Short version: Stranded in STT airport for 48 hours by American Airlines due to hydraulic leak, and passengers left to their own devices to find a way home. Detailed version follows.
STT gate agents partially boarded the plane for American Airlines flight 1195 on 5/22/19, but then interrupted boarding and announced that there was a mechanical problem that should take 25 minutes to an hour to fix. They deplaned the previously boarded passengers. We waited a couple of hours and were then told to board the plane again. After boarding, we were held on the plane for what seemed like an hour. The pilot came on the speaker to tell us that there had been a hydraulic leak, and that a patch had been applied by the mechanics. My seat was over the wing at the window, and I could see the copilot standing in front of the wing watching while the pilot tested out the patch while we were all seated on the plane. I could hear various noises as parts of the plane were enabled and tested. All of a sudden, the copilot made a frantic gesture moving his hands across his throat (the "cut it" signal), to tell the pilot to shut down everything and stop testing the hydraulic patch. Shortly after that, the pilot came on the speaker to tell us the hydraulic patch had blown, and hydraulic fluid was all over the ground. To me, it seems terribly unsafe that all the passengers were on board the plane while this hydraulic patch was being tested. What if a fire had accidentally started? Why wasn't the hydraulic patch tested before passengers were boarded onto the plane?
AA staff held us at the airport until 9pm on 5/22 when they finally started distributing hotel vouchers to a run-down, musty-smelling hotel called Windward Passage. We were "lucky" to have finished eating our voucher dinner at the hotel by 11pm; most passengers were eating at midnight. Before leaving the airport for the hotel, the AA staff had told us they would be working all night to fix the plane, and to come back for an 8AM flight the next day (5/23). While eating dinner at the hotel, one of the hotel security guards passing through the restaurant informed us that our flight had been delayed until 2pm the next day (5/23). We naively took this as a sign that American Airlines had diagnosed the problem, and had some idea of when it would actually be fixed.
However, before we checked out of the hotel the following day (5/23), we found out the flight was delayed again until 6pm. I immediately called the AA booking phone number to inquire about getting on another flight. I spoke for over an hour with an agent and her manager. The manager claimed that there were no seats available on any flights departing from STT that day, even on other airlines such as Delta. She said if I could book myself on another airline, she would refund me $200 (which was much less than I paid for my AA ticket). Thus, we were stuck waiting to see if the defunct plane had actually been fixed.
We passed customs and security for the second day on 5/23, and sat in the airport all day, watching other American passengers arrive on a different working plane, and fly off to Charlotte, which was our destination. But they would not allow us to board the working plane, though we had been waiting 24 hours. We were stranded since we were "assigned to" the broken plane. The gate agents told us they had no information about when the plane would be fixed. They were waiting for information "from above". Dozens of people asked emphatically to speak with Mark N, whom we were told by the AA staff was the STT manager. The AA clerks radioed him over and over, but he stayed outside on the tarmac (we could see him walking past the windows) so that no one could speak with him. Some passengers had run out of medication, and others with dietary restrictions like myself (Celiac disease) were feeling faint from a lack of gluten free food. Finally, at 7pm, they began handing out hotel vouchers again, and released us again from the airport. They gave us no information about when our cancelled flight would be rescheduled. We spent another night in the musty, dirty hotel, and ate another dinner there with vouchers.
At this point, we felt really desperate as we were approaching 48 hours of delay with no end in sight. We called the AA booking phone number and were passed around for 3 hours talking to various agents, who said they could not transfer us to a Delta flight that showed seats available online because technically it was overbooked, and Delta wouldn't allow us transfer to an overbooked flight. Finally, we were passed to a manager who listened to our whole nightmarish saga, and tried to put us back on the same defunct plane for the next day. I explained that the AA app showed that flight as "diverted." Finally, he understood that the plane was out of service, and he put us on hold. When he came back he said he found two "reserved" seats on an AA flight to Philadelphia. I asked him why these seats were reserved and not available to the public. He said they were "operations" seats that were reserved for situations like this. I wondered aloud why I wasn't offered these seats earlier that morning when I was on the phone with a booking manager - it could have saved me a full 24 hours of delay!!! Anyway, my husband and I were so desperate, we didn't cause a fuss, but just immediately accepted the proffered tickets.
We then went back to the airport on 5/24/19, and passed through customs and security for the third day in a row. We got on the flight to Philadelphia, and then waited 4 hours for a connection to our hometown. We made it home at midnight on 5/24/19, which is 48 hours after our original scheduled arrival time. Due to the 48 hour delay, our pets were held at the kennel 2 days past when we were supposed to pick them up. We incurred extra fees for the kennel, as well as airport parking, and my husband wasted 2 extra "vacation" days spent all day in an airport. I suffered 2 migraine headaches, feeling of faintness due to lack of gluten free food in the airport with my Celiac disease, and had a painful, enlarged lymph node that showed up on the night we arrived home. I'm hoping it's due to stress, but I will have to go to the doctor for diagnosis.
American Airlines has offered me two $175 vouchers for my nightmare trip, which I have declined since I will NEVER fly with them again.