For the record, I feel that Alaska pulls out the red carpet for most passengers.

For the record, I feel that Alaska pulls out the red carpet for most passengers. Heck. This red carpet is for a fish — imagine what they do for people.

I have not really gone on a rant in a while and I think it might be time. My apologies for those of you who might not be rant-fans, but this is happening.

Part of running this website means I get quite a few emails, Tweets and stories on how people had the worst experience ever flying on an airline. I feel it is a duty for me to read every story to see if there is any merit. Out of the hundreds of “horror” stories I have received, a handful (at best) have had any merit. Anyhow, I decided a recent outburst on an airline was a good time to share some thoughts I have on passengers overreacting and customer service in general.

My semi-apologies to @rexfox for being my real-life example on this story. His experience and actions are an amalgamation of hundreds that I have seen, he just gets to be the lucky one that I use. Do I feel bad calling him out? Not really. I mean almost all these angry passengers are asking me to write a story on their issues, to “spread the word of mistreatment.”

Probably not exactly in the way he wanted, but oh well. He publicly ranted on an airline, pulled me into his rant, so it is fair game for me to use. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines also gets dragged into this mess, but I think this could be any airline.

Okay, let’s start this… I first “met” @rexfox after he replied to a Tweet, where I let my followers know about Alaska Airlines posting their college internships.

NOTE: Some of the language that he uses isn’t the best. I figure most of us are adults here (if you can’t handle it, stop reading please).

twitter1

Okay, this is not that bad. But I had time on my hands and was curious why he would take the time to message the airline and me to let us know about his mistreatment. I went to his Twitter account and next found this.

AS2

Hmm. Not as nice sounding as my Tweet, he seems to be a bit angrier with @theflyingpinto than he was with me. I can promise you that actually being an “asshole” is something that Alaska is NOT looking for in new employees. I can also say, that if you want a legitimate response from an airline, do not use cuss words. I decided to keep reading.

AS3

First off (I had to look this up), but the Kenai seems to still have fish. Secondly, threatening one airline by saying you will fly another is quite overused and doesn’t really work. You know how many times airlines hear, “I will never fly you again?” Don’t get me wrong, an airline should want to try to keep your business, but passengers threaten this all the time, so it makes no impact. My advice is to stick with the problems you experienced and see if the airline can resolve them. If they can’t, show them with your pocket book and actually never fly them again.

BONUS: The five stages passengers go through when flying ultra low-cost carriers

Sometimes throwing out that you are an elite mileage member can be helpful, but others it can backfire. The first thing is do not lie. If you say you are some uber golden child member and the airline looks you up and lied, you hurt your case. Yes, airlines have more invested in those that fly often, but no company wants any of their customers to be treated poorly — so just own your status (no matter if you have none).

They also will know that if you have a bazillion miles with the carrier, you aren’t going to start flying a new airline at the drop of a hat. You have worked way too hard getting those miles just to throw them away. Because of these reasons, I normally suggest keeping your status on the down low — at least for now.

I digress. @rexfox never states he is an elite member of Alaska’s mileage program, but does hint that he has a miles credit card.  I have to give him props (pun intended) for not trying to throw status around.

One of the most amusing parts of his rant is he makes it seem like he is leaving Alaska for American, but only a bit earlier, he threw them under the (air) bus:

AS4

This Tweet is amusing for a few reasons. First off, he just said that he was moving to American, but now is saying to boycott the airline? Also, he went back to April 2012 to make a comment on this Tweet? That is dedication to show off your anger for an airline.

He spent quite a bit of time trying to prove his point. In a matter of less than four hours, @rexfox Tweeted 24 times about being angry at Alaska Airlines. Many of them were just Re-Tweeting  negative stories on the airline.

BONUS RANT: Breaking News: OMG, Flight Delayed One Hour – Thoughts on the Airline Hate Mail I Receive

I guess the point he was proving was that he was angry — quite angry, but I still did not know why. I was starting to think that maybe this guy actually had something that was so horrid to warrant this response. I kept on scrolling… ah, here we go:

AS5

The F-word. Nothing says, “please give me a legitimate customer service response,” like dropping the F-bomb. With my experience in customer service, even if you have a legitimate complaint/request, it is all over when that word starts to be used.

