Differences in cabin crews

After yesterday, I felt I really needed to post this.

I fly primarily Alaska Airlines.  I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve never fully said why.  My flight on Delta yesterday should give you a good reason as to why.

Whenever I fly, no matter what airline, I always bring a $3 bag of Hershey’s Miniatures for the flight crew.  It’s just something that I do.  I have many flight attendant friends, and I know what they go through on a daily basis.  Trust me, it’s not always glamorous and fun.

So when I get on, say, a Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air flight, the reaction is always the same.  The person I hand the chocolates gets a big smile on their face, and they ask something to the effect of, “For me?  For us?  Really?”  And at that point, I either get a thank you or the biggest hug possible.  When I was flying American Airlines every week, I usually had the same flight crews – and often I would come down the jet bridge, and would here someone on the plane get on the PA and say, “Here comes the candy man!”  The flight crews on US Airways were almost as animated and thankful.

So I flew on 4 Delta flights this week.  Two of the times that I gave chocolate, absolutely NONE of that happened.  What happened?  The first time, the flight attendant basically rolled their eyes and took the chocolate, then turned to throw it away.  When I said that it was a treat for her and the crew, she “got it”, and said thanks.

Yesterday when I was flying home, I handed the bag of chocolate to the lead FA as I was boarding the plane.  What did he do?  Without asking or anything, he just turned around and threw the bag in the garbage.  I stood there kind of stunned for a second, then shook my head and walked to my seat.

I get people who tell me I should fly Delta all the time.  Why?  Seriously, why should I put up with the vapidity of a flight crew that many times a week?  It’s just not worth it.  As my seatmate on the plane yesterday told me, “I get treated better in Coach on Alaska Airlines than I do in First Class on Delta.”  And you know what?  He couldn’t be more right.

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Let the merger-mania speculation begin!

So American Airlines came out and said that, instead of looking at options after they emerge from bankruptcy, they may start to look at merger options now.  Oh, the games that are just about to start…

Everyone knows that US Airways is out to gobble up American, but what about the crap that America West went through after they bought US Airways?  Just because they shed that America West skin doesn’t mean that they shed the attitude and other issues.  It actually got worse when you think about all the union problems and fights.  But can a merger with American do any worse?  Probably not.

And I can’t see American being allowed to merge with Delta, nor United; I think Delta is just spouting off, to be honest.  So that really leaves the only other large carrier, US Airways.  Otherwise, companies like Republic, Alaska, or Jetblue are just too damned small to justify a merger.

Unless …  I know that movement into Asia is the key to making money for a lot of airlines.  The only thing I could see useful for going with a smaller carrier – or rather two – would be if American bought out Alaska and Hawaiian both.  That would give them a toehold into Asia from both Hawaii as well as the Pacific Northwest bases of Portland and Seattle of Alaska.  But I’ll say it again – don’t touch my Alaska Airlines!!!!

Thoughts?

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Airbus factory in Alabama?

Okay, so I know I’ve ranted in the past about navigate to this web-site.com/2011/07/19/hey-american-air-how-about-you-buy-your-namesake/”>“patriotically named” airlines that don’t fly American planes.  It’s a particular pet peeve of mine.  I mean “US Airways (brought to you by a European consortium)” and “American Airlines (soon to be brought to you in part by a European consortium)” – that bugs me.  We make planes here in the United States; airlines, how about you buy them?  Alaska and Southwest has been doing rather well standardized on the Boeing 737.  Continental was all Boeing, until United grabbed them up.  But hopefully with Continental’s CEO at the helm of United, that “Buy American” attitude will continue.

But all that may change soon…  Airbus has factories in France and China, but they’re about to build a plant in Alabama, in Mobile – the town I was born in.  This is cool – but still, it’s still not an American plane.  So it bugs me, but not as much as it did before.

Don’t listen to me…  I’m bitter since my two favorite planes – the Boeing 757 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 – were put to pasture.  There’s just something about being a passenger on one of the classic birds; just on your taxi out, you can feel how much the plane wants to escape the bonds of Earth, and glide along the wind.

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When are airports going to learn?

So airlines and airports have suffered through the economic downturn.  And beyond that, they’ve been further punished economically because of companies not doing as many business trips – those higher fare customers have disappeared.

So why is it airports haven’t gotten with the times, to entice business travelers back?  For example, Phoenix Sky Harbor airport has free WiFi, but the terminals are outdated; you basically have to sit on the floor if you want to get an electrical outlet.  And their WiFi (when it works; lately it’s been working only about 70% of the time) is censored; nothing like trying to get to your corporate email when suddenly a Cisco popup says you can’t get to your email because your domain isn’t one that Cisco approves of.

