Columns

Here’s A Story Of Airline Incompetence For The Ages

Here's A Story Of Airline Incompetence For The Ages

My story starts a month ago, Veterans Day 2016. Though I am normally reside in DC, I found myself down on the Gulf Coast for work for the last few months of the year. My girlfriend (we will call her Sara, not her real name), a Navy Doctor stationed at Bethesda Navy Medical Center, had a few days off and decided to fly down to visit me. She booked a round trip ticket to fly down and back from DCA to Mobile, Alabama, the closest airport to me. While I won’t mention which airline, an astute reader should be able to figure it out.

Friday November 11th, my girlfriend finds herself on the first metro train to the airport. She checks in early to her flight, just to find out that the plane is undergoing unplanned maintenance, and there will be a 30 minute delay. 30 minutes turns into 45 minutes, which turns into an hour, which finally turns into a total cancellation of the flight. Worried about missing her connection in Charlotte, my girlfriend rushes up to the counter and somehow convinces the overwhelmed worker to get her on any flight down to the gulf coast. She somehow snags a direct flight to New Orleans, arriving just before noon. Yeah, I have to drive about 200 extra miles to pick her up, but I figure “hey, at least she got down okay.” Jump ahead to Sunday afternoon. As I pull into Mobile Regional Airport to drop her off, I jokingly say “Wouldn’t it suck if they cancel this flight too?” Laughs all around, she gets out of the car and heads off into the terminal. Twenty minutes later, my phone lights up in the passenger seat of my rental car, where I had casually thrown it. The joke had turned into reality.

Apparently, while trying to get Sara on the flight to New Orleans, the agent had canceled her return ticket. Having to be at work in a few hours, I was unable to do anything except listen to her argue with the ticket agent at the Mobile airport. Forced with the prospect of sleeping at the airport, Sara agreed to stay at a cheap hotel nearby, as well as accept a $100 airlines voucher. She had to sign a wavier saying she wasn’t entitled to any more compensation. She boarded the red eye out of Mobile the next day, missed a day of work, and had to talk her way out of being punished by way of consuming 4 leave days. For those who wouldn’t know, military leave doesn’t work like civilian vacation days. Have a three day weekend coming up that would look better as a 5 day weekend? Go for it, you will just have to use 5 days of Leave. You can normally apply for a 72 hour pass, anything more and you have to take leave, for the whole time.

A week later, she finds out she has another three day weekend in early December, so we set out to get plane tickets. Since our last adventure with the Airlines, I had written them a letter on Sara’s behalf, berating, begging, and cursing them for their incompetence and bullying. “Something something is this how you treat active duty military on veterans day?” We asked for a full refund, they kicked us another voucher worth $200. Mind you, this all had to be done via snail mail and email. This top tier company does not publish a customer service/complaint phone number. I wonder why…

In order to use the voucher, we had to call in, make a reservation, and then snail mail (or go to the airport at least 4 hours before the flight) to apply the voucher… because this is the 1970s. She calls in and snags a $340 round trip ticket. They tell her they won’t send her ticket info (beyond the reservation number) until the vouchers are applied. Due to a lack of free time (see: doctor), she decides that she will make the drive out to the airport the day before her flight to hand in the vouchers.

After waiting 45 minutes to speak to a ticketing agent, she approaches the front desk and gives the apparently computer-illiterate agent her reservation number. After 5 minutes of pigeon pecking the keyboard, the agent turns to Sara and says “Great, all set, that will be $570.” Confused and quickly getting angry, my girlfriend asks what happened to the $340 ticket she had reserved. “Oh, well it appears that they didn’t lock in the price, just reserved your seat.” A conversation ensued that I cannot print, but it was during this time that my girlfriend finds out that she cannot use both of her vouchers, since “one is an e-voucher, you have to use it online.” Growing angry, and left with no other option, my girlfriend agrees to the $370 ticket.

While driving back home from the airport, my girlfriend calls to vent. “Thankfully they got me on the morning flight down to see you,” she says, desperately trying to salvage some good out of her terribly afternoon. Half paying attention, I ask her when her return flight is, as there is a 7 a.m. as well as a 7pm flight. Less than assuredly, Sara responds with “Uh, 7 p.m. I think…” She quickly hangs up, and about 45 minutes later, I get a call back. First thing out of her mouth is “THEY DIDN’T BOOK MY RETURN FLIGHT!”

Last I heard from her, she is taking off from Charlotte, delayed, no less, because they overfilled the plane with an extra 4000lbs worth of aviation fuel. At least I know they won’t run out of gas and crash.

Image via Shutterstock

Email this to a friend

Sailortut

DC Born, Maryland Raised. Vagabond living

21 Comments You must log in to comment, or create an account

Show Comments

For More Photos and Content

Latest podcasts

Download Our App

Take PGP with you. Get

New Stories

Load More