Delta Air Lines / Mesaba Bombardier CRJ-900.
It is time once again to share an #AirlineLove story. This one is from Jason Rabinowitz (aka @yankees368) who recently took a Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Here is his story in his own words:
You recently wrote about how many of the emails you get bitch about some bad experience with an airline, but don’t often read about good experiences. Well, I have a good one for you. The airline is Delta. I know, I know, very unexpected. Delta and I have a very checkered history over the last four years, so this was something I felt had to be shared.
I was booked on Delta Connection/Mesaba from DTW to JFK at noon Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Security at DTW had no wait and a lot of TSA personnel, very nice. Aircraft was a CRJ900, not the biggest, but not tiny. For whatever reason, Delta has really cut back on their DTW-JFK route, and they are down to three a day (two on a CRJ900 and one A319). I am very surprised that they did not add capacity due to the holiday, but I digress.
When I checked in at a kiosk, I was presented with the screen asking me if I would like to put my name on the volunteer list to be bumped. I agreed and proceeded to the gate. The gate agent eventually called me up and informed me that the flight was oversold by three passengers. I happily took the opportunity to get a $400 voucher and be moved to LaGuardia Airport (LGA), as there really wasn’t any space going to JFK. I even asked for a first class upgrade, which she happily agreed to.
Flash forward 15 minutes later at the gate and my seat assignment turns into 22C! Thats the last row on their A319. Hardly first class, but I am happy to be in a seat. I hopped on Twitter, asked @DeltaAssist what the deal was, and they apologized and gave me another $25 voucher. Now we are at $425 voucher credit + $6 meal voucher.
Just before our 12:10pm push back, air traffic control stops traffic at LGA until 1pm. Uh oh, I know how these 1 hour delays turn into 2 then 3 then 7, so I needed to act fast and get something to eat. I asked the flight attendant if the door was still open and if I could grab something to eat, and they said sure! However, when I went up the jet bridge, the gate attendant informed me that I could not deplane and re-board, as she plane would no longer be secure. She then offered to personally escort me to the food court right around the corner while I grabbed a snack, with a smile on her face the entire time! Wow.
The flight was bumpy but fast, and now I am at LGA instead of JFK. I figured I would take a shot in the dark and ask a Delta red coat if they would provide a coupon for a cab ride to JFK. A few smashes of the keyboard later, she prints out a voucher and tells me to wait for a car. Holy crap, the car they called was an all black Cadillac Escalade, all for me. Again, wow!
For whatever reason today, everyone at Delta went above and beyond what they needed to do, and made my day easy (and profitable). I first started flying Northwest Airlines (which merged with Delta) when I moved to Michigan in 2008, right when they probably gave up. For what its worth, things didn’t start to go downhill until the Delta name was slapped on the ticket. It once took me 3 days to get from DTW to JFK! Yowza. Now, this summer I got from Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport (LAN) to Yankee stadium in 4.5 hours. Delta has come a long way.
So, where should I go with my $425 voucher? (I say come to Seattle -David)
Virgin America First Class. Photo from Virgin America.
Meet Michael. He is a 59 year old real estate developer, builder, investor and consultant that lives in Santa Cruz, CA. I have never met Michael, but he recently emailed me sharing his recent experience with Virgin America. I loved his thoughts so much, I wanted to share them. Here is his Virgin America #AirlineLove experience in his own words:
So folks, here I am flying home on Virgin America from DC to San Francisco after three weeks of flying to Europe (around Europe) and back to the US in economy cattle coach. When booking this Virgin flight, I was given the opportunity to upgrade to First Class for two hundred dollars.
Lets see’¦. should I do this? It would mean no bag charge ($50.) No $80 for 2 inches of desperate extra leg room for the insulting “seat plus” option. No thirty dollars worth of marginal food and drink extras to avoid stumbling off the plane hypoglycemic. So maybe the net cost to me is $40 bucks. Should I do this? Hell yes!
So here I am sitting in First Class writing this email because frankly I’ve been abused for so long I can’t quite handle the experience. I’ve flown 1st class in the past but I think coach has gotten so much worst over the years that I’m in shock at the difference. Like many things these days, the flying public has forced the airlines to compete only on price leaving no room for a business model based on quality of experience. So why would anyone pay more for the experience of boarding first, deplaning first and sitting in front of the plane? I’m here to tell you.
