By VICTOR E. SASSON
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- If you're planning a vacation in Alaska, American Airlines is absolutely the wrong airline to use.
No. I'm not talking about how a malfunctioning gauge in the cockpit of our American Airlines plane in Phoenix delayed our arrival by more than 3 hours, so we staggered into the lobby of our Anchorage hotel long past midnight.
You're probably wondering what we were doing in Phoenix, Ariz., catching a connecting flight to Alaska instead of in San Francisco, Seattle or some other northern city?
That's the problem with American, which has hubs in Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Ariz., and routes its connecting flights to Alaska through those southern cities.
I chose American because I'm a member of its rewards program, but my wife and I ended up enduring four of the longest, noisiest and most uncomfortable flights we've ever experienced, despite spending more than $500 to purchase extra legroom on all four segments.
The layover was listed as only 50 minutes or so, but once we were aboard the flight to Alaska, that cockpit gauge started acting up, and the maintenance crew contacted their counterparts at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.
Here is how the pilot stated our dilemma:
Was the low hydraulic pressure real or was it only the gauge that was malfunctioning?
After 90 minutes, cabin attendants gave passengers a chance to return to the terminal, but warned the flight might leave without them.
The exodus began, mostly from steerage -- those cramped seats, six across, in the back half of the aircraft.
Later, all of us were told to deplane. The aircraft wasn't going anywhere.
Back in the terminal, airline employees apologized and said sandwiches were being prepared.
Then, another aircraft materialized, and we were told there wasn't enough time to prepare sandwiches, but we'd get snacks.
In the end, we left more than 3 hours late, arrived in Anchorage well after midnight and called for our hotel shuttle to pick us up at the airport.
|When the lights finally went back on at the Denali Park Village Resort, a cheer went up from guests waiting in the lobby.|
We had our first day at leisure in Anchorage, but on Aug. 2, we boarded a rail tour that I had booked through Gray Line of Alaska.
The total price for travel in dome rail sightseeing cars to and from Denali National Park and Preserve, two nights in the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and one night in the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge was $1,940.14 for two.
Meals and ground tours were extra. But we weren't told that Gray Line routinely overbooks this tour.
As our sightseeing train approached the rail depot near Denali on Aug. 2, the Gray Line representative announced our lodgings weren't guaranteed, and we would not be staying in the Denali Princess, a luxury property outside the national park.
Instead, we were bused to a cheaper hotel, the Denali Park Village, where the lights and air conditioning had gone out just before our arrival.
Our room was in another building, and we had to schlepp our heavy suitcases up to the second floor.
The toilet in the cramped bathroom didn't flush and the TV showed only static, so we beat a hasty retreat to the hotel lobby to wait for restoration of power.
We could have had dinner in the hotel dining room, but were told the kitchen couldn't cook anything; we didn't eat until more than 2 hours later.
While we were sitting in the lobby, a dog ran in and pooped on the floor, but I'll resist saying how appropriate that was after American Airlines and Gray Line let us down during the first days of our vacation.