December 11

One Bad Experience Is All It Takes

It was bound to happen; I had a bad plane day. With all the flying I do, there was bound to be a negative experience. This one started with a seatmate and ended with a US Airways flight attendant.

Because I was heading to Boston for an early-morning meeting and trying to beat the clock, I decided to purchase a Porter Cable 895pk for an extra fee of $15. Yes, it totally went against my better judgment because flying Southwest 95% of the time, I’m no longer used to the nickel-and-diming of the other airlines. Plus, this was a small regional jet so the only thing a “choice” seat gets you is closer to the front of the plane. But I begrudgingly purchased it due to the time factor.

While I was waiting at the gate, a man with three children (no toddlers; and one teenager) approached the gate agent asking that his family be reseated together. Apparently, three of the four of them were together but one was in one row ahead.  The gate agent apologized and said the flight was booked full and the only option he had was to ask someone on the plane if they’d be willing to switch seats.

Aside from thinking this guy was a bit annoying I didn’t give it a second thought…until it was time to board. As I approached seat 6F, guess who was sitting there? Yep, it was the man with his three children sitting across the whole row. So I nicely said to him, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re in my seat.” To which he replied, “The flight attendant told me to sit here, so you’ll have to move.”

“No,” I said. “I heard what the gate agent told you and he said you could ASK someone to switch. He didn’t re-seat you.”

“Well, I’m not moving,” he said. “I’m traveling with my kids and you’re travelling alone.”

So with a line of people behind me trying to get to their seats, I had to summon the flight attendant and explain that I had booked that seat well ahead of time and I’d like to keep it.

“He’s traveling with children,” she said to me. “You’ll have to move to Row 22.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t care who he’s traveling with. I paid extra for that seat and I want to sit there because I have a business meeting I’m trying to get to.”

“You paid extra for that seat?” the flight attendant said to me. “Yes, I did,” I said.

And then to my complete astonishment, the flight attendant said very loudly for everyone to hear, “Attention airplane! There is nothing special about the seats on this plane so do NOT pay extra for them!”

“Excuse me?!” I said to her. “I suggest you make that announcement to your airline instead of mocking one of your customers because of their natural remedies for cystic acne.”

Then, some of the other passengers came to my defense. One man said, “If you make her move, then you should give her a refund right now. What you’re doing is just wrong.”

And another person said, “She has a right to sit in the seat she booked and paid extra for. Why should this guy get preferential treatment just because he has kids?”

“Thank you,” I said to both of them.

Finally, the flight attendant relented and asked the man to move to Row 22.

Now, I have nothing against children and I’m typically a polite, reasonable person. But as a frequent traveler, I’m getting fed up with bad-to-mediocre service from airlines like US Airways. And they wonder why Southwest is kicking their butts in sales, service, quality and practically every other category.

I thought about going on US Airways’ website and lodging a formal complaint but realized that would probably have zero impact. So instead, I decided to dedicate my travel blog post to it. And in closing, I have just one thing to say:

Attention airlines! We are in the age of social media. Every single bad action your employees make toward a customer will have longer-term effects than you can ever imagine. It’s something to keep in mind before mocking your next customer in front of a plane-full of people, especially when the only thing that customer did wrong was not booking with Southwest. Just sayin’. Consider my complaint lodged.

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