Some of the best airports are the smaller ones.  I remember flying through Albuquerque back in 2006 and they had free WiFi, plus tables with electrical outlets and – get this – chairs!  You didn’t have to sit on the ground!  Portland International has probably 8 to 10 “business centers” that people can use.  And this week I went into the new Terminal 6 at LAX where Alaska Airlines just moved, and saw seats with electrical outlets everywhere.  WiFi wasn’t free, but at least paid WiFi isn’t censored WiFi.

So Airports: If you want to win us business travelers over, do something for us!  I now know I’ll travel through LAX more often than PHX, just because there are more options for us business travelers.

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HRC Rankings of Airlines, Hotels, etc. and a Word about United

For those of you that aren’t familiar, HRC stands for The Human Rights Campaign, which is the leading LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) rights organization.  Okay, so you’re not part of the LGBT community.  That’s fine.  There’s 10% of the population that is, and there are people who will often choose organizations based on their corporate actions (how they treat women and minorities, including LGBT workers).

I’m happy to say that my 3 primary airlines (Alaska Air, American Airlines, and Delta) and my primary hotel chain (Marriott) all have a 100% rating from the HRC.  If you look down the list, there are others; Southwest has a 95 rating, United has an 88 rating, Hertz Rent a Car has a 70 rating, with Skywest one of the lowest at 15, and Frontier and Midwest both with big honking 0 ratings.  (Personally, I didn’t know that about Frontier; I was going to fly them in January to see how they’ve changed since the last time I’ve flown them in 2010; now I know I won’t even bother!).

Now talking about United specifically.

So they have an 88% rating with the Human Rights Campaign, which means they can do better.  And what’s the first thing they should do?  They should address the ugly issue that came up this past weekend where a gay couple was denigrated when trying to use a United Club in Denver, including being called “faggots” and “idiots”, among other stuff.

So come on, United.  Denounce this manager’s action and use it as a teaching opportunity for your entire organization.

Personally, I don’t see this happening.  I’ve flown United a dozen times over the last ten years, and every time (without fail), the customer service is downright horrid.  I mean talking down to passengers, at a minimum.  Last time I flew them, I was standing near the gate desk in SFO, and the 3 flight crew were ten feet from me – and were talking smack about passengers.  It’s like a trained thing for United flight crews; day 1 is emergency training, days 2 through 5 is “creative customer insulting”.

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Shame on every airline – except Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit

This is disgusting.

Because of the House GOP having a temper tantrum and shutting down the FAA, taxes of 7.5% were no longer able to be charged to tickets purchased from the airlines.  And what did almost all of the airlines out there do?  Increased their fares by 7.5%.  That’s bullcrap.  Bullcrap, wrong, nasty, short-sighted, and just plain wrong.

But not Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit.  They passed the savings on to the consumers.  I actually purchased an Alaska Airlines ticket this morning.  And because the full-fare ticket (without the 7.5% tax) was less than the value fare tickets that I usually buy, I purchased a full fare – meaning more money for the company that’s being FAIR to their customers, and not just trying to make a buck.

So thank you, Alaska, Hawaiian, and Spirit.  Keep up the good work.  And the rest of you guys out there?  Shame on you!

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Filed under WTF?

Okay, so we all know that the airlines went fee-happy.  They’ve collected $5.7 billion in fees, which is “keeping the industry afloat”.  So you give them a bag to go in the cargo?  Fork over $25 or so, please!

But when they lose that bag?  They apparently AREN’T automatically refunding those fees.  I had no idea, whatsoever.  It’s just common sense that they would.  But they’re not.  At least not until new rules go into effect in August.  But Senator Schumer (D-NY) wants to go even further – if the bag is delayed, do it, too.

Alaska Airlines is pretty damn good about it, with their $20 credit or 2,000 frequent flyer miles for bags delayed more than 20 minutes after touchdown.  How about the big boys?  Wanna match it?

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Hey American Air – How about you buy your namesake?

I had an interaction with user47 on Twitter a couple of weeks ago over this tweet:

As you can tell, I wholeheartedly agreed with @user47 – a company like American Airlines (the name alone just screams American unity) looking to buy foreign planes is really disingenuous.  We have a fine aircraft maker here, and the Boeing 737 is the best selling airplane ever.  But it looks like American wants to go with Airbus.  And that sucks.

I partially choose airlines based on their aircraft.  Alaska Airlines, “Proudly All Boeing” isn’t just a slogan.  They were the launch customer for the 737-900, and are all Boeing 737 in their mainline service.  While I liked Frontier, who started out with a fleet of 737s, they’re an all Airbus airline now.  And honestly, I tend to avoid them.  Same thing with United, though now that they’re merged with Continental, and are considering replacing original UAL Airbus flights with Boeing, I may go back to them.  They just have to get their customer service straight.

