Monday, April 21, 2008

Speaking of Airlines...

This seems too rich a vein to leave just yet... With (insert name of any major airline) canceling (insert ungodly number of) flights every day, there are plenty of people gathering first-hand experience of an airline's "service profile" right now.

Here's one from the vault. It's a little number I like to call... "Treat your customers like POW's: Keep them cold, in the dark and on the floor."

In 2006, I was scheduled to fly out of Dulles on JetBlue, along with two co-workers, on a 9pm flight to Oakland, CA. When we got to the airport approximately one hour before the flight, we could see that the flight was delayed by about an hour, due to weather delays in the northeast. No problem, we could manage an extra hour in Dulles. They have bars.

10 pm rolls around, and I'm no aeronautical genius, but the total lack of a giant blue thing with wings outside our gate suggested that we were not about to begin pre-boarding. Finally, a new estimate: 11:30 departure. One of the gate attendants announces over the loudspeaker that the pilot missed his connection and would be on the next flight out. Hence the additional delay.

11:30. Still no plane, and no further updates from JetBlue's gate attendants, who were beginning to get that "last sentries at the Saigon embassy" look in their eyes. A crowd of restless business commuters begin to close in on the check-in desk, holding briefcases, cups of coffee, crying babies... basically anything that could be used as a weapon.

Midnight. Up steps the more senior looking gate attendant. He announces that there in fact will be no plane. There never was a plane. Or rather, there never was a pilot. Or rather, there was a pilot, but never any practical way to get him from JFK to Dulles. JetBlue didn't want to announce (admit) it until they were sure. Also, as it turns out, until it was late enough that there was no way to make alternate travel plans.

Thank you for choosing JetBlue!

Our Plan B was genius:
  1. Call Southwest airlines (you know I love to do that) and
  2. Buy three tickets to From BWI to OAK (by way of Kansas City), departing Baltimore in 8 hours.
  3. Take a $125 taxi ride to BWI, and spend the night on the floor.
Note: There are no comfortable seats, much less couches, in the outer terminal of BWI, and they close the inner terminal, where the gates and comfy seats are, during the wee hours. My stalwart companions and I spent an uncomfortable but not altogether unpleasant night on a patch of carpet behind an elevator. (Believe it or not, we actually got looks of jealousy from other, less well situated refugees.) We passed the time reminiscing about pre-Bush America and watching Apocolypse Now (seemed appropriate) on my portable DVD player.

Good times.

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