I counted down the days to my trip to South America. Each day, I ticked of another day and frantically checked the weather praying that it would be sunny and the rain would stop.
My journey to the Heathrow airport was dashed and hurried and I put it down to bad planning and poor time keeping. As I waited to board, I was told that I had randomly been picked for a security check. Lucky me. What had I done this to deserve this honour? I looked at the other two candidates a Jewish businessperson and a hippy with crazy hair and flip-flops. At least it looked like a fair selection and I was the only female Muslim on the plane, so I guess I had to be searched again. The security woman kindly asked me if I minded. If I said no, would she stop and not carry on with the search? No, she would not. So why ask me if I mind.
I ran into the American Airlines plane with little time to spare. As I made my way to my seat, I noticed how empty the plane was. Great I thought, as I was tired and looking to lie down. The air steward came round informing the passengers that the seats at the front were empty and that we could sit there. Given the choice of two or five seats to myself, I chose five and happily moved. Once I had comfortably sat down, I tried to inform the air flight attendant that I had moved seats so that she could serve me my Muslim meal, which I had ordered. I tried two to three times to inform the staff who dismissed me each time and told me they would deal with it later.
I sat down, stared at the pre-historic tiny screen in front of me, and desperately tried to find something to watch. I learnt that some movies I could not watch as the time has lapsed so I had to wait for the next showing. I also could not pause or forward the movie. This certainly was not what I expected from a leading airline, American Airlines and to one of the busiest airports in the world JFK.
During the flight, the airhostess handed out landing cards for the US. I did not have a pen so I could not fill in the form. I asked the airhostess if she had a pen, she replied back annoyed ‘no’. So I asked her, how I could fill it in with no pen, she told me to ask one of the passengers and again informed me she did not have a pen. I cheekily replied ‘great to see service with a smile hasn’t died’. She asked me what I said and I told her. She barked again, she did not have a pen and I said its fine. Later during the flight, she came back with a pen and I thanked her for it.
My first Muslim meal consisted of rice, chicken, and fruit for dessert. It was edible I guess, but certainly was not a gourmet meal. When asked if I would like a drink, I asked if they had fruit juice, I was told by the steward that fruit juice sounded like a great idea but they only had apple or orange juice. Surely, apple and orange juice was the same thing as a fruit juice. Maybe it was a language barrier and in the US it is referred to as something else. My second Muslim meal consisted of guess what ‘Chicken and rice’ again. Surely, Muslim people eat more than chicken and rice. I wasn’t too keen on the first meal and the thought of having to eat the same meal again made me feel sick. I kindly asked the flight attendant if they had an alternative meal or if I could have the veggie option. She told me, ‘no, we don’t have any spare and you will have to eat your own meal’. I told her that surely they should have one or two spares and that I didn’t want to eat the same food twice and I had connecting flight of 10 hours and didn’t fancy rice and chicken four times in one day. She told me ‘you can buy your own food on the plane and this is what we serve’. I told her I paid for a flight, which included food, handed her the food back, and carried on watching my movie. I didn’t hear from the flight attendant again.
Latter when I went to the toilet, one of the air flight attendant stood in my way for a little longer than needed. I heard her tell another steward that ‘I stood in her way as she is rude and I didn’t want to let her pass’ I asked the stewardess if she was talking about me. The other steward replied ‘no, of course not, she is talking about another passenger’. I ignored both and went back to my seat.
I landed at JFK with a three-hour wait for my connecting flight. I thought all was fine and had no idea the drama I would experience three hours later when I tried to board my flight.
I arrived at the gates and boarded the flight. Once on the flight I was informed that I had to go and speak to the manager and leave the aircraft. I was baffled and couldn’t understand why and the flight was due to take of shortly. What was going on?
Once I arrived at the managers desk she asked me what happened on my previous flight. She informed me that the cabin crew had complained about me. I only encountered two members of the cabin crew, so surely this couldn’t be all the cabin crew. The manager asked me if I was violent or abusive towards the staff or I had thrown my food at the flight attendant. I told her I was an adult and not a child. Had I known my cheeky comment would have been taken as an abusive comment or that saying I didn’t like the food option wasn’t allowed I would have kept my mouth shut. I was told that I could not board the plane and I would have to catch the next flight to Rio. I was livid and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had spent seven and a half hours on a flight and just waited over three hours at the airport to be told that I couldn’t board. I told the woman I wanted my suitcase and she said it was waiting for me downstairs. Why make me wait three hours for a connecting flight knowing that I will be denied boarding? This was both unfair and ridiculous.
I was forced to catch the next flight to Rio, which was at 7:10pm the next day. This meant I lost a whole day in Rio and my hotel in Rio. I was told that I wouldn’t be entitled to any compensation for the loss incurred to me. Surely, if I were threat as the captain pointed out, then wouldn’t I be a threat on any flight I took. What could I do on a flight? I wasn’t a bloody terrorist for god’s sake….
In conclusion, I wouldn’t travel on America Airlines again even if it was free. I would avoid the airline if you are prone to speaking or making an opinion. It appears that freedom of speech when complaining isn’t allowed in a nation that prides itself on allowing people to speak freely. Take me back on a one way ticket to the UK, where you are allowed to speak freely and an incident like this would never take place. American Airlines, you will never be my number one choice for an airline and thank you for making my journey a nightmare and wasting my time and money.