cruisin’ for a bruisin’…in the not-so-friendly skies

Nowadays, airline passengers are fighting mad at being sandwiched into their seats like rows of sardines.

What can a passenger do, short of punching out an annoying fellow passenger?

My suggestion?

Zone out!!!

“Zoning out” during a 5 hour or more flight isn’t for novices.

I try to sleep…or pretend to sleep. Makes the flight go faster if I’m not awake to count the seconds, minutes, hours.

Helps me assume…rigor mortis! Or an approximation thereof.

I see nothing. I hear nothing. I speak nothing. I’m wholly intent on getting from Point A to Point B.

No fuss. No muss. No stress.

How the airlines are messing with me is not what I want to ponder in these my Golden Years.

I’ve got enough on my plate to consider…bloating, constipation, overweight, hair loss, arthritis, fibromyalgia. Then there are the HIGHS…high cholesterol…and the LOWS…low metabolism, low thyroid and, of course, low libido. And let’s not forget the INs…indigestion, incontinence, insomnia.

Enough. Don’t you think?

Recent news stories about passengers duking it out with fellow passengers and/or flight attendants, foretells of heart attacks waiting to happen or psychos in the making.

As with anything else we choose to buy, like it or not, we know what we’re getting ourselves into. And if not, who’s kidding whom?

Yes, I could spend all my days and nights writing irate letters to Presidents and CEOs of air carriers with whom I might have a beef. I did do just that recently…  https://hugmamma.com/2014/06/08/a-complaint-letter-works-hawaiian-airlines/
Once-in-awhile is okay, but I wouldn’t make it a habit. Life’s getting too short for that cat-and-mouse game.

In older age…I’m more suited to a swan’s life…serene…”with an edge”…tucked securely beneath my feathers. So don’t ruffle them…

…if you know what’s good for you…
………hugmamma.

(Looks like designer A. Yaghoubi might have the right idea with his AIRGO design. Each passenger has his own “bubble.” No need for physical interaction whatsoever. Isn’t that what life is all about these days?)
http://www.gizmag.com/airgo-economy-seat-concept/26339/picturesairgo-airline-seat-design

 

hawaiian airlines…resolved???

In my previous post, Hawaiian Airlines bureaucracy, irksome…to say the least, I told of my recent dealings with several representatives of the airline as I tried to ascertain if my family was eligible for a reduction in airfare for reservations we’d booked prior to receiving an email touting a better rate.

Long story short, we could only apply if we cancelled our prior booking for which we’d have to pay a penalty, or watch for another email and call in again to see if we could get the better rate.

I can see you’re grimacing as I did, and others to whom I related this story. Duh??? Would you mind running that past me again?

Unfortunately, it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but…

Feeling I’d hit a bureaucratic, brick wall, I did what any red-blooded American housewife would do under the circumstances…I wrote a six-page letter to the President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mr. Mark B. Dunkerley detailing my experience from start to finish, including the various emails sent me by the six or so employees with whom I’d been in contact. I copied the three executive vice presidents and sent the letters priority mail to ensure that they didn’t travel by way of the South Pole. I jest, of course. Although I did want them to receive my correspondence sooner, rather than later…or never.

I realized Mr. Dunkerley might never read the letter. Most likely his executive assistant would redirect it to whomever she felt should handle the matter. It’s probably rare that a company’s top man bothers with such matters, although my husband informed me that his company’s President/CEO always reads mail addressed to him. This doesn’t surprise me since I know the man, and he’s one-in-a-million. I’ve not yet met another high-ranking executive who is as concerned about people as he is.

My husband felt certain I’d hear back from a director…at least. But no. My concerns weren’t even warranted that level of handling. Instead I was referred back to the senior counselor in Consumer Affairs from whom I’d received the last email advising me to look for another email offering a lower rate.

The woman told me my letter to Mr. Dunkerley had been referred to her for handling. Talk about bypassing all the levels between the head honcho and a clerk. It’d be like free falling from the top of the World Trade Center to the ground floor.

