Monthly Archives: February 2011

In which I have NO compassion for airlines

There’s a headline out today that screams, “Airlines Say Fee Boost Considered by Obama Would Raise Fares, Hurt Demand“.  I went into it with a clear mind wondering what all this would entail.  So, reading the article, I thought the proposal must be ungodly.

It’s $2.50.

Yes, the airlines and the ATA are up in arms because there’s a proposal – that’s not even a proposal yet, because it’s not yet been proposed – to raise the fee from $4.50 per segment to $7.  Seriously?  You people are whacked.  Even a full 4 segment round-trip fare would only go up a maximum of $10.  Who in the hell looks at a $210 fare and goes, “I’d pay $200, but I won’t pay $210.”  Is that really such a problem?  The public isn’t going to scream, “I’m not paying that extra $5 or $10 for my vacation, because I want to spend it on a latte.”

As a business traveler that travels a MINIMUM of 40 weeks per year – usually around 50 – I wouldn’t even notice the extra $400 per year.  And honestly, your average family of four that gets one week a year to travel who regularly pays $1,000 for four round trip tickets isn’t going to balk at $1040, either.  They’ll probably balk at the extra $20, $25, $50 or $75 (per bag – each way) fee that the airlines have used to make absolute billions over the last couple of years.  But balk at $10?  Screw that.

And if airlines want to reduce their expenditures, how about starting with stopping the lobbying?  Go to Google and input “Airlines spend lobbying” and you’ll see figures like $660,000 or $1,470,000 for one airline alone.  For one quarter of one year.  Yeah, I have absolutely no compassion for the airlines balking at this.

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Travel-Related Customer Service in the Digital Age

Remember when customer service meant having to call an 800 number?  Yeah, not in the digital age anymore.  Things have changed, but not always for the best.  Here’s a rundown of some of the best – and worst – interactions I’ve had with customer service in the digital age.  All of these are travel related companies.  Every single one of these interactions was done via Twitter.

Best: HorizonAir (web: http://www.horizonair.com, Twitter: @horizonair )
Interaction:  It’s hard to pull just one interaction that I’ve with Horizon.  They’re probably the most responsive of any of the companies that I’ve ever dealt with on Twitter.  Even just a quick tweet once, saying, “Arrived SEA early. Changed to earlier @horizonair flight – then it was cancelled. Hope to get home soon.”  They responded within an hour, saying, “Sorry about the cancellation – hope you got home safely!”.  Whenever I’ve had a question, or even a concern over the recent changes going on at Horizon, Horizon has been quick to respond.  I hope that doesn’t change under the new Alaska umbrella.

Honorable Mention for Best: Marriott International (web: http://www.marriott.com, Twitter: @marriottintl )
Interaction: I’ve not had much interaction with Marriott.  To be honest, hotels are so much more stable and reliable than airlines.  I mean, when was the last time you got to a hotel and they’d cancelled everyone’s rooms?  Flights, yes.  Rooms, no.  My first interaction was a tweet saying something like, “I guess even being @marriottintl Platinum Premier doesn’t guarantee you the type of room you reserved.”  Within a few minutes, Marriott contacted me asking me for details of the situation.  I told them I was really more blowing off steam than anything else, but they insisted on making sure everything was done the right way, and the hotel hadn’t done it properly.  They asked for the hotel, and talked to them the next day to ensure that proper procedures were followed for room guarantees.  Nobody got into trouble, which was my main point.  And they’ve guaranteed my room type every week ever since.

Good, but can do better: Alaska Airlines (http://www.alaskaair.com, Twitter: @alaskaair )
Interaction: Usually questions sent to Alaska Airlines will be responded to.  However, I’ve noticed lately that queries I bring up are ignored.  It’s clear that their Twitter team and their Facebook team are the same people.  On a couple of occasions, I’ve said things on Twitter, and commented on Facebook on a separate issue, and the Facebook response from Alaska contains reference to my tweet.  I’m not sure what the disconnect is lately, though.  For instance, I’ve asked about the Alaska Airlines Board Room a couple of times lately (two times in the last 60 days), but the questions go unanswered.  Totally weird.

The awful: Business Traveller Magazine (http://www.businesstraveller.com, Twitter: @btuk )
Interaction:  I used to subscribe to Business Traveller Magazine’s print edition a few years back.  Once I started heavy travel again (read: cross country flights twice per week – or worse!), I decided to subscribe again.  This time, I saw they offer an online version of their magazine.  This being the electronic age, I subscribed to the electronic version.  That’s when it got bad.  First, they’re supposed to contact you – just a simple email – when a new issue is posted.  I think I’ve gotten two, maybe three of these.  The rest?  Who knows.  I cite this as bad because, as we all know, “Out of sight, out of mind.”  If you don’t know it’s out there, are you going to go and look for it?  No, not really.  Second, I downloaded the IMR file that Business Traveller puts out and tried to open it.  Hmmm, what’s an IMR file?  I look through their website, assuming that I will be able to find how to open the file.  Nothing.  Not even on the issue download page.  So then I start contacting them through their website.  No response.  So I see that their Twitter account is active, and contact them through there.  Again, no response.  Tweet again, no response.  Wait a few of weeks, download the new version of the magazine that’s just been released (but alas, I still can’t open), and tweet them again.  STILL nothing.  I finally find the company that creates IMR files for companies out of your own magazines/PDFs.  They won’t respond.

If you’re looking for the black-hole of customer service, Business Traveller Magazine is your winner.  I think it’s unethical for a company to take your money and provide you with an unusable product.  Oh sure, I could read the issue online.  But WTF are downtimes waiting for your flight in the airport, or transcontinental flights good for, if not to catch up on your reading?

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