I recently had the unusual (for me) occurrence of booking two one-way ticket on two different airlines to make my own customized round-trip itinerary. Talk about two completely different experiences.
My outbound flight (CMH-ORD-DFW) was delayed by about an hour because the flight crew arrived late the night before. Despite this, the gate staff did amazing things making sure passengers with connecting flights were booked on later flights or even on different airlines to get them to their destinations as quickly as possible. Having Silver Premier status (thanks to the MR/UA reciprocal arrangement) allowed me an upgrade from Cattle Class Economy to Economy Plus (I admit to being a cheapskate and purchasing a rock-bottom priced ticket, so the upgrade was nice).
Since the crew changed in Chicago, everyone deplaned (even those of us continuing on the same flight to DFW). It couldn't have been more than 20 minutes and we were boarding again. Even with the hour delay out of Columbus, I arrived in Dallas only about 30 minutes behind schedule. With no checked bags, I was in my rental car and on the road in about half an hour after landing. I'll detail my travels in a blog entry soon.
Overall, my experience was great, even with the slow start. Watching the gate agent working diligently to address other passengers connecting needs gave me a good feeling about how things would be handled (since I was on the same plane all the way, I didn't need assistance).
The trip home had a few bumps. Due to an accident on I-635 leading to an hour-long traffic jam and a slow line at the TSA pre-check , I missed my flight from DFW-ATL by a couple minutes. I arrived to see the jetway pulling away from the plane. The gate agent was awesome. She got me on the next flight to Atlanta (about an hour later) and rescheduled my ATL-CMH flight. So far, so good. I took the opportunity to have one last BBQ sandwich before leaving Texas.
Atlanta was where things got ugly. I noticed that my original flight to Columbus was still boarding, so I thought I'd see if I could get back on schedule. The gate agent (trainee) was all set to get me a seat (my original boarding pass, though still on my smartphone, had been canceled and replaced by the printed copy I received at DFW). When she called her supervisor over to assist, he refused to make the change unless I forked over a $50 change fee. Now admittedly, Delta did not cause me to miss my flight out of Dallas. That was all on me (maybe a little on the TSA). The agent at DFW rebooked me making no mention of any additional fees, doing everything possible to get me to my destination (much as the UA agent did at the beginning of my trip).
What bothered me most was not the amount of the fee, but the treatment I received in Atlanta. I'm sure the supervisor could have waived the $50. From a customer service standpoint, it would have been the sensible thing to do. I'm just as sure that there were seats available or the agent-in-training would not have tried to get me on the earlier flight. She wanted to help. I hope for the sake of Delta, she never loses that desire to assist the customer. Had I gotten on, I would be telling anyone who would listen about how great the people at Delta are and how likely I am to fly with them even though I don't have any status (I'm not even a member of their FF program, but instead earn miles with Alaska Airlines through a partnership agreement).
Instead, I'm passing along the rotten treatment I got from a Delta supervisor over a lousy $50. I could have paid the fee, but on principle, I refused. Returning home just over an hour late is not worth it to me to compromise my principles (I can imagine a few cases in which I might pay up). Admittedly, it was my fault I missed my plane. Just the idea that $50 would somehow make it okay for me to board a plane going to my destination and hour earlier than the one I had been rebooked on irked me. It felt like I was being asked for a bribe. I realize fees are the future of airline travel, but I don't have to like it. I miss the old days when it was easy to get on standby for an earlier flight and if there was room, you got on.
So as I make more flights across the country over the next few years in pursuit of my county collecting quest, I will remember this trip and consider carefully which airline I will fly. Whatever the reason I interact with the ground crew (due to my stupidity or not) I expect to be treated with courtesy or at least respect. Having spent years in customer service myself, I know that the customer is not always right, but the customer always has the right to choose whether to spend money with your company or with your competitor.
I've flown Delta often since moving away from AS territory. Despite whether the supervisor was right to stick to company policy, I may reconsider DL for future travel because I felt I received poor treatment. (BTW DL, AA also partners with AS so I have options). Until recently, I hadn't flown UA since the 1970s. Perhaps after this experience, I'll give them a more serious look.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I've used Delta more often than any other airline and have had mostly positive experiences. However I think with any airline or any customer service oriented business you will at some point encounter someone who really doesn't get the meaning of "customer service". It's unfortunate but it definitely happens. Perhaps you should share your experience in writing to Delta. It can definitely be used as a customer service tool and hopefully you would get a positive response back from Delta. I'm glad to hear that your Marriott Rewards Benefit of Silver Premier with United worked out well for you. I've only flown once with United since then and was impressed with the Priority Checked Bag Feature. If United was a little more competitive with pricing at my local airports I would probably fly them more.
