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seeker80
04-15-2009, 08:37 PM
I had a normal bad flying experience over the New Year's holiday and was going to file it away with a dozen others until the economy intruded. My job is looking a little shaky and an old friend/boss has offered me a job with his firm. The problem is I will have to commute via airplane due to the fact it is 1000+ miles away. The wife has a great job with a large pharma and I can't ask her to give it up. So I will fly to work and I am filled with dread. I used to fly alot when I worked for an international bank in the 90's and saw the US airline industry deteriorate to junk status. And I don't see it getting any better soon. It is so bad, I just haven't flown for pleasure because they will try everything in their power to screw up your good time.

But since this is a airiline complaint site, let me give you my latest experience. It is a rather mild one compared to some I've had (a London/JFK/Indianapolis was epic).

We were flying out of Ft. Lauderdale on Jan 2 on a bright, sunny day. Departure was delayed because weather in ATL delayed our aircraft inbound. No problem. I have such low expectations when I fly, I really didn't care. Pushed off an hour late and the flight crew assured us our connections are probably also delayed, so we should sit back and relax because our connections will be there. A perfectly logical conclusion on their part that had as much validity as me predicting where the stock market will be in 3 months.

We land in ATL about 10 minutes before our scheduled connection departure. It is showing on the board as on time. We, of course, are 2 terminals away. We head down to the tram and see it pull away. I look at the wife and tell her we must run if we want to get out of ATL now. We come running up to our gate to see our airplane pushing away from the gate and a gate agent involved in a shouting match with 8 passengers. Seems these folks got to the gate after the gate door closed, saw the aircraft out the window and opened said door.

You know the rest of that story...shouting, little supervisor with a serious power trip, police, threats. I loved it. When I flew alot and the SNAFUs would occur, I used to pass the time watching people melt down. I have run some fairly large operations in my career and have always found airlines to be the least fundamentally sound operations. Ever. They never fail to drop the ball when the pressure is on.

The ATL agent is in full defense/shutdown mode and just keeps telling the new folks showing up to go to the customer service counter to be rebooked. We go stand in line for a few minutes before the clerk behind the counter shouts "if you haven't tried using the phones on the wall to contact reservations, don't even bother coming to the counter".

The phone res. books us on the last flight out (only one with open seats for the next 4 flights), but also puts us on standby for the next flight. She was very good. Go to the counter for the standby flight and the agent, trying to be helpful, says let me see if I can find you a seat on a later flight. I tell her I already am and she says I can't be both on standby and booked. My wife looks at me and gets ready to start and I tell her to stop. I said, fine, I will keep the booked flight and go sit in the bar. I just refused to lose my temper while I'm on vacation. Their inconsistencies and incompetence were not going to ruin my day.

Had a nice 11:15 pm flight which meant we were in airports for 13 hours to complete 3 hours of flying. And, of course, our luggage wasn't there. No where to be found. I laughed. Went back the next morning and it was in front of another carriers' luggage office.

Typical.

And I am filled with dread.

countrynewsman
04-15-2009, 08:52 PM
Ah...just another typical day at ye olde airport. sigh.

Good luck on your commute. Let's hope you don't become a babbling idiot in about a month or two. :o

jimworcs
04-15-2009, 11:35 PM
The sad reality is that the airlines are trying to reduce the passenger expectations. They exploit their power and monopolies to abuse customers. We should not be surprised at this, because it was ever thus. All monopolies behave in this manner. The point that the airline employees fail to recognise is that the complaints on here are rarely about what actually went wrong. Planes will go tech, weather will disrupt schedules, etc... it is how the airlines respond that is at issue. I think you are adopting the right approach when dealing face to face with the airlines and their many (but not all) moronic employees, but behind the scenes please at least try to get your congressman/senator to support legislation to bring their monopolies into line.

seeker80
04-17-2009, 02:56 PM
Jim,

I admire your zeal, but I just feel like the situation is beyond repair. Airlines need to fail and the industry needs to get smaller. It needs to become more expensive to fly. Airlines must be able to conduct their business profitably. I have never seen an industry that continued to sell their product for less than their costs and decide they need to sell more of it because their competition does.

