Some notes from recent travels

I flew a couple transcon flights on Alaska Airlines. The first, a breakfast flight, was very disappointing. The first class flight attendant spent the majority of the flight in the galley reading. She had a sour demeanor, and made requests unpleasant. Breakfast was sparse. The return flight was a different story entirely, a much more pleasant crew and a filling lunch. Still, the pitch is tight on Alaska’s first class product and the seats are old and visibly worn.

Security lines were long at both Reagan National and Seattle. Not surprising, it was a holiday weekend. The first class/elite lines in Seattle make a huge difference. It’s a shame that National doesn’t offer this (and neither, unfortunately, does Dulles). Seattle is the original home of shoe removal. It’s commonplace nowadays, but it seemed to start there. The TSA attitude at that airport always seems to bother me a little bit more than elsewhere. I don’t have anything firm to rely on here, just my own gut sense. My blood boiled as I heard a screener explain to a woman that she doesn’t have to remove her shoes to go through security. But if she doesn’t she’ll be selected for extra screening, which will require that she remove her shoes.

I’m a terrible hotel geek. I stayed at the Sheraton Seattle, really just because I’ve stayed at the other two Starwood properties in town and I wanted to have sampled them all. I love the W, and I like the Westin (though my feelings on it are tempered somewhat by its size, confusion, the length of time it takes to get a car from the valet there, and generally getting the little things wrong).

I wanted to like the Sheraton. I really did. But they were consistently understaffed while I was there. Fortunately the line was only six deep while I was checking in (and most of those behind me). The lines got far worse over the weekend, as a Starbucks convention checked in. I’d guess 90% of the hotel turned over around the same time, but there were never more than two people at the desk and the checkin line wrapped around the whole hotel. A makeshift baggage camp was set up in the lobby.

I was pleased with the room itself. I had a view of the water which I did not expect (it was not a direct view, but still a nice one). The bed was comfortable, though the pillows were pretty worn out. The door to the room was dented at the bottom.

Getting ready in the morning the plastic covering on one of the lights in the bathroom fell down and shattered in front of me. I couldn’t speak to anyone at the desk — they were too busy — so I told the concierge who made sure maintenance went up during the day while I was gone. I had a voicemail when I returned promising 2500 points for the trouble. I was struck by how much I appreciated the Sheraton Service Promise gesture, since I didn’t ask for anything at all. I was a whole lot more tolerant of other problems as a result, even though I wasn’t being compensated for those (and didn’t ask).

Billing was majorly screwed up on the stay. I had a car but was charged for two cars on two nights. After waiting in the long line at the desk to resolve it in person, only one of the two nights was fixed. Back to the line the next morning!

24 hours of internet is supposed to be $9.95. But every time I tried to buy that, the screen informed me that my 24 hours of internet would last until X time, which was invariably 4-6 hours in the future. So I kept buying the 30 minutes for $4.95 option.

On the other hand, there were also billing errors in my favor that — no matter how hard I tried — I couldn’t get the desk to understand. I gave up and wasn’t going to fight the long lines, blowing the rest of my long weekend, in order to find a way to give them money that was due to them that they weren’t asking for. I’ve since seen some of the correct charges show up on my credit card. Great, the money is due them, but a corrected statement or a phone call would be nice.

Had room service on two occasions. The menu is quite limited.

Public spaces are nice. Room itself was nice. The place was just disorganized over the weekend and had a hard time providing service because there simply weren’t enough people on staff to meet the needs of all the guests.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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