See, even I got distracted about his initial complaint because of his language. Let’s take a look at his actual complaint, which could be legitimate. Do not mind the grammar, that is just since it was on Twitter, let me try to sum it up:

He has flown 3 times around the world (which is 300,000 miles I guess) with this bag and never been hassled before. Then an employee (I am guessing gate agent) in Vegas explained that his bag was too large and even though he requested she measure it, she refused. Did I get that right? I am guessing it resulted in him having to gate check his bag, which normally Alaska will not charge in those situations.

I can see this being frustrating. I have had this happen to me before as well. I also realize that Alaska operates the 737NG with larger overhead bins and the older 737-400 with smaller bins. I know my bag will not fit in the -400, but will on the NG. I am sure most passengers do not realize it and not really sure how well the airline communicates that to passengers.

Even giving @rexfox the benefit of the doubt and Alaska was rude and forced him to check his bag with no explanation, does all that warrant his reaction? (I am also going to take a wild guess that based on his Twitter rant made after he cooled down, he probably did not treat the Alaska employee with much respect).

You had to check your bag? Sucky. Did you still fly half way across the world in less than a day? Yea...

You had to check your bag? Sucky. Did you still fly half way across the world in less than a day? Yea…

Maybe he just needed to rant to feel better. But then why bring in the employee’s name (which I removed, since she was doing her job). With his initial complaint, along with flight and name details, I would be willing to bet he would have received some reply from Alaska. I am sure they want their gate agents to be able to explain that this particular airplane has smaller overhead bins than others that they fly and that is why his bag needs to be checked.

I have found that Alaska is quite responsive to upset customers, but after his rant, no good pubic relations or customer service representative is going to mess with his situation.

The lesson here is simmer down and put things in perspective. Is being told that your bag is too big and forced to check it annoying? Sure. Is it worth getting this angry and spending four hours letting people know how horrible you think an airline is? Probably not. Will Alaska change their bag policy? Doubtful. Will he actually change what airline he ever flies because of this? No. If you have a legitimate complaint, let the airline know (in a calm manner) either via social media or email. I promise you that almost all airlines read every letter and passenger feedback (good or bad) that can change an airline’s policy.

What do you think? Am I being too hard or soft on this guy? What advice do you have for interacting with an airline when you have a complaint? Leave those thoughts in the comments.

This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

http://www.airlinereporter.com
We Will Miss You Brian: Southwest Boeing 737-200 and AMC Pacers
28 Comments

I am one of those high-mileage types that you may have been referring to. I hear people like this bitching and moaning several times a month. I will never fly this (bleeping) airline again. They suck, they’re awful, blah blah blah. Doesn’t matter what airline. I’ve heard it on every airline.

This guy is a case study in how NOT to get what you want from an airline. Cursing, screaming (even on twitter), or being verbally abusive to employees with not get you anywhere. They will dig in their heels. Trust me.

If you want the airline to do something, write them a private letter, and politely but firmly describe what happened and what your preferred recompense is. Be polite! If you are an ass, do you think that will help your case? Uhhhh…no.

Understand the airline’s rules, and why they are the way they are. Understand what they can and cannot fix. They can’t fix weather. If you are stuck in Baltimore today because of the snowstorm, don’t yell at Southwest. Don’t yell at them if they can’t get you out of there until Saturday. They don’t hold open seats on other flights in case it snows. Don’t yell at American if their flight to Dallas is late because there is lightning on the field.

Don’t yell at the gate agent because your bag is too big and they want you to check it. They have rules – follow them.

Airlines screw up, and sometimes their people don’t care. When that happens, and it has to me, then take action. But in the immortal words of Patrick Swayze in Road House…be nice! Be nice until it is time to not be nice.

RTD8450

David:

‘Bout time SOMEONE called out those “me first” folks who believe, not just think the rules – airline, courtesy, simple human dignity – do not apply to them. Many thanks for this column. Let’s HOPE it gets reposted in a LOT of places. Cheers from the Nearly North, hard by Georgian Bay, Ontario.

If you go through the history of his twitter feed (all 25 posts), there are 0 positive posts.

