Friday, March 30, 2012

Dear Asinine Airline

So here is the (slightly-altered) letter I wrote to an as-of-yet-unnamed airline company* after they completely screwed up the ticketing for a recent trip (making my life even more hellish -- I have been dealing with this since just before Ren's back surgery). I admit, I may be expressing some displaced frustrations (just a tad). I certainly feel better after writing the letter, but what do you think? Will it be successful?

* (I won't disparage them by name until after I see how they handle my complaint.)


On February 17, 2012, I booked two tickets (for myself and a companion), departing [a nearby city]on March 30th and returning on April 2nd (reference #s: XXX and YYY). On March 7th, as I started to prepare for the business trip, I printed out my flight confirmation only to learn that the flight I booked out of [a nearby city] on the 30th had been mis-ticketed for the 16th. I called immediately and was told that since I had made the mistake, there was nothing that could be done about the additional costs of booking a different flight or about the resulting scheduling issues. Tom in [a far away city] was kind enough to wave the $50 change fee, which I appreciate, but this did not solve any of the problems caused by this error. The only semi-affordable flight that [your airline] had that came close to making sure I would make it to [a really far away city] in time for my presentation was a flight that arrived late on Saturday. I booked the flight because it was my only option. I have since had to cancel that flight because it does not get me to [the really far away city] in time to do all the business that I have to do while I am there.

We could debate at length about whether I made a mistake when booking. I am sure I did not. I visually confirmed the flights before making the reservation. I have booked tens, if not hundreds, of domestic and international flights online, so I am aware that when I push submit, I can’t go back. Therefore, I am always sure to check the date, the times, and the lay-over time for my flights before purchasing them. I did so when booking this flight. My considerable experience with online flight booking should demonstrate the fact that I don’t “accidentally” pick the wrong date, particularly one that is not in the vicinity of my actual desired departure date on the calendar. In fact, this is the first time I have used [your airline] (and therefore the first time I booked online with [your airline]). It is also the first time this has happened in all my years of booking flights online. From my perspective, the only logical explanation is an error on your end, not mine. (I would also argue that telling your customer she is not competent enough to book a flight online is bad customer service. I suppose sub-par customer service is standard in today’s airline industry, but I would hope that [your airline] aspires to be better than that).

This scheduling error has caused a good deal of stress and hardship. On top of the additional time I have had to spend worrying about what to do with these tickets and trying to book new flights, and on top of the problems these changes have caused to my work schedule, I also had to cancel my companion’s ticket (since I can’t ask her to pay an additional $400+, which is more than twice the original ticket price, to accompany me on this business trip). She was planning to come so she could take care of my baby who is still nursing. Since she cannot come, the baby also cannot come. This means that I will be separated from him for several days though he is still quite young. It also means that he will most likely self-wean even though it was my intention to breastfeed for at least four more months. I won’t go into all the benefits of breastfeeding for infants, but suffice it to say that this ticketing error extends well beyond one woman’s departure date. Further, because I am unable to take the baby with me, I will have to work out child care for him as his father, my husband, has been recently incapacitated due to back surgery. And, because I have had to rebook to a flight with another airline out of a different city (due to availability), I will also have to pay a large amount in fees to work out transportation to and from two different airports. I’m actually appalled that I have to deal with all this on top of having a job, a baby, a husband with a bad back, and two other special needs children. Even if I could afford to throw away hundreds of dollars, which I can’t, I can’t afford to deal with the problems this ticketing error has caused on top of everything else.

The assumption by your company has been and continues to be that I made a booking mistake when originally purchasing this flight. As I’ve already explained, I find this to be an implausible assumption. I did make two mistakes, though. The first was in using [your airline] to book an online ticket. The second was in not immediately checking the confirmation. I have no explanation for the first slip. As to the second, I can say that I have never had a booking issue like this one and so did not immediately check the confirmation. In fact, I waited until I was less busy with other family and work issues to do so. I can assure you I will check in the future. This does not change the problem, however. The problem is that the tickets I booked and the ones I visually confirmed that had a departure date of March 30 were not issued to me. Had the tickets I booked been the tickets I was issued, there would be no need for any of the changes I have had to make.

Despite the time and immense amount of stress this situation has caused me, I am not asking to be compensated for the stress or for the additional $400 I had to pay to re-book the flight on another airline (though I would love to have that refunded as well) with any additional credits, flight or otherwise, from [your airline]. I simply ask that, given the nature of these issues, the money I spent on tickets that I can’t use be fully refunded to my credit card. The total amount is $764.94 ($461.74 for the flight I had to make and then cancel due to impossible scheduling and $348.20 for the roundtrip ticket I had to cancel for my companion). I have already had several [of your airline's] employees explain to me the nature of non-refundable tickets. I get it. Like I said, I have flown before. A lot. If this were a typical change of flight request done because I changed my plans, I certainly wouldn’t be spending time I don’t have writing this letter or debating these fees. I did not book flights for March 16th, and I have suffered considerably for the ticketing error that has been made. Please refund my money, so I can part ways with [your airline] without more undue suffering or expense. Please make it possible for me to speak in positive terms about your company with my jet-setting colleagues and the thousands of readers of my blog. Please show me that customer service is not dead in the airline industry.


Mom on Even Closer to the Edge

UPDATE: My flight to and from the West Coast was great--perhaps some of the best service I've had with a US-based airline. And, the airline, Frontier, contacted me about 4 weeks after I sent this letter to properly address all of my concerns. Yay, now I can fly Frontier again (do you know how hard it is to find good customer service?), though I will definitely watch out for booking errors.


JGL said...

Ugh, what a fiasco. Is there any possibility of finding on-site child care so you can continue breastfeeding? Not that you'd want to leave him with a stranger, but someone trusted through a network friends/professional connections? I've only had one overnight business trip while nursing and am already a bit nervous for a two-day trip that's coming up.

JGL said...

I should clarify, one overnight business trip where I couldn't take my son (my mom accompanied me as caregiver for the longer one).

kylee said...

I can't wait to find out which airline this is. There are several contenders for "asshat of the year" when it comes to airlines. I want to see who wins yours!

Mom on the Edge said...

Unfortunately, no childcare on sight. I'm going to have to go it alone. Will be a very long four days...

FMBMC said...

That sucks. And while I know that doesn't help you, just know that I completely agree with you. I can see accidentally picking one day off, but two weeks?! No way!