So why am I so hard on Delta Airlines?

If you follow my twitter feed, then you’ll note that as of late, I’ve had some not very nice things to say about Delta.  Now don’t get me wrong; they are a big airline, and they have a very nice route map.  But I have to say it’s not the route map or the size of the airline that you get to know – it’s the people that fly with you in the sky.  And I have to say that the experiences I’ve have had over the just the last two weeks is enough to make me say, “ENOUGH, ALREADY!”

It’s no secret that I give each flight crew that I fly with a bag of chocolates.  Just a little $3.50 bag of Hershey’s Miniatures that I buy every week, and then give them to the crew.  As you’ll find out in the official AirSnark book that’ll be out late this year or early next year, I’ve had only a handful of bad experiences.  For instance, I was boarding a flight and handed the lead FA (flight attendant) that was greeting us boarding passengers a bag of chocolate.  They look at it, looked at me, and then said, “Well okay then,” and then tossed the bag in the trash.

I thought that was a one-off, but no, Delta tries to go that much further.  When I flew out of Portland last weekend, I handed the lead FA a bag of chocolates, which they accepted with a smile.  When that FA found me ten minutes later, she turned to the FA behind her and said, “This is the nice gentleman that brought us the chocolates.”

The second FA just looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, “People’ll do anything for a free drink these days.”

Listen, asshat – screw you.  I don’t do it for a drink.  You can ask FAs that I’ve flown with on many, many occasions; I actually rarely ask for anything, food or drink.  I’m probably one of the most low-key/low-need passengers that you’ll ever fly with.  But no, this guy just knew that I was trying to “gain the system” or something for a free drink, when all I was trying to do was do something nice to brighten up someone’s day.

Coming home Thursday, the unthinkable happened again.  Except this time, the lead FA didn’t say a work – they just dumped the bag of candy in the trash.

Just because you’re one of the biggest airlines, and you have a monopoly on the busiest airport in the world doesn’t mean you have the right to be an asshole to your passengers.  Unless you’re trying to alienate them and get them to fly your competitors.  But at least in my case, it’s working.  I’m going out of my way (and saving the client $450/week in airfare) by flying into a secondary airport for my final destination, all because Delta has probably the worst reputation of any one of the majors when it comes to customer service in the sky – where it matters.

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I am neither a good reporter, nor prognosticator

So I recently had some questions and posited some opinions in the Alaska vs. Delta frenemies shuffle that’s been going on the last few months – and I got some stuff wrong.  But not only that, I got some prognostication wrong as well.  So now I’m here to hopefully fix all that.

First thing is, Alaska has a good presence of people, all wearing Alaska clothing and manning the D8 gate at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  But just because they’re in Alaska clothing doesn’t mean anything.  I talked to one of the people that seemed to be in charge there as we were boarding the ATL-PDX flight, and she said that besides her, everyone else was outsourced.  They may look like Alaska employees, but they gate people are just as outsourced as the people handing the ground operations (tug, pushback, etc).  Well that sucks!

Not only that, but Alaska just recently announced that they are going to nix the Atlanta to Portland routes – I’m assuming because of load factor issues.  I normally travel on busier days – days where business travelers are out in full force (Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays), and the plane seems to be mostly full.  But I’ve taken the flight on a Tuesday where there are a good 50 empty seats in the back of the plane – not good if you want to keep a route profitable.  And obviously the route isn’t because Alaska just announced – in the small print when they said they were going to add SEA->BWI and SEA->ABQ to the route map – that they were discontinuing four city pairs, including ATL->PDX.

SUCKS!

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t suck for you.  But as someone who is on PDX->ATL on an almost weekly basis, it’s really going to suck for me.  At least I think it’s going to suck; the Atlanta employee said that they were lobbying to try and keep the flight.  I hope Alaska at least keeps the dual round trip frequency in Atlanta, even if they don’t keep it from Portland (the previous frequency was two round trips daily, one morning flight and one redeye).  Whatever the case, I’m going to have to start looking for more options when it comes to my weekly travel.

