Mar 16, 2011

AirTran, You Suck.


Well, SXSW is over, and I am exhausted. The trip is always just long enough to wear me out, but not too long to make me regret taking the time and energy. Overall, I think I got a lot more out of this trip than I did last year because I was more focused in picking panels, and I also didn't kill myself trying to make it to everything. I would say things were chill, and I met a lot of really interesting people. This will probably be a muli-part post, because I have some kvetching and some kvelling to do. First, of course is the kvetching.

Tuvia dropped me at Laguardia at 5:45 am last Friday for a 7 am AirTran flight, and the day just fell apart from there. Why? It began with security. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt with a zip black hoodie/cardigan thing and a gray knit hat. The woman at security asked me to remove my "jacket" and hat. I told her I was an Orthodox Jew (I can't even count how many times I said this phrase during my trip) and that for modesty purposes, I couldn't remove them. She was zero tolerance and called for a full-body pat down. The woman who checked me out went quick, but moved my hat around, which upset me. I was upset that they even asked. It's New York. There are lots of Orthodox Jews. Did Dallas ask me to remove my hat on my way back? Nope!

I got to the AirTran gate with plenty of time to spare and grabbed a seat. As 7 neared and no plane was at our gate, people started to get antsy. Then, finally at 6:50, they decided to tell us that our plane was having difficulties and told us to go to a different gate. So evryone went to that gate, but there was no explanation of what was supposed to happen. Then, after people started asking, we found out that none of us would make our Atlanta connections, so we had to get into a line to rebook our connections. It being Friday, I was worried about making it to Dallas in time for Shabbat, so I went to the front of the line and explained to the conter guy my situation. Hs reaction? Tough luck, you have to wait in line like everyone else. I turned to the people in the front of the line and explained my situation, asking if I could hop in the front of the line to secure something ASAP (before any spare seats got eaten up). The girl in the front of the line looked at me and said, "Are you kidding? No way. Get in line like everyone else." The people behind her iterated something similar. The attitude, the snark, the scowls on the faces shocked me. No sympathy, no understanding, nothing. I wasn't asking for a hand-out, but I was in a serious bind. 

I went back about five or six people to a group of women and explained my situation and asked if I could cut them in line, and they were more than willing. They were incredibly sympathetic and felt really horribly for me. I got up to the counter, to the, pardon my French, jerk of an AirTran employee and, once again, explained the situation. "I have a 5 o'clock flight that will get you in at 6:30, but I can only put you on standby," he said, completely unsympathetic. I begged, I pleaded, I explained that my husband had looked online and found five open seats on a 3 something flight. "Nope," he said, as he printed me out a standby ticket for a flight that was completely worthless anyway. I was almost in tears. This guy didn't get it. I asked if they'd transfer my ticket to another airline if someone had a flight, and he said they could refund me if I found something. I asked him to check his computer for other airlines with flights, because they'd announced that a new plane was coming to take the 7 o'clock passengers, so I had minimal time to figure something out. "We don't have that information on our computers, you have to go check with each of them," he said. Stunned, I walked away, and then ran away, to the Southwest counter, where they were boarding a flight that would get me to Dallas -- however, it was $600, they wouldn't be able to transfer my luggage, and, oh, right, the door was closing. I asked the guy if he could access other flights with other airlines on his computer, and he did, meaning the jerk at AirTran was too much of a jack*** to help me out of my bind. 

I ran back to the AirTran gate, figuring that if I at least took the plane to Atlanta, I could find a place in Atlanta to stay for Shabbat and maybe find a flight that would get me to Dallas before Shabbat. And then? They started to prepare to board the 8 o'clock flight to Atlanta. I walked over, begging for a spot on board. The flight would get in in just enough time to give me to transfer to my 10:15 to Dallas. And then? The woman at the counter said that because my luggage was already set for the 7 o'clock flight, I couldn't get on board. Why? WHY!? Both planes were going to Atlanta! My bag had to be transferred anyway! So I waited. Angry. I waited. The plane didn't come until ... I don't even remember when. Everyone boarded, we took off, and on-board, with free Twitter access, I started crowd-sourcing Shabbat plans in Atlanta. I was still holding out for the plane to seriously gun-it and make it in for my 10:15 a.m. flight. While in-flight, someone let me know that the flight had been delayed to 10:30, I was still hopeful. 

The worst part of all of this was that they didn't communicate with us, it took forever to get a new plane, they didn't offer any kind of compensation for the CRAPTASTIC way they handled things, they were rude, and ... I mean ... you had an entire plane of people that you screwed over and you didn't follow-through with good customer service. AirTran, you followed-through with radio silence and rudeness. Way to #fail.

