Now that I am back with a little less sleep deprivation, I wanted to share a few last thoughts before I close out this adventure. First is a curious comparison this trip offered. Although without the violent death and destruction that accompanied it…the odyssey that was being dumped/stranded/abandoned in a foreign land to figure how to cope and find your way home along with 500,000 people you don’t know is an eerie similarity to what happened in New Orleans with Katrina. The European Union was very vocally critical of how poorly the US handled the crisis (appropriately as far as I am concerned) and yet completely missed the same experience going on in their back yard. I heard that in Frankfurt, they finally pulled out some army cots for people to sleep in. How kind, those floors are awful cold and hard. What I hope out of this is that industry wide some major reforms come about and heck, maybe every customer service organization. Let me tell you about a 3 suggestions I have:
1) Take responsibility for your passengers. The airlines insisted their responsibility in “carriage” (transport) is only when you are physically on a closed plane. Once you are no longer on it, they do a “pontious pilate” and wash their hands of any responsibility. I consider this morally reprehensible. When the airlines figure out that they are responsible for your safe passage from the moment you book a flight till YOU ARRIVE AT YOUR FINAL DESTINATION, you are under their care. Act like it. Own it and maybe some loyalty will emerge.
2) Communicate with your clients. In the age of email and texting and cell phones, there is absolutely no excuse not to reach out to your customer and assist with moving things forward. 10 days I was in Europe and never heard a thing from an airline, hotel, governmental entity though they had all my contact info noted above. What a joke. The biggest irony? As I was boarding my last flight home (I took an earlier flight from Atlanta to BWI and good thing, the flight I was booked on was cancelled-typical), I got a text message from the airline reminding me to check in online (for the cancelled flight). If people didn’t feel so alone when in the air travel world they would not feel compelled to do #3 (see next)
3) Make it impossible to book more than two bookings for the same time period. Turns out that a huge part of the airlines problem is that some people were booking 6-10 different flights and then not showing up but for one flight, leaving tons of open seats. I can understand two bookings because in business sometimes things go long and you need a plan A and B as to what your next destination is, but not 6+. The airlines need to smarten up that this is hurting them. They have centralized bookings, all we need to do is add in proof of identity (driver’s license or passport) and cross reference this and it could be all but eliminated. Would help TSA within North American security too I suspect.
Three simple suggestions on fixing the next (and there will be a next) Katrina like situation within the air travel industry. Anyone out there? Are you listening? I wonder.
As I am getting on the train in Italy to head south I am watching on TV the Milan Airport and the Prime Minister is holding a news conference carried by CNN international and Italian TV. The prime minster has opened the airport. He said that Italy is friendly for travelers. He is calling it “Project Liberation” OMG. The final irony. My standup routine is complete.
On the trip home, a train from Milan to Genova along the coast of Italy, then the boat to Barcelona and a mad dash to the airport. Checked in with Aero Mexico and Murphy attacks again. As I check in I spend the next 15 minutes with the gate agent as my passport would not be accepted. I wonder where this can go? Lead away in handcuffs? On the banned list to entering the US? Nope, just a slow computer server and it eventually lets me in. Good side was I got a chance to chat up the gate agent going over my woahs and the last week plus and his jaw was just in his lap over it. When we were done he asked if there was anything else and I just said a free upgrade to first class would be great…we both laughed and I went on to the gates.
After getting in my tight little middle seat I was waiting for the doors to close anxiously awaiting knowing I was headed across the pond when one of the agents called my name over the loudspeaker and asked where I was. I raised my hand and the agent said, could you get your bag and come with me…my heart sank. What now? I was so close. There was a problem with the passport wasn’t there….maybe something in my bag that didn’t look right? Sigh..ok. The agent says to me…Mr. Law, please accept Aero Mexico hospitality. We have a seat for you in first class. OH…Sweet. I don’t remember much of the flight but I had a seat that reclined almost horizontally. I get several quality hours of sleep on that flight. A godsend. I’ll never get a chance to thank them, but they made my trip home.
As I got on my next flight from Mexico city to Atlanta…I saw in my minds eye, the red slippers clicking together and the voices saying 3 times (TNPLH) there’s no place, like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
Now I am going to sign off and turn my attentions to figuring out the thousands of dollars of charges on my credit card that I have no receipt for and going to the hotel chains that charged two and three times the posted rates for the rooms. We’ll see.
By the way, turns out I heard I earned a new “Indian” name…… “Runs from Ashes” I live for irony. I do.