So there we have it.  A bit mea culpa from me.  But then again, if you’re relying on me to be the standard bearer of news, I’ll be laughing over in the corner.  ::grin::  I’m not bad – I just write that way.

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Who will make the next move in the Alaska Airlines vs Delta frenemies shuffle?

So there’s been a bunch of new developments along the lines of Alaska Airlines and their partner Delta.  When Delta started expanding into Alaska’s territories, things got bad.  Alaska started to retaliate, with some pretty bold moves into Salt Lake City, going from service just from Seattle to nearly every big airport in the West.  And just this morning, Today in the Sky is reporting that Alaska is offering double miles on British Airways flights between Seattle and London – while Delta starts that same route in a few days.

Delta and Alaska terminated their agreement for Delta to handle their ground operations in airports where Alaska isn’t as prominent, like Atlanta, Boston, and the like.  And what was Delta’s reaction?  They were all, “Fine!  I didn’t want to help out anyway.  Let’s terminate this thing early!”  And in Atlanta, they did just that.  Starting 2 weeks ago, Alaska has hired their own people to run the Alaska gate (moved to D8 from D14, though Atlanta airport still gets it wrong on the readerboards), and – I believe – Menzies to run ground operations.

But here’s the curious thing…  Why did Alaska hire their own people for two incoming and two outgoing flights per day in Atlanta?  Wouldn’t it be cheaper if they outsourced it?

Not if they’re going to increase flights to and from Atlanta!

I’m predicting that, like Salt Lake City, Alaska Airlines is going to ramp up their Atlanta flights, especially from Alaska stronghold markets like Boise, San Jose, and the like.  It just makes sense for them; they’re still keeping their partnership with Delta, and feeding passengers to Delta continuing flights, but they’re also making sure that they’re going to stay dominant in the airports that they count as strongholds.

Not sure if I’m right or wrong, but history will tell us.  But thing is, it just makes sense…

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Two sides to every story

So there’s a headline that caught my eye of, “US appeals court revives lawsuit vs United Airlines over wheelchair,” and I immediately did a Scooby Doo “Ruh roh” double-take, then went to the article.  Seems a woman had an issue with asking for a wheelchair from an agent; the woman had back problems and the agent basically told her to deal with it and stand in line.

Honestly, that’s just how United agents are.  Okay, not ALL of them, but I’ve flown them enough to have been mistreated, even flying on a purchased first class ticket (yes, purchased – NOT upgraded to first).

So this lady sued, and the suit has been revived.  This should be interesting…

Thing is, I can see both sides, in a way.  For United, it doesn’t matter – if someone requests a wheelchair, then the answer is ALWAYS going to be, “Yes, we can help you with that,” and nothing else.  I mean seriously – do you want to get your ass fired?

But then again, this person, when they checked in – or even when they purchased their ticket, should have had ample opportunity to alert United that they were going to need a wheelchair. It shouldn’t have been an “out of the blue, at the gate” request.

But ultimately it’s United’s fault here.  Who do they think they are – Delta?  Where they forced a passenger to crawl down the aisle and across the tarmac to their wheelchair?  C’mon!

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Want to know my opinion on allowing voice calls from in flight?

NO!
Wait a minute, let me expand on that.
HELL NO!

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About this electronics stuff…

Okay, so first it was Delta and jetBlue that got the okay to go gate-to-gate with electronic gadgets.  Then it was American.  I had a question from a friend on this new policy, because he flew Delta mainline, where they announced the new policy, and then flew a Delta Connection flight, where the flight attendant nearly came unglued when he wouldn’t put his iPhone away during taxi out to the runway.

Try as they might, airlines aren’t telling their customers the distinction between “mainline” flights and those that are subcontracted.  Indeed, my friend’s Delta Connection flight was on ExpressJet, though it was branded a Delta Connection flight.

Earlier this week I got an email from US Airways saying that they were rolling out gate-to-gate electronic use – but they were actually freaking helpful!  They said that the new policy applied only to mainline US Airways flights, and that the policy didn’t yet apply to US Airways Express flights; that would come at a later date.  And just now, I got an email from Alaska Airlines saying that starting Saturday passengers on mainline flights would be able to use electronics, with sister carrier Horizon coming up soon, as well as subcontractor SkyWest, pending FAA approval.

