Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Perils of Modern Air Travel- Part IV #AirlineBlues

Part of my job involves air travel, and that part can be difficult!

Last Saturday I had to fly on U S Airways from Columbus to Charleston, West Virginia. That apparently was the day of the power outage at the air traffic control center near DC. As a result, my first flight was delayed seven or eight times for about six hours total. 

This may sound familiar because I have mentioned it here before. The policy of the major airlines when they delay or cancel a flight is akin to "survival of the fittest." In essence the younger and faster passengers stampede over to the service counter and get the best flights, seats, accommodations, etc. The rest of us stand in line for the leftovers.  Foot speed is not my thing!

So I spent most of my six hour delay in Columbus standing in lines trying to ensure that the delays would allow my eventual connecting flight.  So six hours late I leave Columbus for Charlotte thinking that I have just minutes to make the connection.  (Remember the TV ad with OJ running through the airport- before his murder trial spawned our fascination with Kardashians...) So I find the gate only to learn that the second flight had been delayed again.  This was followed by three gate changes- the Charlotte airport is huge.  

Finally the dread announcement was made: the Charleston flight had been cancelled. No instructions were given, but the fast youngsters made a beeline for the service counter. I was approximately #39 in the long line when I arrived.  By the time I made it to up to the counter there were over 100 people in line. While I was in line, I tried calling the airline's 800 number, but the wait was between 1 hour and 4 minutes and 1 hour and 39 minutes. (How does the robot calculate these time periods I wonder?) So after waiting in line for forty-five minutes, I was booked on a flight the next morning.  I asked for reimbursement for meals and hotel.  After the clerk stopped laughing, she said that no provision is made for meals and that they do not reimburse for hotels but she could give me a "voucher." I took the voucher and called another 800 number. After being on hold for a little over thirty minutes, the person said that they would make a reservation for me at a discounted rate but that I would have to pay for it.  The discounted rate turned out to be not much of a discount when you add in the fee of the third party "Travelalliance." So then I exited near baggage claim and waited another thirty minutes for the motel shuttle along with several hundred other passengers. Have you ever noticed that all of the vans that shuttle for hotels look remarkably alike.

I did manage six hours sleep. And then flew out of Charlotte the next morning. I landed in Charleston approximately eighteen hours late. That was exhausting!

In this age of computers, can't the airlines develop a better way to deal with rerouting customers when they cannot deliver the flights that they have promised? Why not bring clerks to the gate and rebook people in the order that they would have boarded the plane? Unless their goal is to get their customers to hate them, wouldn't another approach make more sense?

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