Frontiers of Insanity

What is going on with airlines? I clearly don’t have all the facts, don’t even know where to start investigating, but something IS wrong with airlines in the US.

Years ago, when reading PJ O’Rourke’s Eat The Rich, I came across his description of train travel in Siberia, where the train seemed to have been built to maximize discomfort and lack of hygiene. He compared this to travel in the US and I realized suddenly that Portugal, while not as bad as Siberian trains in the USSR was about halfway there: i.e. Portuguese trains had a restroom, but you’d not think to use it unless the alternative were death. And the way the employees treated you was with the kind of unconcern reserved for serfs. (Portuguese airlines still treat you that way. The emphasis is on the PASSENGER proving he/she is worthy by having all the paperwork and kowtowing to the “functionary” which is the Portuguese term for employee and which might tell you all you need to know.)

Yesterday, on the leg back from a hellish journey, I realized that US airlines are now halfway through Portuguese railways of old and the old USSR. And it makes me wonder: what is going on here?

Look, let’s start by establishing that EVERY company like every individual working for it, works in what it/he/she perceives as the company’s or individual’s best interests.

As we’ve seen in the case of publishing, in a large corporation it is possible for the best interests of the individual to be objectively at odds with the interests of the corporation, or at least to work to undermine it, without anyone being aware.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with airlines, but I don’t think so, since even the decisions from the top down seem inspired by the type of – to draw from PJ O’Rourke again – Oxacan ditch weed that is simply not that easy or cheap to come by.

I can tell you the date travel became a nightmare: about a year and a half after 9/11. We tried to make it from CO to NYC and the trip alone took close to twenty four hours. I thought it was because the airline industry was recovering from a severe blow and restructuring, and it would get better.

I was wrong. I was actually seeing the airline industry at the best it would be in the next ten years. And every year after it gets worse.

Now, I know that the airlines got a massive bailout after 9/11. Are they still getting them? Are they too big to fail?

The evidence on the ground seems to indicate so, since I now find the total lack of unconcern with passenger wants or needs that I used to see in Portuguese public transport. Or is it the de facto rape of morale undergone by everyone passing through security? Does it soften people to put up with the otherwise indefensible?

One of the things I noticed while in Portugal was that my family puts up with ridiculous behavior form everyone in “official” position, even if the position is in a company selling to the public. They cringed every time I demanded what I’d paid for or made a fuss over shoddy products or services. They told me “we here in Portugal are more patient.” I’m telling you, my dears, if being patient leads to Portuguese level service, please don’t be patient. Not unless you have a hankering to be peasants.

Besides, even the “what can we get away with” doesn’t explain, say, my last trip. (And btw, in the last four trips booked, no matter how short or seemingly trouble free, I have YET to make it there in the allotted time. I rarely get all my luggage. And I will encounter one of more instances of sheer zany power-seeking by employees. Like… trying to force us to check a bag to “your destination” which fits perfectly within the frame they put up.)

The latest flights were from Denver to Atlanta, with a further car rental to Chattanooga. ONE flight. Not even that long. We chose Frontier because their Denver hub makes it cheap and convenient. Or so we thought. And because they were the one airline we hadn’t had an hellish experience with.

Suffice it to say I will never fly Frontier again, even if the alternative is walking.

No, it wasn’t the fact that their planes got hit by hail. Such disasters happen. It’s why they have insurance. It’s what came AFTER that.

Since they cancelled over a dozen planes – and btw, what WERE they doing cancelling at 10:30 am for damage incurred at 2 am? They could have cancelled it any time, and they have our phone/email to notify us, with perhaps a little more time to react.

BUT not only did they not cancel it till the last minute. Oh, no. They ALSO accepted checked luggage. Normally for five days or less, I travel with only carry on. However, I was taking Port Wine with me to give to people at the con. This required a checked bag because some nut jobs in England tried – and failed – to blow up a plane with their baby bottle. So henceforth and till the end of time, in the Tartarus we find ourselves in, we SHALL be punished by not being able to carry liquids. Unless, of course, they fit into the magic ziploc. (In a wonderful example of bureaucratic mentality, even if all you have is a bottle of hand sanitizer and you lay it on the tray so they can see it, pick it up and examine it, they’ll make you put it in a ziploc. They’ve forgotten the point of the ziploc is “to control quantity” and “so you can see what is there.” It is now a magical ziploc which stops explosions.)

So, we came in with no intimation of disaster and checked a bag. We sat at the gate, read our morning blogs, and waited. First the plane was delayed, then finally cancelled. We left at top speed for a customer service station, knowing, of course, that the nearest one would be swamped. We could have saved ourselves the trouble. ALL were swamped, with hours of wait to get to the front, by the time our plane was cancelled.

My husband left me and my son (we were traveling with only one, since the other was in NC already, and would drive in) in line, and went out of the secure area, to try to rebook at the counter, when the scuttlebutt around us was “you’ll be lucky to get there on Sunday.” Since the con ended on Sunday, you see where I had a SMALL problem.

So, Dan went out to rebook and secured it fairly soon – while Atlanta was booked solid, he got us on a flight to Nashville. He then tried to come back to us and found that his new tickets wouldn’t get him past security. Why not? They were not boarding passes. Why not? Because we had to first redirect and re-check our luggage.

By then it was about two hours since cancellation and two other frontier flights to Atlanta had left. Yes, you read that right.

I’m going nuts standing in line, and Frontier employees are circling the line with water, cookies and granola bars (none of which I can have but water, and oh, btw, because of security lines which can be hell in Denver, we left home at six, to get to the airport at eight, for a ten thirty flight. Yeah. I’m hungry and sleepy and just all around cranky.)

As it turns out Frontier employees SHOULD have been doing something else. What else? Why, asking people who had decided not to go or who were taking another route if they wanted their checked luggage back, for instance. JUST a thought. Also, btw, there were two people at the head of the line processing passengers and about five circulating with goodies. Does this make sense in any sane universe?

After a while I called my husband (we were trying to save cell phone batteries, which were needed as he was trying to solve a problem at work via cell phone.) He was standing in an “at least three hours” (per Frontier Employee. ONE working the line, mind you.) line to reclaim our checked bag. My son and I elected to go out of security and wait with my husband. BTW, this entire bit of theater (you’ll see why it’s just theater later) cost us the chance to maybe go home and nap or at least go to a restaurant and get a meal or even go to our favorite hotel and get a day room before our new flight at 8pm to Nashville.

When we got to the head of the line, the rumors that had been filtering back through the line became clear. The complete idiots at Frontier (sorry to insult idiots) instead of immediately cancelling all luggage from cancelled flights (surely, guys, if it was waiting to be loaded, it could be cancelled, no?) had sent it ahead by ‘first available’ flight, making a mockery of the idea that you need to pay for checked luggage because of fuel costs. Why burden your planes with extra luggage. Or does luggage only weigh when it’s WANTED? If it’s luggage no one wants flown, it’s weightless? (My dears, I write SF and that’s a quantum effect I never heard of.)

By the time we confirmed this, we barely had the time to catch our flight to Nashville. Meanwhile, we’d been making frantic rearrangements. You see, we had a car waiting in Atlanta. Had to cancel that (one way rental was $500 more) and book a shuttle from Nashville to Chattanooga. One small issue. Our plane arrived at one thirty am. Shuttle left at six. Even if we could get a hotel we’d be paying $150 to sleep three hours if that. So, we spent the night in the airport. Yes, I did this a lot at around 20, but I’m too old for this crap.

Meanwhile, Dan is on the phone with the luggage people in Atlanta, who tell him they’ll send our bag via a Delta flight to Chattanooga and it will be there when we pick up our new car rental there. Right… Only, of course, by morning the story had changed. They were instead going to fedex it to our hotel.

This seemed okay, and we checked in to our hotel, where I have to say – in that case – the fault was entirely ours. We booked that hotel, which used to be a Day’s Inn on the strength of two reasons – we’d stayed there three years ago and found it spartan but clean; and it was next door to the con hotel, which meant I could drift back to write. Only… well… no. Because the place, now a Knights Inn was the FILTHIEST place I’ve ever stayed in – and that, my dears, includes youth hostels in the early eighties in France – and without the barest creature comforts. Like… oh, a trash can.

But we went ahead and checked in because, duh, our luggage had already been sent there… right?

So we suffer through two days – I’ll try to discover what skin diseases I caught, later – without btw my clothes (I had taken three spare shirts in Dan’s luggage, but my jeans were definitely getting ripe) makeup OR my eczema medicine (well, it is liquid and a large bottle.) My eczema, btw, is haywire due to stress, lack of sleep, etc.

And then because the luggage hasn’t arrived and Dan continues calling, they tell him no, the luggage is in fact still in Atlanta. It seems the master plan was for us to pick it up on the way back.

I think dan exploded over the phone. The thing is that within an hour and a half our bag was landing at Chattanooga on a Delta plane. End of story? Oh, I WISH.

I was glad to have clothes, we changed hotels, happy happy joy joy.

On Monday we take the shuttle at noon to Atlanta for our flight. Again, note that Frontier has our cell phone numbers and that my husband connected to the net at least once. NO WARNING was sent.

We’re joking about the flights being cancelled, but even we didn’t EXPECT it, until… we got in line to check in and heard rumors.

