A Vacation From Airlines

If you thought you'd heard every horror story concerning the crummy service most airlines deliver, I invite you to read the experience of Heinan Landa, founder of Optimal Networks, in his own words.  (Note:  This story is quite graphic and contains open acts of bad customer service).

I forgot. I forgot that airlines are in the business of providing service — not commodities. I forgot that I was the consumer — the client — and that, as such, deserved service. I forgot…but I was reminded last week.

My family and I were excited for a well-planned winter getaway to Miami. My wife was eager to see her brother and his family. My kids were ready to play with their cousins. I was ready to hit the beach. I was not ready for what greeted me at the check-in counter — a small sign that said “Spirit Air Flight 395 to Miami has been canceled.”

I thought, “There must be some sort of mistake.” After all, two professionals had taken off work for a few days, the trip had been cleared with my children’s teachers, weekly extra-curricular activities, meetings and appointments had been reshuffled. Surely grabbing another flight would surely be no problem. But it was. I was told by the counter attendant that I had two options: I could get a refund for the price of the tickets or I could take the next flight Spirit Air had scheduled to Miami . Easy, right? We’ll take the next flight. The catch? It was Wednesday. Spirit Air didn’t have any open flights out of DC until Saturday.

This seemed impossible. Couldn’t they transfer me to another airline that was going to Miami (all of the major ones were)? I was told no, the FAA didn't require them to book me on another airline when the cancellation of the originating flight was weather related. Irate, I was moved to counter attendant to supervisor and back again but the message was clear: there is nothing more we can do for you — you have two options. I took the refund and a disappointed group of Landas made the trek back home.

As I drove (and tried to calm down) I thought: “This is what I get for treating the airline industry as a commodity — I had saved $25 per ticket by going with Spirit Air but I got what I paid for.” Spirit Air simply didn’t have the bandwidth to handle one cancellation. I started thinking about Optimal Networks and the IT support services industry in general. The public often treats IT support as a commodity but it is not — like the airlines it, too, is a service industry. And, sometimes you get the service you pay for. Is your IT company going to cancel your trip to Miami without providing you with reasonable alternative means of travel? If your organization’s server crashes on Friday night, will your IT company tell you there is nothing they can do until Monday morning? Definitely food for thought. You can bet I’ll never fly Spirit Air again.