AirTran Airways Overbooking Fail At Akron Canton Airport

Airtran Airways LogoAs I said in a previous post I had a couple of things happen recently that were less then stellar from a customer service perspective.  Unfortunately this one took place at my favorite airport in the world Akron Canton (CAK).  Thankfully, it had really nothing to do with the airport, and everything to do with poor customer service from AirTran Airways.

The family and I recently went on what has become our yearly trip to Naples, Florida.  Typically we spend a week or so with the Wife’s parents.  This year, we were lucky enough to have both her parents and my parents down in Florida so we spent the first few days with my folks and the rest of the time with her folks.  We are both very lucky in that we love our in-laws and have a great time hanging out with them.  But I digress…

This year we were flying out of Akron Canton Airport which I absolutely LOVE!  It’s about equidistant from our house as Cleveland Hopkins, the lines are much shorter, parking is easier, the people are nicer, etc. etc. etc.  I simply cannot say enough good things about CAK.  When we rolled up about and hour + early for our flight, there was quite literally no line at the ticketing counter.  Unfortunately, that’s where our good trip ended…

The first question the nice lady at the AirTran desk asked us was, “How firm are your travel plans for this evening?”  This is never a good question to be asked right out of the gate.  She told us that the flight was overbooked and that they were looking for 4 people to give up their seats.  They were preparing to give each of us 2 round trip tickets for trouble, but we’d have to either take the 6:30 AM flight the next morning (which connected through Atlanta) or the 12:45 direct which would have put us at our destination at 4:00 PM.  We had plans the next day (a ride aboard the Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise which was EPIC) and the prospect of either of those other options was not good with The Boys.  As we were deciding, the desk lady piped in and said, “Don’t worry… you can absolutely go tonight.  We were just asking.”  So… we ultimately decided to make the trip that night.

Pirates on the Pieces of Eight

G & C as Pirates aboard the Pieces of Eight

The ticket woman proceeded to print up our boarding passes… or at least most of them.  We’d booked our tickets with Wife & The Boys on one ticket and me on my own, as I’d be returning early.  She gave the three of them boarding passes and gave me a security ticket.  I asked if this meant that I didn’t have a seat and she said no, but they’d take care of it at the gate. (See where this is going yet?)

We breezed through security (again… another reason I love Akron Canton Airport) with absolutely no wait and got to the gate where naturally I had no seat assignment.  I was informed that the flight was overbooked and they were looking for someone to give up their seat but not to worry… I was the first one on the wait list and I’d have no problem getting on the plane.

Fast forward 40 minutes till when everyone with the exception of us was on the plane and they were waiting to close the door.  I was called to the desk and told that I had no seat, the plane was full and I’d they’d be glad to compensate me with 2 free tickets for my trouble.  This would mean that I’d miss our Pirate Cruise and that Wife would have to deal with a plane trip on her own.  We told them that this wasn’t an option and that we’d all have to take the morning flight.  We were then informed that if we did that, only I would be compensated… not A, G & C.  Houston… we’ve got a problem.

We calmly explained that we’d been told there was no way that we’d not be on this flight, and that’s why we originally declined the offer.   Gate lady proceeded to smugly tell us that we should have come forward earlier if we wanted to be compensated. When we (again) explained what we’d just explained she merely shook her head and told us that’s the way it was.

By this point, we were really under the gun as the plane needs to leave.  Wife is crying, G is crying and I’m getting more and more pissed by the moment but can’t scream down this lady as my kids are around and I don’t want to damage their view of Super Dad.  We reluctantly decided that they’d have to go without me and I’d catch up with them tomorrow.  I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye and I watched my tear filled family walk down the jet way. As I turned to walk back toward the gate to deal with my situation, the stewardess (Flight attendant?  Not sure what’s PC these days) comes tearing ass up the jet way and tells me to get on the plane.  Apparently there’s some jackass who was checked in either at home or at the ticket counter but isn’t on the plane, so I get his seat!!!

Chewie As A Pirate

Argggggh…

We’re an hour or so into the flight and I get up to go to the bathroom and to see the family.  They’re about 7 rows behind me and apparently G didn’t even know I was on the plane cause he let out a gleeful, “DADDY!!!”  I tell you… there’s nothing quite like a shrieking child on a quiet, dark airplane to fill your heart with love and joy.  After all of this, we made it to Florida on time… and we got to ride on the Pieces of Eight the next day.

Now don’t get me wrong… I fully understand that airlines overbook flights each and every day.  We’re not the first people this has happened to, and we clearly won’t be the last.  What I’ve got a real problem with is the way this was handled.  I’m big into treating people the way they should be treated.  Had we been told that there was a chance we wouldn’t make the flight when we checked in, we might have taken the tickets right then.  A, “I’m sorry sir… we’re going to make this right,” at the gate would have gone a long way toward making the situation better.  As it stands, the woman at the gate didn’t say the words “I’m sorry” one time.  A 6 year old was crying, a grown woman was near tears, the 4 year old was freaking out, the plane door was closing and all she could muster was, “You should have come forward previously?”  FUCK YOU!  That’s just insane.  In a world of increasing prices, paying for each piece of luggage, invasive security scans, etc. you’d think airlines would go that extra step to show their customers that they’re thankful they were chosen.  Apparently not AirTran.

We live in a social world.  Social media, blogs, website, etc. are one way that brands reach out to their consumers.  I’ve chronicled what I consider to be the best use of social media and this situation with AirTran is yet another example.  When I returned home from my trip, I checked in on Foursquare and tweeted that I was back home in Cleveland (Akron).  I immediately got a tweet from Akron Canton Airport (@CAKairport) welcoming me home:

“@406Northlane No place like home. Welcome back!”

Wanna know how AirTran uses their official Twitter account?  They’ve made a total of 1 tweet… on October 20th, 2009.

“Welcome to @AirTran. Start following us now, we’ll be tweeting with you soon.”

Apparently the AirTran Twitter account got lost in the shuffle when Southwest Airlines acquired them.   Someone should probably tell these folks that this isn’t the way you treat people.

What do you think… Am I overreacting?

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One Comment

  1. Further proof of how awesome CAK is… got this follow up tweet a few minutes after posting this story:

    “@406Northlane We have read your blog post and have passed it onto management here at CAK. We’ll keep in touch. Thanks for reaching out.”

    Thank you!

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