AA Basic Economy might force you to check in at the airport, for no reason, because AA are a bunch of cretinous cocks

Ok, so I wrote this post in a fit of rage a week ago but never posted it. Plus ça change.

Here’s the real fuckery behind Basic Economy on American Airlines.

We needed to fly from Phoenix to Santa Barbara. PHX is one of my very least favorite airports, due to its being a) ugly, though, to be fair, so is the city as a whole, and b) it being roughly 30,000 miles from anywhere to anywhere else within the airport.

Anyway, only American has a dinker (a CRJ 200, I think) that connects those two cities nonstop. Fine. And since the flight is only like an hour or something, Ms. X and I were like, fuck it, why do we need seat assignments? We see enough of each other as it is. So we cheaped out and bought Basic Economy seats.

(Burned up some FuckYou ThankYou points for them, since Shitti doesn’t let you transfer to airlines points that you earn on bank accounts, as opposed to credit cards, for some reason.)

The deal with Basic Economy, on whatever airline, is that you get assigned some arbitrary seat during checkin, or, if not possible, at the gate. As long as I have a seat, who cares? The plane is 2×2, so we can’t get stuck in middles. Maybe we end up not sitting next to each other, but absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I hear, as long as there’s not there’s someone friendly and attractive sitting next to you. Nature abhors a vacuum.

There are also other attendant miseries with Basic Economy, like earning half the qualifying miles, and no changes or cancellations at all, and no upgrades, and boarding in the last group (on AA, that’s group fucking nine). But, again, those didn’t seem to matter for this particular trip.

Here’s where the shit starts to stink, at least on Assface Airlines: checking in. I tried using the web site, and the app. During that process, they offered to sell us, for $11 apiece, two seats in the second to last row. I passed. Who cares?

So AA punished me!

Here’s what the the app told me if I didn’t want to purchase a better seat: eat shit, motherfucker! You’re checked in, but we’re not going to give you anything to show for it! You still have to go to a kiosk at the airport and get a seatless security clearance pass, and then get a seat at the gate! Seriously, that’s what the app told me. (The web site just gave a vague statement about needing to check in at the airport.)

Ok, whatever, inconvenient. And then we got to the fucking airport. And the line just for the privilege of touching an American Airlines kiosk was around the fucking escalator.

Do you see what I’m saying here? Amidst the many deterrent warnings I received when buying my ticket, one of them was not that I might not be able to receive a mobile flight document. There was nothing that said, “Oh, if we think we can still sell assigned seats, we will NOT give you an electronic anything that will prevent you from having to get in a check-in line at the airport.”

The only saving grace about this whole sordid affair was that in a moment of mostly awful judgment, at the end of last year, AA offered me the option of giving them cash money to retain my Gold (equivalent to United or Delta Silver) status for another year. There’s no way that what I paid for it was worth it, but boy howdy, was I fucking happy I had it today, because we were able to use the empty Elite line, at the end of which was a…kiosk. A kiosk! All this JUST TO BE ABLE TO GET THROUGH FUCKING SECURITY. For fuck’s sake.

So then the stupid kiosk spat out its non-boarding-passes without a seat assignment, and I went to wait at an ugly gate in an ugly airport for someone to just give me a seat on a plane just because I didn’t think it was worth extra money to have assigned seats. What a bunch of scum.

AA could have, in order of preference:

  • Assigned us the very-much-not-premium seats they were trying to sell me during check-in.
  • Provided us with seatless security clearance passes on our phones, rather than making us go to a kiosk.
  • Warned me before purchase that I might have to use an airport kiosk.

What is the moral of my story? It’s that on American, and who knows, maybe others, if you buy Basic Economy, you might not be able to fully check in electronically and get a mobile document. If you don’t have status, you might have to wait in a long fucking line at the airport. I don’t know that the answer is here: it feels like robbery to pay for regular Economy if you don’t want it just because they make you do this. If I ever find myself in this profoundly regrettable situation again, and without status, I’m just gonna buy a fully refundable ticket to get through security, and then refund it, because, seriously, fuck these people. (United must be so happy AA is out there to make them look good by comparison.)

Oh, and here’s a fun followup: I wrote a complaint to customer care, and I got back an utterly useless boilerplate letter explaning to me what Basic Economy is, like I’m a slightly slow fourth grader. And it contained the following lie: “Seat assignments for Basic Economy are made automatically and only when customers check in.” So I wrote back asking they actually read and respond to the issue in my original letter, and it’s been crickets for a week. Way to treat your elites, guys! So I submitted a new complaint yesterday, and we will fucking see where the hell it ends up. Because I included the original Ref#, it’ll probably land in the hands of the same incompetent who got it wrong the first time and ignored me the second time, so I don’t know why I bother to get my hopes up.

