(Anyone who travels should take American Airlines at their “caution tape” word. Travel with a great deal of caution / Photo by Gene McLean)


I know that every single one of you who has travelled the wide, wide world of airspace has your own story about a harrowing experience with an airline. Or two. Or, perhaps, even three.

Some of the time, it has to do with some unexpected delay.  You get to the airport in plenty of time only to find out that you have plenty of free time to waste in an airport near you. Some how, some way, your flight has been delayed by some mysterious “Act of God” that the airline folks will tell you is anyone and everyone else’s fault. Just not theirs. Never theirs. Guess the corporate guys would rather blame God. Good luck with that one a bit later on, guys.

Some of the time, it has to do with your luggage – those sneaky little devils of leather and plastic that love to play hide and seek when you leave the house. You get to your destination – finally – and discover something that the airlines simply can’t. Your damn bag. Seems as if they can get you from one destination to another, but not your bag. Even though you pay to have it delivered. And, don’t even think about asking for a refund on that.

Once upon a time, American Airlines lost my sturdy and stead Orvis suitcase twice in one week. When I went to tell the clerk about the second incident — that my bag went MIA — the young lady said: “Oh, we found it and had it delivered to you.” I had to convince her that her employer had managed (some how) to lose it again. My bag is really good at hiding. Not so good at being found.

Some of the time, the angst evolves around a connecting flight. Seems as if the same airline that knows you are on one flight can never make it to the city you are heading in time to make your next flight – which they have sold you a ticket for and who, supposedly, knows your are coming. Try talking to a gate attendant about that problem. You will get a roller bag stuck up your exit row seat faster than a jet plane.

All issues that raises the temperature and ire.

All issues that the airlines refuse to address – especially this thing that likes to call itself “American Airlines.”

All issues that seemingly no one cares enough to fix, or even apologize to the impacted customer. After all, we just pay out of the ass to get kicked in it. But, then again, manners and ethics are a thing of the past, right?

Some how, we have come to expect such malfeasance.

But what American Airlines and some of its’ employees pulled on me — and my beautiful wife — in Iceland on Monday — as we tried to depart the beautiful Icelandic country and come home to our home — may be the most disgusting, embarrassing, pathetic, and, truly, “Unamerican” display of  customer disservice, pure and unadulterated incompetence, and hate-filled treatment that I have witnessed in all of my 63 years of living on this Earth.

I’m not exaggerating.

I’m not kidding.

This is no laughing matter.

And, I’m definitely not stopping until something is done by someone at American Airlines to fix the problem; apologize for gross abuse and arrogant treatment; and not until some poor bastard at the airlines — in charge of making apologizes calls — makes an attempt at amends.

After all, that person will never be out of a job at this place.

I guaranteed you that.

And, if any of you truly know me, if I make you a guarantee, you damn well know that I fully plan on fulfilling it, or die trying. I just wish that American Airlines had a modicum of that professional creed buried somewhere it that bankrupt corporate soul of theirs. But, as you may know by now, nothing  is ever their fault.  Act of God, you know.

Here’s what happened:

Things started innocently enough early on Monday morning. Our merry band of travelers left our hotel rom and walked the 200 meters over to the airport. We avoided a caravan of tour buses. We weaved our way through a massive duty-free store. And, we made our way to the check-in line easy enough.

As things would turn out, it may have been better if I had been run over by the bus.

(“Dick,” as we know him best, is probably harassing some other American Airline passengers / Photo by Gene McLean)

After we reached the American Airlines check-in line, a small, ruddy-faced and red-haired man – with a definite case of Napoleon Syndrome – instructed us that we had to go over to a self service kiosk to get our boarding passes.

(Editor’s Note: Remember this guy, who we will call “Dick,” since he refused to divulge his official name and rank. But “Dick” certainly is appropriate. He lives up to that moniker in every since of the word.)

After attempting to locate and access an “operating” kiosk – which is far tougher than finding a waterfall in Iceland, let me tell you – we acquired the necessary paperwork and made our way back to the same line.

And, there waiting on us to return was the same ruddy-faced, red-haired, Napoleon Syndrome-inflicted “Dick”” – who was sporting a fecus-eating grin.

As requested, Leigh Ann and I presented – royally, I might add – both our boarding passes and our Passports for proper inspection.

And, that’s where things went really South.

In a hurry.

(“Dick” / Photo by Gene McLean)

“Dick” started in on a 5-minute “Question and Answer” series with me that went from innocent enough, to uncomfortable, to arrogant and offensive, to “None of Your Damn Business.”

“How was your stay in Iceland?” he started off.

“Great. We loved it,” I replied.

Pleasant enough conversation.

“What did you do here?” he asked.

“We travelled and vacationed,” I said.

Exchange of banter, I though.

“Where did you go,” he persisted.

“Oh…,” I stumbled a bit, and looked at Leigh for advice and input. “ Vik, and some other places.”

He was just getting started. And, getting more aggressive.

“What did you do there?” he fired back.

“We were sight-seeing,” I said, getting a bit perturbed by the constant barrage of questions.

He persisted in his pursuit of our pursuits. “I asked what you did?” he snapped.

OK. I’ll play along.

“We saw glaciers, volcanoes and went horse back riding.”

“Dick” was just getting started. And, I was just getting finished.

“Oh, horse back riding?” he said, with a smirk, as if to suggest that I could not get on a horse. “How was that?”

I was no longer amused by “Dick.”

“It was fine. Your horses are different that ours. But I enjoyed it,” I said, with a grit in my teeth.

