Bad Airline Experiences

As a frequent traveler, I get used to flight delays, weather problems and mechanical problems. You compensate by avoiding ever checking luggage to prevent it from being lost; and trying to always have a back-up plan when something goes wrong. That said, there are some things that I’ve experienced with air travel that are either weird, inexcusable, or horrible customer service in the extreme. A few examples:

  1. I’ve had some good flights on the 787 Dreamliner, and then I’ve had some odd experiences. The most recent was a flight from Denver to Tokyo where the famous windows that supposedly adjust to light and can be darkened within the glass by pushing a button rather than raising/lowering a shade just plain did not work. Why? As the flight attendant explained, that side of the plane was facing the sun that we kept following as we headed west. And the windows apparently are too sensitive to heat and so the darkening mechanism fails. How to solve this? Flight attendants came through the business class cabin and plastered rubber and cardboard cutouts on the windows to block the light – and apologized to those in economy class as United didn’t bother to have blocking devices in that class of service.
  1. The most appalling flight attendant I’ve encountered has to be the one on a short American Airlines flight who screamed over the PA system, shrieking and cussing about people using their cell phones while we were sitting on the tarmac for an hour waiting for clearance to take off. The verbal haranguing was exceeded only by the crew member coming down the aisle and demanding to inspect phones to confirm that they were in airplane mode. Probably not a great way to approach customer service, especially as there was a member of the US Senate on the plane – wonder if that will come up before the Transportation Committee?
  1. I never thought I’d say this but once upon a time a Lufthansa seat ate my iPad. If you’ve flown Lufthansa, you may know that German engineering is well at work – the seats, especially those in upper class, have more buttons and functions than the TRON computer. They are complex to operate even though they aim to provide a comfortable ride. At any rate, yes, I dropped my iPad between the seat and the window, and could not get it out. Moving the seat just seemed to work to try to crush the iPad. When we landed, the flight attendants worked mightily to free the device, with flashlights and even lying on the floor upside down to see what they could do. No luck. Finally, one of the Lufthansa engineers came out to the plane and dismantled the seat entirely to get the iPad out. Frighteningly enough, he told me this was not the first time this had happened.
  1. Delta prides itself on providing menus that have items that evoke Atlanta, Georgia or the larger southern region of the United States. It’s a great idea but poorly executed. There is a long list of weird stuff that I have been served – not “eat the fish!” bad – but just weird. Think soggy pecans with sugar and cayenne pepper for a snack. Imagine pink “Magnolia Moonlight” cocktails that taste like a bad jello shot. And grits that rival wallpaper paste. That’s not American Southern cuisine – it’s not even cuisine.
  1. The US Airways (R.I.P.) flight that couldn’t take off for an hour and a half because there was no infant life vest on board. Of course, there was also no infant on board; in fact, there were no children on board at all on the CRJ-200. Just a bunch of passengers wondering why US Airways couldn’t get an exemption for that – but plenty of times you can be on a plane with one bathroom that’s not working. Priorities, priorities.

Let’s hope 2017 bodes better and that nothing will top these experiences.  Onward!

Would You Do It?

One of my favorite travel blogs, The Points Guy, recently ran an article about the – surprising widespread – occurrence of one family member (usually the dad/husband) traveling in first class while the others (mom/wife and kids) travel in coach. You can find the article at http://thepointsguy.com/2016/07/first-class-with-spouse-and-kids-in-coach/

The article is surprisingly retro, making the point that most of these trips involve the husband, as the bread-winner in the family, being the one with enough status or a company willing to pay for business travel – and the family merely getting the dregs because they are lucky enough to have dad purchase a coach ticket for them. From where I sit in the front of the aircraft, this is both false and disturbing. First, I know plenty of women whose travel either includes business/first class travel paid for by their employers and/or earns more enough frequent flier miles than their husbands. I also know very few people – of either gender – who would stick their spouse and kids in economy while they traveled in first class on the same plane.

Chris and I are traveling to London for holiday in a few weeks with the kids, and finding a flight with seats together in business class was not easy. At one point, the airline agent I was working with at United suggested that the kids could be seated in coach and Chris and I could fly business/first class, as that was a configuration she could easily find on various flights. My surprise must have been obvious, as she responded: “I guess you’re not a family that does that?” I explained that part of the fun for us is the trip (yes, even with 14 year-old boys) – getting to talk about whatever awful movie we are watching, what we see when we fly over different places, and even debating what in the world possessed the airline to determine that “”bouillabaisse” was a good idea for an entrée with your meal. If we sit separately, we miss that. It also makes the boys feel like they are second-class (literally). Well, that and one of the boys is 6’2” already at his age – so coach would further be cruel and inhumane for him and his legs.

I am NOT suggesting that if you do not have the money or the miles to spend that flying coach is unacceptable; I have flown and continue to fly plenty of long-haul flights in coach. But if you have the miles or the funds, it seems ridiculous to put some of the family in coach and some in first/business. This summer, after much wrangling and several calls with the airlines, we’re cashing miles to fly everyone in business – albeit with a little more indirect route from Houston to London rather than Chicago to London. On the upside, that means we are flying the 787 Dreamliner, and everyone (me included) is pretty excited about that.  And, yes we are flying on my miles –I earn a lot during the year for business travel, and I’m happy to use them for vacations. 

For more thoughts – and even rage! – on this topic, check out the comments section of the TPS article.

Copyright © 2014