I get it now! I understand why the airlines are going broke. It has nothing to do with gas prices – okay, they do play a part. But it has more to do with poor management and 19th century planning in the 21st century.
You might wonder how I came to this conclusion. Relax – I’ll fill you in. It has to do with a vacation we have planned in October. We’re leaving from T F Greene Airport near Providence, RI and our ultimate destination is Denver, CO. There are no longer any non-stops so we go for as few changes as possible. In this case, our itinerary will be Providence, RI to Cincinnati, OH to Denver, CO (reverse order on the way home, of course).
My husband plans our trips well ahead of leaving because he’s found it’s usually less expensive that way. Now that we’re dealing with Delta Airlines in this day of diminishing airline satisfaction, I’m not certain he’s happy about that. Oh, it’s definitely been cost effective in dollars. But I think the cost in aggravation and stress should be factored in as well!
Here’s a synopsis of our adventures with Delta so far (it’s only August 3 – we travel October 3 – 13!):
June 6, 2008: Flights were booked online and seats for all legs were selected – no problem.
June 19, 2008: Flight numbers were changed on the Providence to Cincinnati leg in both directions – JUST THE FLIGHT NUMBERS, NO TIME CHANGES. When they make ANY change in ANY part of your itinerary, even simply the flight number, they lock you out of the ability to view the seating on the flight or make any changes in your seat choice.
When this blocking occurs, you have to call the DELTA customer service line so that they can “re-validate” the itinerary for you. This allows you to gain access to the seating plan once again. Fortunately, my husband has become a veteran of this warped system and knows what information he needs to have available to accomplish the task with as little hassle as possible.
When he “re-validated” this time, there were no changes to the seats because the only change was the flight number (why the number was changed in the first place is a question for someone else!). Wait – it gets better . . .
June 26, 2008: Another itinerary change – this time because of a 2 MINUTE change in the arrival and departure times on the last leg of each direction (Cin to Den, Cin to Prov). You read that right – 2 MINUTES!!!
Another call to Delta customer service made to “re-validate” the itinerary. Again, since only the time of the flight changed, there were no seat assignment changes.
You may wonder why I’m so stuck on the seat assignments. As some of you know, I have fibromyalgia. Traveling when you have fibromyalgia is very tiring and often stressful. Stress exacerbates fibromyalgiaand often causes flare-ups of severe pain – just what you don’t need on vacation. So my husband has learned the value of choosing seats with my needs in mind: an aisle seat so I can stretch a bit more if needed; a seat near the front of the plane (can’t afford 1st class) so that there’s less standing and waiting, especially to get off the plane. Things that may seem unimportant to some, but are very important to my well-being.
August 2, 2008: Locked out again! My husband called Delta customer service again. This time there was an “EQUIPMENT CHANGE.” In this case, they changed the type of planes being used for the flights on 2 legs each way. When you change the type of plane, guess what happens! That’s right – the dreaded SEAT ASSIGNMENT CHANGE!!
There is no obvious rhyme or reason to where you get placed, except that it seems to us (who book early) that they take the reservations in chronological order and start filling the seats from the rear to the front. We gets tossed into the last rows, instead of the seats nearer the front which we prefer, even though there are seats in the front available.
My husband got our itinerary “re-validated” again. Since he was onlineat the same time he was speaking with the customer service rep, he asked for the seats to be changed once he had re-validated and could see we were in Row 30-something instead of Row 15. The rep said the seats we originally had were not available on this “new” plane but got us what she said was the “best” available given my needs – Row 25 on one leg, Row 19 on the other.
Now that my husband had “re-validated,” he could work with the seating online. So he looked at the seating charts and saw numerous open seats in the area we wanted. So he tried to change our seats. It wouldn’t work.
My husband called back Delta customer service. After some explanation of my needs and their issues, she was able to move the Row 19 up to Row 14, which is about where we started out. But she couldn’t make the change on the other plane. After some more discussion, it was implied that the seat changes were locked because there was another “equipment change” likely in the next week. Why bother changing all the seats if they’re just going to have to do it again next week? So when that change gets made, my husband will have to call again to change those seats.
August 3, 2008: My husband, being the detail-oriented person that he is, went online this morning and decided to check the flight itinerary. No changes so far. He decided to see if he could change those last seats (Row 25) this morning, just for fun. Sure enough, he changed the seat assignments to Row 19 – we’re making progress.
That’s 4 changes in about 60 days! 4 phone calls to customer service. 4 incidents of absolute stupidity – changing seats arbitrarily, locking you out of online seating due to the change of a flight number or 2 minute change. I really don’t care what number my flight has! And 2 minutes is meaningless in the whole process of trying to get through the airport and to the gate.
So much has been said about air travel these days – cancelled flights, delayed departures, late arrivals, lost baggage, charges for checking bags, charging for snacks or eliminating them, etc, etc, etc. Some of those problems are actually understandable. It is a business, after all, and this isn’t a perfect world.
But this business of changing itineraries for flight number changes or changes of as little as 1 minute in arrival or departure estimates is crazy. It has to be an unnecessary cost in terms of customer service as well as public relations. I pity the folks who are inexperienced with the airlines – they buy their tickets, pick their seats and figure that’s the way it will be when they get to the airport. Probably not.
If anyone can explain the need to do all this changing for 1 minute or for a number change, I’d love to hear it. If anyone can explain the need to change the type of plane so often so far ahead of time, I’d love to hear it. If anyone can tell me why all this has to occur months before an actual flight – God bless you. You must also understand Hawking’s writings.
Me? I’m going to thank God for my husband!