We get to the front of the line and start by being lied to. They tell us that there was ANOTHER hail storm on the night before at two am. They couldn’t have known! It was just bad luck! They have rebooked us for Wednesday. They’re shocked it’s unacceptable.

Passenger in line next to us needs to get back to Denver, because his wife had a stroke. He’s not buying what they’re selling and calls friends in Denver to verify… there was no hail storm. (Which, duh, we knew.)

So they backpedal. No, no. The flights are still cancelled because of the hail storm on Wednesday before. And, oh, it’s weather, so they’re giving us no lodging or food.
(What transpires, btw, from putting together rumors while in line, is that Frontier chose to lease planes to keep SOME of their contracts… but not all. And yes, they are using the weather to justify doing nothing for stranded passengers, whom they’re not warning of upcoming cancellations. Meanwhile an article online says they won’t lose any good will because they’re using money from insurance to rent top of line planes and give excellent customer care. I’d like the reporter to have gone through what we went through.)

At this point guy next to us demands to talk to a supervisor and gets what my husband calls “designated crier” “It’s not my fault. I didn’t decide this. Why are you yelling at me?” Right. Because you are the face of the company, chickie. DEAL.

As she was about to leave she made ONE mistake. “Does anyone else here want to unload on me? I don’t mind… I mean, I can’t do anything, but if you want to yell at me, go ahead.”

At which point I said “Yes, I DO want to unload on you.” And I started by pointing out that no, this was no longer weather. This was choosing to violate contracts and that I worked for a nationally syndicated website (yeah, I know) and this WOULD be blogged (Promise kept, btw) and that I had had JUST about enough. Also that I was sure they were violating FTC regulations, among other things.

She then, CASUALLY – note that I’m sure she’s not really a manager, unless she’s the manager of that counter – awarded us a night in a (nice it turned out) hotel but NO meals. AT HER DISCRETION. So, the “powerless” crap was just that.

So, we paid $70 for dinner – Ruby Tuesdays. No car. All restaurants in the vicinity of airport are expensive – in addition to the extra $250 for the shuttle and the inconvenience of lacking my luggage for almost two days. I’ve found our last three trips, no matter how short, cost us about $500 extra apiece to get around airline insanity.

By the time we got back to the airport the next morning to fly Continental to Houston then Houston to Denver, I was so tired I seem to have arrived home without my cell phone. And while it might have been security, I confess that I was feeling so dazed that I wouldn’t put it past me to hand it off to a passing stranger. Since no meals, we didn’t have breakfast, thinking we’d grab something in Houston, so I was tired, upset and uncafeinated. ALSO itching all over my body from the worst eczema eruption in two years. (Which will necessitate doctor’s visit asap.)

So… what’s up with the airlines? Because given that the planes got hit with hail and everything thrown off, in the end this nightmare was brought to us by a lack of even casual interest in customer service. Frontier could EASILY have made our life better by

a) not sending the luggage on without us. If you’re booking passengers to the end of a weekend, from what’s clearly the beginning of it, is it so difficult to realize that many if not most of them are going off for an extended weekend? And that if they can’t get there till Sunday they simply won’t go? Or as in our case, book alternate routes to get to a conference or meeting? WHAT do you gain by sending luggage on ahead of passengers?

B) if you absolutely needed to send our luggage on a joy ride, how about just doing what you finally did, and put it on a delta plane, so it was there when we got to Chattanooga? Why the lies and the decoy with Fedex?

C) if you know you’re going to cancel the plane returning (and don’t even get me started on IT WAS A CONTRACT. You don’t get to pick and choose which contracts to honor. What are you? NYC publishers?) Email or phone the customers. First, it might be more convenient (it would have been for us) for them to stay put and extend their hotel (that one was clean) another night than to find out at the airport that they’re supposed to be homeless (and mealless) for two days. HINT there’s less chance they’ll revolt.

D) you effed up and you have an irate about-to-go-ballistic customer (or ten). The weather emergency was five days ago. Legally, you don’t have a leg to stand on. Yes, you can be a jerk and deny them hotels and meals. BUT even if you can get away with it – do you expect them to EVER fly with you again? EVER? In this lifetime? Do you expect them to tell their friends and neighbors you’re a great airline to fly with?


How is it possible that EVERY step along the way Frontier chose the WRONG option to maintain customer satisfaction? And who will support them when they collapse? Uncle Sugar?

Honeys – Uncle Sugar is broke, and if I have anything to say to it, when you go to him with your little hand out, he’ll tell you it wasn’t his decision, and why are you yelling at him…

*crossposted at Classical Values*

75 thoughts on “Frontiers of Insanity

  1. Hey Sarah, don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think!! [Wink]

    Seriously, these horror stories confirm my decision that if I’m going anywhere that I can drive to, I’ll drive myself.

    I realize that for you going to Liberty Con is three-four days drive, but if it were me, I’d have driven there.

  2. yeah, Paul, and if I can ever buy my husband out of corporate servitude, we’ll have the time to drive. Right now not so much. Yeah, I know. Shut up and write.

  3. Interesting. Recently I’ve mostly flown BA and while I don’t credit them with the common sense of a senile seagull they do at least do the customer service thing. Last December they (and/or American) wouldn’t allow me to change our routing so that my wife I could avoid the twin disasters of stormy Chicago and snowed in Heathrow that we were already reading about on the news a couple of days before. But once we’d entered into the maelstrom they did a good job of helping us through it. They did give us a decent hotel near Heathrow, a bag of vital necessities and their ground staff (and American’s) in Chicago did spend a while looking for alternative routes, booking us on a backup in case our preferred plane was cancelled etc. We landed one day late, our luggage arrived a day or two later but we got back for Christmas as opposed to spending it in an airport and they did actually reply to my emailed complaint about the idiotic initial rebooking refusal.

    Then when I flew back the US in Feb and got stuck in Chicago again as we were the last plane to land before a huge ice storm BA blew pretty much the entire ticket on putting me up at the O Hare Hilton for 2 days while the airport put itself together again.

    [But then I think BA are actually obligated to do some of this as under EU law they aren’t allowed to dump passengers.]

    I’ve also had fairly good recent experiences with SouthWest and when US Airways buggered up a flight last year from Washington to San Diego they managed to get both me and my luggage on a different flight so that I only showed up an hour late.

    But my plan from now on is to fly direct from Europe to where-ever I want to go in the US and not change planes there again….

    1. Southwest is hit or miss. We’ve had great experiences and weirdly BAD ones i.e. it depends on who is in charge at that airport. SouthWest by and large has been okay. And we LOVE BA. We just can’t AFFORD BA.

  4. I fly a lot (to teach week-long classes). I haven’t had this level of bad experience, but American Airlines had gotten really bad about:

    1. Delaying flights for safety issues. I’m pretty sure this means they do less preventative maintenance.

    2. Fully booked or overly booked flights, so it takes over a day to get you to where you need to go.

    For now, I’m trying to boycott American and use Continental. But the problem is that as a business traveller I have to follow company rules which means take the cheaper fare.

  5. It’s all Al Gore’s fault, for inventing the interweb.

    No, really. Seriously, the fact that airlines sell a large percentage of their tickets these days through websites that helpfully sort by price. And most folks either pick the top one, or pick the top one with whom they can get frequent flyer miles. So airlines have, for the last decade or so, sought to do whatever they could to appear at the top of the list, cutting costs and services. And it’s a no-win war, as the next airline will cut even more, in a never-ending circle.

    A few years back (and by a few, I mean probably fifteen) American announced with great fanfare that they were removing a couple of rows in coach so that every seat in coach had 2-3 more inches leg room. Prices on domestic routes went up about 5-10% because of this, but I loved it, I’d get them every time if available. After a couple of years, they canceled this because almost nobody else did, or not enough to make up for it anyways.

  6. Skip,
    This doesn’t explain flying luggage where one doesn’t want it. Or lying about having sent it Fedex or not sending notifications the plane has been cancelled. (Email list for flight, one email. Send. MUCH less than arguing with each customer at counter!) I can’t imagine any other business in which employees who behave this way would stay on…

  7. OK – a couple of comments – First, Sarah, I didn’t realize my wife was flying with you (grin). This sort of thing happens to her. I just get delays.

    Second, perhaps we need to come up with a catchy YouTube song and video to call attention to how *badly* Frontier handled the whole thing. Sort of like the “United Breaks Guitars” viral video.

    Third – about maintenance, mechanical delays: The FAA has gotten to be sticklers about flights leaving the ground with minor mechanical issues. Airlines face whopping fines (after all, the FAA has a budget shortfall, too!), and it is *cheaper* in the long run to delay or cancel flights and inconvenience passengers. Face it, hotel and a meal to a complaining customer is cheaper than fines – because less than half of the passengers know that the airline owes them food and lodging if the delay/cancellation is due to anything *except* weather.

    Finally, American, for one, has a (poorly) aging fleet of MD “Super-80” jets that need to be replaced, but the airline does not have the capital to replace more than a handful a year. The irony is that if they didn’t have to *repair*, pay fines and reimburse customers, they could probably afford the new equipment.

