Hello AirTran and Southwest Airlines -
I am not a frequent flier in the air, but I enjoy getting to my destination fast so I can spend what short time I have for vacations on the land that I am eager to explore.
It had been more than two years since I hopped on a plane to fly away on Friday, April 26 in the early morning and I was looking forward to my short, but very long weekend vacation. My destination was Atlanta, Ga., from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and I had not slept at all the night before since I was at work until midnight. I had to be up by 3:30 a.m.
I was going on vacation with a friend and I thought, for some reason, our flight wasn’t until 6:45 a.m. We arrived at the airport with our carry-on bags at 4:55 a.m. (we did not need to check luggage,) and we were headed straight for a kiosk to check-in and then print our boarding passes. It wasn’t until we got in line and talking about our flight that he told me our flight was at 5:45 a.m. and apparently he told me this multiple times. “OK,” I thought, “still enough time,” until what happened next. It was supposed to be a simple process when we walked through the airport doors.
Very. Very wrong.
The kiosks were down.
There was a line of at least 70 people. It was 5 a.m. and when we got to that line, that’s when I discovered we had technically 25 minutes to get through this line and security to be at our gate 20 minutes prior to our flight time. I think that’s FAA regulations for all airlines.
Seventy people…at least. Kiosks down. Short vacation, but just long enough to get out of dodge. We didn’t think there was a chance we would make our flight. We didn’t buy insurance, but then again, we weren’t expecting the kiosks to be down.
At this point, it’s 5:10 a.m. and I’m not happy. Neither are the other customers. That line we were standing in? It doubled within the 15 minutes we had been standing there. I have no idea if any of these customers were first-time fliers with AirTran or in general. My friend at least thought to called AirTran customer service. They couldn’t help us.
The gal in front of us was flying solo and just needed to check-in, too. Her iPhone wasn’t cooperating or allowing her to browse quickly enough to try check-in online. I know you can check-in online 24-hours in advance and up to one-hour prior to your flight time with AirTran. She had five minutes to try make that happen and my friend tried to use his Galaxy GS3 make this happen for her. The process went smoothly, up until the final step on the online check-in process. We had one minute remaining and there was some type of “error.” Was it her fault and ours for waiting the last minute to do this? Yes. Unfortunately, we were just too excited to get out of dodge.
Then, a “miracle” took place. Another lined opened up and it was only for people who needed to check-in (carry-on bags only) or were “A+” frequent fliers. I think that’s the name of your program. The gal who was in front of us who we tried to help allowed us to step ahead of her and check-in.
AirTran, I’m not writing this because I can’t get over what happened. Wait. That’s a lie. I will never forget this experience. I’ve flown with you the last three trips I’ve taken and this had never happened before, but I was livid that morning. I will say, this is not changing the fact that you still remain my “go to” airline when I want to take a vacation. Why? Maybe it’s your brand name, but I’ve always liked the customer service provided and I’m not even a frequent flier. It’s always a pleasure and I feel safe flying with your airline. I’ll say it again: you have not lost me as a customer. Also, this could happen with any airline, but I’ll get to my point in a minute.
I’m writing this from the perspective of every customer who had to stand in that line that morning who just needed a kiosk to check-in. That’s it. As a customer who just wanted a simple and easy process of getting to their destination without much of an issue, that morning was a nightmare.
Here’s what I’ve waited almost a week to write out:
It’s 2013. Is there some way you can notify all your customers who are flying with you within a certain time frame that there are technical check-in issues at “_____ airport,” (where they’re checking in) such as “kiosks are down,” say via email and put that in the subject line, so I (the customer) can make my own educated guess on how much time I see fit to re-arrange my itinerary? Then, it’s completely on me and you’ve done your best to make sure that even first-time fliers have the best experience possible.
If there is not a system in a place, I would highly suggest making this system a priority.
Here’s where things get even worse, but not for me.
Guess who else it was nightmare for? YOUR EMPLOYEE BEHIND THE COUNTER DOING HER BEST TO HELP OUT THE CUSTOMERS WHO CHOSE AirTran TO FLY TO THEIR DESTINATION. I can’t remember her name, but she was an older gal, probably around 50 who was very kind. I was too focused on the situation at hand and I’m kicking myself for not paying closer attention.
I know things happen, but it’s 2013. I know that technology can go haywire. Even the process of checking in with your employee became a hassel at one point because her computer went off-line for about 10 seconds which felt like eternity because the clock was ticking. Again, that happens from time to time.
Here’s the biggest challenge for any company nowadays:
Give your customers a chance to make their experience what they think it should be.
Because of your employee, who remained calm and understanding of that hectic morning, I was able to enjoy this on my vacation before flying back home:
(I love Gnarley Head when chilled just a bit by the pool side. Yes, it was delicious.)
Thank you for listening. I really hope you take all perspectives into consideration here. I have always liked flying with you and I appreciate your employees. They make my flying experience a pretty great one.