Thursday, April 02, 2015

USAIR...old school and not in a good way

USAIR ("now part of the new American Airlines") is going to have to change their ways or someday they'll fail.

I always try to fly Southwest Airlines because they never have change fees and the customer service people and in fact all their staff are in my experience always nice and helpful.

But flying on USAIR ("now part of the new American Airlines") into DCA instead of Dulles or BWI is too convenient to pass up. So when I travel down to Washington, it's not on Southwest. I was reminded again today of why that's risky.

I had booked a flight down and a flight back about two months ago but realized a week or so before my trip that I should be taking an earlier flight. Easy thing to do on Southwest but not USAIR. It was cheaper to buy a new one-way leg than suffer the change fee and rebook that new outbound flight. Thinking I was doing the right thing, even though there was no economic incentive to do so since I wasn't getting a refund, I went onto the USAIR ("now part of the new American Airlines") website and canceled the outbound portion. I swear, though I don't have the screen shot, that it did strike-through font on only that portion the trip.

When I went to take my return flight I wasn't able to find my reservation. Calling USAIR ("now part of the new American Airlines") I learned that my whole flight had been canceled. When I explained that I'd just canceled the outbound portion, they told me that was impossible and that indeed even they couldn't do that in their system because it was a round trip flight. I was forced to I buy a new  return ticket on a later flight at a price 3x my original ticket. No refunds, no apologies, no sympathy. And of course I had to book online because booking via the person with I whom I was speaking would have costs an extra $35.

None of this would have happened on Southwest, not the original change fee, nor the subsequent problem with the cancellation of my ticket, nor the entirely unsympathetic customer service person.

And if I'd booked my flight in USAIR in two steps, one outbound and one inbound, instead of in one transaction, the cost wouldn't have been any higher but their system could have handled my changes, I think. This is perhaps the most annoying part of the whole thing.

For a business traveler to encounter a business that doesn't seem to want my business, in this day and age in the United States, is increasingly old school and not in a good way.

This unpleasant experience was offset slightly by my Kimpton hotel stay. I know it's silly, but I find it gratifying to get a $10 credit on the well stocked room minibar just because I'm on their free rewards program. Every person at Kimpton I've ever encountered is just so nice. And the moment I checked out I got an email telling me I'd been upgraded to next tier status.

I wonder if whoever is managing the new American Airlines realizes how old they really are.