And then? We landed, I ran out of the aircraft, only to discover that the flight had just left. Half of the 10:15 flight was on my plane, so I guess there were a lot of people on standby who got really frakin' lucky. I walked to the gate attendant and told her I was having a serious emergency, so she sent me to a counter to rebook. The woman at the counter told me she had nothing, but to go to "The Specialist" Ben down at the main gate. I ran, I booked it, to this specialist guy. After all of my troubles, and explaining my story to five million people, most of which were unsympathetic and didn't give a crap, all it took was me telling Ben that I was an Orthodox Jew, that I needed to get to Dallas by 5 p.m., or else I was screwed. He tapped at his computer, printed out a pass, handed it to me, and said, "Don't go flaunting this around, there are a lot of people from your flight on standby for the 3 o'clock flight, but I squeezed you in, a window seat is okay?" I wanted to kiss the man. Like, fly over the counter and just hug him. It would be pushing it, but I was on the flight. Luckily, the seat was in a cushy space with lots of leg room and the flight was smooth. My luggage arrived (I was really worried about that), and I was picked up by @ravtex, schlepped off to his and @susqhb's place in Dallas, I hopped in the shower, hosed down, got dressed, and bam, it was Shabbos. 

Luckily, my trip back has been smoother. I know that I'll never fly AirTran ever again, because their customer service is horrible, save for the amazing Ben in Atlanta. When I checked my luggage this morning in Dallas, which I paid $20 to do online, and it was weighed, it was 9 pounds too heavy. I looked at the pricing chart, and it looked like an overweight item was $49. So, I assumed, I would only have to pay another $29. Nope, the lady says, it's $20 and an additional $49. What the hell? Seriously? $69 to check a bag? You've got to be kidding me. I paid it, because I didn't have a choice, but this means that AirTran is on my you-know-what list, and I will never, NEVER fly them ever again. 

Thank heavens Southwest Airlines is now flying out of Newark (well, starting late March). I hope that Southwest knows that they bought a dud when they bought AirTran. Maybe they'll rub off on AirTran and make them suck less and not rip their customers off so horribly. Oh, and maybe teach them some sensitivity training. 

I love travelling, I love flying, and most of the time, I don't have problems, as an Orthodox Jew, but man this time killed me. Next year? I'm flying direct to Austin like I did last year, and I'm going to make Shabbos there, too. Why? It'll make life so much easier. 

15 comments:

toethumbs said...

I used to like flying. And I used to be ok with buying cheap AirTran tickets and giving up all the "niceties"...but NOT since all the new security measures were put into place. I totally feel ya on this one, and I've also had a bad experience with AirTran's customer service. (And I'm not even a complainer! That's saying something!)

Christians deal with the whole modesty issue, too, though not to the same extent (only some sects cover their hair). But you're right, it stinks to have to violate your religion in order to fly. I sympathize with you completely.

Kelly said...

AirTran's customer service is appalling; it sounds like your flight was par for the course. I was on a flight to ATL and there was a serviceman on board; he had his uniform in a garment bag as his carry-on. There were, of course, too many people with large carry-ons and there were issues fitting them in the overhead bins. One of the flight attendants came over to the serviceman's bin, took out the garment bag (which was laid flat on top of other people's carry-ons, taking up ZERO room) and decided it would be more efficient to roll it into a ball and squish it into a corner to try to fit another bag in the overhead compartment. Chaos ensued - surrounding passengers were furious, the serviceman (a young kid) explained that the uniform could NOT be wrinkled, etc. The flight attendant rolled his eyes and just walked away, leaving everyone fuming and juggling bags to give the poor kid some space. It turned out he'd just gotten back from Iraq... there was no sensitivity from the AirTran employees. No sympathy. No "thank you for serving, let's bump you to the front of the plane, give you a drink and hang up your bag for you." It was awful.

MokumAlef said...

You just reminded me why I learned to hate flying .... Glad you're back home safe and sound!

Joy Rothke said...

I've flown AirTran once--about six years ago. Never again,

Daphne said...

Ha! I once flew AirTran from BWI to BOS. There were all kinds of delays and they offered me vouchers -- I said thanks, but no thanks. I had no plans to fly them ever again. Never have. Hopefully I never will...

Re: airport security -- I've only ever had one awful experience re: the extra "pat down" because of my head covering (read: the closest thing to a body cavity check without actually crossing that line). The rest of the time I just grin and bear it (as opposed to bare it).