    The airlines with the *most* capital are the discount airlines like Southwest that have much flatter fare pricing. I’d pay more for a flight if I knew that I could buy a ticket at any time and pay the same. As it is, the figure that out of 120 seats, 5 seats are nonrevenue, up to 10 *may* be empty, 20 are deep discount ($99), 60 are discounted about 10-20% below the actual cost basis, 20 are priced at the last-week-before-travel 50% above-cost price and 5 are walk-on full fare (at 200%+ percent of cost basis) that subsidize 90% of the discounted fares.

  8. Speaker,
    I wouldn’t mind if the last two times (including this one) I hadn’t had to fight for lodging and food and either got inadequate lodging and food (Chicago, a super 8 TEN MILES from airport. For an early morning flight. Unacceptable. Ditto the dinner voucher at $10) or like Frontier, Lodging but no food. And no help with getting to my actual destination once they had to route me elsewhere. And the luggage — OMG the luggage!

  9. Come to Australia, Sarah. We have cheap airlines that run (mostly to time) and basic medical cover for everyone.

    No, honestly, over all Australians ranked top as the people most content with their lives in some survey I read.

    1. I’ve got to second this one. If I could have the kind of job I’ve got here in Australia I’d be back there. Not only are the airports sane (and there are some where the security consists of “You’re not carrying anything dangerous, are you?”), the airlines are reasonably civilized.

      Of course, they’re also mostly servicing maybe two dozen cities and running heavy traffic between at most half a dozen – which makes the logistics a lot easier.

  10. Sarah, I can only hope that you’ve used up years, possibly decades, of Bad Travel Karma on a single trip, and you’ll never have a problem again.

    That was utterly mind boggling.

  11. Other commentators I have heard suggested that the increase in private and company jets(and the tax breaks that allow such executive perks) share some of the blame for the increasingly bad track record of the airlines.

    If CEOs, Politicians, and people from the “top end of town” couldn’t bypass the queues, security checks and other irritations that make up air travel, service on the whole would be a lot better for everyone.

    I know this isn’t the way the system is supposed to work, but we all know money talks, and if the people with the power to force change were going through half what the everyday person does, change would happen.

    1. Brendan,

      Honestly? NOT enough private planes for that. No, seriously. And they didn’t suddenly increase after nine eleven. Regulations and government intervention did. Of course, envy is always a good way to motivate people…

  12. Sarah, hugs for all you went through!

    Brendan, who are these “many commentators” and do they live in the US, or are they watching movies and TV series, and thinking they depict Real Life?

    Because there aren’t that many private jets (regardless of what the person residing in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave would have you think).

    And if you seriously think that “the people at the top end of town” are flying in hedonistic pleasure domes while the rest of us squat in squalor, I’m afraid you haven’t paid any attention to the numbers of airplanes being manufactured. You might as well say that the problems with rail travel are because the “top end of town” people have their own fancy-dance rail cars and private engines that are given precedence over other trains! IOW, only in the movies.

  13. An elderly friend flew Frontier from Madison Wisconsin to Boston Mass. Checked luggage did not arrive in a remotely timely fashion, and she finally had to leave to catch the last bus to her home. After 3 hours of telephone tag the next day she was 1)berated for not waiting for said luggage and 2) told that she could come back to Boston to pick it up. She played the old lady card – that she didn’t drive, and the bus ticket would cost another $50. They eventually and grudgingly agreed to get it to her. It arrived at 2:30AM! The delivery guy had another 4 stops to make, the last of which was another 60 miles further on!
    Frontier fails big time.

  14. And I think there is more to it. The airlines realized we needed them. Even before 9/11 I was treated damn near like a terrorist (I dunno do I look like one?) and this was by southwest where they damn near roll you a doob once you get on the plane. They know we need them for our daily lives and no matter how bad they suck we keep flying. It has gotten worse now we traded our freedoms for a false sens of security after 9/11. Now we are realizing that is false and there is not a damn thing we can do about it because it is clearly stated that “you let us fondle you and your children… or you dont fly”

    I have argued before there would probably be good business to have if a charter company opened up that flew to most major cities. Small planes, minimal service but no TSA, you can carry your gun, we refuse the right to serve anyone. We get you there fast without the bullshit. Today I think such a business model would “fly” In fact I know people who try to schedule trips together and get a friend with a plane to fly them or charter a small one just so they do not have to put up with it. The time is about the same and the stress is a lot less.

    I only hope this does not put you off traveling to see fans again.

    1. “I have argued before there would probably be good business to have if a charter company opened up that flew to most major cities. Small planes, minimal service but no TSA, you can carry your gun, we refuse the right to serve anyone. We get you there fast without the bullshit. ”

      Where I live in Central NJ, a small charter has started up with pretty much that idea in mind, called Streamline. Right now, they just fly from Trenton, NJ (Philadelphia area) to the Boston area (Hanscom Field in Bedford), two small airports, free parking, no lines, no hassles. I hope they succeed, if they do, they plan to expand the model to other cities.

  15. Just think, at one point they were going to build a maintenance facility here. Mucho jobs and investment. Remember? Way back pre-bankruptcy/Republic-merger. I hope your (and others) nightmare pushes them over again. More business for Southwest, which seems to me the type of business that genuinely seeks to gain (and keep) customers from these types of major screw-ups.

    And I second the sentiment about traveling to see fans.

    1. I won’t stop seeing the fans. Honestly, if I didn’t love CO so much, I’d just move to the South East — then driving places would be MUCH easier.

  16. Traveling short routes with one stop in MW is even getting ridiculous – even SW has issues.
    I’ll drive 12 hours – daylight – if needed; keep gear and clothes at distant work site (hospital) – FEDEX as needed (concur with Mr. Royce…NEVER check anything you will need within a 36 hour window…). OTOH I have had courteous and quick service on the few occasions TSHTF – weather or equipment – (and the Dallas area taxi system has become home to prior middle eastern F-4 and F-15 drivers if my experiences dashing from DFW to Love is any guidance – a wild ride…go there, better than Blue Angels charity rides…!!!).

  17. awful. have had similar but not as awful experiences. they lie lie lie about weather and anything. and then find out last year they made 2.3 BILLION yes BILLION from checked luggage fees. douches.

  18. I decided recently to forgo all air travel until something changes. For me the seminal moment was realizing I was being treated worse than inmates in a prison- and I worked in one, I know…and by people who care about as much as the guards did.

  19. “I can tell you the date travel became a nightmare: about a year and a half after 9/11. We tried to make it from CO to NYC and the trip alone took close to twenty four hours.”

    Ha! You lost me with that statement. I’m sorry, but the world doesn’t revolve around you. I did read your blog, but you clearly know nothing about air travel. Thanks!

    1. Wait, what? Are you insane? I do know what travel has been for me, which is clearly what this blog is about and that is when it became a nightmare for me. This is my blog. The world does not revolve around me, but this blog kinda does.. Did you think it was about how to operate an airplane? Do you work for Frontier? because that’s about the level of reasoning I was seeing.

    2. If that statement lost you, I’ll be glad to draw you a map. I don’t remember any part of this post — or any other by Sarah for that matter — where she even intimates that she thinks the world should revolve around her. All she has done is voice her frustration with the state of the airline industry and in TSA and the powers behind it. That’s nothing that a number of other people haven’t been doing for years now.

      It is obvious you either didn’t read the blog, despite what you said, or you have not flown since 9/11. It is a pain at best and torture more often than not. Airlines don’t follow their own policies from one airport to the next — ask anyone in the military who, while traveling under orders, have been allowed to check without payment their bag at one airport but at another have to pay out of their pocket and are told to file for reimbursement later by the airline. Ask anyone who has had to fly out of SFO and has to get there a minimum of three hours early because there are so few security entrances into the terminal.

      Don’t get me wrong. We need reasonable security for our flights. But what we have now isn’t reasonable. I can’t take a bottle of water through security, but I can carry as many bottles of liquid under 3 ounces that we can cram into the ziplock bag. HUH?

      Before you go accusing anyone of not knowing about air travel, perhaps you ought to reread what they’ve written. Sarah flies regularly to cons across the country. She flies to Portugal as often as possible to visit her family. Her husband used to have to fly on a very frequent basis for work. So, yeah, she knows about airline travel.

    3. Chris,

      Just out of curiosity, since when did a statement based on observation (“I can tell you the date travel became a nightmare: about a year and a half after 9/11. We tried to make it from CO to NYC and the trip alone took close to twenty four hours.”) by a frequent flier (Sarah flies to a lot of conventions, flies internationally, and has probably been through every major airport in the USA) turn into “the world revolves around me”?

      Do please explain. I’d love to know what kind of alleged reasoning you used to make that astonishing leap of… well, something.

      Oh, and the world does not revolve around Sarah, nor does she think it does. I happen to know that this is because Sarah, like many other like-minded folks, is convinced it revolves around Terry Pratchett.

  20. Airlines tend to be extremely poorly managed enterprises. They are enabled by the fact that government allows passengers no recourse against them for failing to perform reasonably. If you have a complaint about most businesses you can take them to court, but not airlines. They have a special set of laws that protects them from legal action. About the only way they can be sued is if the plane crashes.

    As a random aside, if you have enough to drink you’ll be able to feel the world revolving around you. That’s why it take five martinis to change a light bulb. One holds the bulb while the next four get the room spinning.

  21. After the week I’ve had, and the flight difficulties I’ve been through, I agree with the commentators – I’m driving as much as possible.. What was supposed to be 6 hour, two leg flights turned into day-long ordeals. Luckily I had a copy of Darkship Thieves to pass the time. I will also say that posting on Facebook and Twitter as events unfolded was a nice source of stress relief.

