Instapundit links to this post by Dean Barnett complaining of his bad experience with Delta. (Insty's bad Delta experience can be found here.)
I have my own recent Bad Airline Customer Service tale of woe to report, and while I've had bad experiences with Delta in the past, the most recent involves a close competitor for Worst Airline Ever -- US Airways. That's right Google, US Airways may well be the Worst Airline Ever. I never got a chance to fly Aeroflot during the bad old days of the Soviet Union, though, so maybe they were worse. US Airways consistently ranks last in customer service. Even Doug Parker, their CEO, knows they have a problem -- he said at the May shareholders meeting "If we don't start running a good airline, we will drive customers away." Wow, he's smart. No wonder he's a CEO!
In any case, or story begins last April -- the Main Squeeze and I are in Vegas for a short trip. Alas, the most convenient routes are former America West routes, now US Airways. On the way back from Vegas, our flight is massively overbooked, and we are in lousy seats -- two middle seats, back of a full plane. So we generously volunteer to take another flight, in exchange for two travel vouchers for $200 each or two round-trip tickets anywhere in the continental United States. Great Deal, right?
Well, not so fast. Last month, in June, we had another trip to Vegas. We figured what the heck -- let's use those vouchers. So we go online to look for a flight. And we find a flight -- but as it turns out, there is no way to use one of their vouchers when booking online. So we call the airline. I don't know where the woman on the other end of the phone was from -- it didn't sound like India, but she certainly didn't speak any form of English that I'm familiar with. I'm sure that after my recent posts on immigration, some folks have marked me down as an intolerant boob, and I know this ain't PC, but I'm sorry -- somebody whose job is to talk to Americans on the phone ought to be able to speak understandable English.
It is a good thing that we had looked for the flight online, because, in addition to being barely able to speak English, she was barely able to do her job. We had to spell out exactly what flight and route we wanted to take, because she couldn't get us there without help. We were able to reserve the seats, at least.
But as for redeeming the vouchers -- no such luck. At least according to her, we had to go to the airport ticket counter and redeem the vouchers in person. So to the airport we go! Well, we get there and make our way to the US Airways ticket counter. As it happens, it's fairly late at night, and it's not particularly crowded. There are two people working behind the counter, both "serving" customers, and two people in line ahead of us. That is right -- a grand total of four people. How long will this take?
Well, we get in line and we wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, one of the people at the ticket counter finishes his customer. Great! But instead of summoning another customer, that agent dissapears behind a door, and is never heard from again. So that leaves one agent for three customers. Finally she finishes the person in front of her, and she summons the next customer. Another interminable wait. And another for the next person.
Finally we make it to the desk. I swear, for a while I thought the ticket agent was mute, because she didn't say a word to us. No "hello, how may I help you?" Certainly not a 'sorry about the long wait in a short line." She simply stood there. We explained what we wanted to do, and she just stared at us. It wasn't clear that she understood what we wanted, or even that she wasn't a zombie. She made no acknowledgment of us at all.
She tries to call somebody on her phone. No answer. Then, still not saying a word, she wanders into the back for a minute. She returns and tries the phone again. When there's no answer, again, she fiddles with her computer for a while. Then it's the back again. It goes like this for about fifteen minutes -- and she makes no effort to tell us what, if anything, is going on. Soon it is fairly obvious that she doesn't have the faintest idea how to redeem the voucher. In fact, she clerly has no idea what to do, and neither the desire nor the ability to tell us what the problem is or make anythng more than a desultory effort to fix it. Finally, we just give up and pay for the tickets. We were in the airport for over an hour, and of course had to pay for parking. An hour! To wait on five customers, and not very well at that. (One of the people ahead of us was another voucher-carrier, and that person left frustrated, voucher still in hand.)
US Airways offers these travel vouchers whenever their planes are overbooked. Which, these days, is "nearly every flight." I mean, I've seen the gate people give these away like candy on Halloween. Then US Airways make it virtually impossible to cash them in. Can't do it online, can't do it over the phone. And apparently they don't instruct the agents at the ticket counter in how to do it.
That goes beyond really bad customer service at US Airways. To me, that's tantamount to fraud. They're giving away "vouchers" that are worthless because US Airways makes it well-nigh impossible to actually cash them in. What a rip-off!
Oh, I should linke to Christopher Penn, who has a similar tale of woe at US Airways. You know, a story about how US Airways customer service sucks.
UPDATE: More US Airways horror stories here! I feel lucky in comparison!