TYPICAL COACH FLIGHT:
Subtitle: Trapped animal
Wait to shuffle onto the aircraft, stake out your crappy narrow no legroom seat, squirm, suffer and long for the hours to somehow go by more quickly, strategizing constantly about when to get up, use the bathroom, stretch your legs, etc. Consider drugs as an escape to the hours of hell. This is obviously a very abbreviated description of coach economy hell. No need to dwell further on the negative, we’ve all been there. Now mind you, Virgin offers an above average coach experience, nonetheless, it be coach.
Two Virgin America Airbus A320s at LAX. Photo by Ken Koller.
OKAY, VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS:
Board first, plenty of room in the overhead, First Class bathroom ratio 1 to 8. Nothing you didn’t already know so far but it’s a cumulative experience. (notice how I’ve elevated the words “First Class” to proper noun status” like “Gold Bar” or “Jennifer Lopez”). By the way, I skipped lunch today because I figured at a minimum I’d receive the airplane food free and be attended to like a human. Like I said before, I’ve been abused for so long, I didn’t know what to expect. To say the least, I underestimated the experience. Oh, and the security line is shorter as well.
I sit in my seat, it’s so wide Chris Christie times two would be comfortable. I stick my legs out straight as far as I can and I can’t touch the seat in from of me with my toes, in fact, I almost can’t reach the back of the seat magazine pouch with my hand, not that I need it cause I’ve got so much cleverly designed storage and room around me. I don’t have to share an armrest with the seat next to me, we each have our own. My seat mate is so far away, he looks like he’s across the aisle. The tray table is designed in such a way that I can get up from my seat with a meal, computer, (or whatever) still on it. Get this, I can step to the aisle from my window seat without disturbing my seat mate, no “excuse me” necessary and of course, the seats metamorphose into beds. I have not one, but three windows. No one is rushing to clamp on noise canceling headphones, it’s not that noisy up here. I don’t feel I can discover or take advantage of all the amenities offered in the time it takes to fly coast to coast.
ON THE FOOD:
“Would you like something to drink”?
She preemptively brings me two. Served within minutes of takeoff.
1st course is fresh tender Calamari, hearts of palm and tomato salad perfectly prepared in vinaigrette, (the tomatoes are ripe summer tomatoes bursting with flavor, I’m not kidding)! 2nd course is tender moist chicken in a fig sauce with vegetables, fresh figs, and actual fresh baked olive bread. “Can I have a 2nd piece of bread”? “Of course.” The veggies are firm, flavorful, perfectly cooked, not the usual microlimp we expect to work around while gagging down whatever we can marginally accept on the plastic-tray-excuse for a plate. Dessert is three wonderful little pastries in a row: Macadamia nut thingy, little chocolate mousse cup and little lemon bar, (fantastic)! I don’t usually even like lemon bars. Need a snack? Just ask for the fabulous snack tray. If you want your meal tray removed NOW, just ask.
Did I mention my drink is served in a real glass? I have a cloth linen napkin. I have actual metal stainless flatware which I thought was banned after 9/11, (The airlines are afraid you might slit your own throat after a coach meal). The salt and pepper shaker is a little mini airplane. I feel like a child flying for the first time. Everything is served “a la restaurant”, I don’t have to unwrap anything or feel as though I’ve been served a meal in a hospital bed. All the food is the correct temperature. The stewardess is not rushed or bitchy. Forget the service, just on the food alone, on a scale of one to ten, I would rate the meal a solid eight, perhaps nine.
It is a party all up in here. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Without me noticing, the flight is half over. I don’t feel any particular urgency for the flight to end, I really don’t care (a first)! Somehow the sound of crying children has been expunged. The PA system is the right volume and you can understand clearly. I’m so etherized I believe the turbulence feels milder up here. I can actually accomplish work in this environment.
Oh look, now the flight IS over, we’ve landed, who knew — and forty minutes early. No wonder we deplane first, the coach passengers won’t even be here for forty minutes. I might just pass on my privilege of deplaning first and linger a little longer, maybe they’ll bring a sedan chair and carry me to baggage claim, anything seems possible.
Like I said before, I’ve been abused for way too long.
There is a lot of airline hatred out there and one thing I try to do on this blog is remind folks that even though things can and will go wrong in the airline business, it is still made up of wonderful people who should not suffer because too many people feel the need to share negative stories versus postive. When I wrote a story on giving the airlines some love, I got emails from quite a few people sharing their positive stories. Instead of just enjoying themself, I wanted to share. This story comes from Robert who lives in Ontario, Canada. Here is his story in his own words:
Air Canada Boeing 777-300ER
We recently took a packaged vacation throughout Britain and Ireland. To get to London and home, we specified Air Canada flights 848 on September 16th and 849 on October 2nd respectively. Ostensibly these were requested for their departure and arrival times, allowing us the most practical time in London. But, honestly, I chose them to ensure we would ride on the Boeing 777-300ER equipment; 18.5-inch seats and 32-inch pitch ’“ more than the rest of the fleet.
