Sunday, August 28, 2011

Best Worst Trip Ever: Costa Rica Finale

Well...  I feel like a complete asshole.  An exhausted asshole that needs a whole new vacation to recover from the last one.  An exhausted asshole that owes 5 friends and one disgruntled/ shell shocked JS an entire vacation re-do...

I pleaded and I begged for JS to get on board with my harebrained idea to kidnap a Costa Rica stray dawg and brang her home to Texas.  I held numerous round table discussions on the matter.  I interviewed the locals, my gang of merry travelers and the entire blogosphere...

I even polled two separate vets who both agreed that the best thing for said dawg was a new life in Texas.  The number one killer of pooches in CR is motor vehicle accident followed closely by painful bloody hemorrhage from Tick Fever.  THEN if the stray pups survive all of those things, there is the ever pleasant death by heart worms.

I spent half my week in CR driving here and there and everywhere to get all the paperwork signed, sealed and delivered.  That's not even mentioning the effort we spent cleaning, feeding and loving Tica Tammy to prepare her for her new life.  And JS refused to speak to me for approximately 4 out of our 7 days of vacation.  Not awesome.

AND after ALL OF THAT...  I'm unhappily home in Texas while Tica Tammy was left confused in Costa Rica.  Added bonus:  The waterworks come and go every few hours with little or no provocation.
I shall let my letter of complaint to American Airlines explain the rest:

To Whom It May Concern,

This past week found me travelling in Costa Rica via your American Airlines company.  I travel internationally at least once a year with a large group of friends and nationally several times a year, both while using your airline.

Unfortunately, after my most recent travels and horrifying experience at your Liberia, Costa Rica American Airlines counter, I will no longer be an American Airlines customer.

I must say I have never been more disappointed and distraught over any other incident as I was at your Costa Rican American Airlines counter yesterday, August 27, 2011.  I was met with a complete lack of assistance and terribly misleading information from your associates.  Due to this deceptive information and the extreme time delay that the misinformation caused, I was left with no other option but to literally leave my dog on the sidewalk in front of the Liberia airport with a complete stranger.  Luckily, my veterinarian was then able to cancel all of her afternoon appointments and drive two hours to the airport to fetch my terrified dog, where she remains now, frightened in a strange kennel in Costa Rica while I am at home in Texas.

From the beginning:

When I decided I would like to ship my dog from Costa Rica to Texas I called your Costa Rica office, via your Worldwide Reservations Phone Number:  2-248-9010.  I was told exactly these six things:

1. I needed a health certificate for my dog.

2. My dog must be contained in a kennel and the entire package could not exceed 100 pounds.

3. My dog would not be able to fly outside of the temperature regulations stated on the website unless I had an acclimation letter from my vet.

4. I must bring my dog to the airport three hours prior check in.

5. The person I was speaking to was able to make a reservation for my dog but was not allowed to provide me with a direct phone number to the American Airlines ticket counter in Liberia, Costa Rica.  Thus the only way for me to get any further information was to drive two hours one-way to the airport and speak to the ticket counter in person.

6. She also directed me to your website.

Under your “Traveling with Pets” page I read through all of the information under temperature regulations.  My veterinarian had already informed me that she would be able to provide a temperature acclimation letter and that my dog would then be able to fly regardless of the temperature.  She seemed to think that my dog was capable of surviving temperatures closer to 110 degrees Fahrenheit if provided ample water.  She believed this to be the truth because she has had several clients fly out of Liberia with no problem, even during the summer, on multiple airline carriers and she is familiar with dogs outdoors year round in very hot climates.  As I’m currently observing one of my dogs at 14 years of age voluntarily lying directly in the sun in my backyard where its 107 degrees and she is suffering no ill effects, I wholeheartedly believe my veterinarian and my own eyes.

When I arrived at your American Airlines ticket counter Saturday, August 27th I first spoke to Ivan.  Ivan told me that as long as I had my temperature acclimation letter and all of my other required paperwork, my dog would be able to fly to Dallas with me on Saturday, August 27th. This was at 12:00pm. My flight was leaving Costa Rica at 2:35pm.  By the time my veterinarian in Costa Rica prepared my letter, it was 1:00 pm.  When I asked Ivan for his fax number so that my veterinarian could send him the acclimation letter, he then informed me that the letter was invalid unless it was dated 30 days before traveling.  No problem.  I called the veterinarian again who agreed to post date the letter and fax it over; now it was 1:30 pm.  After the veterinarian sent the letter, Ivan and his supervisor (who was a female, name begins with a J) informed me that regardless of the letter, the law stated that no animal is allowed to fly as cargo if the temperature anywhere upon the route was higher than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  However, your website says 85 degrees is acceptable for regular-nosed dogs.  It was also called to my attention that he had provided this EXACT same information to Mr. C H who was similarly trying to fly his dog to Dallas on the same flight, but he told Mr. H he was unable to ship his dog even with his temperature acclimation letter at 12:00 pm.  Thus, Ivan had already turned away one customer due to the heat in Dallas but willingly neglected to be truthful to me.  This intentional dishonesty left me with two options:  Postpone my flight so I could take my dog with me at a later date, or leave my dog in Costa Rica.  This also left me with less than one hour, thanks to the incompetence of Ivan and his supervisor, to find other travel arrangements.

