As a travel agent and an elite-level frequent flier with United, I deal with a lot of their personnel on a regular basis. Though the CEO managed to make matters worse, the low-paid weakest link in their customer service operation failed.
Few travel issues are more contentious than having families sit together on airplanes. Sure, nobody wants young children to sit by themselves, but that doesn’t mean that travelers who have booked way in advance or paid a premium want to give up their seats, either. The easiest solutions involve getting the seats right in the first place so families can sit together.
Like many stories that go viral, the United Airlines leggings story was not as simple as it first seemed. Yes, United denied boarding to girls who were either pre-teens or young teenagers because the girls were wearing leggings, not allowed by the United dress code. And yes, other passengers were upset. This brouhaha shows the importance of social media and the need for good training.
When there are problems with airline tickets, humans are often the best solution. As much as carriers tout their automatic rebooking programs, those programs are limited and not very creative. On the other hand, some airline reservationists are either equally uncreative or unwilling to be helpful. When dealing with an intractable agent, it’s easy to get frustrated. In such situations, the best solution is to – politely – say some variation of, “Thank you for trying,” hang up the phone, and call back.
For travelers whose flights are canceled, as unpleasant as the experience may be, at least the process with tickets is straightforward — the airline will refund the money. However, it’s generally not automatic and you or your travel agent will need to ask and/or process the refund.
As frequent fliers and Travelers United readers know, code-share flights are usually one of the banes of the travel industry. While they’re great for airline marketing, in general with issues of connections, seats, baggage, etc. they tend to be problematic for consumers. It’s not just the which-airline-am-I-flying confusion. Simply put, airlines just don’t treat someone booked on a code-share flight the same as someone booked on their “own” flights.
Those of us who live near San Francisco don’t get much sympathy from the rest of the United States when it comes to weather. But this year, one of the rainiest on records has been especially frustrating for travelers and travel agents alike. Because San Francisco International Airport has parallel runways, it doesn’t take that much rain, clouds and/or wind to stop two planes landing at the same time. And delays, bad enough in a moderate storm, can quickly turn into travel nightmares in a big one. This is when alternative airports can be a Godsend.
When there are delays and cancellations, the airline/travel agent relationship gets more complicated. Yes, travel agents routinely help clients find alternate flights, which saves the airlines time. When travelers are unhappy with the automatic rebooking options or when the automatic programs can’t find options, humans can be a lot more creative than machines. That’s mostly a good thing for airlines, except when it costs them money.
Today, with lots of frequent flier programs and the benefits of elite status in various programs, the question for many travelers is whether it is worth focusing on one airline for frequent flier miles. There’s no right answer for everyone. Here are a few questions for wannabe frequent fliers to ask themselves.
Should change fees be capped? An airline seat is one of the most perishable commodities in the world. Once the flight takes off, it cannot be resold. Plus, these days a seat doesn’t just represent a fare-paying passenger, it represents an opportunity to sell up with baggage fees, extra legroom fees, inflight food and drink, etc.