  22. I was ten when 9/11 hit, so I can’t say what pre-9/11 flying was compared to what it is now, however I probably fly more than most of the commenters here…if I kept up my runs between Denver and central TX…and did them on a single airline…I’d have some tier of frequent flier status by the end of this year. With that in mind…

    1. I have flown (in order of most flights taken) Frontier, Southwest, American and US Airways. Ranked in order of who I prefer, swap American and US Air. More on that later.
    2. I’ve had my bag delayed once (until around 4am) on a flight, out of I’m going to guess 50+ segments that I’ve flown over the past four years. That was on American. The rest of my family had their bags delayed until a similarly obscene hour last spring break. They were on Delta.
    3. TSA security theater is dumb. I fly enough though that I can get through security theater in about three minutes, plus line length (5-10 minutes in Denver). Take the “bridge” security if you’re in DEN because less people do it and it’s thus a bit faster.

    Back to your story. I completely agree that handling of your baggage was a complete and utter clusterf***. However:

    1. Frontier has ~55 planes that carry 100+ passengers. Eighteen of them got damaged to the point of being out of commission due to the hailstorm two Wednesdays ago. Contract or no contract, they couldn’t magically band-aid the planes to the point that the FAA would let them take passengers from point A to point B. Trust me, they would have rather done that than cancel full, profitable summer flights.
    2. I’m not sure how many passengers on Frontier got pushed to United and other carriers during the wave of flight cancellations. However Frontier has “interlined” with other airlines when problems of their own rendered flights inoperable. Assuming of course that there’s any room on a non-Southwest flight…
    3. …because Southwest doesn’t “interline” with anyone. Tough luck if your flight has issues with them. 😦
    4. Where is Frontier supposed to, at a day’s notice, get eighteen jets from, ranging in size from 120 to 162 passengers? It’s hard to find such aircraft laying around.

    Frontier did end up chartering between two and five jets from various airlines ( shows these flights) to make sure that people were able to get from point A to point B. However contracting with a charter carrier on short notice, then ferrying planes across the country, takes time and work. Flying on Wednesday was pretty much the worst possible thing ever because, with one third of their fleet gone, Frontier was hamstrung.

    Don’t like having your eggs in a small (two hubs, less than 100 planes) basket? Fly United, who cancelled a few flights of their own despite having a huge fleet. Or fly Southwest. I have nothing against either of those airlines, but my experience with Frontier has been solid overall and I’ll continue to stick with them.

    Speaking of which, I’m flying on Frontier in slightly under 19 hours. I’ll post a trip report on my blog about it. Should be pretty short though; I don’t carry fluids through security, I don’t check luggage and my flight isn’t going to get delayed/cancelled unless a hailstorm moves in again. In which case I’ll make Frontier interline me to United.

    1. My problem was NOT with their cancelling the first flight, but with their cancelling the flights four days later and NOT sending notice. And yes, also with the handling of the luggage. I “give” them the first flight as unavoidable. It was the “cancel at the last second and tell people they HAVE to ask to have the baggage removed” — that’s insane. And then lying about the luggage. And then cancelling the return flight. No, I don’t care how small an airline they are. They KNEW. There were articles about it, which we’d have read if we’d had net access — and we didn’t. They have both our cell numbers and our email. They could have notified us. Even staying put a night would have been better for us than being stranded in Atlanta. However, I say with four days and since they were leasing jets (and btw, in the article they boasted their insurance covered the jets they needed to make up the short fall, so that’s that) they should fricking well have done something about it, either in the way of transfers or leasing. OR at the very least told the passengers they were stranding. OR put them up.

      You follow me? It’s not the first cancellation, it’s the second. If they knew they were going to not be able to fulfill the contract, they should have “interlined” our return flight too. It is still a contract. They don’t get to take the money and do whatever they want, instead of transporting us.

      1. And BTW your implied “I have no problems because I don’t carry fluids through security and don’t check luggage” reminds me of when my postal carrier, five years ago, told me I shouldn’t send important papers USPS, because, duh, of course they could get lost. That’s the same as saying “We can’t do what we advertise and charge to do.” It’s NOT going to cut it. I always need to carry some liquids — more gels, but… — as medicine and such. AND circumstances occasionally require checking baggage. Are the airlines now saying they can only carry passengers who have no baggage? And not do that particularly well?

    2. Ian, you have a blog about flying Frontier? No wonder you seem to be so very knowledgable about their inner workings. And so very, very anxious to make this all be .. the CUSTOMER’S FAULT?

      Why, yes, it *is* the customer’s fault — for flying Frontier!

      Any airline that does not notify customers that their flights are going to delayed or cancelled, when the airline has that information nearly 12 hours before hand, is practicing bait-and-switch. Sort of like getting the customer in the store to pick up a large item, knowing the item isn’t there, and then locking the doors, while holding their posessions (baggage) hostage.

      How much do you get paid, one wonders, to go to any blog that mentions Frontier Airlines and do hatchet jobs on the people complaining, while extolling the virtues of Frontier? “This Blogger for Hire”?

      Frontier messed up big time by:

      1) not using the contact information — which they *require* people to give them — to inform them of possible delays or cancellations the first day of their “weather crisis” when they had so many planes unable to fly.

      2) Accepting any luggage for a flight that Frontier knew would be cancelled, thus separating the customer from their possessions. (But this makes a lot of sense if they don’t want the customer to make other travel arrangements. They have the luggage as a hostage to keep the customer from going elsewhere.)

      3) Not supplying meal and lodging vouchers when the customer ends up in a different city, and total travel time is extended

      4) Lying about hostage luggage, with the possible intent of keeping it to sell. Airlines make millions of dollars annually selling luggage that is “unclaimed” — Frontier has no incentive to get it to the customer, and every incentive not to.

      5) Not contacting the customer *days* later — remember Frontier had all their contact information — and telling the customer their flight would be delayed or cancelled.

      6) Yet again, on the return trip, not offering vouchers for lodging and food.

      Here’s an idea. Instead of those cuddly little animals painted on the tails of Frontier’s planes, maybe they should have dice and roulette wheels: You pays your money and you takes your chance.

    3. Ian L,

      Your immaturity is showing. Kindly put it away: there are laws about that, you know. And before you ask, I found your homepage (the one you chose not to inform folks of here), and read up a bit, so I have an idea of where you’re coming from/going to.

      That, said, you really need to improve your game before you try a take-down here.

      I was ten when 9/11 hit, so I can’t say what pre-9/11 flying was compared to what it is now, however I probably fly more than most of the commenters here…if I kept up my runs between Denver and central TX…and did them on a single airline…I’d have some tier of frequent flier status by the end of this year. With that in mind…
      Denver airport to either San Antonio or Austen – neither of which are large airports. This makes a heck of a difference. And given that you fly different airlines and don’t seem aware that you can join frequent flier groups that cover several of the airlines you listed, clearly you’re not that savvy a consumer.

      1. I have flown (in order of most flights taken) Frontier, Southwest, American and US Airways. Ranked in order of who I prefer, swap American and US Air. More on that later.
      2. I’ve had my bag delayed once (until around 4am) on a flight, out of I’m going to guess 50+ segments that I’ve flown over the past four years. That was on American. The rest of my family had their bags delayed until a similarly obscene hour last spring break. They were on Delta.
      3. TSA security theater is dumb. I fly enough though that I can get through security theater in about three minutes, plus line length (5-10 minutes in Denver). Take the “bridge” security if you’re in DEN because less people do it and it’s thus a bit faster.

      Point 1 is irrelevant given that you’re always flying between the same small group of airports. Sarah has probably been inside every major airport in this country, quite a few not so major, and who knows how many international airports. In questions of customer service and standards of service a broad experience beats a narrow one every time. Who you prefer is equally irrelevant.
      Point 2… Well, aren’t you a lucky one? I’m sure this has much more to do with the standard of baggage handling at the airports and airlines in question. Since we’re trading duelling anecdotes, I’ve had baggage fail to transfer between adjacent terminals when there was over four hours to make said transfer. I’ve had non-stop flights lose baggage and take several days to send it on – that’s right. Luggage booked on a non-stop flight didn’t get on the plane at the departure airport.
      Point 3, Sarah gave me that same advice for departing from Denver over 3 years ago. Don’t patronize someone who knows more than you – it always makes you look worse. Also, you clearly fly at seriously off-peak times, because the TSA queues are rarely that short. Although to be fair, Denver isn’t nearly as busy as some of the airports I’ve flown from.

      Quote: Back to your story. I completely agree that handling of your baggage was a complete and utter clusterf***. However:
      Without the “however” this would be a reasonable and sensible statement.

      1. Frontier has ~55 planes that carry 100+ passengers. Eighteen of them got damaged to the point of being out of commission due to the hailstorm two Wednesdays ago. Contract or no contract, they couldn’t magically band-aid the planes to the point that the FAA would let them take passengers from point A to point B. Trust me, they would have rather done that than cancel full, profitable summer flights.
      If Frontier is still unable to meet its contracted requirements a week later, despite leasing planes and using interline arrangements, they are not running their business properly. Since you clearly have issues with reading comprehension, let me make this absolutely clear. The return flight, nearly a week after the storm, was where Frontier’s administration and customer service was unacceptable. Oh, and no matter what happens, lying to customers is not good business practice. Any employee who does so should be terminated immediately, and if not, that business is no better than politics and should be avoided accordingly.

