My first day started off fantastically. No line for TSA. I literally walked right up to the ID screener, who recognized me from seeing my sister, a pilot's wife, a million times at the same checkpoint.
Suddenly, our short delay due to weather got longer and longer....
Airlines no longer pay for accommodations if you miss your connection due to weather. What unfolds next will tell the story of why this is a really bad idea - leading to severely overbooked flights and many ticked off passengers. My layover got down to 2 minutes. Impossible, said the very helpful FWA gate agent, Josh.
I chose to stay in Fort Wayne, where I could stay with family, rather than finding my own hotel in Chicago. Now, if I'd gone to Chicago, American Airlines would've gotten me out the next day (at the very least on the 8:10 PM flight to SFO I was now confirmed on, and likely an earlier one). The next day, FWA was a mess. I found out a flight had been diverted there for a mechanical, and many passengers had been stuck all day and were just getting ready to reboard. The TSA agent I spoke to that day, said they had three times their normal traffic coming through.
Met AA agent, Josh, again when I checked back in on Friday and he was ecstatic to report that there hadn't been any weather delays for this equipment all day and everything was running on time.
We had literally boarded the flight, taxied and were proceeding to take off when...
Josh, it turns out, had gone down to close down the ticket desk. He was unable to get back up to the gate, being swamped assisting passengers who now wanted off of our flight and wanted their luggage retrieved. (I found this out from another passenger). This left one woman, who normally took the valet/gate checked bags down to the plane, to attempt to rebook those at the gate.
While waiting for news on our flight (which ended up having a 2 hour delay for take off), I tried calling American Airlines rebooking line. Because I had booked on airmiles, I had to be transferred. The first agent I got said there would not be another seat on a flight out of Fort Wayne, on any airline, until at least December 31. So, I continued to hope I could make it.
The more time that passed, the more bleak it got, so I called AA again. This time I was told by the agent on the phone that AA wasn't responsible for me missing my connection, because my FWA->ORD flight had taken off early at 6:21PM. I could not convince her that we had turned back around and we were all deplaned and stuck at the gate. This was very confusing, because my AA app on my iPhone seemed to be aware of the delay. At this point, I was just trying to get the agent to book me on something else out of Chicago, deciding I'd take the risk and fly to ORD.
When we finally reboarded the plane, they were still removing baggage for those that decided not to attempt the flight and then they had to refuel the plane (why couldn't that be done while we were stuck on the ground? or while boarding?)
The pilot then flew as quickly as possible getting us there with a few minutes to make our connection, but...
We sat on the tarmac in ORD for 35 minutes waiting for a gate. I was not the only SFO/SJC passenger on my flight, but the plane was not held for us.
We all got in line at gate H3 in ORD to try to get rebooked. As the agents were busy trying to get out 2 other very delayed flights, they asked us to go to the rebooking center near gate K7. Aware that there were still other flights to the Bary Area on other airlines that night, several of us ran down there only to find that the rebooking center for American Airlines is just a bunch of phones. (United, also in ORD, has real people, kiosks and phones in its rebooking center, FYI).
Stuck listening to hold music...