The Bloggers
Subscribe to this Blog

Warm & Fuzzy Stories About Air Travel?

Carol Sottili

If you've flown at all this summer, chances are you've lived through a horror story, whether it be hours on the runway, lost luggage, surly employees, cancelled flights, etc. Even if you haven't traveled, your neighbor, friend, daughter, significant other, hairdresser has probably given you an earful about their flight-from-Hades story. Just yesterday, a rainstorm in New York caused major air delays, which rippled through the country. So how about some good news?

My friend Nula's son recently underwent serious emergency surgery. The family had been all set to go on vacation to her native Ireland, but had not bought any travel insurance. Nula's doctor sent a letter to Delta Air Lines explaining the situation, but she wasn't optimistic about getting a refund. She figured they'd charge her the customary hefty rebook fee, and they'd go another day. When she called to follow up, the agent quickly informed her that her credit card had already been refunded for the entire cost of the air tickets. And then the agent, who apparently had access to the entire file, said, "How is Barry? Is he feeling better?"

Nula still can't get over the fact that an airline not only refunded the money when they didn't have to, but that they cared enough to ask how her son is doing. She'll be flying Delta again. Makes you wonder whether airlines would be better off in the long run if they did take a more lenient view of such situations.

And, on a different note, I called United recently on the off chance that I could get my 83-year-old mom a frequent flier ticket to visit her sister in Germany next month. The reservationist, who did not know I am a travel writer at The Post, spend at least a half hour searching before she came up with flights on Lufthansa for me. She went the extra mile. And then, when I noticed my mother had been assigned seats in the back of the plane, I called again, and another reservationist gladly moved her up to the front of economy. I was really impressed with the service.

Anyone else want to share something good that's happened to them recently in the not-so-friendly skies or in their dealings with individual airlines?

By Carol Sottili |  August 9, 2007; 10:15 AM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili , Tales from the Road
Previous: Bus Travel Gets ... Cool? | Next: Put That French Fry Down!

View or post comments


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I give high marks to British Airways. Last fall my sister and I were visiting Ireland. The morning of our return flight both Dublin and Heathrow Airports were fogged in. Flights were delayed, we missed our connecting flight out of Heathrow to BWI where my brother-in-law was to pick us up. When we eventually got to Heathrow we were put on the only other flight to this area, which went to Dulles.

We got the last two seats on a 747. We also got word to my brother-in-law through the steward and/or pilot to meet us at Dulles much later than the original flight that went to BWI. When we got to Dulles, our luggage wasn't on the flight we were on but my brother-in-law was there waiting for us.

So --- the following afternoon, a holiday no less, our wayward luggage was delivered to our door by British Airways. Thank heavens this happened on our return flight and not our trip over to Ireland. We were going on a bus tour and would have been in a different hotel every night making it impossible for our luggage to catch up with us.

From a grateful Yankee -- Thanks, British Airways.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | August 9, 2007 10:42 AM

I just returned from a trip to Denver with very high marks for Frontier Airlines. I have more or less given up flying the other guys unless I absolutely have to.

Frontier flies 3 nonstop flights to and from Denver and Washington National each day. They were inexpensive compared to United's nonstop service from Dulles (and much more convenient). Their flight attendants were friendly, they were mostly on time, and we even got a choice of tasty snacks in lieu of the awful soy nut mix that seems to be on all the other airlines now.

Plus, if you want to spend $5, you get Direct TV to keep you entertained for the entire flight.

Next time I have to go to Denver, I'm going Frontier. I just wish they offered more flights from the DC area.

Posted by: LV | August 9, 2007 11:40 AM

Back in june my girlfriend and I were talking about going to Vegas. We talked about dates and decided July 4th week. She thought we were going the 4 to 7th and I thought 6 to 9th the weekend. I even sent her on email asking if these dates are correct. She said they were. I made flight reservations with Southwest. She is with the army in the Seattle area and I am in DC. Sent her the email from SW with conformation number etc. I get apnicked call she misunderstood and she had thrown in her leave chit for the July 4th through the 7th. I said dont worrry. Called Southwest and figured I would eat any costs to change the flights etc. The reservationist was very helpful and we actually ended up saving a $103.00. The Venetian was equally as helpful with rearranging the dates etc. Door jerks at Tao were awful. A Ben Franklin and the fact girlfriend's unit was deploying to Iraq in few days didnt get us moved to head of the line on Thursday. Great trip
shame you dont get comps for shopping. I think she sleeps with her Jimmy Choos in Iraq. And damn does she look hot in fatigues with those Jimmy Choos with the La Perla lingerie and thi highs underneath!
She would get those Moslem fundlametalist terrorist to convert in that outfit.

Posted by: E owner | August 9, 2007 12:49 PM

Last year I was flying back to the US from Bosnia with my sister's dog (not ideal to fly with a dog, I know). I flew Lufthansa based on reviews of how they treat pets who are flying. They were wonderful! Not only was the plane ride comfortable, spacious (well by today's standards) and the food was good, but they were incredibly caring of the dog. They had an employee stay with the dog until the moment he was loaded on to the plane - I was watching from the gate - and were careful that he was not sitting on the tarmac in the hot sun, etc. When I transferred in Munich, the lady at the gate for the flight to DC informed me without me having to ask that the dog (referred to by his name) had arrived safely at the gate and that her colleagues were with. All in all, it was excellent service and we both arrived safe and sound. They did not have to care as much as they did. I have no intention of flying with a dog again (unless absolutely necessary) but I will gladly fly with Lufthansa again.

