Monday, June 13, 2016

Lots of villains, no heroes

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:

June 13, 2016

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.


  1. Your mistake: thinking an airline would actually help you out. That was your problem right there.

    Today's airlines make air travel as miserable as possible. Their goal is not to serve you. They really couldn't care less about you. As I learned the last time I flew home from an event. My flight was late to the airport where I was to make my connection, and do you think they cared that there was no flight to my home city until the next morning? Nope. Do you think they paid for an overnight hotel stay for me? Nope. Do you think they could even help me find a place to stay so I could pay for it myself? Nope. All hotels were booked solid, including the one connected to the airport. I ended up sleeping on a few cushions pushed together in the corridor of the hotel leading to the airport, because I simply could not abide trying to catch any Z's in the airport itself. Not with the blindingly bright lights, roaring cleaning equipment and CNN blasting at 9,000 decibels from every TV screen in sight. But even that was a lucky catch, as all the seats in the hotel lobby were already occupied by sleeping people.

    I want to emphasize here that this was not due to any weather delays. This was just an ordinary day.

    Oh, and then the next morning when I finally got a flight out, they gave me a boarding pass with the name on it of a man I had never heard of in my life. I am a woman. Luckily, I noticed this error before I got to security and had TSA pulling me aside and asking me all kinds of unpleasant questions about what I thought I was trying to do, attempting to fly using the identity of a man I didn't even know.

    I don't remember which airline did this to me, but does it even matter now? They're all like this. You can actually get a roomier seat and possibly better service on a bus (depending on the bus). And who knows, with flight cancellations and reschedulings, the bus might even get you there faster. The arrival of competitors like Megabus really forced Greyhound to improve, and there's sometimes a bit more choice out there. And when you get on the bus, they won't make you dump all your liquids.

    1. Last week my flight on Air France to Paris out of Dulles was delayed for five hours. Forty-Five minutes before boarding, I was handed my new boarding pass and a $10 meal voucher valid only at Dulles and only that day--- so after hanging around the gate for more than four hours, I was given the opportunity to get something to eat and very, very little time to actually take advantage of it. If I didn't know that getting any kind of meal voucher as an apology for inconvenience- or any kind of actual apology at all- was about as rare as legroom at Fenway Park, I would have asked why the hell they could not have provided the voucher four hours earlier, when I could have done a little menu shopping, instead of just before boarding, when I basically had to grab a chicken sandwich soda from the shop closest to the gate.