like a very bad dream. I wanted to wash it off with soap.

THE ECONOMY CLASS EXPERIENCE

Besides the fact that American Airlines' policies for the families traveling with kids is incompetent at its core - not allowing families to book a bassinet during the ticket booking process but rather offering "first come first serve" option only - the Economy Class for even travelers without kids offers a very mediocre and unsatisfying experience.

After being able to book a bassinet at the airport because of pure luck - there were only two infants on the flight - when we assumed our seats and took off, the flight attendants didn't come with the bassinet after it was safe to unbuckle and walk. So, we had to remind them that we booked a bassinet, to which one of the two flight attendants said she'd be "right back with the bassinet." About 45 min passed and she wasn't back. The next thing we know, she is pushing the food cart from the other end and we are still seating with a baby on our lap. So, we reminded them again, and when they finally brought out a bassinet and asked my husband to help to put it up, that other flight attendant came over with the food literally as we were putting the bassinet up and started in a very irritable voice offering us their "pasta or chicken" dinner. We literally had no arms to reach out for the tray - I was holding a baby, my husband was putting up a bassinet, so we told them to wait a few minutes when we free up and able to take the food. To which, she responded: "If you don't take the food now, we might have no food left for you."

Aren't you yet horrified? We were...

To make THAT response even worse - she put our trays of food on the floor and walked away. Ok, isn't it called breaking the health code?? Are we supposed to be eating our food off the bacteria-infused dirty floor? Seriously...

After overcoming the shock from such treatment, for the rest of the trip, none of the 5 flight attendants not once came over to offer us anything to drink or help with the formula, taken that we were literally pinned to our seats, because the leg room (as most of the American Airlines passengers know - is very small) and the size of the bassinet took all of the space and unless we could fly over the seats - we weren't able to get out of our seats unless we took off the bassinet with the baby in it to be able to squeeze through and use a bathroom or warm up a formula. Which, at some point we had to do because the baby was hungry and I rushed to the back of the plane with the bottle. When I approached the "kitchen area" and saw all of the flight attendants hanging out there and chatting, not carrying about the passengers' immediate needs - at least! - I asked for the hot water, to which they told me to step aside and not cross the line - by which they meant the invisible line between the curtain dividing "our area" and "their area" and the bathroom area. Finally when I got a cup of hot and cold water, I had to mix up the water for the formula standing up by the bathroom.

Just "re-living" this experience again through this post made sick to my stomach again!

What happened to the good old school customer service? When did it get so bad? Who trains the flight attendants at the American Airlines?

And when I shared my experience with our friends and family, we weren't the only ones who had very bad experience with them. If it all comes down to this, why nothing is being done?

On the other note, in a couple of months I'm flying with the baby from New York City to Frankfurt via Singapore Airlines. I've been flying with them to Germany for the past 4 years and I would choose them over any of the American airlines! Because they care! They care not only about their Economy class passengers in general, they go extra mile for the passengers with kids. Not only they allow you to book the bassinet during the ticket purchasing process, but they offer baby meals on board:

And here's what American Airlines offer - they offer you to "bring your own food for the babies" on board! WOW! What's next - bringing our own toilet paper?

Maybe if more passengers with bad experience would unite, we could provide more feedback about our American Airlines experience here.

I was also thinking, who thought of such a genius idea when deciding to place an ever-glowing TV screen directly over a bassinet almost on the same level with it? This TV screen, while everyone else has individual TVs as well - provides nothing but the travel info, which everyone can get via individual TV screens anyway, but makes it so uncomfortable for the baby to sleep because it literally glows into his/her face ALL through the flight. It even bothers the adults who are seating in the first few rows. Maybe it's time to re-think and work towards accommodating the passengers' comfort?

You can probably see how how baby even put his hand over his face to block the light and he was only 4.5 months old back then - and already understanding that the light was bothering him!



What do you think? Do you have any stories to share? I'd love to hear from you! This needs to be shared...Thank you!

September 2, 2016

NYC Heels & Bikes Diaries: Manus x Machina



Two more days until this fabulous educational fashion exhibition closes for the season! Check out the Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Courtesy of the Anna Wintour Costume Institute.

August 26, 2016

June 21, 2016

Copa America 2016: Argentina vs USA


As the American commentators said before the start of the game, the stadium is full because many people, including Americans, came to see the legend play - referring to one of the today's greatest players - Lionel Messi.

Argentina is playing USA in Houston, TX on June 21st, 2016. Not an easy game, because the American team is pretty strong. Coming from not being a popular sport to a strong place among the football teams around the world, for USA this is a very important game, because the Argentina national football team is one of the strongest in the world.

And already 50 minutes into it, Argentina scores three goals thanks to Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain - the players to watch! Including Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano.

Check out the game Argentina vs. Venezuela we went to in Boston last Saturday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAPlyv0gJlc - beautiful 4 goals!

June 20, 2016

Copa America: Argentina beats Venezuela 4-1


Last Saturday we went to Boston to see Argentina play Venezuela.

If someone has told me a couple of years ago that not only I'd be at the stadium watching a football (soccer) game live but that I'd be traveling more than 200 miles for that, I'd call you crazy.

I grew up with a dad who's been a huge fan of soccer. He'd watch it all the time and in those moment no one could disturb him. No one! He even attempted once to teach me to play soccer but when I broke my thumb catching a ball while being a goalkeeper, he gave up. Plus, Russia was never known for its female soccer teams, it was mostly a sport for men to play and for some women to watch. I was never that woman until I met my husband, who is Argentan, and when I saw how Argentans love their soccer team and soccer in general.

My first initiation was the World Cup 2014 when I watched Argentans gather at an Argentan bar to watch the games. They sang, they danced, they cried. And it was intoxicating.

Two years later, I'm here at the New England Revolution Gillette Stadium wearing a shirt with a No. 10 (Messi), eating hotdogs and screaming Vamos! Messi! Higuaín! Romero! Argentina!

June 6, 2016

Miami Beach Vibes: Pelican's Morning Catch



Another reason to visit Miami Beach...bird watching as they go about their business, like this pelican's fishing in the morning among the beach swimmers.