[This is a post I wrote on my iPad while on a flight a months ago and just noticed I never published. So here it is.]

I recently made a trip out to Arizona. Nothing unusual as I fly 2-3 times per month. I’ve become accustomed to the incompetences and inconsistencies of the various airlines responsible for shuttling people around the world. But this trip was a little different. On the flight out, the second leg of my flight I was stuck in the worst seat on the plane….the dreaded aisle seat at the rear most aisle on the plane. Anyone who flys often enough can relate….you’re sitting right next to the bathroom so people are always waiting right next to you, the seat doesn’t recline and it has less leg room than other aisles. I do my best to avoid these seats but sometimes it happens. This was a jam packed flight and I had no where to go. Couple that with my extremely large aisle mate who was so large he took up at least 20% of my seat and leg room. His arm pit rested on my shoulder and his legs went clear in to my space. He was easily twice my weight and probably paid the same price for his ticket. I’m gonna stop there because I could rant all day about how unfair and uncomfortable travel can be for normal and smaller passengers on airlines.

If you haven’t put it together all of this combines to be a major problem. My shitty seat cost me (well, technically the Vancouver Whitecaps) just as much as all the other economy seats on the plane despite being smaller with less features (it can’t recline!). Add to that I was forced to sit next to a person who clearly should have been asked to buy two seats. Major problem: I didn’t get what I paid for. Mind you, this wasn’t subjective. I quite literally had a seat that was smaller without features of other seats and then I was seated next to a person who took 20% of my seat. I reckon I should have gotten some kind of discount from United Airlines. I got off the flight with a knot in my neck and annoyed. ePricing inconsistencies piss off costumers because no one wants to be shorted their fair share.

Then on my return flight, I wanted to catch an earlier flight back to Raleigh than I was scheduled for so I first checked kayak.com to see what was available and then called my airline customer service. On Kayak I found I could buy a completely new 1 way ticket on the flight I wanted for just $240. This should be good because it would mean that the differential ticket cost that most airlines charge wouldn’t be too high. I was wrong. Somehow, the United customer service rep told me the fare differential fee was $1050. I asked how the price to change an existing ticket could be $810 more than buying an outright new ticket and I was told that that price was the ‘fare differential’. It doesn’t take a math major to understand how absurd that is (it would mean they paid me for the original ticket). I then asked if I could just stand by on the earlier flight and she said I could for $75….so that’s what I decided to do. But when I got to the airport, the agent told me it would be $150 and there wouldn’t be enough time to catch my flight. I didn’t want to pay $150 and explained how I had been told the fee would be $75. She didn’t budge but I figured I’d go to the actual gate and see if I could change for $75. Sure enough, I made it there and the gate agent got me on the flight for $75. So in all, I spoke with 3 company reps and they all told me different things, ranging from absurd to incorrect. At the end of the day I got what I wanted but only because I knew enough to count on these types of inconsistencies and knew that if I kept asking I might get the answer I was looking for. Having staff that are incompetent, disorganized and not on message makes the company look bad and leaves customers flustered.

Take homes:

  • All members of the team should be on the same page.
  • All members of the team should be competent.
  • Don’t short customers. Everyone should have the right to what they pay for.
  • If people take more or expect more, they should probably pay more. This is the only way you can continue to provide a high level of service to all and not alienate the people who require less.