Madness.

And finances are not to be taken lightly in an industry where safety is critical. I used to fly NW when I flew to Hawaii/Japan and Korea. They were one of the first to
file Chapter 11. I used to think about how happy the mechanic was who worked on the 747 I was riding in while I was at 38k over Alaska. I then switched to United, but there was/is not place to run and hide. They are all the same. And you cannot run an airline like Greyhound. People can easily die when cargo doors aren't latched properly, maintenance is done improperly/not at all, de-icing is done improperly, etc..

I have 2 brothers who are in the industry. They both worked for carriers but now work in other segments. One was a station manager(regional carrier - folded), the other was in commercial sales(United - downsized twice). They were both stessed out adreline junkies who became defensive when I would regale them with my road warrior tales. They sounded the industry hacks on this site who some how always blame the customer. I don't know, I used to pay my money, follow the rules and yet continued to be screwed by the airlines. And it my fault?

And since I am related to a couple of guys who worked behind the scenes, I heard the stories about how people lied, ran away and hid when the pressure was on and avoided their contractual responsibility. My brother told me of having mulitple mechanical delays at the same time that extended beyond the deadline where compensation was due. His boss came over wringing his hands worried about passing out 500+ travel vouchers and my brother said, "don't worry, I'll take care of it". He worked the crowd, kept them informed, made jokes and saved his airline a sh#tload of money.

And do you know why the had multiple mechnicals? They had filed for bankruptcy and laid off the younger mechanics who had been doing the day-to-day maint. This forced the senior guys out of the hangers who had been doing heavy maint out onto the front line. He went down to their breakroom to get an update and found 8 guys enjoying their breaks. He says, "dudes, where do we stand?". Their response,"we'll get back to you".

LOL.

jimworcs
04-17-2009, 03:32 PM
We agree completely. They won't fail unless congress changes the law. Many European and Asian airlines are profitable, as is Southwest. The bloated, hub monopolist legacy carriers are badly managed, spend too much time trying to strip benefits and pay from their employees whilst hoarding vast sums of cash in bonuses and stock options for the few senior executives who can asset strip the most. When it all finally catches up with them, they run to Uncle Sam for help, get highly protectionist measures passed and hide under Chapter 11 to avoid their obligations. Unless they are re-regulated, nothing will change. The are the new robber barons and legislative change is the only way forward.

seeker80
04-17-2009, 03:54 PM
That is why I don't understand how the rank and file airline employee continue to consume the bs sandwich the industry continues to serve. My brother (the former station manager now doing govt charters) was with me in ATL. We had a mini family reunion in FT. Laurderdale. He had flown out of Miami but had the same missed connecting. I asked him as the gate agent/supervisor where threatening arrest to the gate crashers, "how much does a gate agent make?". He said, "Eight to ten bucks, part time".

I still can't believe it. Why would they even bother to defend an industry that puts them on the frontlines with nothing and pays them like sh#t?

I will never speak crossly to a gate agent. It ain't their fault.

jimworcs
04-17-2009, 06:46 PM
I agree that the pay and conditions of the gate agents is a disgrace and contributes significantly to the problem..however, some of them are power crazed loonies who take out their resentment and frustrations on the travelling public.. so I can' t say I would always be a saint, but it is never ok to abuse them.

exexpat
04-17-2009, 07:07 PM
Flying for pleasure? I remember Flying to a Vacation and it was a part of the experiance and a fun experiance. Wow! Have things really changed. Dread. I fly often because it is a part of my job and from going to the Airport to Passing Through Security to Crossing my Fingers at the Gate to see what is going to screw up - DREAD! Dread is that constant feeling. There is no pleasure in flying anymore and I don't think it is ever going to return.