I often write that with all of the difficulties I have in navigating airlines — getting tickets issued properly, correcting agent mistakes — it amazes me that the median traveler is able to manage to get from A to B.
I generally know what I’m doing, have strategies for getting onto the flights with the best chance of making it out when weather rolls in, and don’t rely on airline staff to tell me what’s possible. And when things do go wrong I know what to look for, how to be proactive, it isn’t my first rodeo. And yet airlines make things far more complicated and confusing than you’d expect, someone less familiar with the ins and outs of travel is at the mercy of big bureaucracy hardly aimed to solving problems let alone doing so quickly.
I’m reminded that things which seem obvious, and often too basic to repeat on this blog, strike co-workers or others I meet in my travels as sage wisdom. There’s so much of a black box feel to dealing with airlines, so much of a frustration, that people freeze deer in the headlights as soon as they confront a challenge that repeating simple mantras can actually help people get through what should be simple challenges.
When things go wrong elite status helps both jumping to the front of the queue and sometimes even generating sympathy on the part of airline agents to go the extra mile, though the most important trick to sympathy is simply being nice and even commiserating with the people you’re dealing with. If you understand them they’re more likely to help you.
Back in May Scott Mayerowitz put together a video comparing what it’s like to travel with and without elite frequent flyer status but I think he actually underplayed the differences. Both passengers were able to check in for their flights. The technology worked. Their flight took off on time as scheduled. The real differences come about when things go wrong.
It’s stories like that of the Maheswarans that should remind us all both what it’s like for most people to travel, and how much better airlines can and should do delivering their product to the customer.
The family of 5 showed up at Toronto’s Pearson airport two and a half hours before departure to fly Air Canada to London connecting onward on Air India. They bought their tickets through a travel agent.
- An Air Canada agent “directed the family to the wrong check-in line.”
- An hour and 40 minutes to departure they were sent to the correct line.
- The family relays that the agent checking them in declared, “A family of five is a no-go.” They thought they were being bunmped, but Air Canada says the flight went out with 8 empty seats.
- They were sent over to ticketing, where they waited an hour, but the line closed.
- Then they were sent to another check-in agent, who couldn’t help “because she wasn’t trained on ticketing issues.”
- A manager told them to go home and they’d be rebooked the next day.
- But when they came back “[t]hey stood in the ticketing line for two hours” got to the front of the line only to learn that their tickets were cancelled since they had no showed their flight the night before.
- Since they were on an agency-issued ticket they were sent to the travel agent to deal with re-issue.
- The travel agent had no idea what to do other than apply their tickets as a credit against new ones — for a total of $5,345.83 more than the original ones.
Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo
Their travel insurance is covering the cost of change fees but they’re out four grand. An Air Canada representative says simply “I cannot get into specific issues” but offered a 25% off discount certificate good for future travel as a “goodwill gesture.”
By the statistics air travel is amazing but people hate it, that shouldn’t be, and it’s a bridge that ought to be possible to cross.