      Quote: 2. I’m not sure how many passengers on Frontier got pushed to United and other carriers during the wave of flight cancellations. However Frontier has “interlined” with other airlines when problems of their own rendered flights inoperable. Assuming of course that there’s any room on a non-Southwest flight…
      3. …because Southwest doesn’t “interline” with anyone. Tough luck if your flight has issues with them. 😦
      4. Where is Frontier supposed to, at a day’s notice, get eighteen jets from, ranging in size from 120 to 162 passengers? It’s hard to find such aircraft laying around.

      Irrelevant. That’s the delay the day after the storm – which is understandable and acceptable. The delay nearly a week later is not. Kindly cease trying to obfuscate your arguments.

      Quote: Frontier did end up chartering between two and five jets from various airlines ( shows these flights) to make sure that people were able to get from point A to point B. However contracting with a charter carrier on short notice, then ferrying planes across the country, takes time and work. Flying on Wednesday was pretty much the worst possible thing ever because, with one third of their fleet gone, Frontier was hamstrung.
      You really do have reading comprehension issues, don’t you? Wednesday was never the issue. A week later was the issue. Since you claim you’re a geek, I’d suggest you RTFM. Or in this case, RTFP.

      Quote: Don’t like having your eggs in a small (two hubs, less than 100 planes) basket? Fly United, who cancelled a few flights of their own despite having a huge fleet. Or fly Southwest. I have nothing against either of those airlines, but my experience with Frontier has been solid overall and I’ll continue to stick with them.
      It’s not the size of the basket, sir, it’s the rotten eggs in it. They smell, something you have completely failed to notice.

      Quote: Speaking of which, I’m flying on Frontier in slightly under 19 hours. I’ll post a trip report on my blog about it. Should be pretty short though; I don’t carry fluids through security, I don’t check luggage and my flight isn’t going to get delayed/cancelled unless a hailstorm moves in again. In which case I’ll make Frontier interline me to United.
      You’re doing your usual flight between two relatively small airports. As for the not checking luggage and not carrying fluids, well, that’s a luxury only available to college students commuting between their home and their college, and people who can afford to buy things like toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, and the like wherever they go. It’s certainly not available to women, who are expected to carry makeup for any moderately professional event (yes, an author appearing at a convention is a professional event for the author), or anyone who has the misfortune to need regular liquid medication – like diabetics, for starters. You also obviously don’t fly with a laptop, because getting that out of the bag and then back into it afterwords would blow out your oh-so-sweet times. And you haven’t had the misfortune of needing bones pinned, or you’d be setting off the metal detectors every time.

      In short, sir, grow up, realize that not everyone has the charmed life you do, and you may eventually mature into someone an employer might want. After reading this comment, if I saw you applying for any position I had a say in, I’d recommend against you because of the multiple serious logical flaws you have displayed in a short post.

  23. Ian L., I don’t remember Sarah saying anywhere that cancelling the flight out of DIA was unreasonable. What was, imo, is that they didn’t let their passengers know ahead of time that their flights were cancelled. There’s this wonderful invention called email and another called the telephone. Either could have been utilized to get the word out to most, if not all, the impacted passengers before they arrived at the airport.

    But, as Sarah said, what is inexcusable was the cancellation four days later of flights back to Denver — again, without notice. Compound that with the fact that Frontier employees were telling folks it was because there had been another hail storm in Denver that had damaged even more planes.

    This is an instance where a little customer service would have gone a long way. THAT is most likely the source of Sarah’s frustration. Believe me, it would be mine. Fortunately, this sort of situation is still the exception. However, it is becoming more and more the norm. As for your advice that Sarah should fly with another airline if she “doesn’t like putting all her eggs in one basket”, that assumes there were other airlines with seats available and or reasonable prices on the days she needed to fly. It is so easy to give advice after the fact.

    Was Frontier totally at fault here? No. At least not when it comes to the outgoing flight. But — and this is a big but — they were when it comes to the return flight to Denver. This was an operational and public relations screw-up. Frontier isn’t so large that it couldn’t anticipate that their traffic would be impacted for days after the hail storm. As such, along with trying to make other arrangements for planes, they should also have been making contact with ticketed passengers and offering assistance to either rebook onto later flights or allowing them the option of canceling their tickets at no cost so they could book on other carriers.

  24. Sarah, this is a chilling story. Frontier should be ashamed of themselves. They didn’t know what they were doing (that’s what I’d say if I felt like being charitable, anyway, which I don’t after reading this) when they messed with you. It’s like kicking a sleeping tiger cub and hoping it’ll stay asleep. It’s not going to happen.

    I can’t say anything about Frontier that’s any good, either; they took over Midwest Airlines in Milwaukee (Midwest did a good job as a regional airline for at least twenty years; I flew on one of their flights into Minneapolis years back and it was clean, on time, and the people were professional), then promptly laid off half the people who’d done such a good job for Midwest Airlines, including one of my cousins. I think that action in and of itself speaks volumes about their business philosophy, and none of it is good.

    All that said, I did notice one very unusual silver lining in all of this and I hope I’m not being too “Pollyanna-ish” to say so. You have some outstanding friends who’ve commented here — more than most people — who obviously feel your pain in a highly empathetic manner. (Most people would kill for your friends.) They also are writers and editors, and are livid over the couple of bad comments (by Chris and Ian, neither of whom seem to know their butts from a hole in the ground) your blog has received (and probably taking the good comments for granted as you’re a good person and are well-respected in SF&F for good reason).

    I know that can’t make up for the abysmal experience you just went through — one you didn’t deserve, didn’t want (who would?), shouldn’t have had, and I wish hadn’t happened for whatever that’s worth to you. But the fact that you can share your experiences in such an articulate way — and have such articulate defenders in the process (not that you _need_ such by _any_ means) — has to be worth something.

    And in the process, you’ve educated many travelers about one airline not to bother with . . . one good thing that’s come out of this (you already knew you had great friends, though having it demonstrated is never wrong IMO). Let us hope by you doing so, it’ll keep at least one person from flying this obviously substandard airline.

  25. And because they were the one airline we hadn’t had an hellish experience with.

    I’m sorry but did I am gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe you should not fly commercial since no one is able to please you? Consider private air travel as that might live up to your expectations.

    This is a great article about a bad customer!

    1. Um… let me see — Yep, you’re out on a limb. And you’re sawing at the basis.

      This is not a matter of no one being able to please me. You think ANYONE TRIED in the trip with Frontier? REALLY?

      The other airlines were, in general, not as bad on customer service, but they all have inflicted experiences on us that make them UNRELIABLE. The last four flights I took, all got me to destination one to two days late. This is not acceptable when traveling on business and when people are counting on me. IF that makes me a bad customer, so be it, but I thought it simply made me a customer “I pay you, and you’ll get me there no more than a few hours late.”

      I’d love to travel private flights, but we can’t all aspire to the lofty heights you obviously inhabit. Writers are not all millionaires. Most of us are barely scraping by.

      Let me put it to you this way — if every time you booked a hotel you might get there and have a room, or have a room in the next city, or have no room at all, or be required to doss down in the hallway and this materially affected your ability to conduct business — i.e. the reason you’re payign these people — would that make you a horrible customer, or would it mean there was something seriously wrong with the industry?

      You are out on an irrational limb, which is about to snap.

    2. Chris Derp,
      Quote: I’m sorry but did I am gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe you should not fly commercial since no one is able to please you? Consider private air travel as that might live up to your expectations.

      Precisely which expectations are so very unreasonable? That one receive the service one is paying for? Or perhaps the expectation that one will arrive at the place one paid to go to at something close to the time scheduled, WITH one’s baggage? These expectations weren’t at all unreasonable ten years ago – in fact most airlines managed to meet them most of the time.

      Also, I don’t think “customer” means what you think it means, since you appear to think that the airline is Sarah’s customer.

      As for your suggestion of flying private, I’m quite sure Sarah would love that, if you were prepared to pay for it. She’s made it quite clear that most authors don’t have that kind of money, and she certainly isn’t one of the lucky few. (Maybe J K Rowlings, but that’s about it.)

      You really should have thought a bit more before making yourself look like an idiot. This is an author blog read by intelligent, literate people who have all suffered bad airline experiences. Anyone who wants to claim the fiasco Sarah endured isn’t the fault of the airline needs to present solid evidence and explain why and how lying to customers is acceptable.

      I shall wait for that with eager anticipation, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    3. Chris Derp, my first question is to ask if you are the same Chris I responded to above. If not, maybe you guys should meet because you both seem to have a huge disconnect about what customer service should consist of.

      I’ve flown for decades. I’ve flown private planes, charter planes and commercial. I know pilots, flight attendants and airline executives. Each and every one of them, when talking off the record, will tell you that service isn’t what it used to be.

      I flew on one of the first flights out of DFW after 9/11 and was flying on a weekly basis for weeks after that. It’s amazing how, in the face of so much fear and worry, the airlines managed to make flying a rewarding experience. Even with increased security that none of us were used to, air travel wasn’t onerous.