Was everything perfect? No. It can never be, but those flights came close to being as good as possible.
Things started off with the check-in process at PIA, which to our delight, and using the self-serve kiosks, was almost effortless. Right after I figured out how to get the machines to read our passports that is; a bit better signage might be in order there.
Our air-venture progressed to the gate personnel who did their level best to actually load the aircraft by row number, politely but firmly turning folks away when they tried to barge through. Most of the ’œairport vultures’ were indeed held at bay. And this same effort happened at Heathrow inbound too.
Outbound, we backed out more or less on time and arrived within 10-minutes of sked. Inbound, Heathrow ground traffic raised its all-too-normal ugly head, and we were nearly an hour off the published pushback time ’“ not AC’s fault.
Both flights were packed to the gills. I expect that the captains were able to declare themselves as Air Canada ’œvery heavy’ to ATC during the departure processes.
On-board service, both ways, was totally contrary to, in our experience, the undeserved reputation of Air Canada staff. They were, to a person friendly, prompt, helpful and more-than-willing to assist.
Food was okay. Wine or other beverages were readily available. And the AVOD system worked all the way, both ways; including my favourite ’œwhere the heck are we’ channel. Would someone with some authority officially say thank you for us?
The guys at the front-end were informative, good humoured, and when those timing issues arose in London, honest and forthright. That, plus keeping a firm hand on 375-tons of thoroughbred aircraft to produce the rides we got, deserves a nice note from the higher-ups as well, we think.
The only complaint we have, and it really falls more into a firm request is, please, please enforce, manage, and have passengers observe the carry-on size and quantity rules. Right at check-in. Luckily the triple-sevens have relatively large overhead luggage bays; otherwise some of the extraneous nonsense being hauled into the cabins might have had to be bungee corded to the wings.
Lastly, we were almost an hour from deplaning to receiving our luggage. The GTAA folks really need to build in some staffing contingencies when through no fault by the airlines, planes arrive later than planned. Air Canada is big tenant there; they should feel free to exercise their rights as hub customers.
If you have a positive story about an airline, please send it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to share it on a future #AirlineLove story.
Photo by Patcard
United Airlines Boeing 757 and Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 at SFO.
If you read my blog often, you know I try to remind people of the positive side of the airline business (sometimes it is harder than others). Each year airlines receive A LOT of complaints. Some are well deserved, while others are from people who have a warped sense of what is right and wrong.
Occasionally an airline will receive a positive letter and possibly a story of one employee who truly went out of their way. Some might think that letters like these get lost in a sea of other letters, but trust me, they do not. When touring many airline operation centers, they have a special place where they show off the positive letters and cards that they receive. Unfortunately the area is not too large, since not too many are sent. Let’s change that…
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE – LET AIRLINES KNOW WHEN THEY ROCK!
Next time you are flying and someone goes out of their way or is obviously passionate about their job, take a few moments to jot down their name and email the airline. Be sure to mention the airport, your flight, their name and any other details. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to give some kudos. Not only will people at the airline love to hear it, but this could actually help the career of the employee.
Recently, I have experienced two such instances that I made sure to tell the airline about. The first was a United Airlines gate manager in Seattle. I was waiting to take a flight to Chicago and the early morning flight had been cancelled and my aircraft had been changed from an Airbus A320 to an A319 (smaller). This meant there were a lot of people and not enough seats. He did a great job of just being honest with people and keeping a sense of humor during the ordeal. Most people were smiling as the gentleman warmly welcomed them on the flight, even the people who didn’t make the flight seemed happy (they also for $400 on United).
The next was an Alaska Airlines gate agent in Los Angeles. I had a five hour layover and plenty of time to watch her keep her spirits up and welcome each passenger by name on each flight. She was also my gate agent and it is just nice to be welcomed by name on a plane even though I was flying economy.
If you are having difficulty finding who to send it to, it is okay to send it to me (email@example.com) and I will make sure it gets to the proper people. Heck, even if you send them to the airline directly, send it to me anyhow, I love hearing positive stories and I might even post a few. If you are a Twitter user, share your stories and use the hashtag #AirlineLove (what the heck does that mean?).
Airlines and employees have to deal with a lot of crap, let’s remind them that there are still people out there who love airlines and see flying as a great experience. The ball is now in your court!