By my count…

Alaska: 21 of 25
American: 3
Green Bay Packers: 1

You are right on the money with this. I was once behind a guy who literally yelled at the customer service agent (Delta Airlines) because he missed a connecting flight – bad weather had blown through CVG which completely blew up the flight schedules (I had missed my connection as well). She could get the guy into BWI that night, but he insisted a flight to Washington National (no more flights that night). Take the stupid BWI flight and then catch the train into DC…not that tough. He blew up when she could not provide an airplane for him – and he lost it when she explained Delta did not have to provide a hotel for a weather issue (plus she gave him a perfectly good alternative…he didn’t deserve a hotel).

The first thing I did was smile and ask her if she really loved her job right now. I then told her I understood the deal about weather delays and asked her what my options were to get to Reno. She booked me on a flight to Salt Lake and a connection to Reno the following morning. I figured I would ask about the upgrade list and she pointed out my original fare was not upgradeable…I simple smiled and said “I had to at least try.” No big deal…a few key strokes later and my fare code was changed and I was told first class was wide open. I walked away with certificates for dinner, a first class upgrade and Delta put me up in a hotel in Salt Lake and provided a breakfast voucher. None of that was needed, plus I was only Silver Medallion…I can see that for Platinums.

Yup, that guy being the total jerk made my trip much nicer…and hopefully that customer service agent felt a little better too.

They say you catch more flies with honey. Yep, it’s a total cliche, but as Pat explains above, it’s often very true. People like @rexfox don’t deserve good customer service, because they will treat employees poorly no matter what.
The correct way to handle this would have been to express mild disappointment to @AlaskaAir on Twitter, then follow up with a private letter or email to the customer service team further detailing the situation.

For future reference, ways to not get taken seriously by customer service staff:
1. Drop the F-bomb
2. Create a hashtag called #Alaskasux
3. Mindlessly rant about said airline to various other Twitter accounts

Following these three steps will surely only garner you a surly follow-up, and the next F/A might spit in your food as well.

Good for you,David! Seems to me like RexFox is a douchebag with a mission to get something for free when he has the chance; kind of like the Walmart shopper who uses the toaster for weekend company and returns it on a Monday!

Translation: “WAAAAAAAAAH!!! WAAAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAAAH!!!!”. What a big baby. He should try Allegiant.

Bethany

Life must be really hard for Rex. I mean, it must be so gosh darn awful to have to check your bag like everyone else when flying. Perhaps he should investigate alternative means of transportation. I’ve been told trains can be fun if you like the scenic route, but since he seems to be fixated on needing to have his personal belongings with him at all times, perhaps he should begin directing his future travel inquiries to Greyhound.

JC Whatheheck

I have found that there are people out there that are just big whiners…..about everything. Ever look at the reviews online for the hotels you stay in or the restaurants you dine at or the airlines you travel on ? No matter how good and decent your stay/meal/travel is, there always seem to be the people that whine about everything. They just seem to look for the negative side of everything. Sometimes I wonder if these people are living on the same planet.

Look at me, am I whining about the whiners !! Enough of that 🙂

Of course, there are really lousy places to stay and eat and sometimes crummy customer service at the airlines but I really try to look at the positive side of things and treat people as decently as possible. It is amazing what people will do for you and the “extras” that come from being nice. The result, I generally have a better experience than the whiner crowd. Life is really what you make it.

While I agree that his attitude is terrible and likely he was hostile, it is possible that the gate agent was also in super-strict mode. I travel all the time with a violin, and every once in a while a gate agent will ask me to check it. I explain that it’s worth a massive amount of money, and very fragile, and usually all is well…

Agreed. I have seen gate agents who are not the nicest people in the world. It is possible that the agent was rude and did not explain the reason rexfox had to check his bag. But even if the gate agent was calling him names and stole his wallet, ranting and cussing to Alaska will not get you the best response.

David

I am a frequent flyer, and have also heard all the complaints from the complainers. I have flown over 500K miles, and have had but a few relatively minor “incidents”. Having a positive and relaxed attitude, along with being polite and understanding of the airline employee’s obligations to their employer goes a LONG ways.

I have long felt that the primary problem for many people is that because they have paid a large chunk of their hard-earned money, they feel entitled to being treated exceptionally well in epic comfort. People don’t seem to realize that airplanes are just buses in the sky, and most of their fare goes to just paying for the fuel to move their sorry butts from A to B.

It sure beats riding a road bus. Or riding a donkey. Or wagon train. Or crossing the ocean for 10 days on a rolling steamer. Keep it real complainers, be thankful you live in an era where you can cross continents and oceans in mere hours for a cost that is vastly more affordable to more people than ever before in history.

