Tomorrow afternoon, I was supposed to leave on a Delta/KLM flight to Scotland, so I can speak at the World Whiskies Conference in Glasgow. I've been totally psyched to attend this conference since Ian Buxton asked me about it in January. Now, thanks to a volcano that seems hasn't erupted since 1821, my travel plans are in hell. As of now, it looks like I won't be attending this year.

Now, clearly this wasn't something the airlines created, but the way they handle these situations is what makes me crazy. Their automated are a nightmare at the nest of times, but when there's a big problem as there is now, well, they are just pure hell.

The thing is, we'd probably support them better in their time of need if they didn't usually act like such crappy businesses all the time. Last night as this saga unfolded, I sent out this Tweet -- clearly, airlines have not gotten the memo @ the consumer being in control. guess they missed this entire freakin' decade #fail

For all of the talk about the empowerment of the customer, some industries seemed to have missed this entire conversation. Frankly, airlines (and others, like banks) continue to run their business in complete defiance of anything like putting their customers first.

Remember United Breaks Guitars? Today that video has 8,395,275 views. Given the complaints I'm seeing, I'm not sure that United learned anything from that experience.

So my experience the last two days has been downright ugly. Here's just a quick recap of my experience:

  • CheapOair couldn't rebook me, so they cancelled my flight and issued a refund. Of course, right after that, Delta thought they could help me but now Cheapoair can't help. They have been difficult to deal with at best and ended up not even being the cheapest after the raised the rates almost $70 after I confirmed the tickets. Plus, they way they price the tickets give you a very false sense of what the tickets will cost. A ticket that they say is $521 is really $815 with all of the taxes and fees. My $521 ticket actually cost me $884. I wouldn't recommend using them again.
  • I called Delta to see what I could do to rebook my flight and the first person I spoke to said they couldn't get me to Scotland until Friday. Not much help given I'm supposed to speak on Tuesday. I called Delta again and Jessica, a very helpful agent at the international desk, spent a hunk of time looking to see what she could do and she was able to get me into Paris, but not into Glasgow. But, since Cheapoair moved to issue the refund, I'm sure that won't be an option for much longer.
  • I called Virgin Atlantic five times in a row and they just disconnected me each time. I got through the first series of "press 1 for..." commands and when I was finally at the right destination, I would just get disconnected.
  • The reservation agent at Travelocity seemed to be completely clueless about what was happening in the airline industry. Forget that I couldn't really understand him to begin with, he said they must have cancelled the flight due to weather several times and then he was able to get me a flight on United for $3270 because I was booking at the last minute.
  • I've always hated the airline pricing system, but when you're cancelling as many flights as they're doing right now, is this really the time to screw people with your pricing? They know I'm not booking at the last minute, so why charge me like I am. An airline actually acting like it cared about its customers would do really well right now.

Look at this video from the CEO of Spirit Air on their decision to charge people for carry on baggage. Every time I fly, I send out a Tweet asking if airlines have done a cost analysis of how much money is spent on delayed flights because of all of the folks with the carry on bags. So rather then reduce the checked baggage fees, Ben Baldanza is going to add more charges. According to several articles, he defends this stupidity by saying “The basis for this new fee was founded in improved customer service.” Yea, every time the customer gets screwed, it's really for our own good.

A quick check through Twitter shows mostly negative reactions to the airlines. For every 10 complaints, maybe you get one person thanking an airline for helping. This industry

  • @Delta is back to ruining my weekend. Major system malfunction has flight stuck at gate. Should have landed by now.
  • @delta thx for sitting on the tarmac for 40 min. & thx for the unfriendly helpless desk and an impending nights stay at ATL. (missing nwa)
  • @Delta you're validating why I HATE to fly with you. Bullshit excuses and delays. BTW, free cookies & pretzels will NOT make this go away.
  • thx @delta for a safe/quick flight- in 20 mins ahead of time!
  • The rebooking process at JFK Delta is a nightmare. A supervisor needs to check this out. Pathetic. @delta
  • I feel like I should give @Delta some props for promptly helping us deal with the #icerupt and rescheduling (once we got to a real person..)
  • I forgive @delta, seeing as northern Europe is blanketed in ash.
  • @United Is it possible to have a pleasant flying experience with you? I sit in Chicago when I ought to be a third of the way to Boston.
  • @united why charge $75 at ticketing for confirmed seat on earlier flight that is half full? Thank god I chose standby and didn't pay you.
  • @united your customer service is a huge fail. what a joke. thanks for the email telling me to phone in, yet won't accept my reference #.
  • I hope @united Airlines has a LOT of empty seats bc of this new fee schedule for same day changes!!
  • @americanairlines sucks!!! Been waiting for agent over an hr!!! Please hire more people!!!
  • @americanairlines what happened to you? Your customer service and on time arrivals need lots of help getting back on track.
  • @AmericanAirlines get it together! 2 flts in 2 days, both delayed by 4 hours mech prblms? #givemeabreak
  • Liking the nice new 777 @Americanairlines plane I'm on...though not sure it makes up for the $50 in bag fees #ouch
  • Internal round of applause to @jetblue for taking off a half hour late but landing only 3 minutes behind schedule. I love being on time!
  • @RodKirby By the way...stuck @ O'Hare b/c @JetBlue cancelled flight on a mechanical problem w/ their plane. Stuck here learning blogging!
  • Friday night is ruined bc of paperwork. I could have stayed at work instead of taking a vaca if that's what I had in mind. Thx @jetblue
  • @jetblue you are having a 3 hour delay because of PAPERWORK! Pilot, Plane, & everyone on board and they can't leave on Friday! NOT COOL!
  • @jetblue I know these things happen but I am so disappointed in how this situation is being handled. #flight132
  • @jetblue 2.5hr delay due to contract paperwork? Flight 132. Can you refund my change fees? Not an act of god or weather -- all your fault
  • @mimiface I spent the week flying and one had @Southwest flight. I have concluded that Southwest is the very best airline in the world.
  • I appreciate the notice about the gate change that @southwest called me about as it was being announced, but I thought I said to txt me.
  • Got a free drink from @Southwest for switching seats with a couple who wanted to sit together. Score!
  • @southwest why can't I go standby on an earlier flight w/o extra $ ? You'd rather fly empty seats? OAK 495 rather than 326
  • My @southwest flight is leaving early and scheduled to land 45 minutes early. What? Pinch me.

This is clearly not a problem with one or two airlines, it"s an industry problem. Last year, after another stupid airline experience, I started to say that we should have a national no-fly day. A day when everyone boycotts the airline industry. One day when we say to them that we've had it with their crappy service and surly employees who don't care and nickel & diming us to death. I think if this really the time of consumer empowerment, then maybe it"s time we start take that power. Who's in?

Image source:  Ma1974

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