Air John Dillinger

American Airlinies: World's Worst Airline

November 6, 2009

American Airlines is the only penitentiary I know that doesn’t just sit there stolidly on the ground. No. It has to fly around and inflict itself on the innocent everywhere. It’s every bit as dismal as Sing Sing, though, combining the elegance of a wrestler’s armpit with the curiosity of having the thieves on the outside, at corporate, and the prison matrons on the inside. I’d rather fly in a Dempster Dumpster piloted by a drunk, since dumpsters usually leave on time and are not owned by pickpockets.

It’s the world’s worst airline. And I’ve flown Aeroflot during the days of the Soviet Union. American has the morals of a Wall Street gangster.

Thievery: We’ll get to that in a moment. I used to be an American fragrant flyer, until one time they couldn’t find a stewardess and held up my flight for several geologic epochs; on the second leg of the flight, they couldn’t find the pilot. Honest to God. Just, you know, misplaced him. Maybe he slipped behind a sofa cushion or something. Maybe he was hung-over. Maybe he just didn’t feel like flying that day. Maybe he knew the cabin crew, and just couldn’t face it.

I sympathize.

The stews on that flight looked like retired police-women, but without the sensitivity and manners, except for one twerpy little semi-male parsnip with an attitude to match his teeth, which were bad. I considered pulling his head off, but decided that there might be some fool regulation against it.

So I told my travel agent, get me anything but this aerial disaster. Get me Air Equatorial Guinea. Get me Fat Robert’s Catapult Service. I’ll dangle under a goddam box kite. But not, not ever, American Airlines. I’d rather have smallpox. I’d rather have largepox, or anthrax. Anthrax is unpleasant, but at least you leave on time.

OK, I thought I was free of American. No. Its long sticky tentacles extend everywhere. A couple of weeks ago my buddy Joe Bageant flew down to Ajijic from Washington to finish a book. He wanted to bring me a box weighing maybe eight pounds, and a nice guitar for Violeta, maybe five pounds. These were excess baggage, meaning over two bags. Reaching the ticket counter, Joe discovered that American charges a hundred freaking bucks per extra item. At least, it’s what they charged him. You see the technique: He either pays, throws away Vi’s guitar, or misses his flight. He paid. See below.

In addition to being licensed extortionists with the morals of a New York alley cat, they’re stupid extortionists. Sure, they got two hundred rapidly devaluing green ones out of me. They also assured that neither Joe, his family, nor any of five friends of ours who have heard about this will ever fly again on their airborne intercity bus-line.

I mentioned this adventure to my travel agent and lo! She said American had been complaining to her that the agency wasn’t selling many tickets on their embezzlement service. The reason, she told me, was that so many people refused to fly with such wretched pirates. Whoever runs this outfit must have a cookie sheet for a brain pan. Or an economic death wish.

While American is the worst airline I have encountered, its worseness is only a matter of degree, as in saying that Stalin was worse than Pol Pot. The airlines of the United States, which used to be pretty good, seem to have decided that customers are too much trouble, and should be discouraged: It’s so much easier to fly an empty airplane. More accurately they have decided to rely on a captive national clientele of browbeaten ovines who don’t have a choice. It’s aviational suicide. At least I hope it is.

Think about this. Mexicana de Aviacion, a quite nice airline, allows you two checked bags, without charge. It also runs the drink cart down the aisle twice, with everything from a beer to whiskey and soda being complementary. The US lines charge five bucks a beer. Hey, I wish I could sell suds at thirty bucks a six-pack. I’ve seen villains on US lines charge three bucks for a large oatmeal cookie. Mexicana doesn’t do that. And the stewardae are pleasant. You don’t get the idea that they got their training at Leavenworth. And were fired for being excessively disagreeable.

Living in Mexico, I can usually avoid these aerial blackguards and road agents. Mexicana has direct flights to LA and San Francisco. European airlines fly to most places I want to go directly out of Mexico City. If I want to avoid the TSA Nazis on the way to Asia, I can fly Mexico City-Vancouver and then across the Pacific. This matters especially when I am traveling with my (Mexican) family, as there is no telling how much US immigrations will bully them. Power-intoxicated dregs in dead-end jobs are perfectly capable of putting them on the next plane back just to get even with life.

The only thing that keeps lousy airlines in existence is affirmative action. On their merits they would last as long as a restaurant with roaches swimming in the soup. Recently I flew with my eldest daughter from San Francisco to Katmandu. The first leg we took Singapore Airlines, which Macon’s crafty daddy had made sure we got. She wigged out over the level of service and quality of food. You could almost get the impression that Singapore wanted to attract customers.

It is a scientific fact that you can cross the Pacific with a Chinese or Japanese airline, or Korean, and not want to guillotine the entire airline, its children and dogs andheirs and assigns to the fourth generation.

From Singapore to Kat we took Silk Air on a code share. Same thing.

The only reason these pirates can survive is, again, affirmative action. The law gives them a monopoly. You can’t fly Chicago-San Francisco on All Nippon Airlines or JAL. If you could, the domestic lines would be out of business in three weeks. The only way they can clip customers for a hundred bucks per guitar is by being a federally mandated monopoly.

And the airlines become increasingly rapacious. Travelers have no way of protecting themselves. You can avoid a particular line that is worse than others, which is to say American, but you have to fly somehow. The Federal Aviation Agency follows the usual pattern of being controlled by the industry it is supposed to control, so who do you complain to? The feds now discourage carry-on baggage. Oh good, we can pay for even more checked bags.

Tell you what. There’s a big alligator farm outside of Bangkok, where they grow all sizes to make wallets or something. When I’m dictator, I’m going to have a special fattening pen, and I’m going to throw the entire staff of American Airlines to those big green suckers. Except I’m not sure that even an alligator could stomach them.