As a point of personal privilege, I would like to share my experience attempting to fly out of Louisville International Airport last Wednesday. There's plenty of blame to go around.
1. Educational Testing Service. ETS is my employer at Louisville the first week of every June, as I travel to a convention center to help 1200 High School and College teachers grade the Advanced Placement US History Exam. They also provided the buses which gave us a ride to the airport after the final day of grading. Problem was, the last bus left the hotels at 11 AM, and.....
2. Concur Travel, which handles the arrangement of flights for readers to and from the Reading. Originally, Concur had me on a flight leaving Louisville at 2 PM-- ok, a 2.5 hour wait at the airport, no big deal. Then that flight was cancelled and they rebooked me on a flight leaving Louisville at 5:10 PM-- meaning that if I took the very last bus to the airport, I would be waiting for my plane for six and a half hours. Ah, but maybe American Airlines could help me out, so I went a little early and....
3. I arrive at the American Airlines ticketing station at 10:30 AM, and I'm informed that hey whaddayaknow there IS an earlier flight to Washington, DC leaving at 11:36-- wow, that's great! Oh, but "we can put you on it for a $75 change fee."
So.....there's a seat available on a plane leaving in an hour, but I can't have it unless I cough up $75. To hell with that- I reject the "offer." And then I'm told that I can't check my bag until three hours before my flight- 2:10 PM. Until then, I'm welcome to drag it around the airport.
Wait, here's the kicker: When boarding time finally comes around, American Airlines announces that (you guessed it) my flight is OVERBOOKED and if someone is willing to give up their seat, AA will provide that someone a $500 travel voucher!!! Need I point out here that if I had been given the seat on the earlier flight, the later one would NOT have been overbooked? So in an attempt to screw me for $75, American Airlines cost itself $500. And created a dissatisfied customer. Great business practices there, AA!
And here's one last insult to add the already pretty big injury- here's the response I got to my complaint from one of American Airlines' "Personal Relations" reps:
|Dear Mr. Jamele:|
|On behalf of American Airlines, thank you for contacting Customer Relations. We are sorry to hear that we disappointed you in so many ways.|
We implemented the Same Day Flight Change option in response to customer feedback about traveling standby and to improve the efficiency of the standby process. When customers find it necessary to change their itinerary but don't want to take the chance that we won't be able to accommodate them, they can choose to pay a charge for a confirmed seat (if available). Consequently, the customer can rest easy knowing they have firm travel arrangements and can make plans accordingly. The charge represents payment for the service of receiving a confirmed seat on a flight for which you weren't originally ticketed.
As with any new procedure, we will closely monitor customer feedback and we very much appreciate you sharing yours. We also appreciate your comments regarding checking-in your baggage. We use a sophisticated database that allows your specific comments to inform individual discussions with our people as well as identify overall areas that need more attention. We hope these efforts will be noticeable the next time you travel with us.
Translation: "Here's a response to one-third of your complaint. As you can see, we've got this policy which makes sense to us, and we think it benefits customers, and now that you know about it, there will be no more confusion. Meanwhile, isn't our feedback system totally awesome?"
And just think, American Airlines doesn't even have a monopoly yet.