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The Whining Travelers Carry On

Or, Service Takes A Dive

Monday's travels started with cancellations and re-bookings and continued. We checked our flight schedule. On time. Arriving at the airport for the re-booked flight, customer service said, "I'm sorry, that flight is delayed."

By how much?

"About two and a half hours. It's not going to get out until four now."

It was 11:30.

Ah.

"I'm sorry," the CR rep said. We heard those words a number of times. My wife said, that's all we hear. We buy a service, then show up and, "I'm sorry, your schedule has been changed, I'm sorry, you've been asigned new seats."

All flights were delayed. None took off on schedule. Reasons were never given. On two of the three flights, Delta and United, my seat was broken and the seatback wouldn't go back. While my seat went back on the third flight, I heard another person tell the attendant, "This seat doesn't go back properly."

"I'm sorry. I'll make a note for maintenance."

I'm sorry. Nothing can be done. As a United attendant noted to another customer, "They've taken everything away. We don't have blankets or snacks, just coffee, water and tea."

America's Business saved their finest for the finale, at Budget Rental Car. Arriving at 11:30 PM, five hours after scheduled, the a very pleasant, smiling CR Rep asked, "Why you like an upgrade for half price?"

No, thanks. I'd made the reservations online and paid for them, selecting all of my options at that time, I told her.

"Well, you should consider an upgrade to a Jeep or something. You sit higher so you can see better and it has a more powerful engine. You will be going up 2,000 feet."

That's okay, I have a Focus at home and travel up mountains all the time.  It has no problems.

"Oh, so you're familiar with the chugga-chugga."

The chugga-chugga? Yes.

Several click strokes and moments pass. "Oh, your Focus isn't available. Avis stole it out from us. We share some cars. It's been a busy day and she stole it from me."

Really?

"So you'll be getting a free upgrade."

I wanted a compact.

"There aren't any available. There's an Expedition, a Lincoln Continental, or a Tahoe."

Sigh. Tahoe.

My wife became angrier as she thought about it. It is the classic Seinfeld routine, years later, still being played you. "You know how to take a reservation, you just don't know how to hold it."

I'm sorry. We're living through the death of service. The reps are all trained to smile and maintain pleasant eye contact. We, the customers, have resolved not to be the ugly customer. We know that all the customer service rep can do is say, I'm sorry and smile. My wife is correct, though. None of my flights and travels the last several years have gone as planned when airlines and rental car companies were involved. I've lowered expectations to accept their failures.

They say they're sorry and we walk away. We will write letters and complain. We will tell friends and sign petitions. We will vow never to use Budget, United, Delta, but pragmatically reconize, what of the funeral at home across the country? The illness and emergencies two thousand miles away? They have us and they know it.

Remember the trust fund? Did you ever play that game, making deposits and withdrawals on your trust account with others?

Sure, you have. You live it. You make deposits and withdrawals and allow others to do the same. I trusted you, we tell one another after their withdrawal empties the account. I will never trust you -- him -- her -- them -- again.

The travel industry and their account is almost empty. We make plans but its with less joy and enthusiasm, groaning through websites, travel agencies, airlines and rental car companies, 'looking for deals' but we're drinking from one well.  No matter what you pay, you're still using the same service providers. The only way to feel good about your value, take the time off, get in the car and drive wherever you're re going, as my wife suggested. 

What about going to Italy?

Boat.

Sure. I'm looking forward to that. Cruises have been around longer than the airlines. I expect we'll see a whole new level of professionalism and smiling when we're told, "I'm sorry." 

I am looking forward to it.