Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Friendly Skies

It was interesting that during my business trip to San Diego I sat in my hotel room Wednesday night and watched the A&E television show “Airline”.

I have traveled on airlines extensively throughout my life and I’m amazed at the patience that the airline industry has when it comes to customer service. Nowhere is the customer service envelope stretched so thin as it is at the counter of an airline company.

Part of the problem comes from a disconnect between the airline industry and those who do not fly frequently enough to know the proper etiquette when it comes to traveling by air. Some of it is just common sense, and stupidity.

Hopefully I can cover some things that might help you if you plan on flying in the near future and do not travel often.

Tips for flying, for non-frequent travelers

1) Arrive early for your flight. Get to the airport early and check-in for your flight. Airlines overbook their flights because people don’t always make their flight, so they do this to ensure they can get as full an aircraft as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that if you arrive late, or even on time, and the flight is full, you will not get a seat if others have checked in before you.

On the show tonight a young boy almost missed the flight because his mom arrived too late to the airport. In another story a man flying out to propose to his girlfriend almost missed his flight for the same reason.

2) Do not drink before you fly. Airlines will not let you fly if you are noticeably intoxicated. During the show tonight a woman was going to fly out to get married in Cleveland. She apparently met her fiancé only a month before, and she was denied boarding due to being drunk. At one point she exclaimed that she was going to smoke a joint and get stoned while she was supposed to be getting sober enough to fly out by the last flight. What a catch she is. I wonder if her new husband realizes what a fine woman he has found.

3) Don’t lose your tickets. A man had lost his ticket and was supposed to be traveling with his daughter who was recently visiting from the Navy. The airline explained that they couldn’t allow him to fly without a ticket so he would have to purchase another one. They did tell him that he could get reimbursed for the ticket if he located it later.

4) Be an understanding passenger. In almost all cases on the show the passengers were belligerent and obnoxious. I don’t understand why passengers get rude when it is truly their fault when most of these things happen. They yell, scream, threaten to sue the airlines, and anything else you can think of when they are the idiots who caused the problem. This applies to any customer service situation whether it’s an airline ticket counter or a sales clerk at Sears.

I’m not sure what you think you will accomplish by causing a scene when you are in a public place. The father who lost his ticket was ranting nonstop about the airline when it was clearly his fault. All he succeeded in doing was to embarrass his daughter and make himself look like a jerk on television.

There are many other things you need to know when traveling by air these days. Don’t bring sharp objects such as scissors, knives, etc… with you. Bring your picture ID like your driver’s license. If you are unsure what you can take and what you cannot take, go to the airline website and I’m certain all of this type of information can be found there. If not, call the airline and ask.

If you’re planning on taking a trip by air in the near future I would encourage you to watch A&E’s show “Airline” just to get an idea of what not to do when flying to your destination. Allow some extra time to get to an important event like catching a cruise ship or getting married. Plan to stay overnight at your destination before the event so that if something goes wrong on the way you have some extra time padded in your schedule.

I applaud Southwest Airline for letting their operations be filmed, both the good and the bad. It shows that they are confident in the abilities of their personnel. This is a great show for not only its reality entertainment value, but for the ability to perhaps educate folks on what they may need to do to fly in the world today.

The next time you fly, or shop at Sears for that matter, remember to be polite, patient, and act like a civilized human being instead of some idiot that was just released from the loony bin. Those of us watching your out-of-control antics are not entertained, we’re not amused, and we’re certainly not impressed with your ability to swear and embarrass yourself and your family members.

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