Friday, December 31, 2010

Traveling While Angry... apparently now illegal. And it's why Southwest remains the ONLY airline I will ever fly again. EVER.  Until the end of time.  Because it's too exhausting to re-hash the entire experience of flying AirTran over Christmas, I'll post an edited version of the letter of complaint that I sent to the company:

I am writing to register an official complaint against and to call for the firing of an AirTran ticketing agent at the Indianapolis International Airport. This agent made a VEILED THREAT TO CALL THE POLICE AND REPORT ME AS A SECURITY RISK. In these times, when airport security is front-page news and a delicate matter, making a rash threat against a passenger like this is not only unprofessional, but is dangerous and is certainly grounds for legal action on my part.

I will detail the exchange below:

At approximately 6pm on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010, I approached the AirTran ticketing counter with my 4 year old son and my mother (only my son and I were flying). The agent, clearly not in a good mood already, asked me who was flying and where we were flying to. 
He then proceeded to tell us that we owe $20 for a second checked bag. However, my mother assured him that she paid $40 for 2 checked bags upon online check-in. He argued that that wasn’t the case and she finally handed him a $20 bill, still skeptical, to cover the second bag.

He then proceeded to weigh my larger bag, which came out to 45 lbs. (I made sure before I left the house that it did not weigh more than 50 lbs, knowing that over 50 lbs would incur a $50 fee). The agent then proceeded to measure my bag --- something I have never seen done before. He told me that my bag was oversized and that I owed $50 for an oversize bag fee.

This completely took me by surprise since I was able to complete the first leg of my trip with the SAME bag, WITHOUT an oversize bag fee. I was shocked and told him that on the first leg of my trip I did not have to pay that fee.

He shrugged, as though he could care less, and said, “I don’t know. I’m not in Baltimore.”

Shocked at his flippant response, I replied, “No, but you are AirTran and you should have the same standards no matter what city you’re in.”

He replied coldly, “I agree,” but refused to accommodate me in any way.

I was beginning to get upset, not just at the fact that I had to pay a fee, but at his unaccommodating and rude attitude.

I then said, “Well I’m not paying this fee! If I don’t have to pay it one way, I’m not going to pay it on the way back.”

He replied, without even looking up from his computer, “If you don’t pay it your bag isn’t getting on the flight.”

I continued to tell him I didn’t think it was fair and that it was not right that I was being treated like this, with an out-of-the-blue $50 fee that wasn’t charged to me the previous way (with a bag I’ve flown with dozens of times).

Finally, because he apparently didn’t care about keeping AirTran customers happy (or keeping them as customers at all), I got my credit card out and dropped it on the counter. I paid the fee and asked for his name, with the intention of reporting his bad attitude to AirTran Customer Relations.

He replied, with the first smile he’d given me during the entire conversation.

I said, “Great, thanks,” and walked away.

My mother stayed behind to tell him not to worry about the situation, that I was just upset. And he responded to her, “I’M GOING TO CALL THE POLICE ON HER. SHE’S A SECURITY RISK AT THIS POINT.”

Visibly upset by his response, my mother relayed it to me. This was the last straw and I immediately dialed AirTran Customer Relations, before I even went through the security gate, worried that if I approached security, they would stop me and hold me for questioning, etc….all because I was upset about a baggage fee!!! And I was traveling with my 4 year old!

I spoke with a Customer Relations Agent around 6:35pm. She assured me that it was nothing more than a veiled threat because he was afraid of getting a complaint filed against him and that he didn’t have the authority to call the police on me. She said that if he truly intended to call the police he wouldn’t have been able to let me leave the ticket counter and he would have had the police approach me there.

This particular agent was more than helpful, she checked with her supervisor, assured me that I would get through security without a problem (which I did), and refunded the inappropriate $50 baggage fee, since she could see on her records that I didn’t pay it on the way out. She apologized profusely, assured me that AirTran agents are not trained to act in an unprofessional manner, and lodged an official complaint to the ticketing agent's supervisor.

However, in re-hashing the event with my husband, who is an attorney at a large law firm, I believe a threat of that magnitude deserves more than an “official complaint.” I am calling for this agent to be FIRED immediately. Airport security is no laughing matter. And threatening one of your customers (traveling with a small child!) with calling the police and reporting them as a security risk in an airport because of a mere, but non-frivolous disagreement over a baggage fee is beyond unprofessional – it’s dangerous and a serious breach of professional ethics deserving severe punishment, including termination of employment.

This agent's behavior is certainly worthy of legal action on my part - the intentional infliction of emotional distress - as clearly that is all he intended. Based on my conversation with the Customer Relations agent, it is obvious he never really intended to call security, but he was certainly abusing his authority in an attempt to bully, intimidate, and scare my mother and me. This cannot be allowed in the tense security climate existing in our airports, or even from a basic customer service standpoint.

But I prefer not to have to take the legal route. I do, however, believe that he should lose his job and never work near an airport again.

Until this is resolved, you can be certain that I, and anyone I know or am related to, will not be flying AirTran Airways again. I am also tempted to contact the media, but will first give you the opportunity to respond.

I look forward to hearing from you very soon.

So that was my experience.  Am I overreacting?  I don't think so. And my husband, who usually has the "don't worry about it, it will blow over" approach to nearly any confrontational situation you can conjure up, really urged me to call for this guy's firing.  I mean...we're talking airport security here.  And flat-out bullying on his part.  Security threats are something you just toss around to scare people...especially in the current climate. 

So, all this to say that I will only ever be flying Southwest Airlines ever again.  No baggage fees, friendly, helpful staff, not many perks, but more importantly, not many fees either.

Hope you all had a better holiday traveling experience than I did!  Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! It's been a few months, but I thought I'd pop on to wish everyone a very blessed holiday. Safe travels if you're going out of town! Please enjoy this video...a little take on how the Nativity might play out in 2010! :)