      Fast forward to now when most airlines are doing their best to hit their customers with fees every time they blink. You pay to check a bag. Some airlines charge if you carry on a bag. You pay for a non-alcoholic drink. You pay for a pillow or blanket. You pay different airport fees on top of your plane ticket. You have an emergency that requires you to change your reservations and you have to give up your first born.

      All of which could be understood, if not forgiven, if you got good customer service. But you don’t. You have to pay if you call in and want a real person to help you make your reservation. I know, I know, you can make your reservation online. But what about those people who aren’t comfortable using computers or our seniors who don’t know how to use one? I could go on and on but won’t. instead, let’s get back to your comments and Sarah’s post.

      So, tell me, what was unreasonable that Sarah and her family wanted? Was it unreasonable to expect the airline to tell them when they checked their flight status before leaving home that the flight had been delayed or even cancelled? Was it unreasonable for them to expect they would get to their destination in a timely manner? This was a business trip for Sarah, not some lark she was off on. Was it unreasonable to expect them to get her luggage to her in a timely manner? Was it reasonable for the airline to fail to tell them when they checked flight status that their return flight was cancelled?

      Now, ask yourself this, if you had been in her shoes, would you be sitting here making the same asinine comments you are now?

      This is not, as you say, a great article about a bad customer. This is a customer who has been frustrated at every turn simply voicing her opinion — just as you have done. However, she had reason for her opinion. What’s yours?

  26. I don’t know how I am making myself look like an idiot. Both of you fail to realize the variables involved with air travel. Unfortunately some of these rants could have been avoided if the author understood a little more about airlines. An example would be when employees were being generous and kind enough to hand out snacks and water. She decided to take this in a negative way by saying they weren’t working the ticket counters and that we didn’t know her food preferences. Well not everyone knows how to use the ticketing software. And why did she think it was a great idea to exit security I may never know…

    I’ve always said there should be a test before people are allowed to fly commercially, and this woman makes a very compelling case for a pre-check in quiz.

    Question 1: How does what you paid for your ticket compare to what it costs to get you there?
    a) It’s outrageous! Next time I’m going to fly southwest because they don’t gouge customers like you guys!
    b) Eh, it’s probably equal
    c) I am getting away with grand larceny

    Question 2: Where is the plane that will operate your flight to ATL right now?
    a) its been in one of those big hangars by the runway all day, silly
    b) I don’t know?
    c) It’s stuck in a snowstorm in boise and I should be glad if I get to Atlanta by tuesday

    Question 3:When there are long lines to rebook cancelled flights:
    a) you’d better be serving roast turkey sandwiches with an organic chipotle mayo dressing and half caf latte frappachinos to everyone waiting in line
    b)I just hope they move quickly
    c) you’re giving out cookies? Solid!

    If you answered all C’s, congratulations, we wish all of our customers were like you
    If you answered all B’s, you can fly
    If you answered all A’s, just hold on a minute, the rampers are just finishing up running over your bag with a catering truck, and please, go fly southwest. Let them deal with your crazy ***…

    1. And which airline do you work for?

      After being stranded at an airport with no reasonable communication, seeing a number of terminals that could be staffed by ticket agents and aren’t, yeah, I’d get a bit testy. Sorry, but I live just a few miles from DFW. I have seen the good and the bad, both from the passenger end and from the end of the person dropping off/picking up passengers. I’ve had airlines ignore my son’s military orders and their own company policy about military checking bags in order to extort a few extra bucks out of him. When questioned about it, we were told to send in copies of his orders along with the credit card receipt and they might — MIGHT — refund the price. Oh, this is the same airline that on the trip out lost his bag.

      One simple thing could have made the entire trip for Sarah and the others on those flights bearable. Communication. Honest communication from Frontier about what was happening and why. Not lying to them about a second hail storm in Denver when one never happened. Not losing their luggage on the way out.

      And, before you start in with another check list, let me address the one you posted. First of all, I’m sure every airline — or any other service industry for that matter — would love it if no one questioned their lack of customer service. Second, Sarah and the rest of her family understand that flying is not a right. But neither is it a privilege. It is a contract between the airline and the paying passenger. Reasonableness is the key on both ends. In this case, Frontier failed to act in a reasonable manner. Like it or not, they did — if for no other reason than in the fact they failed to communicate to the Hoyts or anyone else on the return flight that the flight had been canceled. Days had passed since the storm in Denver, time in which the airline could determine how many planes would be out of commission. Time in which they could have been assisting their passengers in re-booking either on Frontier or with another airline.

      Finally, when did it become unreasonable for someone to write a post about what they see as a bad experience? Does voicing your dissatisfaction make you a bad customer? I’m guessing under your rules it does, since you want us all to be happy that you’re serving us cookies as you tell us to bend over and cough.

    2. Chris Derp,
      So, as I understand your response here, we should all smile when the airlines metaphorically bend us over, and offer them our own vaseline?

      Let’s look at your questions here:
      If it was just what I paid for that ticket I wouldn’t mind. Heck, I wouldn’t mind a more expensive ticked it I knew UP FRONT that said ticket would get me treated like a real human being and not an unfortunate smelly side effect of the airline business. Unfortunately to get that, you’ve got to fly business class (at up to 10x the cost of an economy ticket, depending… um. Something isn’t right when the upgrade is at that differential). Also, just try finding what a given flight has in the way of amenities without the benefit of an airline insider. Half the time they don’t tell you you have to pay for baggage until AFTER you book. So that fare is a LONG way from the amount you’re actually paying.

      Question 2. If it’s Thursday, and the plane for my flight is stuck in a snowstorm in Boise – assuming, of course, that the airline is generous enough to actually TELL me this – you’d better damn well bet I expect to get to Atlanta before Tuesday. I’d accept a 12 hour delay if – and ONLY if – it was an immediate unforeseen problem. If that plane is stuck because Boise’s been snowed in for the last 3 days, you’d better NOT be telling me this when I get to the airport. You’d better have tried to tell me beforehand, using the email address and/or phone number I gave you when I booked.

      If you check my baggage for a flight you’ve ALREADY cancelled, I will be displeased, to say the least. That’s legally actionable fraud – or theft. Either applies. If you then lie to me about where it is, you can expect the next communication to come from my lawyer.

      Your third question is yet another false flag. How about “Is everyone available on the desk taking rebookings?”

      Now, my little questionnaire to you:
      1. An unavoidable storm has damaged a significant number of your planes and you won’t be able to go close to your schedule for the next 48 hours. Do you:
      a) Pretend nothing has happened and tell your staff to go on taking bookings and collecting baggage. You can always sell it later as “unclaimed”
      b) Stick a notice on the boards and cross your fingers behind your back
      c) Put out notifications to every passenger likely to be affected by every method available to you, starting with the ones with the earliest scheduled departure, put up big “Please see the service desk” notifications all over every airport affected, and put extra people on those service desks to the best of your ability to make sure your passengers understand the problem and can make other arrangements?

      2. You managed to send your passenger’s baggage to Atlanta when they went to Knoxville. They have phoned you to tell you where they will be to receive their baggage. Do you
      a) Tell them you’ll fly it their destination city and deliver it to their hotel, then tell them you’ll fedex it, then do nothing for three days. They’re flying, they can afford to buy more stuff, right?
      b) Tell them they can pick it up at the airport it was sent to.
      c) Actually send it to the place they’re staying, with an apology for the misunderstanding. After all, you want them to think this isn’t something that happens often and you actually regret them having a bad experience.

      3. Two days after you’ve released press releases lauding your ability from the natural disaster in question 1, you realize you haven’t and have to cancel some flights. Do you
      a) Tell passengers it’s caused by the natural disaster a week ago? If they believe you, you don’t have to pay them for overnight accommodation.
      b) Put up a notice somewhere and cross your fingers.
      c) Do your best to notify all the affected passengers beforehand, profusely apologize for the inconvenience, and try to leave them with the impression that this is something unfortunate and rare?

      If you answered all C, congratulations, you should have plenty of passengers for as long as you keep it up. All B, your performance is adequate by current standards. Barely. All A, there’ll be people celebrating your bankruptcy with “It couldn’t happen to a more deserving airline”.

      Oh, and “this woman” has a name. And yes, Frontier DID have contractual relationships with this woman. They simply choose to deny it.

    3. Sir,

      I make it a point of being kind to the mentally impaired.

      So, I’ll answer your questions despite their rudeness, straw-man building and OOZING sense of superiority and entitlement. 1 — none of the above. I’m paying what the airline charged. I.e. what they considered a fair price to get me there. If they can’t afford to get me there at that price, they should charge higher prices. Not my part of the job. 2 — Don’t care. Truly don’t care if you serve food, or even if you hand out water. There are water fountains in the airport, thank heavens. It says right here that I paid money to get there. What I care about is getting rebooked to get on a flight asap somewhere close enough where I can DRIVE to Atlanta and get there at the time I have to be there. The person who said they should have “diet sensitive” snacks wasn’t me. This is NOT a restaurant. I just want the airline personnel to rebook me and not to crazily fly my bag where I can’t go. Here’s a hint, if you’d told me last night the flight was cancelled, we could have DRIVEN and gotten there in time to meet my commitment. You had my cell phone #, my home # and my email. What? No automated calls/emails? WHY NOT? 3- b. WHICH MEANS YOU SHOULD HAVE PEOPLE MANNING THE DESKS. NOT A SOLITARY employee for 3k passengers, and the rest doing “hospitality” nonsense. What do you think you are? A catering service?

      as to your answers — I “can” fly? WHO THE HELL ARE YOU? ARE YOU A GOVERNMENT? REALLY? I PAID TO FLY. PEOPLE ON THE OTHER END ARE COUNTING ON ME. YOUR LACK OF RELIABILITY IS AFFECTING OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS. And you determine if I “can” fly? And you want me to shut up and take it? Not until you have an army, bucko.

