Thursday, October 2, 2014

The sad saga of American Airlines flight 945 and my BC Ice Wine!

As it happens, the flight was again rescheduled to 9:00 AM since the crew was re-assigned to another aircraft.
Given some recent Malaysian Airlines disasters, I guess one shouldn't complain about a flight that makes it to its destination. However, my recent flight to Santiago on American Airlines was much more eventful than I would have liked. For one thing, the flight was delayed 11 hours and 45 minutes. For another, the delay resulted in the confiscation of 3 bottles of ice-wine which I purchased at YVR by US security customs in Dallas.

I share the story in the hope it will serve as a warning to others.

I could have understood if the American Airlines flight was delayed because of technical problems. But that wasn't the reason. According to the announcement by the AA Counter Agent, the flight was delayed because the crew had been transferred to another plane. Moreover, I was told privately by another AA agent, and a passenger on the plane, this was not the first time this had happened on flights to Santiago.

If I was the Chilean Ambassador to the US, I would want to know how many times this happens.

What was also disturbing was the announcement that hotel rooms were limited, and there was no assurance that everyone would get a place to stay. This prompted me to email the airport Hyatt, which had plenty of rooms. When I inquired why I could not stay there, I was told American Airlines did not have an arrangement with Hyatt. I booked a room anyway, and was glad I did when I was told cots were being set up by airline officials! While American Airlines did offer me a $100 coupon towards another flight, this was less than half of the cost of the room.

The next morning I arrived at the airport with a priority booking ticket that included pre-screening by TSA. However, since it was the next day I had to go through full security and when I showed officials the box set of 3 bottles of ice-wine, each sealed in security plastic bags, I was told I couldn't take this on the plane. I assured them that it met all the requirements and had been assured by the duty free store in Vancouver it could be transferred to another flight.

One of the three bottles of BC Ice Wine, each individually sealed in security bags in Vancouver, that was eventually confiscated by US security in Dallas.
Eventually security cut open the bags, and inserted the wine in a scanner, only to report that each bottle prompted a warning. Again I was told I could not take it on the flight. I asked for a supervisor.

She also told me that the wine could not go on the plane. I accepted this, but asked for her name and told her I planned to write about this incident since there was something terribly wrong if Canadian Ice Wine was not allowed through US security into America en route to South America. She went off to see her supervisor.

She returned to advise they had agreed I could take the wine on the flight, provided I agreed to a full body search and a complete search of my carry-on luggage. I agreed. It took 20 minutes.

At that point I was told the wine could only go on the plane in the baggage compartment, but I would not be charged for checking it. I returned outside with my wine and lined up at the AA counter for 15 minutes. When I arrived at the agent, I explained what had happened.

The agent said I could not check the wine on the plane, since there was now only 55 minutes before take-off!

I returned inside and asked for the supervisor with whom I was dealing. She said I could not take the wine with me. I gave it to her.

I thought about asking her to pour it out in front of me, but didn't want to end up in jail. I had to accept defeat. But I did say...."Now I don't want you drinking this!"

I'm sure they all enjoyed how they got the last laugh, and drank the wine later that evening.


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