How the American Arlines App and My Own Stupidity Cost Me 45 Minutes and Made Me Miss a Meeting

I use the American Airlines mobile app a lot. It’s probably risky in some ways — I’m assuming the risk that the airline’s IT systems will be working and able to generate and scan the boarding passes, and they won’t be limited to working with paper. I’m assuming the risk that I’ll have a decent enough data connection to be able to pull up the app (it has to open and log in) and then connect to open the boarding pass. And I’m assuming the risk that I don’t run out of battery. I’m syncing with two Exchange server email accounts in addition to Gmail and Yahoo. That drains battery on my Android phone.

But all of those things are, more or less, a function of the technology. I’m aware of those risks and assume them and I’ve never had a problem.

For the first time though I ran into problems with one of the features of the app. And it’s a really clever feature.

When you pull up a reservation there’s a parking reminder option. You click on the option and can enter text (where did you leave your car in the airport parking lot?) and can also attach a photo of where you’ve parked. Very cool.

I don’t use the feature a lot because I don’t usually drive to the airport. But I needed my car there on return to Washington National, since I’d need to drive to a meeting and needed my car immediately afterward.

Even though American departs from the B pier at National airport, I chose to park in the C long-term garage.

  • The bridge over to the terminal from both B and C are about equidistant tot he security checkpoint for B.
  • And of course it’s closer to the checkpoint for C — which I’m inclined to use anyway, even though American is on the B pier.
  • The C checkpoint has Precheck. I’m not certain this is correct because I haven’t done any controlled experiments, but the TSA agents at the checkpoint tell me that having precheck through American won’t get me access there. That may or may not be the case, but it’s a non-issue as I also attach my Global Entry number to the reservation and get the three beeps. (I haven’t missed a Precheck since getting global entry.)
  • I save time in security, and certainly relative to opting out of a pat down. For folks going through the nude-o-scopes it would probably be faster overall just to go through at B. That’s because you have to wait for a shuttle to drive you across the tarmac to the other pier.
  • But the C pier also has better food options… (Five Guys)

I went out to the C garage on my return. But since I had flown on an American one-way ticket on the outbound, that reservation was now gone from the app. And along with it, my parking information!

The app works great for a roundtrip ticket, since the reservation you just flew in on for the return is still there.

But it doesn’t work so well when flying on a one-way. The reservation disappeared, and my notes on parking location disappeared down a memory hole along with it. And since I didn’t need to remember (I had the nifty app — written notes and a picture) I didn’t commit it to memory.

I was sure I parked on the C3 level. I walked the C3 level. That’s where I’ve generally parked in the past. Up and down the rows. I thought, maybe I parked one level up? but that’s a uncovered level of the garage and it was definitely not that. Or maybe one level below? but I knew I didn’t park on the level where the walkway is at because I remember using the elevator.

For some reason it never occurred to me that I had parked on C1. Until I had spent over half an hour looking for my car, and had to cancel a meeting because I just wasn’t going to make it.

Have you ever shown up at nn airport and forgotten where you parked? Do you rely too much on technology?

And — American — please make it possible to retain the notes from a previous reservation and call it up through you mobile app! (Of course some enterprising reader will probably tell me that it is possible, and how to do it, and then I’ll feel even More stupid for missing that meeting…)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary ยป

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  1. Tip: When the boarding pass is displayed on your phone, grab a screen snap. Then you don’t have to open the app to get it at the gate, you just have to open the gallery or saved photos.

  2. And another tip. When parking my car, I take a picture of the sign nearest the spot. The hard part is remembering to delete that picture so you go to the right place the next week. Yeah, I went to the spot that I parked in the previous week and wondered why my car wasn’t there. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  3. that is a good tip, bruce.

    also, there are many other parking apps which i would recommend over using something tied into another app. i am more of an app to do a thing, not one app that can do several things. carrr matey is just one.

    but let’s face it, this wasn’t really your fault as that is dumb to tie it to a specific reservation.

  4. Gary — sounds like when you have an AA flight out of Pier B at DCA, you use US Airways security at Pier C. Do you then take the shuttle bus to Pier B?

  5. @Bruce, I do the same thing, and then post the screenshot on Facebook to show all my friends how cool I am and how environmentally friendly I am too ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I would agree that i would take a picture of the nearest sign, and not just C1 as it can be a large area. I would try to take a picture of something that is unique, like a pipe set or hydrant or a building/view.

    Also, check timestamps on the pictures. You should have remembered when you parked. Heaven forbid you forget when you parked, well then you’re out of luck.

  7. No alarm button on your keychain? Just push that to set off your car alarm to find your car.

  8. At MSP airport they have paper slips next to each elevator in the parking lot and you take one of them with you before entering the elevator. The paper has the same color of the parking ramp you chose and they have a pen so all you have to do is to write the level and aisle you parked. All you have to do is to remember for less than 2 minutes where you parked so you can write on the piece of paper and take it with you. I always do that and put the piece of paper in my wallet.

  9. This is definitely a case of depending too much on technology. Is it a good idea to jot down or take a picture of where you parked your car? Sure.

    But to substitute that for using your brain to remember where you parked your car is probably not a good idea in the long run for mental health. It’s like any other muscle, you gotta exercise it.

  10. Wait, I had always thought that it was a rule that you could only access a terminal from which you had a ticketed flight on that given day? How are you going into C with an AA ticket, or is that not really a rule? Did I really make that up? Because if I had known I could go into pier C at DCA with an AA ticket, I’d be about 100 Five Guys burgers fatter right now.

  11. Yes. Cost me over an hour after midnight once at DFW. I used to take a picture on my phone usually — now it’s always.

  12. At SFO, if you forget where you parked, you can go to security and tell them your car registration number (which of course requires that you know that) and the time/day you came in, and they search their video footage for the registration and within about 30 seconds, they locate your car! It’s really quite something!

  13. I have a really hard time faulting AA for this. It was a one way ticket. The trip was over. Retaining old reservations will just slow things down due to massive amounts of data retention. So how many days after you complete the OW? One day, a week, a month? We get too dependent upon technology these days. Which is why I carry a book, not an e-reader.

  14. I always park off airport at DTW the company I use writes the location of your car on the ticket. So I put that in my purse with the car keys. Quicker to take the shuttle than try to find the car in one of the parking garages.

  15. I once had a trip with a series of cities and rental cars over the course of two weeks… I eventually was back at the parking garage at O’hare, and I knew what aisle I parked in (I wrote it on the ticket), but I couldn’t remember the type of car I owned! Took me a few minutes of searching to remember what car I was looking for…

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