American Airlines and United fail to impress…which is hardly a surprise

Helen, Kai, and I checked in at 5:00 a.m. for our flight to Hawaii a couple of days ago. We had relatively cheap tickets, because rather than taking a direct flight, we were flying United to LAX and then taking American to Honolulu. At check-in, when our boarding passes printed out, we had good news and bad news. The good news was that we were all three cleared for TSA Pre express security. The bad news was that, according to the boarding pass computer, they didn’t know yet from where in LAX the second leg was going to leave; they only knew we were landing at Terminal 7.

So I waited until it was close to time to board in Houston, and then asked the girl at the gate, who told me we would leave from Terminal 2.

This rather annoyed me because that meant having to go out onto the street, catch a bus from Terminal 7 to Terminal 2, and then to go back through security – and our second round of boarding passes was not marked TSA Pre.

We get to LAX, and as I’m following the signs to Terminal 2 something is nagging at me. We get out on the street and I figure out what it is – I don’t think American uses Terminal 2. So I check the flight status on aa.com…and although it doesn’t give a gate, it does say the flight is leaving from Terminal 4, which we could have gotten to without leaving security. But now we are on the street and on the wrong side of the TSA geniuses.

There’s nothing for it. We hike down to terminal 4, go through the slow version of security, and find a screen so that we can figure out which gate to go to. It says Gate 61, which is an odd gate for Terminal 4. There is, however, a sign that says that Gates 40 – 49 and Gates 60 – 69 are both in the same direction. We follow the signs…and “Gates 60-69” turns out to be an escalator down to a shuttle bus stop that will take us from Terminal 4 to Terminal 6, which as you might have guessed has been next door to Terminal 7 all along. But at least we don’t have to go out and go back through security.

We go down the escalator to the shuttle bus stop. There is a woman there ahead of us who is rather old and rather painfully obese. Her husband is worried that there will be stairs at the other end; but the girl at this gate tells him there are no stairs and no problem. Meanwhile another woman is on her phone trying to get information. It turns out she is NOT going to Honolulu. And her flight started the day off at Gate Forty-Something, and then got changed to Gate 61; but it has been changed again and will now be leaving from the Tom Bradley International Terminal, in about half an hour…and there is no shuttle bus service so she is going to have to go out on the street, walk a quarter of a mile or so, and go back through security. Um, I hope she isn’t going to be too inconvenienced when she misses her flight, which to me now seems more or less inevitable.

Our shuttle bus arrives; we climb on along with the other Honolulu passengers. We drive across several runways, dodging planes and baggage trucks…it is astonishing how much non-plane traffic is running around out in the landing and taxiing areas. Finally we arrive at Gate 61, and of COURSE there is a huge double flight of stairs for the poor lady to have to climb.

Moral of the story: if you can avoid connecting to an American Airlines flight in LAX by paying a premium to fly direct…whatever it costs, it’s probably worth it.

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