On the plus side, though we sat in the back row, the flight attendant also sat back there in his jumpseat, and he was a nice fucking guy and gave me free booze. That certainly took the edge off.

I am such a fucking drama queen

      5 Comments on I am such a fucking drama queen

Ok, I’m back. But don’t get excited. My blog is changing, and for some of you, probably not for the better. Just like MileagePlus awards! Except that’s not better for anyone, actually.

Yes, I went all Debbie Downer at the end of my last post, and I meant it. And I was genuinely touched (no, not like that) by all the nice things you said in the comments. But I still felt firm in my feeling that I have only so many hours and only so much inspiration, and the decision was the right one.

But then Ms. X commented to me that it was sad, and I responded by saying that I don’t actually want to give up writing, and maybe I’d start a new blog that was more general in subject and varied in tone. Something that might have some posts about points and miles, sometimes, but wouldn’t be restricted to it. It would just be whatever I felt like saying on a given day, in whatever voice I felt like, consistency be damned. Maybe, someday.

And then she said, “Well, why don’t you just do that with Pointastic Hellhole? It’s a good name. It’s already set up. You have the domain.” Etc. And in that moment I was reminded why I’ve been with this person for 20 fucking years. She’s a genius!

So, that is what I’m gonna do. The thing is, I’m not, and never really have been, a True Travel Blogger. IDGAF about whether seats are herringbone or reverse herringbone. I don’t have affiliate links. I don’t speak at conferences. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to do those kinds of things, but there’s a reason that the pros are the pros: that’s all they do, and in most cases they’ve been doing it for longer and they do it better. LIke, fuck if I understand the United Excursionist Perk or American 500-mile certificates.

The Other Bloggers don’t have my charming insight into humanity and corporations, and I have my original analyses and angles that they don’t — if didn’t, I wouldn’t have a blog in the first place. (Plus, some of them are whorish.) At the end of the day, writing only about miles and points is too small a box for me. Them, it’s their fucking job. It’s the thing that they care about the most. It’s the thing that makes them money. More power to them. Me, it’s a thing I care about, but hardly the only thing.

One thing I do care about very much is regularly making new stuff, and if I don’t write, I’m failing. So why stop? I’m just gonna write. Maybe about how much I love NYC. Maybe about how much I hate Trump. (Trigger warning!) Maybe about what it’s like to run a small business. Maybe about how I make make music. Maybe about 70’s schlock cinema. Maybe a philosophical disquisition about the finer distinctions of PornHub categories. Who knows?

If you don’t like what I write that day, swipe left and wait for me to post about travel again. Or maybe I’ll bother to tag shit in WordPress and you can just follow the travel tag. We’ll figure it out, people.

When I wrote that last one, I was still reeling from the Great United Reaming and I had just gotten back to NYC and immediately got sick and was up in the middle of the night and hated myself and everybody and everything. But today I’m in a good mood! The weather is gorgeous, the sun is glinting off the skyscrapers, and I started my day by shouting at and giving the finger to a truck driver who honked at a taxi to move just as I was about to get in it. (True story! Well, it was yesterday. Poetic license.) Life is good.

So: I’m sincerely sorry for being a pity tease, and thank you all for your sentiments. If you don’t like the way I’m changing things, I’m not sorry. Tough. Things are always changing, and we all gotta adapt. Just like to the new United MileagePlus.

Price tracking with Google Flights kicks ass (better than Kayak, Airfare Watchdog, etc)

Every now and again, I make, you know, actual travel plans, meaning something other than a spontaneous where-do-I-go-today type travel decision. And sometimes I want to pay with cash or travel credits or gift cards or points, as opposed to booking an award ticket. And sometimes the cash price is higher than I’d like. And sometimes I fly JetBlue, who has a policy of honoring price drops. And even on other airlines, a price could drop enough to be worth eating their $200-$300 change/cancel fee.

All this means I want to know when a fucking fare goes down before I buy my ticket, and sometimes after. Continue reading

I sucked it up and got the most expensive fucking card I’ve ever owned: the Chase United Club card.

I’ve long been tantalized by the United Club card, but could never justify it to myself, because it is trés cher. It’s $450 per year, with no way of offsetting that amount because it does not come with some amount of dollars towards towards travel credit, like most premium bank branded cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum and Gold. Those cost me between $100-$250 each out of pocket after I use their travel credit. Ok, not terrible, but I have all four of those freaking cards. Did I really need to throw down a full fucking $450 for another credit card? Continue reading

Now that Capital One Venture has transferrable points, is the card any fucking good?

Capital One recently surprised everyone and introduced transfer partners for their Venture card, and there great rejoicing across the land, notably among those who get paid to refer Capital One cards. Will I rejoice too? We shall see. Continue reading