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Which Direction Are the Airlines Headed?

on December 28 | in Business, Issue 15, Issue 18, Your Opinion Matters | by | with No Comments


With all of the changes going on in the airline industry, such as:

Hidden fees
Hefty charges for additional luggage
Exorbitant change fees
And more….

It lends us to ask the question:

Are the airlines flying high or are they headed for a downward spiral?


We are constantly reminded by the airlines at the end of our flight, that “we know you have a choice in airlines.” Yes, we do have a choice in airlines, if that is the case, you would think they would care if we choose them or not. Do they?

This is a recent experience I encountered with what used to be one of my favorite airlines. Unfortunately, this type of scenario is becoming all too familiar.

I had my assistant recently do an early check-in for my flight from Denver to Chicago Midway. Without my knowledge, she declined to pay for a check bag fee, which was claimed that the fees could be higher at the airport depending on whether your carry-on is larger than their specifications or not. However, this isn’t the case—all they do is charge you a $50-100 price variance depending on whether you pay at the counter or a kiosk. A hundred dollars…really?!

I am at the front desk and given the option to pay hundred dollars there or fifty dollars at a kiosk that is clear at the other end of the terminal. So, I head over to the kiosk to pay. Of course, the kiosk isn’t working—total waste of time, energy, and patience at this point. I proceed back to the counter just minutes before my flight is ready to depart and am greeted by the same individual who told me to check in at the kiosk. Great, here we go…. She then tries to check me in, to no avail. Meanwhile, tick tock tick tock, I need to board, my patience is wearing thin. She then tells me she is going to cut me a break and not charge me the $100 bag fee because the kiosk was not working properly. Chuckle, “Thanks for being so kind,” was my response. In return I get a snide glance.

Now comes the standoff. I start to express my displeasure in this $50 fee that I had no intentions on paying when I woke up this morning and headed out to the airport. Her response: “Not my problem, take it up with the third party entity you booked your flight with.”

(Unbeknownst to me, I now find myself caught in between a war that is being waged between the airlines and third party entities, such as Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire, etc.)


Her response shocks me. At this point, I am beginning to question where this airline is sending their people for their customer service skills. We now proceed to debate the point. For those of you that know me, in her defense, I can be a bit of an ass at times; sometimes I think I should have been an attorney, I love a good debate.

On goes my debate hat. Mind you, I am annoyed at this point and not in the best of moods. So as we are discussing the absurd $50 carry-on baggage fee, I proceed to tell her that I am in publishing and intend on writing an article on rude customer service with the airlines. Sometimes my frustration gets the best of me. For any of you who are business owners or are in some form of service industry where you are entrusted with responsibility and have a measure of control as to how customers should be handled so as to ensure them coming back for repeat business, I am sure you will agree with me on this—the customer is mostly always right, but especially when the customer feels as though they have been wronged by your establishment. They may not be right, but let them vent. It serves no purpose whatsoever to get into a dog fight with them. I was an unhappy customer; her job was to make it right, whenever possible to do so, or just handle the transaction and apologize for the misunderstanding in their policy.

The airline’s representative’s reaction: “How dare you threaten me!”

My reaction: “Uh??”

She felt as though I was threatening her job by stating that I was going to write this article about my displeasure with their policies as well as how they handle their customers. I assured her that I was not threatening her, just merely exercising my right to free speech and press.

Now, the reaction I receive: “I do not rely on (airline name left out to protect the not-so-innocent) for my sustenance, I rely on God.”

Okay, not sure where that came from. But she obviously also had issues with their policies.

She proceeds then to get so irate to the point where she now makes a vain threat that she will withhold me from flight if I threaten her again.

Again, me being me, my retort, a blank stare: “Do it…”

I am very frustrated at this point with the entire process.

Yada yada yada, I’m now on board the flight, last soul to board.

Now for my very next encounter with one of their representatives—the flight attendant onboard the plane. For some reason there is mass chaos and the natives are restless; the flight attendant looks at me and tells me that all of the overheads are taken and yes, you guessed it, the carry-on luggage that I originally paid $40 for at a discount department store (I know, I really need to upgrade my luggage) and just now paid $50 so I can have on my flight is now going to have to be checked. The frustration with this airline is never ending…

I now make my way to my seat as my carry-on luggage (that is, just paid $50 to have maintain that status) is now being turned into “carried off” luggage—off the plane, that is. Boy, do I feel like I just got duped. I finally take my seat, and it would appear that once again, the gods are not smiling upon me with approval and with some ironic twist of fate, I find myself in the middle seat. I strap in, we take off. So as not to lose one single thought as soon as its permissible, I whip out my Mac and start to write this article, snuggled up in my middle seat.

As I am in the midst of writing, here comes the beverage service, now this policy change I was aware of, has recently started charging you for every drink on flight, except for a cup of water. My inflight mate to my right was unaware of this recent policy change, a sweet woman perhaps in her late 60s early 70s enroute to spend some time with her daughter and her family in the greater Chicago area. She proceeds to look up with these blue green doey eyes and says, “I would like to have a cup of coffee, please.”

The flight attendant responds, “That will be $2.” Her response: “Excuse me!” I saw this sweet woman wanting only a cup of coffee turn into an not-so-happy little camper in the course of about twenty seconds. I now have a friend. She looks at me with displeasure and says, “Can you believe this? Who do they think they are, Starbucks?”


I laugh and tell her that I am in the process of writing an article as we speak about my displeasure with that airline and their lack of customer service and outrageous fees.

She commends me and says, “Good; people should speak out about this sort of thing, it’s getting out of hand.” She proceeds to give me some very insightful tips—in fact, she mentions, “Perhaps when designing the airplane for your article, you should put a skunk on the tail wing.”  We laugh together.

Out of a lousy experience, a friend emerges. I guess we can thank this airline for something.

Which direction does this airline seem to be heading? You decide.

Please weigh in, YOUR OPINION MATTERS!

Did I overreact? Are the airlines pushing our buttons? Is customer service on a serious decline? Do the airlines, by their actions, demonstrate that they desire to earn our business?

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