Closing the lid on my case once and for all, I was informed that in our upcoming trip to Hawaii our family would be allowed one piece of checked luggage for free. Well, I guess that’s something.

Funny thing is, an apology for what I’d experienced in the way of poor customer service would have sufficed. Acknowledging that my family’s business, present and future, meant a great deal to Hawaiian Airlines would have gone a long way in securing our patronage. We would have applauded their efforts on setting the record straight to right a perceived wrong.

Upon reflection, our family agrees that the airline industry as a whole is totally immersed in the “bottom line.” Passengers are simply a means to that end. Management is too busy dreaming up ways to take our last dollar, while the lowest employees on the totem pole are charged with making sure we remain parted from our money.

So as I said to Mr. Dunkerley in closing…“Customer satisfaction is a relic of the past, it seems. As is passenger loyalty.”

…we all do…what we have to do…corporations and individuals, alike…

…sad, but true…

…hugmamma.

the art of complaining…

Blogger friend Marcia Clarke posted the following on her blog…Marcia Clarke-La Chica Writes at http://www.chicawrites.com 

Having worked at TWA for several years, and in retailing and health insurance before that, I’ve become a stickler for great customer service. I’ve handled more complaints than I can recall AND done my fair share of complaining too. Never have I encountered the use of, or thought to use, reverse psychology, i.e….lavishing compliments that literally drip with sarcasm.

English: Don Mueang Airport domestic terminal,...

I tip my hat to writer Arthur Hicks…complainer par excellence!!! And to Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic fame, for bringing this to our attention. And, of course, to Marcia for having re-blogged it.

Having once received what many regard as the world’s best complaint letter, I was tickled to see another brilliant note to a different airline.I phoned the customer who wrote the above note to apologise and thank him for his letter after he experienced a less than perfect culinary experience on board one of our planes. It is important to take customer feedback on board in order to improve – and also to be able to laugh at yourself.

With that in mind, here is an open letter to Caribbean airline LIAT, written by Arthur Hicks, who also happens to be a great tennis pro.

Dear LIAT, 

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean. 

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

As a colleague said: “I guess this is why LIAT is reputed to stand for Languishing In Airport Terminals!”

But seriously, making customer service key to your company will keep your employees motivated and your customers happy. This in turn ensures enduring loyalty, business success and a better experience for everyone.

By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group

…some folks get it…so many more don’t…

………hugmamma.

Virgin Millionaire Richard Branson doing a qui...

“vino, anyone?”

Have you noticed how airports around the country, and the world, have been transformed into “destinations?” Passengers who once shopped for last-minute trinkets, can now purchase Burberry coats, TUMI luggage, and Disney memorabilia for themselves. Grabbing a cold, dry ham and cheese sandwich, has been replaced by gastronomical delights like Wolfgang Puck’s 3-cheese-pizza, Sabarro’s spaghetti and meatballs, and Chinese delicacies. Bars have always been available for the business traveler in need of a “pick-me-up,” after a day of endless meetings. But according to a Journal article “Airports Blend More Spirits Into the Mix,”  “Alcohol has rarely been in short supply at airports, but some cash-strapped local governments are taking steps to open the taps further.”

Bars at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports are open 24 hours, as are the 17 pushcart vendors selling beer and wine. A plan is in place to open a bar in the baggage claim of Las Vegas’ airport, while wine bars are expanding. “Vino Volo, a San Fransisco airport wine-bar chain that opened its first shop in 2005, plans to add its 14th location this month and hopes to have 50 in three to five years. Vino Volo, which means ‘wine flight’ in Italian, offers meals and wine-tastings and sells bottles to go from most of its locations.” HMSHost, part of Italy’s Autogrill SpA, sells bottled local wines at two California airports. The company also sells bottled wines at wine bars in several airports, and is planning to open more.