      Let me answer with a quizz of my own:
      1) Your planes got whacked by a storm at TWO AM. What do you do?
      A) immediately push button on program to send out automated message (I know you have the system. You’ve left us automated messages before) that says “So sorry, your plane was cancelled. We will refund the cost of your ticket.” This leaves your customers stranded, but they can make alternate arrangements.
      B) Do nothing, wait till eight hours later to cancel flights and leave tons of people stranded in the airport while their bags are sent ahead.

      2) Screwed up, didn’t warn customers. Now what?
      A) take luggage from customers and decide to get it to destination even if passenger can’t/won’t get there.
      B) tell people “we’re not checking luggage the flight has been cancelled.”

      3) Screwed up, sent luggage ahead and am faced with three thousand stranded passengers
      A) Immediately stop all luggage from cancelled flights (can be done. Other airlines do it.)
      B) Send luggage ahead, on its own merry little trip. Because, people paid to check this bag, yet have nothing they need in it, right?

      4) Must get three thousand passengers processed
      A) put everyone who can punch keys on it.
      B) put one or two people on it, have the rest circle around distributing water and cookies and incidentally telling everyone “you’ll never get there.” (What? Your employees are human. They gossip.)

      5) Half the passengers are taking other flights to other destinations
      a) put everyone who can work with luggage on it so they can reroute (yes, this can be done via computer, without talking to the passenger. I’ve had this done tons of times by other airlines.)
      b) have one person who waits till passenger is PHYSICALLY in her office to stop/reroute luggage. If it has gone elsewhere meanwhile, ah, well. Risk they take by trusting you, right?

      6) You screwed up, your customer is in Chattanooga. Luggage is in Atlanta.
      A) Apologize — you’ve had their paperwork on luggage for 24 hours by then — and send luggage on to destination by quickest means
      B) Lie about it, and figure they can collect luggage on the leg back through Atlanta.

      7)You’ve now had five days to know you don’t have the plane for the flight back
      A)Inform passengers, offer to refund and let them make their own plans or rebook to next available flight. (DO NOT ASSUME passenger has net access and has read articles. Consider calling cell phone)
      B) wait till passenger is at airport to tell them you’ve booked them till next wednesday and there will be no compensation for either the delay (passengers have jobs too. I know that’s hard to believe) or for expenses incurred for TWO DAYS of being stranded.

      8) You screwed up. Passenger is at airport.
      A) Put as many people as possible on it, and try to do whatever you can. Explain what happened and why you’re in trouble. IF insurance doesn’t cover passenger displacement expenses (at least one article said it did) then say “gee, our losses were so massive, five days weren’t enough. We screwed up. Sorry.”
      B) Lie about what caused the cancellation and insist there was a second ail storm. For double points, when a COUNTER “manager” can “award” hotels and meals, cling desperately to “it’s weather” and refuse to do anything for the passengers you’ve stranded. (Hint, five days later it’s not weather. It’s lack of equipment/planning.)

      9) In your press releases, you can boast about how well you’re handling this or you can be realistic
      A) Admit that there are issues. Beg the public to be patient. Explain issues.
      B) Who the hell would know you ahve issues if they’re not flying with you at the moment? Tell newspapers how you’re bending over backwards for customer satisfaction. You’ve lied to the customers all along, so why not continue?

      10) When pissed customer writes about her experiences and gets unexpected attention to her blog and to your failures you
      A) apologize. Perhaps send an email of apology? Point out you don’t normally do this, and yes her business (I have flown with frontier since it has been available to me, though of course not on all flights, and had no reason to be upset till now. Or at least no more reason than other airlines. So, likely an email saying “Gee, sorry, it was a clusterf*cked time” would have been enough to make me at least consider you again and say on the blog that I’d received an apology and would give you another chance) is important to you.
      B) become offensive and beligerant on her blog, call her a “bad customer” and act as if you are not only entitled to her money, but can tell her she doesn’t have a “right” to fly.

      If you picked all A, your adventure ended with first question. You’re not perfect, but you did what you could. From then on, each A answer can mitigate the problems.
      If you picked all B, you should NEVER EVER EVER play one of those “pick your path” games, because you have a talent for picking the one path that will lose you a customer, good will and possibly your job.

      Let me put this in words you might understand: Customers are NOT an unfortunate side-problem to flying those pretty planes. They are YOUR customers and your bread and butter. The airline who employs you is PAID to fly customers. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYONE’S MONEY for services NOT rendered. Piss off enough people, and they will pick slightly less annoying airlines. (Note, too, that you seem to have an obsession with Southwest — I haven’t had any bad experiences with Southwest or Continental, ever, beyond understandable delays. OTOH I’ve never had THIS bad an experience with any other airline. At this point it’s simply “Anyone but frontier.”)

      No flyers, no job. Turn enough of us away and you will be out on the dole. Of course, maybe you already are, considering how the government props up the airlines… Which might explain why you think you get to dictate who flies and who doesn’t and get as offended as a DMV employee when your efficiency is questioned.

      Oh, and I hope that’s not your real name, or that you’re an executive level employee. Otherwise, if I were your boss, you’d be called on the carpet tomorrow about “how NOT to handle a public relations disaster.”

    4. Oh, and speaking of MY crazy, let’s talk of YOUR crazy:

      You’re totally obsessed with Southwest. Did they kill your dog?

      You think you have the right to decide who can fly or not.

      You took comments from other commenters about specific food and aggregated it to my article. I couldn’t care less about food, it just annoyed me they were doing that instead of rebooking flights ALREADY.

      You seem to think airlines are entitled to being paid because they charge “below cost” even they don’t fly the customer anywhere.

      You are convinced — ABSOLUTELY convinced — that being rude, idiotic and obnoxious is the way to make friends and influence people.

      Brother. There are saner people than you in an “I love me” jacket.

  27. You fail to note the fact she has had “hellish” experiences with every other airline. I have flown just as much as you have Amanda. I have never had such mortifying experiences flying. Sure I have had some lost bags, delayed and cancelled flights, but guess what? Everything worked out in the end without getting all “testy”. Treat the CSRs as you would want to be treated. Plus going into flying in a negative mindset is of course going to create a negative experience.

    1. Chris Derp,
      You are trying to draw attention from Frontier’s inexcusable behavior by nit-picking at the sides.

      “Treat the CSRs as you would want to be treated”. Right. You know what? The company I work for tells its CSRs to treat customers the way they’d like to be treated.

      Now, I will be polite with customer service people up to a point. That point is when they are lying to me (which Sarah experienced) or when they are rude to me (which Sarah also experienced). You seem to think we should be thanking everyone at the airport for letting us on the plane at all.

      Well, guess what. That’s why damn near every airline in this country is in serious financial trouble. I do not know one single person in a fairly wide circle of friends, acquaintances, family, and co-workers who will choose to fly if it is at all possible to drive. Even if it means an 8 hour drive instead of a 90 minute flight.

      Now, take off your “representative of airline” hat and stop and consider this: if something relatively cheap is being avoided by large numbers of people, who is to blame? The large numbers of people who are choosing longer, more tiring, and often more expensive methods of travel, or the provider of the service they’re avoiding?

      We passengers don’t have much power, but we CAN vote with our feet, and we have. Congratulations for showing so many people WHY this is the right decision.

    2. Dear sir,
      I fly for specific conferences, or for short times. Look SLEEPING OVERNIGHT IN MADRID AIRPORT IS AN HELLISH EXPERIENCE. If you don’t think so, you never tried it. I have pointed out before it might have to do with when I fly — usually summer — and from where — usually Denver. HOWEVER being more than 24 h late arriving is NOT acceptable. As for “everything worked out” — yes, I eventually got my bags and got home. Meanwhile my performance at the conference — which IS a professional commitment for me — was SERIOUSLY impaired, which affects my business.

      As for my “negative mindset” — what is this, New Age? If I’d thought of rainbows and flowers, an airplane would have been conjured. NOTE I didn’t even say anything out of turn till the leg back in, Atlanta. And that if I hadn’t spoken out of turn there, I wouldn’t even have got a hotel and would have had to sleep in the aiport again. Note that NEVER before had an airline failed so comprehensively that I had to write about it. The problem is not me. It’s YOU.

      I will again point out that my postal carrier, ten years ago, informed us we couldn’t expect our mail to be inviolate or to arrive on time. If we wanted to do that, use one of the other services. So we have. As has almost everyone. With the result the post office MOSTLY delivers brochures and junk mail. If we can’t expect the airlines to get us there “on time” — meaning within twenty four hours — and with a minimum of customer service, then perhaps, just perhaps we’ll find other means to get there or not go. And then WHAT? We’ll be fine. How about you?