From what I can tell, US Airways and Alaska Airlines are the only ones to roll out this new policy correctly.

So congrats you guys!  Travel is just about to get a little more interesting.

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Scuttlebutt on the AA/US merger – Thoughts?

So it should be no secret to those that follow me on here or on Twitter that I primarily fly Alaska Airlines.  I’ve been curious about the announced American/US Airways merger since day one – mostly because American is a partner with Alaska Airlines.  Not as strong a partner as Delta, but still – a partner.

As I was traveling on the new AS route PDX->ATL yesterday, I was talking to some folks on my flight, and the merger came up.  Specifically, there was scuttlebutt that, if the AA/US merger goes through, the new AA would drop the partnership with Alaska.  I’m wondering if this is true or not.

I couldn’t see Alaska dropping the newly merged AA, because it opens so many doors for them.  Hell, if they did, there’d be virtually no reason to fly from SEA or PDX to DFW, because there wouldn’t be any more continuing tickets (AS to DFW, AA or AE DFW to final destination).

This has me thinking…  So what do you think?  Think the merger will go through, and if so, do you think they’ll stay partners with AS?  Or do you think new AA management will force AS to drop the contract?

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Filed under WTF?!?

So apparently you can get arrested for having sex on a commercial airplane.  That part’s not news, nor does it surprise me.  But what does surprise me was that it was oral sex – IN COACH.

Now the couple in question allegedly repeatedly engaged in oral sex on an Allegiant flight from Medford to Las Vegas.  If you know anything about Allegiant’s non-Hawaii flights, you’ll know these are on MD80 aircraft, and the seats are packed in there tighter than a LCC CEO’s pocketbook (the damn thing seats 150, and a similar one from American only seats 140).  But a blowjob?  In coach?  There’s barely enough room in coach for a handy, much less a blowjob.

What was my point?  Oh I give up anymore…

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The Best Frequent Flyer Rewards Programs

This is a guest post from Angie Picardo, a staff writer at NerdWallet.

Choosing which airline’s frequent flyer program to sign up for can be daunting. How to earn miles, how to redeem them, when to redeem them—it’s enough to deter many people from making a choice. Below are some factors that might influence your decision and a comparison of the top rewards programs.

No matter what kind of traveler you are, first consider what airlines fly to airports nearest you. Which airports do you fly in and out of most? Also consider where you will stay in your most frequently visited cities, since many programs’ points also come from partners such as hotels, rental car companies, and credit cards. The key is to make sure each action you take during your trip will earn you points or miles. You will also get the best rewards when you choose a program and stick with it, and when you use that program’s sponsored credit card.

Airline Alliances
It’s good to be aware of airline alliances, since some rewards programs will allow you to earn or redeem points through partner airlines. The three major alliances are the Star Alliance (27 member airlines, including United and US Airways), One World (11 member airlines including American), and Sky Team (includes Delta airlines). It’s important to realize, though, that airlines in global alliances do not always have transferable rewards programs. You’ll need to double-check individual reward programs for details.

Best Rewards Program Credit Cards
To reap the benefits of these cards, you’ll also need to sign up for these airlines’ respective rewards programs. Regularly using these credit cards can score you some major free travel.

Card Name 5- Year Value Annual Fee Cost Per Point/Mile
Barclays Virgin America Visa $1,390 $0 $1.19
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Card $1,380 $59 $15.80
Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card $1,001 Free first year, then $95 $1.00

