My American Airlines Flight Could Have Gone Sideways In So Many Ways

I’m just back from Turks and Caicos. I flew Providenciales – Charlotte – Austin, which turned out to be a much better connection overall than going via Miami (even though it’s about 400 miles’ more flying).

The Providenciales airport is packed, with not nearly enough seating for passenger volumes on a Sunday in-season. The sole lounge doesn’t take Priority Pass. Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory, with no passport control on departure. And they drive on the left side of the road, even though cars are imported from the U.S. with the driver’s seat on the left. I’ll have a separate report on the hotel I stayed at using Hyatt points shortly.

The flight from Providenciales to Charlotte was uneventful, as was the layover. We boarded our connecting flight to Austin on time, and boarding completed 20 minutes prior to departure – the flight wasn’t full with many empty middles.

All in all I expected there wouldn’t be noteworthy about any of my flights where I’d write about them. That all changed once we’d boarded. I was traveling with my wife and daughter, and we had 3 seats in row 3 of first class. The woman in 3A, who had been upgraded, was traveling with her husband (sitting in back) and also with a couple sitting in row 2.

The woman beside me, and the woman in the aisle of row 2 she was traveling with, both had coffee cups. The two woman were probably in their late 50s or early 60s, and were giggling. They talked about what was in the cups, and it wasn’t coffee. That would become important later on in the flight, though at the time I just worried about things ending badly and our diverting. Sometimes passengers bringing their own alcohol on board to drink ends very badly.

With 20 minutes to departure and a clear aisle, I’d hoped for a predeparture beverage. The first class flight attendant on this 737 took predeparture beverage orders but didn’t get around to delivering any. And we wouldn’t see any for at least 90 minutes.

Shortly after takeoff there was a medical emergency on the flight. A man in an aisle seat towards the front of coach was having trouble breathing. An announcement was made asking for anyone with medical experience – a doctor, EMT, or “even a veterinarian.”

The woman who’d been sipping for the past hour talked across me to her friend. She said “I’m a doctor but I’m not going to say anything.” She was clearly drunk! She was in no position to help anyone. On the other hand, that was the entire plot of Alec Baldwin’s 1993 film Malice

She couldn’t help herself, though, and later identified herself to the first class flight attendant as “a medical assistant.” By that time everything was under control. The passenger was breathing well with an oxygen mask and sitting up on his own.

The first class flight attendant spent most of the flight watching what was going on back in coach, not really doing anything to help there. Obviously the medical emergency took precedence but – and the whole thing was easily visible – he really didn’t do much there besides watch from a distance.

So the meal was served 70 minutes prior to landing. It was actually quite decent, though oddly the same exact meal that was served from Providenciales to Charlotte. I imagine it was double catered for that flight out of Charlotte, but the choice was still odd to run on Caribbean – East Coast and on a Westbound flight.

I’m not a fan of short rib, though legacy US Airways management always has been. It’s on the cheaper side for beef, and fatty enough that it reheats well. But note the endives! Those aren’t cheap! An odd place for American’s catering team to invest, since I’d bet most passengers treat them as garnish.

When we landed in Austin everyone was asked to keep their seats. Medical personnel came onto the aircraft to help off the passenger who’d had the onboard emergency. He insisted he was fine, and walked off on his own though the fire department employees who’d responded accompanied him.

Twice I thought we might end of diverting, the two reasons were even linked in an odd way, but we wound up arriving on time – and everyone seemed to be no worse for the wear of the trip in the end.

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