Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

WHY THIS BLOG?

I've been traveling on business for 30 years, flying all over the world. I travel 99% of my business life. I'm not proud of it; it's just the way I make my living. All my clients are far away from my home.

Every year I earn a lot of travel battle awards. I am Platinum on four U.S. airlines: Delta (lifetime Platinum, 5.3 million miles), American (Executive Platinum), Continental, and Northwest. I am a Hilton HHonors Diamond, and I belong to the Avis President's Club and the Hertz President's Circle.

In short, I am on a lot of airplanes on a lot of airlines in a lot of airports, behind the wheel of a lot of rental cars, and I put my head down on a lot of hotel pillows, year in and year out. That's my life.

I love my work and my clients, but I dread the experience of flying these days. Whereas it used to be tolerable at worst, and fun at best, it's sheer torture these days. And the airlines don't care, none of them, not at all. The greenest McDonald's employee has been trained up to a higher service ethic than most airline employees.

Airlines hate or ignore their customers. No other industry loathes their customers. There is no pride left at U.S. airlines to simply do a good job and treat people, their customers, as human beings, with simple dignity. Without pride, they have lost all shame for their blatant and frequent service failures.

And it brings unrelenting misery to those of who must travel all the time.

Notice I am not whining about not getting an upgrade--or even about all the cramped RJs I must endure these days. Certainly I don't utter a peep about the loss of meals and pillows and blankets.

I just want the airlines to honor a few simple rules, and I address this to them:

1. FLY YOUR SCHEDULE - We are paying for speed as well as simple transportation. Honor your published promise to get us there, even if it's late. Don't cancel flights willy-nilly and leave us stranded. Even weather and mechanical problems can be overcome with good planning and the right corporate commitment. Take a cue from JetBlue; steal their business plan.

2. KEEP US INFORMED - If there's going to be a delay, tell us the bad news early, and update us often. Strangely enough, we are adults, and we can take bad news. If it's before we get to the airport, call our cells. If it's at the airport, don't keep posting an on-time departure at a gate when the plane or crew is not even there yet. Tell us what's happening, just like you would your best friend.

3. WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, FIND ALTERNATIVES - For those of us who fly the most and who spend the most, do whatever it takes to get us to where we are going. If there's a delay before we get to the airport, have an alternative itinerary booked when you call us. If it happens at the airport, just get us there, whatever it takes. If all else fails and we must spend the night, then at least book us a room at your rate, even on stormy nights at O'Hare when technically you can hide behind Mother Nature's skirts and dodge all responsibility for our misery and lost time.

4. IT'S ALL ABOUT TIME, AND THAT'S ALL WE'VE GOT - Time is all we have in life. If you delay us going to work, you're a drag on productivity and the U.S. economy. If you delay us going home, then you've just robbed us of the most precious commodity on earth: time with our family. I'm only home for about 48 hours every weekend, and I want to be with my wife and two young kids. Every fifteen minute delay on your end is robbing me of my life.

Try to think of us like you would your mother or dad: Be considerate and kind, and keep your promise. Would you lie to your parents? Would you treat your parents like you callously disregard us when you are routinely late? Would you want your mom or dad to sit cramped, too hot or too cold, without food or water, on a tiny regional jet idling on a backed-up LaGuardia runway for three hours waiting to take off and then arrive over three hours late?

You can never get those lost minutes and hours back, not ever. You stole them from us, and you can do better. I know because you used to.

You even used to be cheerful, and it was infectious and made us feel better when we had to leave home.

I cannot recall the last time I saw a smile on an airline employee.

So I am going to write about the things that happen to me every week, and I am going to give readers of this blog the whole truth with no holdbacks or sugar coating. If something good happens, I will relate it. Ditto with the bad news. I will be factual, truthful, and very specific.

What good will come of it? Who knows? The airlines have nowhere to go but up. Maybe one of them will wake up and realize that providing good basic service, like adopting the principles above, translates into bottom line results. People will pay for the difference.


Will Allen III
Allen On Travel
June 22, 2006, written on the road
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8 Comments:

Blogger USCitizen said...

Congratulations on setting up your Blog.

I look forward to your weekly look at travel and all its joy and frustration.

6/22/2006 9:46 PM  
Blogger Entrecomputer said...

Nice start!

What are the latest tricks of the trade in travel?

Are back to back reservations still effective or have they been figured out and priced out of practical use?

6/23/2006 3:45 AM  
Blogger roadkong said...

Great to see a true advocate on our side in this debate. May your valiant efforts yield much fruit (or at least allow you a forum to vent our collective spleens.)

6/23/2006 4:50 AM  
Blogger roadkong said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/23/2006 4:51 AM  
Blogger MichaelS said...

Will, Thank you for succinctly writing a magna carta for all business airline travelers. I frequent Mesa Air Group's services because of my "remote" location at which I originate and end my weekly business travel. In my experience there is no worse operations department in the US. I want to be careful to separate the station (ground) staff here at FLG who work hard to make the most of a tenuous operational environment. If only the common sense and reason of your list could take root in the brains of those who offer us air transportation "services" - both passengers and providers would be better off.

6/30/2006 12:45 PM  
Blogger Rob Marais said...

This blog is awesome! Please continue to keep it this real. We stay in Fairfields instead of JW Marriotts. First Class for us is an extra bag of peanuts on a 3-hour CRJ flight. We book Economy cars and hope for a bump up once in a while to Sporty or Fun. Dinner is usually KFC or Wendy's with a brewski instead of Morton's or French Laundry with Zinfandel. Keep speaking up for us, and thanks!

6/30/2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger 127030761 said...

AMR executives to the very top know exactly what is happening, but they flatly do not care.

7/01/2006 7:46 PM  
Blogger razorback95 said...

Finally a blog about Travel I can love. As a holder of elite status on three airlines, two hotels and two car rental companies, Allen is 100% correct airlines lie - not just occasionally but all of the time. Every single one of them. Once you start from the premise, you can then be on the lookout.

7/17/2006 5:22 PM  

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