Friday, June 24, 2011

Ain't Airline Travel Grand?

Well no, even if you are flying first class.  Back in the day, airlines rarely canceled flights, unless it was a real mechanical or weather issue.  But now all the airlines use cancellations as a tactical move.  Weather can always be blamed.  The weasel way out is that it does not have to be weather at the origin or destination.  All it takes is bad weather anywhere in the airline's system to blame your flight for delays and cancellations because they move planes around early and often.

My friend Ed Morrissey is having a lot of fun getting stuck in transit tonight, but hopefully will sleep in his own bed tonight.  So what to do when you plan one trip, but the airlines deliver you much less?

Basically, unless you are proactive, they will do nothing and I mean NOTHING.

First, if you are delayed more than 2 hours, ask the gate agent if they will issue a meal voucher.  The answer is usually hell no, unless you are an "Elite member" but it doesn't hurt to ask.  If the connecting flight is canceled, and the airline tells you anything other than "weather delays/cancellations" you have rights.  The airline is on the hook for at least giving you vouchers for lodging and meals, although. the lodging voucher might not be of much use if there are no rooms available for whatever reasons. Hold the airline's CSR's feet to the fire.  The squeaky wheel gets greased.

Ok, lets say you get stuck in Vienna connecting on a flight from Tel Aviv.  Dude!  Bonus.  Quit crying in your scotch and take the opportunity to enjoy one of the great places in Europe.  However, if you get stuck in Karachi, or Allentown, ok shed a few tears, but buck up and just go with the flow.  Be proactive and get as much from the airline as possible.

If you are an elite member of an airline's frequent flier program or a Club member, you may get a lot better treatment.  But it never hurts to make some noise.  I've made a career of making Northwest (now Delta) CSRs' lives miserable when I'm detained and they try to blow me off.  You don't have to be obnoxious, and that really is wrong way to approach them.  Be professional, know your rights under the conditions of contract, and be firm.  Don't raise your voice or be threatening at anytime, unless you want to meet Mr. Crotch Grabber.   Knowing what the airline owes you for failure to perform is paramount on you.  The airlines will offer as little as they can get away with.

Air travel is no fun anymore, but knowing what your rights under the law and conditions of contract, along with an assertive attitude when needed, can often help.

Bon Voyage.

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