Tag Archives: airlines

A Rare Airline Shout Out!

I don’t love the airlines. Any of them, really. I spent some time, too much time, traveling regularly for work on both Southwest and USAirways. Southwest was always on time and I had quite a few milage perks, but I really don’t like the cattle call boarding.  We had one poor SW experience when heading to Key West but I’ve mostly found them to be reasonable (Jake would not agree–recap here and he’s still pissed about it). However, I loathe USAirways, hatred with the fire of a thousand suns. Unfortunately, I’ve got a boat load of miles with them so I continue to try get just a few more and get our three free flights to Italy. We’ll probably be late to take off, miss our connection, lose 1-2 days of vacation and be super pissed off the whole time. But, FREE!!! (snort)

Anyway, USAirways is an entirely separate rant. This post is about the outstanding customer service I just got from Southwest. I might be ready to forgive the cattle call.

Short version: Family trip to Disney in May; my mother has fallen ill and can’t go in May, might not go anywhere soon or ever; I need to cancel Mom and Dad’s flights and pray for a refund, because they won’t be able to use the cancellation credit before it expires. SW to the rescue!!

I called Southwest to cancel my parents’ tickets and talked with a lovely customer service rep who chatted with me about my mother, shared her story of her father’s illness, and explained what I needed to do to get my refund. I was then connected to the customer service department for refunds and without question, they told me I could get a refund for my parents as long as I had a letter signed by my mother’s doctor indicating her inablity to travel. That’s it. Easy. No arguing about the policy of cancelled tickets, or about giving them an airline credit that I’m sure they would never use, and no making me feel like this was a special favor. Just a straightforward process–claim numbers, email address, include this and that and 2-3 months to process and you have your money back. The whole thing took me less than 10 minutes.

Frankly, I was stunned. I had been prepared to get nothing as the tickets are non-refundable and I knew that when I bought them. Armed with my ‘nice person’ voice I hoped they would make an exception, either extending the credit or allowing us to change the name, or partial refund. Anything.

I’ve long known that Southwest has a great policy about changing and cancelling tickets, but I really had no idea that they would be so reasonable and easy to deal with when an extenuating circumstance arose. I talked to real people, was not put on hold, even got sympathy for our situation along with actual action. I couldn’t be more pleased. Now, if they only flew to Europe…

Love, Hate, USAirways, and Southwest

I don’t know that anyone loves an airline or even really loves air travel. Going somewhere if fun, but the hassle is also large. TSA, carry-on requirements, regional jets, delays, passengers who seem to have been living under a rock for the last 13 years all conspire to stress you out. I know why they serve booze in airports.

Last year I regularly flew Southwest for work, twice a month or so. Same flights every time and I complained. I complained about the cattle call boarding (really? I just want to know where I’m sitting) and the jovial pilots and attendants (do your job of getting me to my destination and stop trying to entertain me). The clientele of SW can be decidedly less experienced at flying as well. BUT. BUT. They were on time. Always. And I had enough miles/points to get first priority boarding, so I usually sat in the exit row with the other six business travelers on the plane. That meant no trouble with my carry on either (then I used a small rolling laptop bag and a purse/tote).

For a few months this year I was doing a similar flight with USAirways and I can’t believe I ever complained about SW. Really, I can’t understand how one airline can have such a tight ship in terms of boarding, on time rates, and pleasant employees and another manages to be late every single time I fly with them.

The last five flights I’ve taken with USAirways have been delayed or canceled. Three of these are the exact same flight–the 3:45 from PHL to ROC. I’ve been cancelled to Seattle after two delays for mechanical issues for an AM flight, told I there was no way to get me to Seattle that day, and sent home after spending 8 hours in the airport. I arrived less than one hour before my presentation time. Another was delayed because my plane was hit by lightning at the gate. Clearly, this delay is out of their hands, but it was a small set of passengers and I’m amazed that we couldn’t be placed on other flights rather than waiting four hours for a new plane. The three from PHL were delayed for a flat tire, an overtime crew, and nothing. That’s right. Nothing.

I submitted a complaint to USAirways, explaining that this is my regular flight, that three times in seven weeks it was delayed and that in that particular case it was listed as on time both online and in the airport despite the fact that the plane was just pulling up to the gate at our departure time. They passengers needed to deplane and the plane loaded before we could leave, resulting in a 40 minute delay that was never updated or announced.

Here’s the reply:

Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. We appreciate it when customers take the time to share their concerns.

I’m sorry that you have had continued delays to Rochester. Your most recent flight on July 11, Flight 4057 shows a 38 minute delay due to loading baggage. It is not our intent to create difficulties for our customer’s and realize this continuous irregularity is frustrating.