So American?  Do the right thing.  Don’t order Airbus; order Boeing.  But who am I?  Just an aviation geek that plans their flights around aircraft and service…

UPDATE 07192011 @ 15:31: Apparently Boeing is doing a big-old reacharound to American to try and get the business, and not let Airbus walk away with the whole order.  Woohoo!

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So Alaska Air Wants To Stay Independent

At least according to something the CEO just said.  He wants Alaska Air Group to be independent while others consolidate themselves out of existence.

I think it’ll happen, but there’s a catch.  And that catch is, there isn’t an airline CEO with the gumption to try and out-size United Continental.  Let me explain.

Back when Delta and Northwest went to merge, that was huge.  Until then, American was the largest US airline, followed by United, then Delta and the rest.  Overnight, Delta became the largest, with American shrinking to number two.  Then came United and Continental; honestly it was just a matter of when, not if, once Continental jumped SkyTeam and went with Star Alliance.  See, United wants that old “feeling” back, but it couldn’t get there with a merger with US Airways.  Honestly, the government did United a favor, saving them from an arranged marriage with the ugly stepchild of the big-boys.  Say what you want, but US Airways is lowest in the consumer ratings.

So who’s left that’s independent of the big boys?  US Airways and American.  US Airways is global, but like I said – ugly stepchild.  American did the honest and respectable thing by staying OUT of bankruptcy and keeping promises to their people and the world by being obligated to the debts they have.  And how are they rewarded?  By having a stock price that is in the toilet, and being so unattractive to the market because they decided the honorable thing of not filing bankruptcy.  (Remember United did it like THREE TIMES in a very short period of time!).  The only investment/takeover that they can even get is from some guy who’s now under investigation by the SEC.

So here’s the thing.  American needs to make themselves over, and US Airways needs to get out of the gutter.  I don’t think that they’d ever merge; it’s just too different.  But I do think, if one of the CEOs gets enough gumption to want to compete with the big guys, they’re going to go for not one, but TWO takeover targets: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Air.  Here’s why:

Alaska is big in the West; probably the biggest carrier up and down the West Coast.  They have 10% of their market in Hawaii; they went in to an already saturated market, established themselves, and are making a profit.  Who wouldn’t want to have those routes and that much liesure traffic that always seems to be there?

Hawaiian Airlines.  Sure, they’re up and down the West Coast to Hawaii, and they’re the dominant player there.  But they’re also making a major push into Asia.  And every airline CEO will tell you, if you want to grow, Asia is the market to tap into.  Hawaiian is doing just that.  But can they do it with a moniker of “Hawaiian”?  Not as successfully as if the name were “American”.  See where I’m going?

I would never see Hawaiian and Alaska hooking up.  But I could see them being taken over (Alaska probably through a hostile takeover, Hawaiian through some big wheel & deal).

So who knows…  The CEO of American has got to be itching to do something to compete with the big boys, and US Airways could do with a thorough identity makeover.  It could happen!

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Why I think we’ll be saying goodbye to Horizon Air soon

I alluded to this in a previous post, but now wanted to provide the proof/thought behind my reasoning.  I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m a big Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines fan; I’m MVP Gold 75K, and travel at least one of these two carriers weekly.  That’s what saddens me so much to report this.

My last trip PDX -> ORD came just days before I started a regular PDX -> SEA -> EAT routine.  I always read the inflight magazines (Alaska Airlines is here, and Horizon Air’s is here).  Mostly not for the features or articles, but for the airline information in the back.  I was particularly struck with the route mapping in the back of the Alaska Airlines magazine as opposed to the Horizon Airlines magazine.  So much, that I’ll show you what I mean

Horizon Air and Alaska Air Route Map from the Horizon Air Magazine

This is the route map that everyone is used to.  It’s the Alaska Airlines and Horizon Airlines route map, clearly distinguishing who goes where.  The PDX->SEA Shuttle, of course is in red meaning Horizon Air.  While SEA-DEN is in blue meaning Alaska Airlines.  This is the route they’ve used for forever.  And the ones that customers are used to.

Alaska Airlines route map October 2010

The above is the route map in the latest Alaska Airlines magazine.  Notice anything?  Yeah.  Everything is in blue.  And the map indicates that these are “Alaska Airlines Routes”.  PDX -> SEA Shuttle.  SEA -> DEN.  All of it.  Alaska Airlines.  No indication of Horizon Airlines at all.  The only red on the map is now what’s shown of partner routes (Delta out of MSP, DTW, ATL, and American out of DFW and ORD).

I may be reading into this, but I think I’m not.  With all the hints of Horizon changing (Alaska Air Express, anyone?) that I’ve heard from my flight attendant buddies, I’ve been waiting for this.  Not happy with it, but knew it was coming.  This is just one more bit of conclusive evidence to that fact.

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