  28. Chris, you are lucky if you haven’t had those hellish experiences. The fact that you haven’t doesn’t give you the right to discount the fact that Sarah did have them. Nor can you discount the fact that others have as well. Why else do we now have legislation forbidding airlines from “holding passengers hostage”? I suggest you you acknowledge the fact that not everyone has had your good luck.

  29. Just one question for you. Why are you upset? You voice your opinion and I voice that I think you a middle aged bitch and thats not ok? Well sorry lady. I have a strong feeling when anything doesnt go your way you get all miffed over little things. Grow up. Learn to take criticism and maybe you wouldn’t be such a terrible self proclaimed author.

    1. Oh, ho! Now the truth comes out. You can’t answer with fact, so you start with the insults. After the strawmen, the false flag arguments and so forth, I’m not surprised you’ve finally resorted to offensive language.

      Now, sir, how many “so called authors” have an output of between 2 and 6 novels a year for 10 years – all through major publishers, I might add. Try for Sarah A Hoyt, Elise Hyatt, and Sarah D’Almeida and take a look at the reviews on some of her books. Note also that this “so called” author is also a frequent finalist in some of the most prestigious awards in her field, AND the most recent winner of one of them. You did do your basic research and at least skim some of the blog, right?

      You didn’t?

      Well, maybe you should try taking your head out of your ass long enough to stop looking out of your own mouth, and possibly even learn that arcane art known as “thinking”. You may even learn something.

    2. Oh, and Chris?
      “Middle-aged bitch”, “grow up”… projecting, much? You’re the one who’s acting out and needs to grow up.

      Go crawl back to your pitiful cohorts who think you’re clever, because you can’t play with the real bitches.

      And if you think I’m being nasty, you have NO idea. You want nasty, Mr Derp, you’ll get nasty.

    3. oooh. You called me a bitch. You called me a bitch! I’m so shocked. NO ONE ever called me that BEFORE! I’ll now curl up and die. What amazing intellect! What extraordinary argument you managed! What are you, twelve? Would you be upset if I’d called you an infantile troll? No? Merely descriptive, eh?

      Yeah, I’m a bitch. I’m the bitchiest bitch who ever jogged. Don’t forget that. You started semi-reasonable if stupid. Then you started hitting by claiming I wanted special treatement. Now you’ve just revealed you’re a troll, interested in nothing but in screaming. From now on ALL your comments with their wondrous level of discourse will be deleted and blocked. Thank you for playing.

  30. Derp, maybe you should grow a thicker skin. This so-called “terrible self proclaimed author” is an award winning author on a national scale. She has published with major publishing houses some twenty novels. The only one getting miffed here is you because no one is coming to your way of thinking. You are the one who started the insults. You are the one who wouldn’t answer the questions posted to you. It always amazes me when people come onto a blog and start throwing mud — especially when they aren’t regular commenters. And, I note again that you failed to answer at least two questions that might explain your motives in continuing to attack Sarah for simply stating her opinion about what happened. First, you failed to respond to my question asking if you were the same Chris who posted earlier. Second, you failed to answer the question about which airline you work for. I assume you work for one based on your own comment at the end of your so-called list of qualifying questions about how, and I’m paraphrasing because I’m not going to waste any more time on this, “we welcome you as a customer”. So, go away. Quit being the troll and crawl back to your feel-good airline loving blogs. Or grow up and recognize that the airlines do screw up and this is one such instance.

    1. I’ll also note this is MY blog, so I own my opinions. You and Kate have your emails visible. But Chris is hiding behind a no-email name that might be his name or not. The comment that just hit spam claims he’s not an airline employee, but if so, he’s seriously INEPT with the English language and also, apparently, in love with Frontier. (And in hate with Southwest. Eh.)

      As for frequent flyer forums…. Don’t know. Have been linked from some with approving comments. Don’t care. I have this thing known as a “job” that doesn’t allow me to spend my days in “frequent flyer forums.” I don’t really care if other people think the treatment I received is perfectly reasonable — though I’ll note I don’t know most of the other commenters, the ones I know I know through my conference as fans, and that NO ONE ELSE is as crazy in love with airlines right or wrong as this critter.

  31. All I have read in this blog is everyone attacking a poster who disagrees with this woman’s opinion. You all are the ones with your heads so far up Sara Hoyt’s ass you don’t see any other side. I see numerous attacks against other posters pointing out the blogger’s stupidity only to be met with walls of babbling text trying to stick up for Ms. Hoyt. Post this in any frequent traveler forum and see what response you get!

    1. Your opening salvo was to insult Sarah and you wonder that you draw a negative response? I would say “amazing” but, really, my amazement threshold for human stupidity is actually quite high.

  32. Mr. Derp, let’s see. We attacked you without reason — I’m adding the last because that’s what it seems you’re saying. Sorry you feel that way, but we, too, can express our opinions. If you go back to my comments, you will see that I was also posting based on with personal experience. I tried to comment with my interpretation of what the Hoyts encountered on this trip. And, please remember, it was a business trip. Did I get testy and, yes, bitchy in later responses to you? Sure. But that was based on what your responses. You came into someone else’s blog and attacked them. You ignored questions asked you. Your solution is simply if you don’t like something, don’t do it. Doesn’t always work, especially not when time is of the essence.

    Please consider the fact that this is the day and age of technology. There are procedures in place for automated calls and emails to be sent out in times of need. This was not done. If it had, a number of folks, not just the Hoyts, would have had a better trip.

    This is my last post to you. You’ve shown that you have no problem calling names and throwing out conclusions without supporting facts. Sorry. But, when you come onto someone’s blog and attack, you should expect to be hit back. If you’d done a bit of homework and realized that many of those who frequent this blog are also big supporters of Baen books — ie, conservative and libertarian — who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and who absolutely adore trouncing on trolls, you might have thought twice before coming here and trying to intimidate Sarah with name calling and superior attitude. You really are lucky only a couple of us have time today to waste with you.

    Oh yeah, as for my head being up Sarah’s ass, boy you don’t know me. Sarah and I often butt heads. We’re friends — yeah, I admit it. We’re friends — not because I hang on her every word and worship the ground she walks on but because I have no problem telling her when I think she’s being an ass and vice versa. That said, most of the people who do post here are either Sarah’s fans or people who have been referred here by others and who have stayed because they like what she has to say. So, move on. Go where you think you’ll be appreciated.

  33. Mr Derp,

    You said:All I have read in this blog is everyone attacking a poster who disagrees with this woman’s opinion.
    a) When you post on someone’s blog, it is polite to refer to them by name, not as “this woman”.
    b) In response to your first post, Sarah made the comparison with hotels, I challenged you to produce evidence showing that Frontier’s reported actions – including lying to customers, remember – was in fact reasonable behavior, and Amanda challenged you to provide reasons for your statements: which included claiming Sarah was a bad customer with unreasonable expectations. This is not an attack. No-one called you a liar or an idiot – the worst that was said was that you were grossly incorrect.

    You said: You all are the ones with your heads so far up Sara Hoyt’s ass you don’t see any other side.
    a) It’s spelled “Sarah”. Common courtesy, sir.
    b) I rather doubt Sarah’s ass is that big.
    c) Every last one of us has had bad flight experiences and sympathizes with the situation Sarah found herself in. That’s hardly ‘not seeing any other side’
    d) I work in an industry where customer service is a major factor. If anyone on my employer’s staff had been responsible for the kind of treatment Sarah received, they would be explaining to the company president why they should still be employed. I have yet to see from you or any other commenter claiming Sarah has unreasonable expectations that explains why customer service should be different in the airline industry.

    You said: I see numerous attacks against other posters pointing out the blogger’s stupidity only to be met with walls of babbling text trying to stick up for Ms. Hoyt.
    a) Stupidity? Hoo boy. Let me disabuse you. You’re calling someone who’s got more formal qualifications – from top schools, too – than you’d care to imagine (I don’t know the full list, but I do know that they include full-ride scholarships and prizes), who is an award winning author, and who has survived revolutions, stupid?
    b) Walls of babbling text? Oh, please. There are at least three other published authors who read this blog. We’re all literate and like to play word games. It’s only babbling if you don’t understand it – by which I can assume that you don’t understand the long word-play postings? I am sorry.

    You said: Post this in any frequent traveler forum and see what response you get!
    a) Funny, I thought quite a few of the sympathetic responses were from people who came here from frequent traveler forums. I guess you might be a little bit astray on that one.
    b) This is Sarah’s blog. She can talk about whatever she pleases. She can post this wherever she pleases. I’m certainly not telling the person who kindly allows me to comment here (and she doesn’t have to) to do anything, although I can and will say when I think she’s out of line. And have.

    1. Well, I’ve been lucky enough to have avoided the real horror stories. Closest I’ve come is having to go through the nude-o-scope every time I fly out of Indy (which I haven’t done for personal reasons in a long time–business trips only). Oh, I did get stranded in Phoenix once when my connecting flight to Santa Barbara was cancelled (fog and ILS being down). The airline* provided me a voucher for a hotel, and a toll free number to call to arrange that hotel. The toll free number got me a hotel with a shuttle that would pick me up at the airport for free. Had to reschedule with the client and delay my return trip to complete the business but fortunately that was doable.

      So, basically, I’ve been lucky. OTOH, I know a lot of other people who fly and stories such as Sarah’s are _not_ uncommon.

      *The airline was Southwest, as it happens.

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