Sunday, January 15, 2012

"The Orchestrated Indignities of Air Travel"

From a 2010 blogpost on TechCrunch, here's Michael Arrington dissing on his unfortunate experiences flying with Delta Airlines from Seattle to JFK and back. No one does outrage better than Arrington.

Here are some of the highlights:

*  "Flying from one place to another, unless you are doing it from a small airport on a private jet, is just going from bad to intolerable."

* "What's really making flying just terrible are all the people that work for the airlines. My expectations are pretty low after flying mostly with United Airlines for the last decade. And even so, Delta managed to, somehow, make United actually look good."

* Boarding the flight to JFK, gate attendants told Arrington his carry-on bag was too big to take on board. "My bag has been carried on to countless flights without, as far as I know, endangering the plane or any other passengers," he writes.

* Gate staff demurred when they found out he was travelling first class. (Arrington's 6'4" and needs the leg room.) Still, he notes, "if that bag was a danger, it certainly wasn’t less of a danger just because I was in first class."

* "What really got me was just how gleeful the two gate employees were about the whole thing. I could tell that they lived for moments like this."

* Flying back home, Arrington decided to check his roller bag, "because they’d put the fear of God into me on that flight out." The airline lost the bag.
* First the plane waited 2 hours on the runway. Arrington admits that was the airport's fault, but denounces Delta's laxness: "The obligatory hateful flight attendants ... seemed pretty happy that they hadn’t stocked enough food on the flight."
* On landing, most of the first-class passengers found their bags had never been put on the plane.
* Arrington points out that Delta probably knew about this before the plane landed. "You’d think that they’d maybe let us know about it. Instead, they let us all wait 30 minutes for the bags to start coming out, and another 20 minutes until they were all gone."

* Now Delta's customer service ethic - or lack of same - rose to the fore. "They would not deliver my bag to my home. I could choose to come back to the airport over the weekend. Or they’d be happy to fedex it to me for delivery on Tuesday. Can I have a receipt? No, our printer is broken."

* "The guy next to me needed his tuxedo, he said. No luck. Another guy, traveling from India, said he had medication in his bag that he needed immediately. That put a smile on the baggage counter woman’s face as she told him to go find a doctor over the weekend and get new prescriptions."

What's the bottom line here? Accidents happen. Things go wrong. We can take it. What really matters is the attitude of the people we are forced to deal with in such situations.

"I can live with no leg room, no food, dirty bathrooms and long delays. I can even live with lost bags," writes Arrington.

"If only a flight attendant, or baggage person, or whoever, would just commiserate with me for one moment. Maybe smile and say they’ll try their best to help. But until all that bad energy is gone, and the airlines have employees that don’t stare daggers at their customers, I’m out."

Thus endeth the lesson. Systems may screw up, but the right people can save the day.

And companies that don't get this will be on the losing end of history.

No comments: