Just my luck.
Reliable news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal and CBS News are asking an important question: Is American Airlines a trusted travel source this holiday season? According to the CBS piece, American Airlines cancelled over 300 flights two weeks ago, purportedly due to disgruntled employees. Yesterday’s news about loose seats makes me even more nervous. Whether this is caused by staff sabotage or oversights due to overworked and unhappy employees is irrelevant to me; I think I’ll look elsewhere.
That’s where my trouble begins.
Each November and December we make the trek twice (Thanksgiving and the December holiday season) halfway across the country to visit family in the Midwest.
For many, this is a no-brainer: take another airline. However, in our quest to live in small town America, we moved to Texarkana nearly four years ago. Guess how many airlines service our town?
You’ve got it: exactly one….American Airlines.
So, now I’ve created a list of (hopefully) inexpensive ways to avoid American Airlines. Here are our choices the way I see it:
1) While Shreveport (75 minutes away) offers me nothing exciting unless I’m headed to Vegas or Orlando, Little Rock (two hours) and Dallas (three hours) might give me some interesting options. Experts always recommend checking neighboring cities. In my case, Southwest flies into Little Rock. However, the Little Rock – Detroit trip has never been an inexpensive proposition for some reason. Dallas gives me plenty of possibilities, but between gas, parking and the six hours of combined travel time there-and-back, I’m almost a third of the way to my destination if I’d driven it.
2) So…I’ve scheduled alerts on Hotwire and Expedia to tell me if prices decline in Little Rock or Dallas. I’m not hopeful, but I like the fact that I can electronically monitor rates without having to flip through several websites each day.
3) I’ve also begun the search for discount options. I could try to sell our AA miles and buy miles in other programs, but this is fraught with risk (and I’d still have to drive to Shreveport, Little Rock or Dallas to catch a flight). The last thing I want is to end up with no ticket because I violated the airline’s terms of service. It isn’t against the TOS to swap miles with family (I transfer my AA miles to them while they give me an equivalent on another airline). While there have been times where giving miles in an unstable airline sounded like fun, I can’t do this in good faith to my family.
4) We could drive or take the train. Hold on. I just wrote, “Take the train!” Just a minute while I catch my breath…man, that was funny. I COULD take Amtrak if I wanted to pay a bundle AND arrive just after my retirement date.
Seriously, though, in the past we’ve driven, but that kills two days from the trip, instead of a few hours to fly. The first day we arrive and the initial day back home I’m still tired from all that time in the car. As in the past, if we stick with hotel deals (like on Hotels.com, use gasoline smartphone apps and the awesome Wasi social driving app, we can make it there in 15 hours.
5) For now, I’ve set an alert in Google for “American Airlines” news to follow the situation closely. I have maybe two weeks before I need to pull the trigger on this decision. Hopefully conditions improve and I can just schedule a flight out of Texarkana.
Which would you choose? Any ideas I’ve forgotten?