When I asked Ivan if he could help me re-route a travel course over the next few days in attempt to get my dog to Texas he told me he simply did not have time.  He also mistakenly told me American refused to fly dogs as cargo.  He stated that dogs could only fly on American as a checked bag with an owner/representative on the same flight.  He did not offer any phone number to contact American Airlines or any other suggestions for help.  After asking how I could research other flights he referred me to, however, there is no internet service provided at Liberia airport.  After all of the above, when I directly asked for a phone number he reluctantly gave me an American Airlines contact in Costa Rica.

Today I spoke with a different American Airlines Customer Representative located in the US and she also told me that she was not allowed to give out the phone number for the ticket counter in Liberia.  This is why I cannot state the full name of Ivan or his unhelpful supervisor. The supervisor on duty Saturday, August 27th refused to speak to us until we had less than one hour before boarding and then she was very hostile and very rude.  Your US Customer Representative also seemed to “think” that there actually is no law stating animals cannot be shipped above 85 degrees, and she was further “under the impression” that the supervisor on duty was the person with the final say in this matter.

This entire incident leads me to believe that all of your associates need better training and your website needs to firmly state all of your policies, state laws or otherwise.  Obviously this is a source of mass confusion for multiple veterinarians, travelers, and most importantly, your very own personnel.

I truly regret booking my travel accommodations with American Airlines immensely and I have suffered extreme financial and emotional upheaval over this incident, not to mention the distress my dog has had to suffer.  I obviously do not want to subject my dog or any others to unhealthy temperatures, however, I find it very difficult to believe that your personnel are so incompetent as to leave any animal on the tarmac for a lengthy amount of time, as would cause harm to their health.  At least that had been my impression up until recently.  I never doubted the competence of your personnel before this incident. Now it is clear that I cannot trust that any of your staff is well-informed or trained properly.

I also wonder why your airline does not offer a space to load one or two kennels inside the main cabin if absolutely necessary?  We can travel in the main cabin with yowling cats, small barking dogs under 20 pounds, and multiple screaming babies, however, my 40 pound dog that fits in a medium sized crate, who would not so much as make a peep, is denied access.  I think this system is terribly flawed, and you may rest assured that I will no longer patronize your company for my travel needs.  Moreover, I will utilize every possible opportunity in both my personal and professional life to discourage potential American Airlines customers from spending any money with your company.



(Although it has also been suggested that instead I sign:  F-YOU ASSHOLES.)

The good news came in an email yesterday from Dr. Jessica Jimenez when I arrived sans Tica Tam in Dallas. Right before I drank myself silly.

Dr. Jimenez is my Costa Rica Veterinarian who also happens to be my identical soul-sister.  She went above and beyond to help a perfect stranger and a sweet stray pooch that was stranded at an airport 2 hours away from her busy work schedule, ON A SATURDAY, no less.

This is what she sent to me:

Hello Abby,
Hope your flight was ok. Tammy is here with me, safe and happy.
She is giving me the look like, "ok what is going on?" but she will relax
later. She is a very calm dog and a cutie.  She will be free in the clinic during the day and at night she will be in the kennel because I would worry she would get out or do something naughty ( I have this idea because my dog does these things.)  I will take her with me tomorrow because I will be all day home, if I do not get any emergencies. If you do not get to communicate with me tomorrow it is because of the reception problem but she will be ok. I will talk to you on Monday because I have no internet in the house. I know it sounds crazy but this is Costa Rica and I live in a area that looks like the jungle, but I love it, that is the reason whyI moved here.
Take care.
PS I love the purple nails.

WAH!  Tears of joy! Can you believe my luck?  I got to speak to her today before she took all of her pooches and Tica Tammy to the beach!!  She says Tammy is a lazy pooch and she is a bit shy, but not aggressive.

So...  I'm off to do more research and soul searching.  I've already logged a good 8 hours but I still can't decide if I should have Dr. Jimenez find Tam a home in CR (she said it could take months) or wait until the end of September/ beginning of October to ship Tam as cargo?  

Go ahead.  Say it.  I'm beginning to think you were right...  I probably should have left well enough alone and TicaTam on the GD beach in Tamarindo :(


1 comment:

  1. Will it REALLY take til the end of Sept to cool off enough to bring her home? I DON'T always make the most logical decisions, and Im also spontaneous.I admire your efforts and I always keep my cousin Abby on a pedestal. I'm just as torn as you are about the choices, but I also really wanted you to have her home :) .She may have a drastic change of scenery, but she will never go without anything ever again. (Not that it looks like she is suffering, but hit by a car is 0 FUN). I'm going to pray for a cold front, and better flying weather. I wanted to see pictures of her on your couch, not a farewell story!

    LOVE your letter to AA. <3.