Why do all airlines treat their customers like shit?
I’ve wondered this from time to time, and I guess there are many reasons. I’ve been treated like shit so many times by so many airlines. It’s so common that it’s almost not worth mentioning. But, it’s Xmas and I’ve just had the usual run around, and seeing as that has left me away from my family as well as otherwise inconvenienced and out of pocket, I feel like a bit of a ramble.
Today wasn’t even a particularly egregious example, and I really don’t care that it’s Xmas. Today was just run-of-the-mill being treated like shit.
First of all, I manage to inconvenience several others in getting myself back to Barcelona last night – borrowing a car, filling it with gas, leaving the key somewhere exposed (risking theft), leaving Ana and the kids on Xmas eve, etc. All my choices. I set the alarm and get up early (for me) at 8am.
Taxi to the airport (25 euros). Check in. Coffee. Wait in departure lounge. Wait in departure lounge. Departure time comes and goes. Wait in departure lounge. Then there’s an announcement: flight canceled due to an unavailable part, no chance of a replacement, no chance of an alternate flight, maybe we can get you all on something tomorrow. It’s Xmas, you’ve got probably 150 people, many of whom are heading home to family, many of whom are leaving family.
Does a single Delta representative say a single word of apology, commiseration? Nope.
They announce a phone number to call in a few hours to check what’s going on. Everyone is to be herded to a hotel. Of course I head back to my apartment in a taxi (25 euros).
I call my hotel in NY and cancel the night. They charge me, in accordance with their published cancelation policy (USD 85.94).
I start calling the local Delta number, the one provided by the friendly folks at the gate who canceled the flight. A machine answers, telling me the normal working hours. It’s not normal working hours right now though. It’s xmas. This seems to be standard practice: hand out a phone number that does not work. Shift the blame and the responsibility.
Finally I call the US. After navigating through the voice mail system (Press here if your flight was just unceremoniously canceled – NOT), I get a human on the other end. I tell her calmly what happened. She is an idiot. She asks me if I have already flown. I say no, I repeat that I am still in Barcelona. She asks if I am in a hotel and I repeat that I am in my apartment. She asks if I am still at the airport. She tells me my flight was BCN to Newark and I say no, to JFK. She tells me the flight was definitely to Newark and asks me if the flight left. No, the flight was canceled. I am paying in time and money (same thing?) to talk to this woman. Fortunately it turns out I have been booked, through Newark, on a Continental flight, tomorrow.
I tell the woman I’m hoping to be reimbursed for two taxi trips and one hotel room. She asks a few questions – why did I take a taxi if I’m in the hotel? No, I’m in my apartment. Did I book through hotels.com? No. Well I should talk to the ticket office in Barcelona at the airport and they will sort out the reimbursement. Fat chance. They will no doubt refer me to Delta elsewhere.
Does this woman say “Gee, I’ve just noticed it’s xmas day, I’m really sorry for the inconvenience, it must be a bummer to have your plans ruined”? Nope. Does she say anything remotely human? Nope. In fact I had an easier time getting information into and out of the voice system that fielded the call.
I say that in my experience it’s not really worth the effort to try to get money back from airlines. She doesn’t answer. There’s just a silence on the other end of the line that lasts for about 20 seconds.
She’s one step above the voice mail system. She’s been trained not to say anything that might imply culpability. Someone might sue Delta if an employee were to admit that maybe they fucked up. So there’s just a silence on the line. I don’t remember who broke it, probably me saying goodbye.
And that’s it. I’m not even upset, and I far prefer an extra day in Barcelona instead of a day in NY in a hotel waiting for a flight to Chicago. This has all been extremely mild compared to some screw-ups.
Like I said, I think there are many reasons the airlines can and do treat their customers like shit. Blogging about it isn’t going to help much, but I don’t have the energy to do much more. And that’s part of it too.
In the US one very often runs across incredibly stupid “service” people on the phone (and in person – at the bank, buying fast food, etc). I don’t mean that in a nasty elitist way, even though I am nasty and elitist. These people are just dumb or bored or…. They speak great English, there’s no problem there. They’re just really dumb. On top of that, they are trained to be robots. Any attempt at humor or any unexpected remark is a deviation from the expected script and simply causes confusion. I’ve seen it so often, I can’t be bothered going into it here. I think legal fears also add a further level of bleaching anything human out of interactions. That’s ironic – I wonder if there would be fewer lawsuits if company representatives were a little more humane. I know I’d be a hell of a lot more forgiving if the representative were able to field a joke or make a self-deprecating remark about life as an airline customer, etc. Maybe we need a class-action lawsuit for being treated so poorly.