Monthly Archives: May 2010

“Glamorous”

Next time Someone asks me what I do, and responds when they hear I travel each week with, “Wow, that must be so glamorous!”, first I’m going to show them this picture. Then I’m going to beat them.

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It’s all about the customer service

Got good customer service?  Think again.  Some of the most troublesome conversations that I have had as a traveler have been with American Airline’s Executive Platinum line and AVIS First customer service.  These are the ELITE levels of these two companies, and it seems, some of the most incompetent people work there.  Want a real world example?  I just called AVIS First customer service a bit ago, and this was my conversation:

Me: Hi there. I’m coming in on AA 5044 and we’re delayed 4 hours. We won’t be in until at least midnight. I want to make sure you’re going hold the center open.
AVIS: Well sir the center closes at midnight.
Me: I know, but my flight information is on my reservation. Don’t they have to stay open if flights are delayed?
AVIS: If you want us to stay open after closing time, you must alert us 3 days in advance.
Me: 3 days in advance? So I have to know 3 days in advance if my flight is going to be delayed?
AVIS: Yes sir.

This is complete nonsense, but it is exactly what this person was trained to say!  The more and more I work online, the less I expect out of companies.

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When good business decisions go bad

Usually a company will make a business decision, evaluate, and then implement. I’m going to pick on a company that I personally love, because they are about to do this very thing. But they made the wrong decision. It’s about Alaska Airlines and their commitment to WiFi aboard all of their planes.

Yeah, on-board servicing is good.  Airlines make billions of dollars in “add on” fees.  In 2009, the largest airlines combined to make almost eight BILLION ($8,000,000,000) in fees ALONE!  So adding something like WiFi, which is a nominal amount of capital for a large return, is a no brainer.  Alaska tested a service called Row 44 for their WiFi service on N644AS, a 737-800.  And it was GOOD.  Excellent service, because it was satellite based, not ground-transmitter based.  I used it, several times.  Blazing speeds, perfect results.  I was even able to stream video from my home television via my Slingbox, and had PERFECT service.  How’s that for watching an NHL playoff game on a plane that has no onboard entertainment, sans digEplayer units that contain static content?

All was perfect.  Customers were happy.  Customers were able to use the service no matter where Alaska flew.  And then Alaska grew.  They weren’t only going to be in Alaska and the “lower 48” (plus Mexico and Canada), but as of this fall, 10% of their market will be service to Hawaii, from several West Coast cities.

And then Alaska threw out Row 44 in favor of Aircell.  A service that is LAND based.  A service that means NO service on flights to Hawaii.  And problems outside 100 miles of the 48 states, so as for Mexico and Canada service, not so much.  And even flights to the namesake state of Alaska will be hampered until you are in US airspace.

What kind of plan is that?  It’s a plan that’ not so good.  When you are going to admit that you are already going to cut out profit potential by about 15% to 20% (10% Hawaiian service, probably another 5% to 10% in service to Mexico, Canada, and travel to Alaska via Canada), that is a business model couched in failure.  But why are they doing  it?  Well Southwest wants to get their planes outfitted with Row 44.  So Alaska is going to get on the Aircell/GoGo In Flight Internet bandwagon along with American, Delta, blah blah blah.

Add WiFi to planes.  Good.  Sacrifice a good business plan for an asinine reason?  Come on, Alaska.  You’re better than that!

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OMG! Now we KNOW what happens to your luggage

Work is hell.  Travel is hell.  Travel is hell on your bags.  And now, this.

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Photographic evidence the airlines are doing better financially

You know the old saying, “when a butterfly farts in Asia, ATC puts Chicago flights on hold”, right? Or something like that. Anyway, I was stuck in Chicago due to butterfly farts or whatever, and decided to go up to the American Airlines Admirals Club to get some work done, try out some new snark, etc.

Well nature called, and I had to answer, so I head off to the bathroom. And what did I see? TWO PLY!!!!

See, the airlines are doing better financially than they let on. I haven’t seen two ply in an airport bathroom in YEARS!

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The “ugly girl”?

Wow.  You know, for all that is wrong with US Airways, it’s weird that the CEO of Continental apologized for calling them “the ugly girl”.  I mean, there is honestly so much more that could be used.  First off, they’re not called US Scareways for nothing.  Sure, they have the hero, Sullenberger.  But every time I’ve mentioned having to fly them, people always ask if I’m going to be landing in a corn field.  Funny, I have no idea where the corn field idea came from (after all, it was a United DC10 that crashed in Iowa, leaving parts in a corn field nearby), but it just goes to show.  Not a lot of good press for US Airways.

But being called the ugly girl?

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What is United getting out of the Continental merger?

In a word: EVERYTHING

When you hunt around chatrooms and talk to people who fly regularly, there is not a lot of good that is often said about many of the major airlines (United, American, etc).  The thing is, though, Continental always bucked that trend.  They always ended up on the good side of the customer loyalty and comment section of airline surveys.

United?  They were always in the toilet.  They deserved it, though.  My flight on Horizon got canceled due to mechanical once, and since I’ve got status with Alaska/Horizon, they put me on a United flight, with a connection in San Francisco.  I got to my gate and proceeded to listen to the gate agent bad-mouth United passengers for 10 minutes — LOUDLY — before boarding said passengers.  And it’s not like she did it behind a curtain or anything.  She was standing AT the service desk, talking to other United people.

Yes, there are travelers that like United, I’ll give you that.  But they were the exception, not the rule.

Now it’s coming out that United is going to merge with Continental.  Honestly, it’s not a huge surprise.  Continental, United, and US Airways made up “Star Alliance”, once Continental bolted from Delta’s Skyteam (which the writing was on the wall when Delta and Northwest both went into bankruptcy the SAME day).  Continental bolstered Star Alliance.  Now with the merger, two big facts have come out.  Yes, the United name is staying.  BUT:

  1. The CEO of Continental, NOT United is going to run the combined airline
  2. The new livery for the airline, which does include the word “United”, is the old Continental livery (you can see it here).

This is going to allow United to turn itself around, both inside and out.  The old visual feel of United is going away, and the old way of thinking of United is going away.  So in a word, this is the surrendering of United, and a takeover by Continental — just not in name.

A couple of years ago, I predicted United would file for bankruptcy one more time, and then fade away.  Only half of that prediction is coming true.  With the loss of the leadership and the livery, United will be a thing of the past.  And you know what?  That may be a good thing for the airline industry.

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