“…most of their fare goes to just paying for the fuel to move their sorry butts from A to B”

I am so using that statement in the future 🙂

David

clearly this guy has issues, I’m just hoping not to sit next to him on my next flight

We understand when your flight has to be rebooked that you’re upset and we also understand that after breaking a few airline policy’s and then finally being put straight you’re upset. But like Alex said stop acting like an ignorant child that agent you are putting your tantrum at is a PERSON. We try our best with the situation we really do. But don’t ever try to scare or impress your stature over an agent, because I’m a person and if you threaten me, my management will support MY decision. Including if I have to tell you to step back and calm down … Which I had to tell a man who was trying to use his physical presence to intimidate and frighten me. You don’t see me ranting about him to all the other customers in line.
Stuff happens get over it. Watch the news and realize there are worse things out there than having your travel plans delayed.

Rose…Rose…Rose…your English teacher failed you!

The plural of “airline policy” is “airline policies”. Not “policy’s”. An apostrophe does NOT indicate plural! Who is teaching people this?

Sorry…just a pet peeve that is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Back to your regularly scheduled comments.

John, John, John, your English teacher failed you!

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/ellipsis.htm

I…plead…guilty…as…charged. 🙂

I love Alaska Air. Great airline, one of my favorites. I laughed my pants off that he is switching to American for better customer service. I thought that was a joke. What a jokster. Joke will be on him, good luck with that!

As a 30 year veteran flight attendant with Alaska Airlines, on the average of once a year, I get a customer, like this. I usually make time for he or she to explain to me why they’re so unhappy, usually behind my f/c galley curtain. Sometimes I can turn them around, attitude-wise, just by listening. I have received many awards for my “Gold” service and really do care about the service given to my customers. Infrequently, though, nothing I can do or say, makes any positive impact.

I had to laugh too; this gentleman -this passenger -I’ve dealt with this kind before -I worked as a gate agent (CSA) for Alaska Air for 24 years and trust me its more like Pat B’s experience than rexfox. I would never reward bad behavior!
I prided myself on good service as well as keeping in mind safety. Bins are part of safety as well.
Who wants a broken bin and a delay? Which I have witnessed a pax trying to stuff a bag into a overhead bin because the pax had taken it on the flight before and it fit the??!
Oh the stories I could tell….

I am a FA with Alaska and I try to manage these problems with a smile. As that man with the huge bag enters……he says “oh it fit on all the other flights”…..”oh I know it will fit”……OK I say, give it a try! As he is heading to the over head bin, I say “just remember if the bin breaks we won’t be flying on this plane today!” SMILE (wink) Peer pressure works every time! Then he has to bring the bag alllllll the way back to the door and it finally gets checked. Peer pressure again, as everyone is staring as he makes his way forward. That has been my experience. Then I head back to his seat sometime during the flight and explain the size of the NG verses the 400 or 700 bins. All done with a smile on my face and a little kindness. That is the best that I can do. Sometimes it works! 😉

Erik Nordheim

He was probably trying to haul his grande bag on to a Q400. I realize it wasn’t based on the 3-digit flight number, but hat was my first thought.

If you thought Delta Airlines management was half baked here is more evidence. Maybe all the evidence needed to prove the case. This week Delta posted a job opening bid at the Minneapolis- St. Paul Airport (MSP) for someone who could drive a Porsche. Why does Delta need a sports car driver? The plan is to ferry platinum and diamond members of SkyMiles (Delta’s frequent flyer program) from arrival gate to departing gate when the connection is tight. It isn’t clear why Delta thinks it cannot do this with electric carts inside the terminal. Apparently someone at Delta has their heart set on further cluttering up the tarmac with more non-essential traffic. Where is the FAA and the MSP Airport Commission when we need them?

Hey everyone, this is @rexfox. Reading all your replies is crazy funny. Especially the reflections on what I should have done to do this right. Everyone seems to be an expert on how to do it “right”. Well if life we that simple, but its not. Its as they say complicated with all sorts of context that you have no idea what really went on unless you were there. The simple fact is that I got angry and used social media to express that feeling. Sorry if it was to X rated for your taste, but hey there is the delete button.