One bad experience will not automatically prevent me from flying Delta again. It will make me think twice though.
I just received a survey from Delta asking me about my recent experience. I'll give them my honest feedback and see what kind of response the company gives.
I can relate to your comments on competive pricing. That was one reason I picked DL for my return flight instead of UA and why I didn't fly AA despite their hub in DFW. I could have flown non-stop (round-trip) for just under twice what both one-way tickets cost me. While not the only factor, price is an important consideration.
Great writeup bejacob! I'm glad you got good service on UA, though your experience with Delta is unfortunate. Normally Delta seems to be better than UA these days, but as vaboywnder has said, there's bound to be bad experiences here and there with any airline. A lot of people seem to hate on AA, but I've had mostly positive experiences with them. Of course, if you do fly AA, stay away from the US Airways aircraft and crews.... They're still awful from what I hear.
Hi bejacob ,when I used to fly for business and sometimes HAD to choose the lowest fare, I flew on carriers that I normally didn't fly on, had no status and yes sometimes I had a bad experience or two but for the most part AA, Delta, US Airways, Southwest, even back to the Continental, TWA and America West days, they were okay, but call me crazy, with my status on UA I'd much rather be sitting in first after my upgrade clears enjoying a little food, a little more room, and a little more wine (okay, sometimes a lot more wine). But I've also had bad experiences my favorite carrier United; when you fly as often as some of us fly that's to be expected. Now that it is my choice and I'm paying for it I always choose UA.
I'm sure we've all had a bad experience or two at Marriott properties also but I think loyalty eventually pays off. Status with an airline or a hotel chain certainly doesn't hurt either.
I appreciate the fact your review is fair, pointing out the bad plus the good, there is usually something good about every bad experience.
bejacob "Atlanta was where things got ugly." I've said it before, I-285 is the outer circle of hell; the ATL is the inner. Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate. You were just lucky to have escaped the inferno.
I can't believe they charged you for that! I missed my AA connection in O'Hare on purpose. I decided instead of paying the re-booking fee to switch planes, I would just not show up for my flight and hope to get on another one. I had no problem whatsoever, and AA was more than helpful in getting me on the next flight. I've had the same experience with UAL, although UAL likes to strand me in O'Hare I prefer AA if I can afford it, but UAL and Delta tend to be cheaper. Plus, it's easier to upgrade to first class on those two.
To be fair with Delta, I was not charged to have my ticket rebooked on the later flights. That happened courtesy of the gate agent in Dallas. I would have been assessed the fee if I wanted to get on the earlier flight out of Atlanta (my original flight back home to Columbus). I was told by the supervisor in ATL that I should have been charged a fee for change since it wasn't the airline's fault. I'm not sure if that is standard policy, but I sort of doubt it. Most airlines will try to get you to your destination regardless of why you missed a flight (at least that's how it used to be).
After repeating several times that it would cost $50 to switch my ticket (the new one that had been changed at DFW), I said these exact words: "I don't see why there is any reason I can't get on this plane right now."
The response was "You can. For fifty dollars."
That's when it began to sound like he has asking for a bribe (though again in all fairness, I know he wasn't). At that moment, I knew I'd be on the later flight.
I prefer Delta over United any day! I had to travel United for work due to flight schedules. For the 8 months that I had to endure their service I was miserable and obtained a following on FB just to see what my flying woes were that week. I am NOT exaggerating .... in a matter of four months, I only had three flights that were not delayed. Each week coming and going I was delayed and missing flights. I would look at the flight board and see all of the United flight delays and look at other airlines and not see anything nearly as bad. My stress level for traveling went down tremendously as a result. I made it to Platinum and was very close to Diamond and bailed on them as soon as I could. Now I am on Delta, not gaining status fast at all (less connections and limited miles) but happier none-the-less. LIMITED delays and that is in and out of LGA on a weekly basis ....