Best Rewards for Business/Frequent Flyers
American Airlines AAdvantage: With the best top-tier level services and rewards, AAdvantage is high on the list. It includes a massive list of partner airlines and hotels that provides you with over 1,000 ways to earn your miles. You’ll also be able to register up to six credit or debit cards with the dining program. Although this program only gives you the actual number of miles flown rather than a 500 mile minimum every time, it is the best in overall quality. You’ll need 25,000 miles to reach the lowest frequent flyer status, but this is the only program in which miles earned from any source can get you there.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: You might be wondering how little old Alaska Air made it onto this list, but the benefits are not as limited as you might think. This program is great if you live in or travel frequently in the western United States. Alaska Air has partnered with several big legacy carriers, and has fewer hotel partners, but with a decent price point variety. It also offers car rentals, credit cards, dining and shopping as ways to earn miles. For every flight you take, you’ll get the greater of 500 miles or the actual miles flown. This program also offers good flexibility for non-loyal flyers. Your miles don’t expire but you need to have an active account for 2 years. With 20,000 miles on Alaska Air, or 25,000 miles on Alaska and select partners, you can reach elite status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards: With no blackout or expiration dates, points based on flight fare and class, and points redeemable for free flights, Southwest provides an enticing rewards option. With its Rapid Rewards card, points can also been redeemed for other purchases. If you can’t travel light or your plans are subject to change last minute, Southwest also has a two bags free policy and no flight change penalties. To reach the lowest frequent flyer status, you’ll need to take 25 one-way flights within a year, or earn 35,000 qualifying points.

United MileagePlus: With a long and varied list of partner hotels and airlines, eight different car rental companies, two mileage credit cards, and lots of ways to redeem miles, this program gives you plenty of choices. You will earn miles you fly on United and United Express flights, on the miles flown on airlines in the Star Alliance. Those major partners include Air Canada, US Airways, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines, among others. You can redeem miles for travel, upgrades, merchandise, subscriptions, and so on. You will have premier status once you reach 25,000 miles.

US Airways Dividend Miles: Though some consider US Airways to be a stripped-down legacy carrier, it has good airline partners because of the Star Alliance and a huge list of hotel partners. Car rentals, credit cards, shopping, dining, and numerous services are all part of this rewards program. For each trip, you’ll earn the greater of 500 miles or the actual number of miles flown. You can register up to five different credit or debit cards to use with the dining program. Higher levels of this program will enable you to earn more miles.

Delta Airlines SkyMiles: SkyMiles has a long list of partners to help you earn miles, including Hilton and Marriott hotels. You’ll receive either 500 miles a flight or your actual miles flown.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance site dedicated to helping people get the most for their money and start planning for retirement.

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Remember, Flyers: NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO SMELL YOU!

It’s somewhat crazy in this day and age that people have to bring this kind of thing up.  But how you smell, and what you do with heavy perfumes, colognes, and perfumed lotions, can effect the people around you.  Especially if you are in a confined space – like, say, an airplane!

I just got off of a 30 minute flight from AVL to ATL, cramped in a tiny CRJ200.  The lady in front of me was wearing perfume.  A LOT of perfume.  Enough that even with the air vent turned on full blast, she was still bringing tears to my eyes.

The poor girl next to her; she had her fan going and was fanning herself.  By the time we were descending, the girl was sneezing almost non-stop.

Fragrance intolerance isn’t some passing fancy; it’s real, though people tend to just shoo it away as if the sufferer is just being “sensitive”.  I remember one trip, a 10 hour flight from MSP to AMS, sitting next to a woman who was bathed in perfume.  Within minutes I was sniffling, and by the time we took off, I was sneezing.  I literally had to stand in the back of the plane for probably 8.5 hours of that 10 hour trip, to get away from her.

People scream and shout if the person next to them on the plane is obese and takes up part of their seat.  I, myself, stood in the back of an MD80 for almost 4 hours on a flight from DFW to LAS, because the man sitting next to me was so large that he took up all of his and nearly all of my seat.  That’s not right.  And it’s not right that I have to suffer the smells of another person throughout a flight.  Sitting next to an obese person may get you a few frequent flyer miles or such, but putting up with overwhelming stench for hours on end will get you nothing.

So be kind when you fly.  You’re sharing a small space with other people.  You wouldn’t bring on a boom-box and blare it during a flight, would you?  So why would you blare your smell?  Forego your perfume or cologne, and all of the other stinky stuff for the flight.  Your fellow passengers will be glad that you did.

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