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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Episode 146,225: Why I Hate Flying

Since I started this blog in June, I’ve been asked over and over by colleagues and friends, why do it? It seems so futile, an electronic voice in the wilderness, mere roadkill on the Information Superhighway.

I explained my rationale in the very first posting below, but perhaps other examples are warranted. Since no airline manager listens, writing this blog relieves frustration and at least provides a public forum for airing egregious travel experiences.

So, to further illustrate the extreme state of suffering and unhappiness that so often accompanies a business trip, I looked into my archive of letters to friends and colleagues, like this one from a Friday in October, 2005:

I arrived at the Columbus (Ohio) airport at 3:20 PM. I walked into my house at 12:45 AM. Nine and a half hours en route, thanks to American Airlines and their non-service service, for which I paid $563.80. It’s only 361 miles between Raleigh and Columbus, but you can’t get there from here fast or cheap.

AND I was treated to the following bonus events during my AA odyssey:

  • Though we left Columbus on time, we of course circled LGA for a half hour before getting TRACON clearance to land. NOTE: perfect beautiful clear weather, so no excuses there. Could it be a system far beyond capacity and out of control? Could it be that it’s been that way at least since the late 1970s at all three New York airports? Yet no one has the will to effect improvements?
  • Arrived C concourse at LGA, but my departing plane scheduled to leave from D concourse, necessitating LEAVING security from C concourse and RE-ENTERING security at D concourse.
  • But wait! An AA supervisor advised me that the plane at D1 had a mechanical which might cause a gate change back to the C concourse—so don’t go quite yet.
  • But wait! If you don’t go, and you can’t get through security in time, T.S., because AA is not responsible.
  • The mechanically-delayed outbound at D1 turned out to be a moot point, since the inbound aircraft to be used for our RDU flight was coming in from Charlotte, and was already two hours late. Why the delay, I wondered. Remember, this is on a beautiful, clear evening in both Charlotte and New York with no weather problems. No one working for American Airlines had a clue when I asked.
  • The inbound aircraft finally arrived at 9:56 PM, by which time people waiting at D1 were utterly deflated and exhausted. The captain, a guy who looked, swaggered, and talked like John Wayne, came off the aircraft and into the gate area and made the following proclamation in a booming voice: “You people need to understand that we just waited two hours on the runway at Charlotte for clearance, and then had to declare an in-flight fuel emergency on approach to avoid a further delay landing. ATC would not let us take off and did not want us to land here, so it’s not our fault that we’re late. But we are exhausted, and especially Sylvia, our flight attendant. Now our job is to get you to Raleigh SAFELY, not necessarily on time, and we intend to do that. So I want you to greet Sylvia, who has been a trooper through these delays, with a smile when you come on my plane, and be nice to her. UNDERSTAND?!”
  • I was stunned. Apparently the disgruntled crowd was struck dumb by fear and loathing of the belligerant pilot, because it took the wind out of their sails. They meekly boarded the plane (I was in seat 1A on the Embraer RJ and watched every person come on), and they either mumbled something to Sylvia, the FA, or said nothing.
I have three words for the captain: Go f*** yourself.

He and his crew, including Sylvia (who was a very nice lady), are GETTING PAID to do what they do, and they will GET PAID regardless of what time they arrive. I, on the other hand, as the customer, AM PAYING for their salaries, their benefits, the airplane, the raggedy-ass gate at LGA, the lights, the announcements, everything. When they fail to meet their advertised schedule by over two hours, they (and every airline) have robbed me of the most precious commodity in existence: time.

I can never get that time back. If it’s on the way to work, and I am late, then my clients expect me to make it up (or the work associated with it). That robs me of time for relaxation, recovery, and sleep. If it’s on the way home, then it robs me of time with my family. No amount of money can compensate me for the time lost with my family. It’s gone forever, and I am forever in deficit.

Yet the pilot last night bullied every one of his company’s paying customers sitting in that gate area but me into thinking that WE owe HIM because HE had to suffer through a delay earlier in the day while HE got paid. This captain never apologized for his company’s delay, nor did he take any responsibility whatsoever for the total breakdown of service. He did not even offer us the common courtesy of sympathizing with our misery.

The inmates are truly running the asylum. Day is night; up is down; black is white.

Why is it that the other 48 passengers on this flight caved in to this captain’s outrageously bad behavior and shredding of customer service without a peep? Why do people act like morons when confronted with dehumanizing, disrespectful incidents like this one? When will the sheep awake and demand to be treated with simple dignity?


Blogger flyastrojets said...

Wow... Have you shared this experience with AA?

7/20/2006 2:17 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Yes, I have. Nothing was done, although a mid-level manager sent a message through a contracted intermediary that they were real sorry.

7/20/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger USCitizen said...

Sometimes travel CAN be intersting.
(Link here)

Just sayin'.

7/20/2006 11:54 PM  
Blogger flyastrojets said...

Well, I'm glad you let them know what happened.

I really enjoy reading your blog, and hope you don't mind having a former airline guy for a reader!

7/21/2006 9:23 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To Astrojet: Not at all. I have a number of current & former airline guy friends.

7/21/2006 10:30 PM  
Blogger Leslie Butts said...

I had a similer experience with SWest...who are usually nice and fun. The pilot as we were boarding told us to hurry up and stow our bagws as to achieve an on time departure. After it was obvious were were not going to do that (the flighe was completely full on a Friday and was overbooked) he basically brerated us in tellin us because we didnt do what he told us wee would not leave on was our fault. THEN during the in flightr bevergae service....if you can call it that...he told us to sit down and stay out of the FAs way because THIER safety was more inmportant than us getting our cokes!!! I was so outraged...but of course you cant open your mouth on a plane anymore without fear of hmeland security pouncing on you....I worte a lettere to SW and they basiclal ykind of apologized but saie their pilots work very hard for our safety blablabla....THIS is why I drive as many of my business trips as possible.....flying is the absoulte worst part of the trip!!!!!
Thanks for the blog.....!!!!

7/22/2006 11:59 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Enjoyed reading your blog. It sums up my travel experiences in the month of July perfectly! I feel inspired to blog my own annoyance with US Airways.

7/23/2006 7:29 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To Leslie: Yep, I am not surprised that similar incidents occur on other airlines. This one just happened to be on AA. My intent is not to criticize any one, but to expose the rotten carcass of the commercial airline so-called industry for what it is: devoid of any knowledge of, let alone commitment to, customer service.

7/26/2006 10:54 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To karen: I am not surprised that US Airways is as bad as the rest. I would dearly love to point to one airline as better than another, but I have come to believe that they are all equally insensitive to maintaining on-time service and even the lowest levels of common courtesy to their customers in keeping them informed and protecting them when misconnects and cancellations occur.

7/26/2006 10:57 AM  

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