It finally happened – one of my greatest traveling fears – I lost my wallet in a foreign country.
Maybe it was the sleep deprivation after more than 20 hours en route, maybe it was the chaos of wrestling with my squirmy 15-month-old, or maybe I’m just that absentminded, but I somehow managed to leave my wallet on the plane after a 14-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Beijing.
I realized it when we were at the baggage claim – far too late to turn around and go back to the gate. Before we left the airport, I contacted United’s baggage services, which had someone check around my seat on the plane for the wallet, without success. I also filed a claim with the airport’s lost and found. But I left the airport that day thinking it was gone forever. What a pain.
JetBlue Airbus A320. Image by Jeremy-Dwyer Lindgren
There are many stories out there about how experiences with airlines can be negative. Luckily that is not always the case and many times people can have a positive experience. Recently reader Russell Christensen had a positive experience with JetBlue and wanted to share. Here is his story in his own words:
Back in February I was traveling to Long Beach Airport (LGB) to attend my brother’s wedding via Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) on JetBlue. I was traveling with my wife, brother, and sister and we had a really early flight at 6:00am, but seeing how SLC is typically not the busiest airport I have been to, I figured that it would be ok to show up at 5:15am to check in and be to the gate right as we needed to board.
This idea was perpetuated by the fact that I had to drive from Idaho the night before and we didn’t get into Salt Lake till about 1:00am, so I wanted to sleep a little (which didn’t happen actually; I couldn’t fall asleep for the life of me). So, my wife, sister, and I drove to the airport and parked in the long term parking, thinking all was in order. We were making perfect time and were on track to get checked in and through security.
However, on the shuttle ride from the parking lot to the main terminal, my sister discovered that she had left her I.D. at the house we had spent the night at and a return drive that would take 30 minutes. Needless to say, if we returned for the I.D., we’d miss our flight. We decided that the best thing to do was to talk to the JetBlue ticketing agent to try and get booked on the next flight out (despite it throwing off our plans pretty severely) and hoping that we wouldn’t be charged a change fee.
Upon talking to the agent, she pleasantly told us that it was no big deal, that there are many people who forget their I.D. and that she thinks we should be able to get on the flight with no issue. Recognizing that we didn’t have a lot of time to get to the gate because we still had to deal with the TSA, she also made a note on our boarding passes that we could take the Business Priority Line through security. This made my day.
She proceeded to tell us that if we did miss the flight, to go back to her and she would simply book us on the next flight, no extra charge, yet another wonderful gesture on behalf of JetBlue. Her giving us access to the priority lane turned out to be a blessing because for 5:00am in SLC, the security line was enormous. I have flown out of SLC for years and have never seen security this long, ever.
My wife and I were able to get through security without an issue because we had our I.D.s, but my sister had to go through an intense screening where some office in D.C. was called and they asked her about personal info that only she would know (which is scary to know that the TSA has access to such private and intimate information).
Needless to say that we made it just in time to get to our gate and we made our flight to LGB. Were it not for such a flexible and hardworking ticketing agent who got us through the priority security line, we never would have made it in time. This reinforced my belief that when agents do their job–help passengers–the experience turns from nightmare to a wonderful experience.
Thank you JetBlue and SLC ticket agent from Feb. 16, 2012!
While the 36 passengers waited for their luggage, wrapped packages starting coming out, each with one of their names on it.
“People were very surprised. They were waiting for their luggage and when they saw the first gifts, they watched in disbelief. One of them found that each box was labeled in the name of a passenger and all began to make the distribution supported by our employees,” said Jonathan Trudeau, airport spokesperson.
The presents ended up being fleece blankets with “YQB” embroidered on them (the airport’s code). The flight was the first one of Christmas day and the airport wanted to celebrate with something a bit different.
Thanks to James Burke for pointing this story out to me. Note that the original story was in French and I used Google to translate — meaning the quote might not be spot on.
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.
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.