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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seattle to Chicago to New York

Well, the first leg of my return flight to Ecuador went off without a hitch, though it turned out expensive.  When I checked in at Seattle, I had to pay overweight charges for both my bags which amounted to $120.  Airlines allot 50 lbs per bag but mine was about 10 lbs over in each because I was trying to stuff as much of my personal items as I could to take back with me.   Gracie cost $170.   And, the airlines charge a baggage-check fee now, so that was $60.  So, that came to $350 on TOP of my airfare.  Then, I asked about upgrading to first class and was told that would be $180 more and it would only be for the Seattle to Chicago leg…it would not include Chicago to JFK.  I paused for a bit but then thought of the misery I would be in if I had to sit in coach for 4 hours, so I went for it.  At the gate, I realized first class passengers don’t have to pay a baggage check fee, so I got a Rep ro refund me $60   $470 later, I was aboard the plane.  I watched Gracie come up the conveyor belt and she was lying down, very calm. 

We arrived on time and I watched Gracie come down the conveyor belt in an equally calm state, with ground crew giving her attention.  My next gate was only down a few, so no long treks thank goodness.  The next plane was on American Eagle, which flies smaller aircraft.  This one looked like a long thin tube.  Odd given the fact we’re flying from a major city to a major city and not a short hop.  I didn’t opt to upgrade to first class as I figured with a 2 and 2 configuration versus a 3 and 3, it wouldn’t be too crowded.  Ha!   The seats were narrower than a typical aircraft which is bad enough!!  I had to duck my head a bit when coming thru the front door and my hair scraped the interior ceiling.   The overhead bins were not large enough to accommodate carry-on bags so a lot of people, including me, had to check their carry-on at the jetway. 

As I had been informed before, when I took the cats down….I asked the flight attendant to check on the status of Gracie…that she was boarded successfully.  When we were close to push-back, the FA approached me and said there was an issue with my dog.  So, I followed her to the front of the plane where the gate crew and pilots were having a conversation.  Apparently, the Seattle rep classified her as ‘baggage’ instead of a ‘live animal’.  So, she did not show up on the flight’s manifest (list of passengers) which triggers the flight crew to know they have a live animal and make sure the cargo area heat is functioning properly.  It so happened this aircraft’s cargo heat was NOT functioning!!!  Had I not made the FA aware of Gracie, they would’ve taken off not knowing there was a live animal in cargo, and with the heater not functioning, she would have likely died from exposure (very cold temps at high altitude). 

Also, since the crew didn’t have her on the manifest, they didn’t know where she was.  They had people scrambling around the airport trying to find her.   I told them when I arrived, that I saw her offloaded at gate H10 and put into a red cart.  We were at gate H5…not far away.   Finally, the left hand and the right hand connected and everyone realized she was already aboard in cargo!!   Then, the debate began on what to do with her.  They discussed bringing her on board the plane but pets are required to fit under the seat and that just wasn’t going to fly (scuze the pun).  Then they thought why not treat her as a handicap assistant dog but that brought into play a bunch of other red tape.  Meanwhile, the plane was loaded and all the passengers were staring up front wondering what the holdup was.  Me and Gracie were holding up the entire flight while the various crews figured out what to do with us. 

A half hour later, they offloaded Gracie and my bags out of cargo and decided to put me on another flight, but to LaGuardia as there were no more flights to JFK.  There, I would have to collect my bags and Gracie in baggage claim, then be driven in a car from LaGuardia to JFK to catch up to my flight from JFK to Ecuador.  American gave me a voucher to pay for the car.  Meanwhile, my flight to JFK took off. 

Can you believe it?  A simple coding error on the part of the American Rep in Seattle put my dog’s life in jeopardy!!  Had I not said anything, we would’ve taken off with her in the belly of that plane without any heat.  Granted, there are sensors that tell the pilots if the heat is malfunctioning but it doesn’t mean anything if there’s just bags back there and the crew isn’t aware of a live animal aboard!!!

I had the pilot of the flight to LaGuardia verify she was aboard and everything was functioning correctly.

So, as I write this, I’m crammed into coach with three people abroad and I’m having to lean out into the aisle to fit.  Every time a FA walks by, I get knocked around.  GRRRR!!!  I have NO elbow room and NO WARM NUTS!!!

GRRRR!!!!!

Believe me, AA will hear from me and I better get some freebies out of it!!

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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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