“What do you do for a living?” he penetrated right back.

That’s really none of his damn business, I thought, but I acquiesced. “I’m pretty much retired now.”

“What did you use to do?” he asked, and moved closer to me.

“I was a lobbyist,” I replied. “For 30 years,” I said proudly. Didn’t figure, at this juncture, that telling him that I am now a dysfunctional, degenerated horse gambler was a good idea.

“What does a lobbyist do,” he fired back.

Now, I was getting to the end of my patience and rope.

“I work with governmental officials on behalf of my clients,” I said.

“What does that mean?” he said, looking me in the eye.

Wrong move, “Dick.” I have faced a lot tougher that you, pal.

“Well,” I started off, “I try to convince people like you to do the right thing. And, in this case, I am trying to convince you to let me go and check the hell in.”

Face off time.

Ruddy-faced, red-haired, Napoleon Syndrome-like, and prick personality “Dick” looked right at me. No smile. Not amused.

Me? I stood there and looked him right back in the eye. I was done answering any more of his stupid, mindless, and juvenile questions – that he had no business asking in the first place.

No damn smile. Not frigging amused. Steam coming out of my ears like that at the Blue Lagoon and some of the hot springs that dot the nearby landscape.

(“Dick” surely harassing another / Photo by Gene McLean)

“Did you have an office?” he asked, plowing ahead.

“Yeah, I had an office,” I said, even though I wanted to add the phrase, “you dumbass.”

“What was the address?” he said.

“It was 302 Shelby Street; Frankfort, KY. 40601,” I said.

And then I said, “That’s it. I’m done here.”

Finally, before an eruption, I moved.

“I’m going to check in,” I said, as I made around him and headed to the counter. Leigh Ann, my legal counsel and wife, was by my side.

Questions, I can understand. After all, this is a dangerous world and a 5-foot-11, 240-pound 63-year-old former journalst/lobbyist does fit all the right profiles for a potential terrorist.

But this went way too far American Airlines.

Way, way, way too far.

A couple of questions, OK.

An interrogation is not.

Which dissolved into outright harassment.

Not by a TSA person, mind you.

Not by Airport security.

Not by an Icelandic policeman.

By a frigging employee of American Airlines.

A company that I bought a damn ticket from, and had already paid.

A company domiciled in my country? In our country.

I’m American. As red-white-blue as you can be. Born and raised in Kentucky, right in the middle of this country. Spent all of my 63 years right here. Working my ass off and paying my damn taxes. Never arrested one time. A speeding ticket or two along the way. But as far as I can tell a law-abiding, patriotic son of Americans.

And, this cat – representing an American– company was treating me this way?

Ever heard of the U.S. Constitution, “Dick?”

Ever heard of the “Bill of Rights,” you “Dick?”

Ever been to the U.S., “Dick?”

Please travel over and be my guest. Love to show you around a bit, “Dick.”

But if you think this was the end of things? Just getting started.

After Leigh and I checked in at the counter, and our bags were fully paid for and tagged, I asked the counter agent about “Dick.” And, I told them that he was quite unpleasant, unprofessional, and certainly not befitting of a job with an American company.

That message must have resonated.

A few minutes later, as we waited at our gate, we heard Leigh Ann’s name over the public address system. She was to report immediately to Gate 38. So, we picked up our belongings and headed there.

Seems as if American Airlines had randomly selected Leigh Ann — out of some 250 passengers, mind you — for a private security check. Seems as if “Dick” — who was escorting her to this sitting room — was engaged in this random search and seizure attempt.

When “Dick” refused to let me accompany my wife, I looked at him and said:

“If you put one finger on her, I will go to every legal extent available to me regarding you and this airline. Do you understand me?”

And, off they went. “Dick’s” only response:

“You can load with the other passengers in about 20 minutes.”

For about 30 minutes, I stood and stared into nowhere.

For about 30 minutes, my stomach churned like an active volcano.

For about 30 minutes, I did not hear a single word from Leigh Ann and I heard a zillion words banging around in my brain.

Until, the phone dinged. It was LA. She was OK, thank God. She was going to get on the plane. She was going to meet me there.

As things turned out, American Airlines officials “stole” her passport on three separate occasions. Each time, they claimed that they were going to “run it through security.”

I call bullshit.

As things turned out, American Airlines officials literally dumped all the contents out of LA’s backpack onto a table. When my binoculars rolled out, they said, and I quote: “What are these?” LA said, “They are binoculars.”

Are you kidding me? These assholes don’t know a set of binoculars?

I call bullshit.

As things turned out, American Airlines officials patted down Leigh Ann — a girl who graduated from high school at the age of 16; graduated with honors from Western Kentucky University as both a Homecoming Queen and Student Government President at the age of 18; who graduated from the University of Louisville School of Law at the age of 20; who clerked for a Kentucky Supreme Court Justice before she even reached legal age; and who currently owns and operates one of the most successful lobbying firms in all of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

She is as pristine as the pure waters that surround the island of Iceland.

Patted her down for what? She was wearing only a sweatshirt and a pair of leggings.

I call bullshit.

And, today, I will call my attorney.

Some one. Somebody is going to answer for this. It was bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong. We loved our trip to Iceland. The people of Iceland were tremendously friendly and giving. They were courteous, and truly generous. They were amazingly wonderful. Almost as beautiful as the fantastic and amazing island itself.

But don’t get me wrong, either.

American Airlines’ representatives were the most rude, obnoxious, disgusting people I have ever encountered.

I call them bullshit.

I call you bullshit.

And, I’m just getting started.