Here I go again, complaining about airline travel. But I'm not writing about my most recent experience because it was so horrible and unlike what happens to most people when they fly. I'm writing it because it seems to be more and more typical. These days, airline travel is like when you start to eat a terrible meal at someone's house when you're there for the first time. It's hard to believe, but it just keeps getting worse and worse.
Recently, I was going from Los Angeles to Minneapolis with a stop in Denver. Soon after I got to the gate in L.A., I learned that my flight had been cancelled. A fairly impolite agent sent me to what might justifiably be called, "the ninth circle of hell" -- customer service. Eventually, someone helped me and changed my flight. Unfortunately, that flight was soon cancelled, too.
This time, I called the airline from my cell phone and the person I spoke to changed my flights. I asked him if I needed a paper ticket. He said that I didn't, because now I had "an e-ticket." Since my bag hadn't left L.A. yet, he suggested that I go back out through security and down to the baggage desk to let them know about the flight change so my luggage would be on the flight with me. I did so, and the baggage people made the change.
Next I went to security, where they stopped me because I didn't have a paper ticket. So I raced to another line where I got a paper ticket, went through security once again (where they confiscated the overpriced bottle of water I had purchased earlier when I had been on "the other side"), and went to my new gate.
Finally, I got on the plane, breathed a sigh of relief, and put on my seatbelt. A few minutes later, a passenger ran off the plane. A flight attendant went after him, then came back to explain that he had accidentally gotten onto the wrong plane. Gotten onto the wrong plane? How? I couldn't bring my water through security but this guy was able to get on the wrong plane?
A week later I was back at the Minneapolis airport, heading for home. I quickly learned that my flight from Minneapolis to Denver was cancelled. The gate agent was too tired and too rude to help me. I certainly didn't want to go to that place whose name still makes me shudder – "customer service."
Desperate, I dragged myself to the "Red Carpet Club," took out a credit card, and asked, "How much does it cost to join? I know if I join, you'll help me." The person at the counter completely threw me off base -- she was helpful and nice.
Her name was Carol Babel, and I hope mentioning that will get her a commendation rather than a condemnation. She took one look at the bedraggled passenger in front of her and said, "You don't have to join for me to give you a little help." She quickly changed my flights. I thanked her profusely and went to my gate.
After waiting there for about twenty minutes, I heard someone call my name. It was Carol. She had a boarding pass in her hand and said that she had come up with a better plane for me. Unbelievable, right? Give her a first class ticket to Europe. Give her a private plane. Or at least, give her next Thursday off.
It seemed doubly special that she had acted so nicely because nobody else had. I know, I know. I hadn't been tortured. And as I said, I'm aware that it's the kind of thing that happens to millions of people every day. But does that make it okay?
Several friends think the airline should do something to make up for my bad experience. What do you think?
A year's membership in that Red Carpet Club would be a good gift. A letter of apology seems appropriate. And some friends said the airline should give me a free flight somewhere. They all seem like fine ideas, but there's a problem with that free flight thing. If they give it to me, that means I actually have to try to fly somewhere again.