Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eff You, Jet Blue

Air travel sucks.  This is nothing new.  It is getting more and more atrocious each and every day.  Draconian search methods, ridiculous pricing on everything, long lines, delays, rude customer service etc. etc. As much as I travel I have indeed seen it all.  I have experienced it all.  For the most part, I do my best to roll with the punches. I make fun of the odd situations on facebook, take pictures of the crazy people in the airport and usually make the best of a bad situation.  However, this last traveling excursion was my final straw and I almost snapped. (Which is why my title above is an homage to the movie Major League and I am paraphrasing the great Cerrano when he was quite displeased with his prayer idol, Jobu.)

Let's begin last Friday.  I am taking the redeye flight from SLC to NYC then on to Boston on Jet Blue to do a book signing at the Boston Marathon. The weather in SLC is perfect.  The weather in Boston is perfect.  The weather from the place where the plane is coming from to land in SLC is perfect.  So what happens?  The plane is delayed and lands an hour late.  No explanation is given, not even the completely inane "Thank you for your patience.  I have said this once and I will say it a million times:  You simply cannot thank me for something I am not giving you.  You are FORCING me to do something.  I have no other choice.  The last thing I am is patient.

This delay means that, of course, we will have a very tight connection from JFK to Boston.  However, there are no fewer than 10 people on this small plane making that connection.  When we land, we learn that the flight to Boston just took off. If they had held it 10 minutes (15 max) we would have all been able to get in it.  Now the adventure continues.  While I am supposed to land in Boston at 7:48, grab a taxi and then head to the expo for a book signing, I am now being told the first flight I can get on will be at 2:30 PM. Somehow, I am then told there is a noon flight I am booked on.  As I do searching my own via the internet (realizing before we had access to all the travel schedules online, ticket agents must have just been able to lie to us with zero repercussions and complete immunity to us challenging them) I see there is a 9:30 AM flight that I could at least fly standby on.  I mention this to the ticket agent.  She says she will put me on it because I asked.

Because I asked?! Are you kidding me?!  I have to ask to get on the next available flight because you made me miss the previous one?!  Well, I do get on this 9:30 AM flight by the skin of my teeth. It, of course, is delayed. (God forbid the initial flight be delayed so I could have made that to begin with.)  It finally leaves one full hour after it was supposed to.  When I land in Boston, my bags apparently wish to not make the trip with me. When will they arrive?  No idea.  Fantastic.  I just have all my books in that bag meaning I cannot have them on hand to sign.  (I also had my change of clothes but that is another story.)

Fast forward to a rather fruitless day at the expo, returning to my hotel to find out my bags still have not arrived.  I call to see what is wrong and why they have not arrived.  It is now 8 PM. JetBlue touts itself as both the official airline of the Boston Marathon and having more flights into or out of Boston than any other airline (or some other crap that probably cannot be proved.)  How have my bags not made the trip by now?  "Oh, they are now in Boston.  We are sending them your way."  Hours pass and phone calls are made. When do my bags arrive, you ask? FOUR A.M.

I then experience an awesome expo and an even more wonderful race, seeing an amazing finish.  The entire experience with JetBlue has been pushed to the back of my mind.

Flying home now from Boston to JFK to SLC again, I am uneasy. Thirty minutes before we are supposed to board, the time of departure moves from 5:55 PM to 8:30 PM.  How in the hell does that happen?  Low-ceiling, we are told.  Planes cannot land.  I move my head slightly to the side to look past the gate agent and see plane after plane landing, leaving, taxiing and more or less having a little plane playground outside the gigantic window behind her. Am I supposed to not be able to see this?!

We are then told that because of this delay we will miss the connecting flight in NYC.  As there is only ONE flight from JFK to SLC, they will have to book us for the next day over 24 hours later.  One intrepid customer and I decided to try and take the chances and leave Boston going to JFK on the flight hoping the flight at JFK will be equally delayed.  As out 8:30 PM flight finally leaves at 9:23 PM, we are told the flight in JFK was indeed delayed.  Rejoice!  As it is the last flight out, they will undoubtedly hold it for us.

The plane lands and the flight attendant asks others to stay seated so I and my new friend can get out. Thirteen minutes later, the jetway is finally connected to the plane to allow us to exit.  In this time we speak to both flight attendants, both pilots and they are completely befuddled why the jetway is taking so long to connect.  In this conversation we find out that weather had nothing to do with the delays.  Rather JetBlue was implementing a new reservation system (called "Sabre" ) and it had failed.  As such, reservations etc were being done by hand. Hence the delay.  This information would come in handy. 

Our pilots tell us we are at gate 11 and our connecting flight is at gate 6.  They are holding the pane for us.  The plane finally opens and we begin our sprint.  As we approach gate 6 we see out plane. Hallelujah.  As we get closer we see a closed door to the jetway. Oh no.  The ticket agent says he called out names repeatedly. I said it was hard to answer him as we were 30,000 FEET ABOVE THE FREAKING GROUND.  Apparently no one told him that we were on our way.  This is now like the 15th lie we have been told.  We beg for clemency.  He reluctantly picks up the phone and calls someone.  Probably his friend at home playing Angry Birds.  They have a lovely little chat where we get a nice little grin on his face. We figure he is about to give us good news. We figured wrong.  "Sorry. Can't let you on."