Many of the comments above are misguided in that you assume the bag was too big. It is not. Its been on plenty of flights on big planes, little planes, tiny little bins. So before you get all “its that guy” on me, realize this bag is regulation, and only have I been questioned before was on Alaska. But that time it was measured and I was vindicated, and they were polite about it. (and I was fine with it)

In this case the gate agent was rude. The plane was half empty, and most of the time I am the guy first in line when they offer to check bags for early boarding. So it was not about checking or not checking the bag, it was about the attitude that the agent displayed. The tone of her voice and the arrogance in her language. I never raised my tone with her, I asked simple questions and she acted like I was “that guy”. I assure you that bag was legal, so this set me off. So I ranted like what 24 times in 2 hours? Realize that all of those “rants” were sent from the flight, thank you in flight wireless.

Regarding my choice in Airlines, I have been an elite on American for years. I was trying to get there last year on Alaska, but came up 500 miles short so that pissed me off. I signed up for a credit card thinking I would get 25K miles, I got 5K miles. I don’t know if its just me but also seems like the seating is tighter than before. Needless to say, I am not a fan of Alaska anymore, I used to be, but not anymore, and I probably have one more flight with them to use up my 50K in miles I accumulated over this year and half.

My posts while vulgar, upsetting, were intended to evoke response. So success on that metric! Thank you for reposting on your blog, I could not hope for more exposure than this! 🙂 Awesome! And that tradition continues today, when I hear the words Alaska, I tell my story. Free advertising. When your on social media you can use these opportunities for good, or hope it fades away. Alaska seems out of touch with how to leverage social media….but I digress.

At the time I did not get in the face of anyone, I stated my points several times, and finally let it go and got on the plane. You see the airlines have the power, and basically I had a choice, stay in Vegas another night, or get on that plane and keep my mouth shut and take it out on everyone down the line, including online. The channel exists so don’t blame me for using it even if you don’t agree with the content.

The best way to get something for this, is to get off the plan at the destination, and find the supervisor at baggage claim and issue a complaint right there. I got 3K miles on the spot. Follow-up with an email to Alaska. They noted the 3K and gave me another 50$ voucher. So you see, crazy like a fox! Even though its not a case of better late than never. Your advice to use social media to get action with Alaska is way off the mark. Did it feel good to rant! Yeah! I did feel a bit guilty after talking to the supervisor who was super cool, but given the entire story I have decided to go out of my way to not fly them again. Will I fly them again, yeah probably sometime I will be stuck doing that, but then again, next time Ill be ready for the employees with my new smartphone video. Nothing tells a story like a good tweet to with a link to youtube. I learned its okay to rant, and cuss, because some reporter might just notice and make everyone aware of how awesome you are. Thank you David!

And to all you haters out there calling me names and building your perception based on this reporter’s story is a sign of herd mentality and broad generalizations that get us all into trouble, so while your free to rant, you should learn that unless you have all the facts, you are in fact an idiot commenting on facts pulled together to make a point, that you have no real context. Also sorry for my bad English, I don’t have a spell/grammar checker so I must be an idiot.

Cheers!

REXFOX!

Man oh man, I am glad you found this and commented (and seemingly able to take this with a bit of sense of humor).

I am curious how you found the post… and it is good to get your side of the story.

David

Loyd Enochs

“I know my bag will not fit in the -400, but will on the NG. I am sure most passengers do not realize it and not really sure how well the airline communicates that to passengers.”

David, Delta seems to use the same “does your bag fit in here?” display at every gate which helps not a bit 🙂 I’ve never heard an announcement on a mainline flight about smaller than normal overhead bins. Also, I’ve only rarely (1 in 5 or so flights?) heard a gate agent mention that the aircraft is an RJ and the overhead bins are smaller than on mainline types. (And every trip I fly begins or ends in a RJ to get to my home drome.)

The good news is that since I’m a 100k+ frequent flier, I already know the bins are small and pack accordingly. The bad news is the gate agents and TSA folks at my home airport know me by name :).

Being known by name can be a good thing though — as long as you behave yourself!

I have actually been told by Alaska that my bag would not fit, even though they had a “does you bag fit in here” bin where it did fit. I knew it was because it was a -400, so no biggie, but the agent didn’t explain.

Explanation or not, doesn’t give passengers the right go crazy. I am sure with all your flying experience you have found a smile goes much further in not only better treatment, but also a lower blood pressure.

David

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