Sunday, July 30, 2006

junior varsity airlines

there are some major airlines i won't fly because i think their operations are poorly conducted and/or their customer service is abysmal: US airways, alaska airlines, america west, ata, frontier. i will happily fly jet blue, america airlines, united, delta, continental or southwest. i prefer not to fly northwest, but i'm not adamant about it.

recently i bought a plane ticket to a remote location across the country, necessitating travel on two airlines: american airlines and a podunk one. i bought the ticket through expedia, and they had to issue me a paper ticket, since Podunk Air doesn't do e-tickets. when i unexpectedly had to change the return date, i found out that my ticket had been issued by a third airline, US airways (note its inclusion on the above list of airlines i don't patronize). because there isn't time for me to return the tickets to expedia by mail, they told me i had to go to the airline ticket counter. expedia customer service gave a confirmation number for american. i called american, who told me i needed to call US airways. US airways told me i had to go to the ticket counter and the closest one is at LAX. after stewing over the hassle of getting to LAX, i called US airways back to ask if they could tell me the cost of changing my ticket when i get to the airport. they couldn't even find my ticket from the information on my paper ticket, my credit card, my flights, anything. exasperated, i called expedia back to complain about having to deal with a company i hate. they told me two things.

one, you can't know in advance who is issuing your ticket when you buy it through expedia. if you fly on one airline, usually that airline issues your ticket. if you fly on two, there is a chance that a third will be the issuer. dude, how much does that suck?

two, i can change my ticket when i get to the airport for my departure. five calls is too much. i'm sure i'm in for more hassle when i get to the airport and have to go to the US airways counter before i depart on american airlines.

the levels of customer service met my expectations: for my two calls to expedia, one service person was competent and helpful and the other was not; my call to american was handled well; and both my calls to US airways were handled badly, curtly and incompetently.

in the future, i don't know what to do. this is a route i fly at least once per year. i could buy two separate tickets directly from the airlines, but then i couldn't change them together, they wouldn't coordinate delayed flights for me, and i couldn't check my baggage through. there used to be a major airline that flew to Podunk; maybe next year one will be back. or maybe i'll fly into the nearest metropolis and take surface transport, which would take at least four hours.

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