March 15, 2008

Airline Rant Part 1

Once again, I found myself flying recently, and shockingly I have some thoughts on the experience.

Thinking Virgin America may be new and exciting, and because Richard Branson went on the Colbert Show and was funny, and because they were $10 cheaper than American, I decided to patronize them for the first time.

Note to everyone who sells anything – don’t fuck with your customers. Charging $10 less, and then only allowing one bag so that everyone with 2 bags has to pay a $10 surcharge for an extra bag is fucking with us.

“But we allow a heavier bag – up to 70 pounds. Most other airlines only allow 50 pound bags” was their justification. So you’re saying we can have 70 total pounds rather than 100, which though I have a theater degree, I'm confident is in fact less. And you’re encouraging us to have one heavy bag rather than two lighter ones. This results in less baggage handling effort for you, sure – but for a rapidly aging population, is one 70 pound bag really a viable alternative? I don’t expect too many of the seniors in the western world - which by the way makes up the majority of the population and will for years to come -are comfortable wielding one 70 pound bag as opposed to two smaller ones.

Alas, after some research, I see that this trend isn't limited to just Virgin America, it's endemic. A Wall Street Journal article from this week (coincidence?) addresses the changing nature of the allowable baggage rules at a number of large airlines. I was pissed at Virgin America, but apparently it's merely just another reason to be pissed at airlines in general.

Also, for the record, naming your airline Virgin America when there’s already a Virgin Atlantic, and then putting them far away from each other at LAX is also fucking with us. Because harried travelers are not going to recognize the difference in enough time, and because cab drivers who may or may not speak English will not ask the necessary questions, and because short hairy Jewish travelers leaving for San Francisco early in the morning will then end up at the wrong place with very little time before their flight. Bastards.

And by the way, you STILL have to pay extra for an internet connection in the terminals. Hotels pull this shit too – you pay $250 and up for a room, and then another $14 a day for internet? Just stop doing this. Stop it. It makes us hate you.

Despite no earlier inclination to be in "business" earlier in my life, I find myself surprisingly embedded in conversations these past two years in what makes a company successful and desirable - the “branding” of companies so to speak. I’ve come to believe that most people would rather pay upfront and be left alone, rather than pay piecemeal for broad services such as travel (see or see also Club Med). The constant pay as you go for services on top of the initial charge of the product inspires a feeling of being taken advantage of, at least it does for me. While I enjoy the idea of ala carte service, you need to be upfront about it, it needs to be well-publicized, and their should be options. Sure, let me pay less for having less luggage, or more for more luggage, but that can’t be a surprise – it has to be an agreement.

For the record, the TSA continues to defy convention where I am concerned. Ironically I boarded my plane pissed at Virgin America, which is known for exceptional customer service, and impressed and thankful for the TSA, known for the opposite. Yet again they were courteous, helpful, patient, and professional… While I’m as ready as most to descry the surveillance state within which we must now operate, credit is due – the TSA has been just fine.

And then on top of everything else, Virgin America's in-seat entertainment system wasn’t working...

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