Next time -- try tears. People have a hard time saying no to a grown woman crying. Less so because they feel bad, more so because they want to get the nutty lady out of their way.

Oysh!

Batya said...

Thanks for the warning. If it goes to AZ, I'll fly something else.

David Tzohar said...

Another compaany to avoid is Alitaliya for transatlantic flights to Israel/.Last year they made us an unplanned stopover in Milan(which has got to be the cruddiest airport in Europe). They said they would arrange overnight accommodations for us but guess what:they didnt. We had to fork over mucho Euros to stay at a crummy B&B for which we were never reimbursed.What was supposed to be a 12 hr trip turned into a 48 hr nightmare.

Lori P. said...

Some people are a**holes. I'm so sorry you had so much trouble. Glad Ben was able to help you! I will keep this in mind if I have to fly not to take Air Tran.

Chaviva said...

I posted this way too soon. My trip back was worse, believe it or not. A flight delayed 3 hours? Staff that took a lunch break leaving no one to tell us what was going on? A snarky flight attendant? A lost first officer who never was called to say "be at the airport, you have a flight"? Yeah ... that was my day.

Sigh. Whatever you do, folks, fly someone else. I'll be flying Southwest or Continental. No matter how much it costs or where it flies.

dena said...

Try to avoid Continental if you can as well. Maybe it's because it was bought by United and the attendants might be losing their jobs, but they do their minimum on a flight then hide in the back of the plane for the rest of the flight, acting miffed if we, the passengers, dare ask for anything.

Boxed Whine said...

America West, if it is still around, which I doubt, as i had never heard of them again after our trip to Vegas was also awful. Running out of drinks on flight, cattle call boarding....

But you did get to go to SXSW, which sounds so awesome!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, it seems that you completely forget that other passengers likely had other issues to attend to with as much, or perhaps more, urgency than you had yourself. Your insistence to "jump" the line only further reveals how it was you, and perhaps not the other passengers or airline employees, who is the real "jerk." Though I am no fan of airlines, operational issues do occur, and your willingness to fly before Shabbat should mean that you accept the consequences in case something does not go as planned. I hope in the future you'll be more considerate of others instead of just thinking about yourself.

Scott said...

I think you sound like a TERRIBLY mean person. You bear responsibility here as well. You chose to travel away from home during an important religious time for you, and with travel comes uncertainty, and unexpected delays. There are no exceptions to anyone when it comes to delays.

You also lumped in your episode with TSA security during your kvetch-fest, and that was NOT Airtran's fault.

On top of everything, you did not recognize, when at the end of your nightmare, and someone saved the day for you, that he was a representative of the very company you are so mad at.

They made things right and you STILL want to complain and warn people off the Big Bad Airtran.


Shame on you.


I doubt you will let this post to your forum, But I did want you to read my words.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Chaviva said...

@Scott I think you sound like someone who doesn't know me. I also think you sound like someone who ignored all the other people who had bad experiences, as well as the fact that I said that on my way back, I had an even worse experience that was never addressed.

In all, I spent 24 hours in airports because of AirTran. Yes, they got me to Dallas before my Sabbath, but other than that? They screwed me at every turn. One nice guy out of the probably 12 people I dealt with does not mean the company is quality by any means.

And, on a final note, to any haters, I arrived at the airport more than an hour early for a 7:05 a.m. and needed to be in Dallas, Texas, by 5 p.m. for a 6:30 candlelighting. I think that 10 hours is sufficient time to get me from New York to Dallas. It only takes 6 hours to fly to California. Spending 24 hours in airports for what should have all together been about 6 hours worth of flights is obscene.

And shame on you for thinking I wouldn't post your comment. I take the good with the bad, and I always -- always -- defend myself.

Rachelle said...

Sorry, I agree with anon and Scott.

People like you really irritate me--and I'm a compassionate, patient, person. Just because you believe in some nonsense religious hoo-hah doesn't mean anyone else should be inconvenienced. Yes, it sucks that the flights were delayed, but everyone should be treated equally with no special treatment going to religious people. I find it hilarious and said picturing someone running around talking about an "SERIOUS EMERGENCY" based on religion ... I feel sorry for the people around you who had to deal with your ranting on top of being frustrated about a flight delay.

I also find your selfishness appalling as you call out other people for not letting you jump in line so YOU can secure any seats so they wouldn't be eaten up. Do you know where each person was headed? If maybe perhaps they had a legitimate emergency, death in the family, etc? No, you didn't. And here you complain about THEM? Are you kidding me? Wake up.

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