“Critics say the last thing needed in the skies is more tipsy passengers.” This week a flight, prepared to take off from Florida’s St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, returned to the gate because of a drunken passenger. While such incidents have occurred before, Joe Tiberi, the International Association of Machinists union spokesman feels that ” ‘Making liquor more easily accessible in airports will only exacerbate the problem,’…” Rebecca Rolfes, a Chicago publishing exec, who travels from O’Hare several times a month feels pushcarts would allow tipsy drinkers to roam concourses, bringing them into contact with families and non-drinking passengers. “That could create ‘some pretty sloppy situations,’…”

The obvious benefits to increasing the availability of alcohol are providing respite for passengers other than food courts, more revenue for airports and cities, and creation of jobs. Making a plea for those like himself who may find themselves stranded overnight at the airport, electrician Ray Mazzoni feels that with bars open 24 hours “you could have a drink and a snack and watch TV.”

It’s likely that if “you build it, they will come.” The question is do we really need IT? Just because we think it, does it mean we must give it life? There might be short, and long-term, consequences which we aren’t taking into account. Dispensing more alcohol in airports doesn’t seem like a proposition worthy of our support. It’s not of medical or scientific or even human necessity. It’s a luxury most can’t afford.

in my opinion…hugmamma

not so friendly skies

 Hearing about a Delta Airline flight whose passengers were closeted in a plane for 3 hours on the tarmac, inspired me to write this post. An engine problem was said to be the culprit, but upon close inspection nothing was found to be amiss. To Delta’s chagrin, the event was broadcast worldwide on YouTube. A very resourceful passenger captured his image with the camera on his cell phone.  Beads of sweat were shown cascading down his bald scalp, over his brows, and onto his cheekbones. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I can’t imagine that it felt any better than it looked. This picture ran countless times throughout the newscast. The Network drove home its point, and then some. Of course they included snippets of an interview with the passenger. In it he underscored how awful the situation was by explaining, that as a soldier, he’d served in Africa where temperatures soared well over 100 degrees. He’d also endured grueling conditions as a navy Seal. But nothing, he said, NOTHING could compare with the abhorrent conditions he experienced onboard Delta’s “flight from Hell.”  

Pictures of fellow passengers showed their disgruntled faces. Children’s cheeks were flushed from the heat. The air-conditioning was left off because of the supposed engine problem. A lone flight attendant finally took it upon herself to distribute bottles of water. Meanwhile, no announcements were made to explain the situation to the passengers. And according to the man in the picture, no apology was extended by Delta. I don’t remember what was contained in a formal letter sent by the airline. But judging from the man’s demeanor, it didn’t contain the mea culpa he expected. My husband and I experienced a similar situation on a USAirways flight leaving Philadelphia, but the outcome was considerably different.

Taxiing out on the runway, we were lined up with other outbound flights. It wasn’t clear if a passenger forced the captain to relinquish his place in line when she went to the bathroom, ignoring the “fasten your seat belt ” sign. I gathered that’s what happened because announcements were made to that effect. Pulling out of position, the plane went to the back of the line. Then Mother Nature stepped in, and “leveled the playing field.” All flights were delayed indefinitely because of bad weather in the Midwest. 

TV newscasts showing scenes like the one described earlier, drifted through my mind. I let myself go numb, knowing there was nothing to be done but settle in for the long haul. Getting agitated wouldn’t resolve the situation, and the accompanying stress would go against my resolve to stay healthy, and avoid Alzheimer’s. You know the old saying “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” 

Unlike Delta’s indifference to its passengers, USAir kept us apprised of the status of our delay. It was like having an open phone line between the cockpit and the cabin. When the captain wasn’t on the line, the flight attendants were. At the time I was slightly annoyed. (I told you I was calm, not dead.) I just wanted them to stop talking and do something, anything, to relieve our discomfort. Even in business class, the seats were HARD. More disturbing, you’d have thought there was a party going on! (Helllooo…am I the only one wanting to get underway here?)  The  flight attendants strolled the aisle, smiling and laughing while serving up cups of water, and casually visiting with passengers who got up to remove items from overhead bins. All around me were voices chattering, while I sat with furrowed brow.