I will spare you the rest of the haggling but we then ask if JetBlue will be giving us room and taxi.  He says they will not because weather caused the delay.  Ah-Ha!  We then call bullsh*t and mention we know about Sabre.  His eyes get a look like “How in the hell do these two know about this?!” and he reluctantly starts the process of pretending to assist us in getting hotel vouchers.  After booking us on the next flight, however, he sends us to another desk.  We then stand in line to talk to someone else who literally spends 15 minutes speaking with someone else and typing on his computer and calling another person and typing on his computer before finally telling us we are at one particular hotel.  No vouchers are given.  We are going on his word only.

Fast forward past the ridiculous walk we had to make to even find the shuttles to begin with which are supposed to take us to our hotel and we finally, with some new found friends who were also screwed by their airline, we make it to our hotel. JetBlue has made a hotel reservation.  Singular.  For two complete strangers. I am supposed to share a hotel with a man I just met (and he is supposed to share one with me.)  This does not occur. We demand separate rooms and get them.  I finally fall asleep around 3 AM or so.

Today, after spending 8 plus hours in the airport, I finally get on my last plane.  It, of course, leaves 4 minutes late. I land, get off, watch the luggage carousel spin, fill up with bags and then go completely empty.  My bags do not show. I seethingly saunter to the Jet blue counter and ask if they had them arrive earlier.  They did not.  I asked them to look them up.  They do not know where they are.  When is the earliest they will arrive?  Well, since Jet Blue only has one flight from JFK to SLC, and it is the one I just got off of, I can expect my bags to arrive 24 hours later; at the earliest; if they can find them.  Then they will be delivered to me somewhere around 2 AM or so.

That is my Jet Blue story. Lying. Deceit. Cheapness. Ineptitude. Horrible customer service and just an all-around miserable experience.  Do planes get delayed and luggage gets lost? Absolutely.  But at about 19 different places during this excursion, plane and decent customer relations or assistance could have solved every one of these problems. Lets you forget, it was a Jet Blue flight attendant that went batcrap crazy and exited a plane via the inflatable chute while it was still on the runway!

I have written formal complaints about the lost sales of books, the lost days of my life and what a fiasco this was but I felt that sending it to the ether of NoBodyGivesaDamn-istan alone was not enough.  People needed to see what goes on here.  Think about all the times things have occurred that have been blamed on weather or other things supposedly out of the airline’s control.  I now will believe nothing they say.  Ever.  Just give me my ticket.  Speaking is completely unnecessary.  I won’t listen to or believe a word you mutter anyway.  Save the oxygen.

I will, however, be contacting JetBlue every single day until this matter gets resolved.  I suggest you pass this missive along to others.  I have zero doubt hundreds of other passengers were screwed over because of this “SABR” processing service but were not as lucky enough to have a plot let it slip to them so they could at least get a third rate hotel paid for by Jet Blue. (And man was this just in one crappy part of town too.  Cars on blocks; broken chain link fences; dogs running loose in the street.  Just ridiculous.) I was going to say I could go on but I already have.  Was this cathartic?  Just barely.  But after continually being messed over by the airline industry, which has to be the most fouled up industry this side of Congress (e.g., Did you see how new regulations were just passed about clearly showing these ridiculous fees as well as how much money will be reimbursed to those involuntarily bumped from flights?) I am unable to stay silent anymore.

JetBlue – you just lost one very frequent flying customer. And one with a lot of people who read his website. Congrats. I feel like Julia Roberts chastising the commission-working bitch of a saleslady in Pretty Woman.


Haley said...

Wow. How horrible! I hope you make it a point NOT to fly with them. Absurd!

Molyneau said...

This sounds like a really ruined episode of "The Amazing Race." You should travel with me, sometime. We'd skip Jet Blue, of course. Thanks for the detailed warning. Even if circumstances could ever be worse (quite unimaginable!), I'd manage to make the adventure humourous.

Unknown said...

Yikes, Dane! Unfortunately my kids and I had a similarly awful experience on Airtran on New Year's Day because -- get this -- not enough flight attendants showed up for work! I don't care if your employees are hungover -- get me home! They put us up overnight & gave us meal vouchers (we weren't able to get breakfast because our flight was too early!), big deal. We did get free roundtrip passes for our inconvenience, which we used on a spring break trip to Monterey & San Francisco, but of course those flights had problems too! And one of their flight attendants had the nerve to say, "People, if you hurry up and get your bags stowed we can get moving out of here faster!" Okay, it's not OUR fault but yours that we're 2hrs delayed(11:40pm flight, I believe, with two young, exhausted children)and how dare you call us "People"! Okay, I feel better now. Bottom line, avoid JetBlue AND AirTran!

Outdoorpartner said...

Thanks for posting this! Since so many airlines have been allowed to merge, we have little choice in airlines. Without high speed trains as in Asia and Europe, we're stuck with crappy service and delays if we want to travel. This is one reason why I quit my former position which was 100% travel. Airports are no fun.

Another problem I have experienced is that airline delays have caused me to miss a day of work. I have had to call my employer from airports where I have been stranded/delayed and subsequently take another day of vacation due to the airlines screw up.

There seems to be no repercussions; airlines get to screw us and nothing changes. I also feel sorry for the airline workers many times. Situations are not in their control and they have to deal with angry people.....and tell the company lie apparently.

Art said...

Sounds about right. you know it would be hard to find an industry that actively hates its customers more than the airline industry. Well, maybe cell phone carriers.

Jet Blue had a big conference at the hotel I worked at this winter called "Service is our culture" or something along those lines. I spoke to many Jet Blue employees and offered suggestions and even praise. Without exception I was told they really did not care, they were just there for the free skiing. Oh, and they were terrible tippers.