I usually fly Southwest Airlines, but over the weekend I flew American to Dallas because I had miles I wanted to use and the airport American flies in to is much closer to my friend's house.
I've flown American before, but until you get on the plane, you forget how much better the in flight service is at Southwest. I'm not a huge fan of the hokey Southwest flight attendants getting on the PA and making jokes or singing, but at least they are very pleasant and attentive. On American it's almost as if they aren't there at all which is fine until your young child who is your travel companion is "dying of thirst" and it's been an hour in to the flight with no offer of a drink.
No big deal. If this was all it was, I wouldn't be writing this blog post.
I was scheduled to fly out around 11 a.m. on Sunday and when I woke up at 7 a.m. that day, I told myself to resist the urge to turn on my cell phone. I'm married to that phone because of my job and felt that I didn't really need to know at that minute what e-mails I had received over nite. But once you start thinking about turning on the phone, falling back asleep before you do is impossible. So I powered it up and immediately saw a voice-mail from an 800 number at 2:30 in the morning.
It was pretty bad weather in Dallas on Saturday and 1,000 flights were cancelled. I get that if there is bad weather they have to cancel flights.
But Sunday was what would be considered a glorious day in Chicago. It was about 40 degrees in the morning with very light rain. There is no reason planes couldn't fly.
The message on my phone was letting me know that my flight had been cancelled and apologized for the inconvenience. It gave me a number to call back and re-schedule. I was on hold for an hour and could not get through. You'd think for situations like this they'd have extra staff on hand. I went online and couldn't find any flight with American that could be re-booked with my current reservation.
Not wanting to risk getting stuck in Dallas, I got online and immediately booked a flight on Southwest. It wasn't direct, but it got me home. The flight attendants were way friendlier which was a plus.
Later in the day I called American to try and get a refund. The automated phone system said that due to cancellations they are experiencing heavy call volume. I was encouraged to try aa.com to answer my question and then was told goodbye. I've never called a major company like this whose phone plan is to hang up on you. That is a complete and utter joke.
The website had no information about re-booking or getting a refund. I could have booked a new flight for over $900 I suppose, but I had no faith that they'd refund the money to me if I went ahead and did that. The safe play was getting a SWA flight. You know what you are getting over there. It inconvenienced my friend to have to drive there, but it was the right call.
I'm sure what American really wants is for me and every other potentially stranded passenger to show up to the airport and try to work it out with the reservation counter. But I couldn't risk that as I absolutely had to be back at work on Monday a.m. Why do you direct people to your website and then offer them no assistance with getting a result?
I have no idea either why Southwest planes could fly on time, but American's could not at all. As a customer though, I want some information, not "your flight is cancelled, good luck."
Even Monday when I called in to get my miles refunded, the automated system had no information about the cancellations and I got directed to the wrong person who seemed put off that I was asking questions about what happened. Eventually I got to a nice woman who refunded my miles, but said because it was a weather delay that was all they could offer even though flights 20 miles up the road flights were leaving on time. Lo and behold though, as of last night the miles had not been yet credited to my account. What a surprise.
With American, I don't think they care or worry at all about their non business travelers. It's just not a very customer service focused company and I'm guessing they don't treat their employees well because many of them have an attitude.
So for me, I'll take the hokey songs, cattle car seating and friendly service you get with Southwest. It's more of a sure thing and when you are flying, that's pretty important.
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