I am home. Small thanks to the Airlines. by Kim D. '09
In a surprising turn of events, Christmas travel is Not Much Fun.
My first reaction to the ridiculously ridiculous airline adventure I just had was to write something along these lines and send it to the CEO of my airline, or as high up as possible.
My Good Sir,
Have you ever ridden on an airplane? During the Holiday Season? Without your Super-Sparkly-Platinum member’s benefits? Incognito, so that your employees don’t know that they need to behave around you? Might I make a small suggestion? DO. Then go back to your interviews and repeat, “We need to take excellent care of our customer,” and MEAN it this time.
I could tell you a story about a traveler who arrived at the wrong airport after a trip four times longer than the one purchased. Or they could. To paraphrase: “We’ll arrive in time for your delayed connection.” “Though you sprinted through the airport and made the connection, we decided to give your seat away… Oops, I miscounted, you could have been on that one.” “You definitely have a seat on the next flight.” “The next flight has been canceled. Since before you spoke with the last agent. There is no hope for you.” “Oh, you can standby on another airline. Let me transfer that ticket.” “What? They say we haven’t transferred the ticket? Well, that’s because we aren’t allowed to. No, it’s not possible. I don’t care if they say it needs to be done. I don’t care if the other employee told you she did it. You have issues with communication.” “Huh. Yeah, sometimes transferring tickets gets messed up when they do it at the airport. Let me put you on a flight to another city.” “We’re leaving at 8. 9. 9:40. 10. 10:30. 10:50. 11:30. We’ll get you out sometime, we swear. Unless the pilots’ hours roll over before they get here. Then they need to rest.”
Have you noticed that this ALWAYS happens? At least seen it in the movies? Random guess: This will happen to masses of people next year, too.
I’m sick of airlines who tell me I am not communicating correctly when they won’t share gate information with the the next terminal. When each employee I speak to contradicts the previous one.
I’m sick of being offered a limited-offer discounted hotel room when this whole mess is your fault. (And don’t blame the weather. You chose your hub. An idiot could have told you it has lousy weather EVERY year exactly when everyone wants to get home.)
I’m sick of limited blanket and cot supplies and nearly nonexistent power outlets.
I’m walking home next year.
Kimberly F. Dietz
Except it was originally going to be longer and angrier. And delivered by a hit man. A hit man who smelling like rotting fish, adding that extra epsilon of unpleasantness to the situation. But of course I calmed down eventually, and I do realize the futility of this approach. So I started trying to think constructively.
Ideas For Improved Holiday Travel On Airlines
- I was delayed for several hours because the crew assigned to my plane was stranded elsewhere, and there was no one to fly it, though it sat at the gate gathering ice. I see that your retired pilots’ club has over 900 dues-paying members. While many of them have surely let their pilots’ licenses lapse, I can’t believe they all have, if only because some must have retired recently. Hire them on again for the holidays! Pay them handsomely to be “on call” at busy airports.
- Or just teach your customers to fly while they’re sitting there bored for hours on end, year after year. (Kidding.)
- You know how you have those little oxygen masks that pop down from the ceiling in case of an emergency? And have maybe been used once? Something less life-threatening but faaaar more common than losing cabin pressure is having a flight delayed indefinitely. Even in the rare event that the airline is giving out blankets, many people don’t dare go seek them out, lest they miss their flight if/when it comes. I suggest adapting the existing technology to this situation. Imagine the commercial featuring the announcement!
It begins with a shot of passengers sitting at the gate. “In the event of a change in boarding time, the comfort compartment above your seat will open automatically.” Ceiling panels slide back and blankets, pillows, snacks and games pop down on the ends of bungee cords, bouncing around as they dangle just above the passengers’ heads. “Assist others in need of assistance before getting too comfortable yourself.” Cut to a shot of a parent carefully helping a kid open the plastic wrap on their new coloring book, then grabbing a pillow, blanket, and novel from the dangling cords, snuggling into their seat, and reading. “Name of Airline: Handling Every Emergency.”
- Keep your Arrival and Departure monitors up to date, for obvious reasons.
- Make the process by which you update those monitors more transparent. Today a fellow passenger said to me, “You know, I’ve always wondered about what goes on in the little room [where someone must be predicting when the flight might leave].”
- Use all those idle people waiting to board planes. For instance: let them update a (probably separate) board with information they know about delays and their reasons, weather in various areas of the country, etc. Give them a small percentage off of their next flight ticket if they contribute, with a promised punishment if the information they contribute turns out to be incorrect. I’d enroll in this program immediately.
- Organize the inter-airline tug-of-war competition between terminals. Or a poetry jam. Or a chess tournament.
- Make SURE your employees are competent. Don’t tolerate employees who goof off with each other while long lines wait, who give incorrect information, who don’t know how to transfer tickets.
- Open lines of communication with other airlines. Arrange to share gate information. Arrange to trade off, covering for each other in areas where one has stronger coverage than the other. Remember Miracle on 34th Street ? Everyone loved Macy’s after they started keeping track of their competitors’ toys too and sending them to whatever store had what the customer really wanted. Emulate them.
Of course, this sort of suggestion list is also quite likely to go unnoticed. Then, I had one final idea.
So, last week a Facebook friend asked me to up-rate his suggestion on Change.org’s Ideas For Change In America Site. The idea is that every throws in their ideas, then they consider each other’s and vote on them, and the top 10 are given to the Obama team on Inauguration Day.
We could do something like this. If everyone else who had a bad travel experience puts in their ideas and also comments on which others they think are good, I’ll type up a few of them and forward them to airline CEOs (or whoever the correct contact person is.) And they likely still won’t listen. But here’s to trying with a spirit of Audacious Hope.
p.s. To those of you still out there: Good Luck!!