Something is going to happen this year that will affect all
of our lives, although at this point I'm not sure how. The airlines are going to
return to profitability after years of steady losses. So now, the question now
begs to be asked, will the services they provide improve? Will their employees
be nicer to us? To me, that's the defining factor of how well a flight goes;
not being chided by strangers goes a long way. JetBlue is my favorite airline
because they're not mean to me. I don't feel the bristling tension when I step
onto their aircraft that I feel from other airlines.
Which is not to say that I didn't have a few pleasant
experiences while flying in 2006. In December I was on a new Delta flight that
goes between Miami
and JFK. The aircraft was obviously new, amazingly spacious and the service was
jarringly pleasant. I was surprised, since I usually dread flying Delta these
days, for reasons we've all experienced. One ironic twist, however, was that
they were offering passengers the chance to upgrade to business class for a
mere $100, which sounded tempting enough until I realized that they weren't
serving food in that cabin either.
I still remain a fan of flying American Airlines, but that's
only because of the guaranteed extra legroom in coach. I was royally inconvenienced
by them twice last year and each time it involved taking the 6 a.m. flight out
of JFK to Miami to make a connection to the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Do you know what time I had to get up to be at the airport two hours early for
a 6 a.m. flight? Do the math! So in each case, I was sitting on the plane,
which pulled out from the gate and stopped. And each time the captain came on
to say that something on the dashboard didn't seem quite right and that
maintenance needed to come take a look. (Personally, I would have checked the
airplane out before piling a few hundred people onto it, but that's just me.)
Yadda, yadda, yadda, I missed my connections in both cases and didn't arrive at
my destinations until late at night. But, here's where the "pleasant experience"
came in. On the day of my return from the second trip, I received an e-mail
from American Airlines saying they knew they had "disappointed me" on
the outbound flight. They were not only sorry, they had already credited my
AAdvantage account with 8,000 bonus points. I hadn't even had a chance to
complain yet! Talk about a jaw-dropping experience. In this case I would have
typically asked for 15,000 bonus points plus retribution for emotional
distress, but I was so impressed with the proactive measure I took the points
and shut my mouth.
I am not sure if either of these experiences is a harbinger
of things to come in 2007, but let's hope so. It's been tough going for the
airlines, and especially for those who work with them. Let's keep our fingers crossed
that things are getting better.