Sunday, May 03, 2009

Travel Picks and Pans

Travel Picks and Pans:Arising from the dead like a great phoenix, Travelocity leaps back into good standing. Here's the deal: Last month I reposted an old New York travel write-up from 2004. In it, I pretty much got hosed by Travelocity and I said so in no uncertain terms, declaring them dead to me to that very day (5 years later). Well, what should happen but a few days after I publish that post than I get a friendly and conciliatory email from Travelocity customer service department offering me a $250 credit voucher for my trouble if I book a vacation through them.

There are two observations of special importance here. First, even though the bad experience was nearly five years ago, they still made the effort to make restitution; despite that it was a recent repost, they indicated in their email that they did know it was a very old story. Second, and more importantly, they noticed a random post on this blog. I did not log any special complaint with Travelocity or any of the other places where bad reviews can cause a company pain. I suppose it's possible that one of my dozen or so regular readers works for Travelocity and thus brought it to their attention, but it's much more likely that they have taken the step of actively monitoring the web for such posts as a matter of policy. That is smart, dedicated, proactive, ass-kickingly good customer service. In an industry where the little things can make all the difference in the world, that's huge.

Oh, and I have already used my $250 credit. Travelocity is not only resurrected but leapfrogs Expedia and Orbitz as my one-stop travel planner of choice. I guess in the travel industry, sometimes things do change for the better.

On the flip side, sometimes they don't. I have long history of total disgust with Mesa Airlines. On several occasions I have had the misfortune of flying with them -- US Airways, Untied, America West, and probably others, all contract with them to handle their "Express" regional service. For example, your boarding pass might indicate the airline as US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines. I have never once had an on-time flight with them, nor have I ever witnessed them managing their operation with anything other than consummate incompetence. Again, going back to old travel writings, I'd like to quote myself from back in 2004. I won't subject you to the complete 500-word rant but my summation was:

At Mesa Airlines, the only thing they care about is that you go away and not make them think. If your plane is late you don't need to know why or how or even when you can expect to leave, you don't need to be considered in any way. You just need to accept that they will eventually get you to your destination because they really just want to make you go away. That's enough for you; thank you for flying Mesa.

So imagine my revulsion when, on my way to the Outer Banks, I glanced at my boarding pass for the connecting flight from Charlotte to Norfolk read "US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines." Noooooo!!!

Sure enough, with no hope of making our 1:00 departure, they finally got around to updating the board at about 1:10, changing the expected departure time to 1:20. Now, even a lobotomized hamster could have told them that there was no way they were going to make a 1:20 departure time because even a lobotomized hamster could look out the window and see that there was no plane at the gate. If it's 1:10 and your plane is not at the gate, you are not going to depart by 1:20. Trust me. But why bother being accurate and informative when you can so easily confuse and frustrate your customers just for giggles?

1:20 rolls around, then 1:25, then 1:30. At this point, General Relativity dictates that we are going to have to board the plane faster than the speed of light to make our advertised 1:20 departure. I would have paid about $500 to have had Joe Pesci as one of the passengers just so he could flip out on the numb-nuts gate agent. At some point around 1:30 we got a new departure time updated to 1:50. The plane didn't arrive until 1:50 and were actually in the air by 2:15.

You can always count on Mesa Airlines to gleefully rob you at least an hour or two of your vacation, and your life, and rub it in by taking the opportunity to really angry up your blood in any way it is convenient. It doesn't matter how well you plan or what prayers you recite, it WILL happen. I so hate Mesa Airlines.

And if anyone from Mesa is reading this, I will reconsider my judgment for a credit voucher. But it's going to have to be a lot more than $250 to get me on another one of your planes.