Finally, the captain announced that our plane would be returning to the terminal. Once there, the door was opened and a ticket agent came aboard. From the cockpit came a further update that our delay would depend upon reconfiguration of flight patterns due to the thunderstorms and lightning. What came next must have surprised my fellow travelers as much as it did me. We were told that, because of new government regulations, passengers were free to disembark to make other arrangements if they so chose. Now THAT caught my attention! Wow! An airline wasputting the passenger ahead of the “bottom line.” Of course they had their “neck on the block,” but no matter. While it didn’t make a loyal fan of me, USAir won my respect.

My husband and I have both worked in the airline industry, he with Pan Am, and me with Iran Air and TWA.  Airline employees enjoy very nice perks, foremost of which is traveling free or at greatly discounted rates. It does involve going “stand by,” where they literally stand around waiting to hear their names called if space is available on the aircraft. This can be nerve-wracking, especially when accompanied by young children who wonder aloud “Why can’t we get on yet?” The wait is worthwhile, however, if they’re upgraded to first class…for free.

When we flew our own airlines, we awaited takeoff, giddy and delighted at our good fortune.  Gazing out the window, we’d admire the planes bearing the company logo. We felt proud, and special. Proud to be employed by companies who transported people all over the world. Special, because we were part of what seemed a fantasy, air travel. We dressed accordingly, suit and tie for my husband, dress and heels for me. Stewardesses were fashionistas, carefully groomed from head to toe. How I admired, and wanted to be one of them. But they seemed an elite class. Pilots too seemed like mythical beings, ensconced in their private domain, the cockpit. Catching a glimpse inside was a treat, sitting in one during flight was memorable. I had that privilege once, on an Iran Air flight.  Reminiscing about air travel in decades past, makes me think how different it is today.

I’ve agreed with friends that flying today is like riding a bus. Line up; get your ticket punched; squeeze into a seat; read your book or paper; eat food you’ve brought aboard; get to your destination, deplane, and go your own way. Flight attendants are likened to waiters and waitresses, except they may, or may not, serve you something. These days, you couldn’t pay me to be one of them. I’d much rather sit in my comfy jeans, “catching 40 winks” or some part thereof. Now, passengers try to cram as much as possible into carry-on luggage, not wanting to hand over $15, $20, or $30 for checked bags.

Airline travel has certainly changed. Deregulation enabled airlines to set their own rates which allowed consumers more options in popular markets; not so much, in  less traveled markets. Big companies scrambled, some eventually closed their doors, or merged with others to survive. Small companies like Southwest and Jet Blue grew to prominence with travelers who wanted the biggest “bang” for their buck. The industry continues to expand and contract, mirroring the economy upon which it depends.

My initial experience with Southwest was terrible. Traveling with my husband and daughter, we stood in the haphazard line waiting to board. People were sitting on the floor or standing, luggage at the ready, making sure they’d get a good seat, for it was “first-come, first-serve.” Then unexpectedly a voice was heard over the loudspeaker calling out a gate change. A mad scramble ensued. Everyone made a dash for the new gate. Upon arriving there, our family was nearer the front of the line than before. Eventually we heard murmurings at the back that there was another change. Slowly the line unraveled, people running in another direction. Finally making it aboard the plane, my husband, daughter and I managed to sit together in one row. There and then, I made my husband promise never to book another Southwest flight again. He promised. 

Fast forward to now, and Southwest is my airline of choice. Management figured out that herding passengers like cattle wasn’t good for public relations. A new system was put into effect lining people up according to positions assigned upon check-in, A-1 through 30, B-1 through 30, and c-1 through 30. People are more civil; boarding runs more smoothly. Without the lengthy process inherent with other airlines, it seems Southwest is in and out of the gate more quickly. Service on board is comparable to major carriers, sometimes even besting them. Air fares are comparable or better.

Current air travel is a “free-for-all.” Passengers get, or don’t get, what they pay for; airlines make, or don’t make, a profit. Fate seems to have the upper hand these days. I’m not sure what to think.

what do you think?…hugmamma.