If you would like us to further review your other flight delays, please send us your ticketing information for each one you would like us to address.

We look forward to providing a more pleasant flying experience in the future. Thank you for choosing US Airways.

Really, loading baggage? I was standing there. The plane wasn’t delayed for baggage, it wasn’t even there at the departure time. Also, it was not listed as delayed anywhere.  My reply:

Thank you for your reply. I find it fascinating that the flight described below was delayed for baggage, as the plane arrived at the gate and the passengers from the previous flight were deplaning at the time I was listed to depart. Seems as though my flight was late because the previous flight was late. Also, the boards, gate and website all showed that we were on time despite the very obvious delay.

But that is neither here nor there. USAirways can list whatever it likes as its reason for late. The fact remains that in the last three times I’ve taken that flight it has been delayed by a minimum of 38 minutes (as you state below). Three times in seven weeks. One delayed flight is just some bad luck, but consistent delays on the same flight are signs of larger problems.

I don’t expect resolution. I just want you to know that when I can convince my corporate travel manager to stop using your airline you will know why.

I know. I’m a juvenile. All of this and I’m still using my Dividends Miles card to earn 25000 more points so we can get one RT to Rome next year. I’m a glutton for punishment. But I’m also really surprised that they didn’t offer some points or free drinks or something. Not much later they replied that the case was closed. I should have pressed I suppose.

This is where SW gets it right I think. I’ve had one bad SW experience–Buffalo to Key West. At the time, SW had one flight a day to Key West from Orlando. We were slightly delayed out of Buffalo for deicing and were told that many people on our plane were headed to KW and the SW would hold the plane. We landed to watch our KW flight pull away from the gate and were told we’d have to wait 24 hours, that they couldn’t get us a hotel or a car and weather (deicing) was not their fault. I was annoyed that I was told they’d hold the plane but even more annoyed when they said there was nothing they could do. I asked for a manager and another manager. I explained that I was a frequent flier with them, that I had used rewards for these tickets and that I understood a flight was 24 hours away, but that we would drive and get out of their hair (we’d been holding up the line for nearly an hour by this point) if they would pay for the rental car and refund my points for the Orlando-KW leg of the trip. They did and gave us $200 in flight credits. We used the car voucher to get a convertible Camaro and drove 5 hours to Key West. Not the best day, but certainly not the worst and they kept my business.

USAirways is only getting my business because I’m 2/3 of the way to a free RT to Europe. I’m sure we’ll be delayed and lose a day of our Roman holiday next year.

Things I Learned Today:

I know we all hate airlines right now, between the baggage fees and crowded overhead bins and lack of free soda is the sense that someone’s hand in is our wallet.

And then Delta lays this one on me. A $105 flight that I need to change will require a $150 change fee and a $50 fee for generally being a pain in the ass. Okay, I’m not even sure what the last $50 was for, I was so flabbergasted that a change fee could actually be more than the ticket that I stopped listening. It will actually be cheaper for me to buy another ticket than to change my current reservation. I found the ticket I need on Airtran, for $85.

The thing that really gets me is how smart I thought I was being when I purchased these Delta tickets. See, we are planning to go the Disney Food and Wine Festival, but I need to go to Myrtle Beach the day before to race USAT Club Team Nationals and Halfmax Championship. That’s right, I NEED to. Except now I don’t. Thus the change. Anyway, the smarty pants in me was all excited that I was going to work the system to get these tickets for free. See, about two months before I planned to book these I got an offer from American Express for the Blue Sky Card. If you charged $500 in the first 60 days you would $300 in travel credits, something that would normally require spending $22, 500 to get. Plus the purchases would be interest free for a year. No brainer, right? So I did it, got my credits, bought my tickets (Detroit to MB to Orlando to Detroit) for $320, applied my credits (just yesterday!!) and paid $20 for this crazy set of flights.

Yeah, so today I’m out for a big workout and realize there is no way I’m racing nationals this year, at least not well enough to make it worth my time and a bunch of crazy flights. On my best day I was going to have about two hours between crossing the finish line and my flight to Orlando for the Food and Wine Festival. It is evident I am not going to have my best day. I’m also probably not going to score team points or qualify for Team USA (I made it last year and turned down my slot–SO STUPID!!). So why bother, right? Just change the flight, show up at a reasonable hour WITH Jake rather than 5 hours after him and have a nice long weekend.

And then Delta tells me $200 to change the flight. So in the end, I’ll probably buy the $85 ticket, try not to feel too bad about my wasted AmEx credit, and really try not to feel bad about missing nationals (or the fee I already paid to race…).