Thursday, June 12, 2008

The absurdity of the airline industry

I've been traveling a lot over the last year and I've had to spend a lot of time in airports. Of course, everyone has gripes about traveling. But lately I feel it's been getting absurd. Take a story that my mom told me.

My parents had to be in Boston for a wedding, so I arranged all their travel plans for them - their flights, the rental car, hotel, etc. My parents aren't poor, so instead of going for the cheapest flight, which is usually a red-eye or leaves at an insane hour, I book a reasonable return flight for them going from Boston to Sacramento, which leaves at something like 9am in the morning, has an hour and a half layover, and makes it to Sacramento around 2pm. About a month later, I get an email notice from this un-named airline (but which rhymes with Smelta) telling me that their flight has been changed. Not only does the flight now leave at 7am, but now there are -two- layovers, one of which is 30 minutes long (yeah right, my parents would never make that), and now they don't get home until 6pm at night (9pm EST). This is important because they need rest. My dad is asleep usually by 9pm, and moreover, they were picking up more family at the Sacramento airport the next day from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to show them a good time in ol' Sacramento. Anyways, so I call, raise hell, and eventually they rebook my parents - they still have to leave at 7am, but now they only have one layover (45 minutes, still tight), and get back to Sacramento around 1pm.

So the day of their return flight, my mom calls me around 11am. Of course, I'm assuming that it's during their layover, but noooo. My parents made it to the airport around 5:45am - a good hour and 15 minutes before their flight takes off. I would have thought that at 7am, probably the first flight of the morning, this would have been plenty of time. Unbeknownst to them, Smelta apparently has around 7 or 8 flights leaving all at 7am from Logan International. The lines were horrendous and since everyone was in the same boat, they were not letting anybody skip ahead to make flights. My parents finally make it past security with a couple minutes to spare and my mom makes a run for it - my dad was a little slower since he had to put shoes back on and he's old, so he has to sit for that, and tie his shoes and everything. My mom actually makes it to the gate, it was still open, and they were letting in 4 more people. She pleads with the woman and says her husband is coming up right behind her. The gate woman says sorry, it's too late, and closes the doors. Literally a minute later my dad comes running up as well, and she wouldn't open the door for them even though the other people had just gone through and probably were still in line on the bridgeway to get it their seats. It was 7:01am.

How ridiculous is that? Do you know how many times I've been kept waiting by airlines? Not even for weather reasons. For cleaning reasons, mechanical reasons, reasons not explained to us, the customers. These delays have over my lifetime probably cost me days and days of time. If I said, oops, sorry, you were a minute late, I'm not paying - how do you think they would take that? Probably not well.

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