It's amazing to see how everyone has different experiences!
United has gone downhill so far and so fast it's ridiculous. I was a Continental guy for 15 years. The United folks are surely and mean and non-caring. That hateful culture overwhelmed the friendly Continental culture and has now devoured it. Other posters are correct; just have to pick one airline and get status - that way you are not treated AS BADLY as you will be if you are only rabble. It's ironic that airline loyalty is not out of fondness of the airline; it's a perverted backwards loyalty so you don't get screwed as bad as the non-elite folks. Sad.
I cannot completely agree with you on the CO culture being completely devoured by the UA culture. I've been a CO flyer for I can't remember how far back and as others here will tell you am certainly NOT happy about this new airline. However: I have actually found the UA crews on their airplanes to be quite friendly and polite (maybe going out of their way to be so when flying into or out of IAH) and continue to find the CO flight crews to be their normal friendly happy selves. Out flight home yesterday from MUC was simply incredibly, happy smiling fun CO crew that had it not been for United written all over everyplace I'd have thought I was on CO again.
Completely agree with your non-elite reference and maybe that's part of the reason I wrote the above, and yes it is sad.
Perhaps the reason why I am not a big UA fan has to do with the EWR hub. While its nice to live near a hub, it is in New Jersey. Unfortunately North Jersey is full of arrogant, lazy, generally unfriendly people so it only makes sense that some of the employees that come from that area will be lousy. You may read this and think wow KS is a jerk. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good people here, and it gives me no pleasure to say it, but I have backup for my theory.
Glad you caught lightning in a bottle and got a great crew. Savor the memory. In FC perhaps? Pounding back the vodka/tonics makes all the world a little more cheerful.
I, too, have had some crews where it was hard to tell if they were CO or UA, but for the most part the CO culture has not taken over. I understand the UA surliness - beaten down for so many years, time and time again. I guess it wears you down. But something's wrong when the FA unions can't even merge! What's up with that? I just read where the AA and USAir FA unions have figured things out. This thing about "protecting the metal" on UA (CO crews on their planes and UA crews on theirs) is really absurd. We read about it a lot here in the Mile High (more ways than one) city.
The culture difference between CO and UA crews was really amazing when they merged.
Not really lightning in the bottle as we more often than not get that type of service and yes we were in BF and of course knocking down some "meds" is always the way to fly, right jerrycoin?
I like that they can't agree on a contract and wish the pilot group had not, that way I would at least know getting on a B739ER I'd be with CO folks and not have to wonder too much about anything let alone if it will have TV or WiFi or nothing at all for entertainment. Now with UA pilots getting the last 30 some 900ER's delivered it's a toss up. Oh well, we lived the dream for quite a while here in Houston, guess it's time to pay up. Yet again, we've been most fortunate in our dealings with all the crews.
bejacob I am glad to see you had a good experience on UA. I recently flew UA RT EWR-DTW and actually had two great flights that left on time and arrived early. I haven't really seen two fights go that smoothly in a while on UA. I think it is a combination of the time of day I flew (7AM EWR to DTW) and the fact that DTW is a big Delta hub so the North Terminal at DTW is empty most of the time so it makes flying in and out super easy.
As far as the DL issue you had, I agree, even if a fee was the policy, it was obvious that they could have just put you on the earlier flight. If there were empty seats, and there probably were, you should have been put in one. Regardless of the fee, it wasn't like you were trying to game the system, and DL loses NOTHING by putting you on the earlier flight provided there were seats available. The GA should have said *wink* let me take care of it for you. Now some might say that if every GA went around the rules and gave out things without charging fees the airline would suffer. To some extent I can understand that logic. However, my take on it is this: If you charge me a $50 fee for something fine you get the $50 but that bad taste is going to remain for quite a while when booking future air travel. Lets say you fly 6 times a year, If you book on DL even at deep discount rates at $250 per round trip, they make $1500 off you that year. If you say DL treated me like **** and I don't want to fly them that $1500 not only doesn't get made by DL but a competitor makes that money. The lesson here is that it doesn't make sense to be penny wise and pound foolish. A regular customer is the best customer and occasionally giving a small "perk" or "looking the other way" on a small fee makes that happen, then DO IT! It is just good business sense.