Posted by: lca | August 9, 2007 2:15 PM

I've had some good experiences with AirTran out of BWI. Not through Nationa though. The bagage claim there sucks. BWI is alot nicer all in all. I had a late Sunday flight back from Boston with them and it was only me and maybe 18 other people on a 737. The room was amazing. The gate people are also always really nice to.

Posted by: EricS | August 9, 2007 3:02 PM

A couple of years ago I got stuck in the Burlington airport waiting for a JetBlue flight. There was a 4-5 hour weather delay, and the passengers were restless. Instead of the usual, "it's weather, we're not responsible" the JetBlue crew arranged for pizza delivery for all of us. A small thing, particularly compared to the cost of either vouchers or ill-will, and it really made our day.

Posted by: Dave | August 9, 2007 3:31 PM

I fly a *lot* with JetBlue; periodically, weather delays flights coming and going from Dulles. During one delay when they were waiting for the aircraft to arrive to Dulles from Chicago (where the weather was *really bad*), while keeping us abreast of updates on times, etc., they loaded out a huge stock of in-flight snacks for everyone in the terminal-- free sodas and bottled water, chips, cookies, etc. Things like that aren't required, but they were certainly appreciated by the waiting passengers. When the flight from Chicago finally arrived, the storms had arrived to Dulles-- thunderous lighting and rain for half an hour. They got all the passengers off the arriving plane, then had outbound passengers wait in the terminal instead of embarking-- stating that we'd be more comfortable there than stuck on the aircraft 'till the storm ended and they received permission to leave the gate. True!

Posted by: CastaLusoria | August 10, 2007 10:39 AM

I returned from London-Heathrow to Boston on Virgin Atlantic last fall. (The baggage services and frequent-flyer services before and after flying were a disaster-- the flight crews, however, were _excellent_.) I was assigned a seat in a bulkhead row-- lots of leg room, but fixed-wall armrests. Narrow enough seats in coach already, compounded by the solid-wall amrests-- with telephones mounted in them. My plus-sized rear was NOT going to fit there comfortably for a trans-Atlantic flight. I approached the flight attendants-- mortified; this had never happened to me before-- and explained the situation. I asked if it would be possible for me to either switch seats with someone (e.g., trade my aisle bulkhead seat with someone tall stuck in a middle seat), or if there was any way to purchase an upgrade at the last moment. I told them how embarrassed I was, and they were very understanding. In the end, I was bumped to Economy Plus, which I appreciated immensely in so many ways! I would've been happy to swap seats, but they were very kind. (I just wish my baggage hadn't been damaged in transit, and they'd credited my frequent-flyer miles correctly!)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2007 10:51 AM

I think the reality is that there are more good situations with the airlines than there are horrible, but the good stuff isn't sexy and so doesn't get reported by the news media. I travel 3-4x per month for my job, and while I've had my share of ugly delays and airline games, for the most part, everything goes just fine and I get from point A to point B with minimal fuss. Maybe it's all in the expectations?

For every airline employee who hates his/her job and takes it out on pax, there are more who are still in it for the service. Finally, I truly believe that any situation is what you make it. I recently observed a complete jerk trying to get rebooked after his flt canceled. He was demanding and rude and kept accusing the agent of lying. She barely made eye contact and really did not go out of her way to look for many options for him. In fact, she was downright surly. The next person went out of his way to be nice to the agent (he started by commenting that it must be no fun at all to have to deal with all these stranded people, and that he would be happy with whatever she could come up with for him) and her attitude did a 180. She worked her computer for 20 minutes to get the nice guy a flt. It's all about the golden rule.

Posted by: Allison | August 13, 2007 8:48 AM

Yeah, most of my flying experiences are pretty boring and straightforward. My one overnight disaster: I was coming back from Wisconsin on Northwest and had to transfer in Detroit. There was "weather" in Detroit, so by the time my first flight got in, my connecting flight had already left - and it was the last flight out to the DC area. I tried the hotel booking line, but Northwest wasn't paying (because it was weather) and besides, the closest hotel was an hour away.

So I resigned myself to staying overnight on the floor of the Northwest terminal. And you know what? It was not bad at all. As all the planes came in for the night, the agents pulled off all the snacks, pillows, and blankets. I lined up several pillows, pulled up a blanket, read my book for a bit, and slept through til morning, when I woke up surrounded by commuters. It might have been kind of scary if I'd been on my own, but there were hundreds of people in the same situation, and it was kind of festive.

Posted by: h3 | August 13, 2007 12:13 PM

I had a ticket on Southwest last November from Dulles to Orlando leaving on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. My husband ended up needing to have surgery the week of Thanksgiving, so I called Southwest about 10 days before Thanksgiving to cancel, expecting to pay some kind of fee/penalty. Instead, I was informed of their policy to cancel the flight and essentially "bank" the cost of the ticket. I had that money held and just had to use it within a year of the date I bought the ticket.

It was very refreshing to find an airline or business for that matter that recognized I was still willing to spend the money with them and shouldn't be penalized for a change of plans.

Posted by: Manassas, VA | August 13, 2007 2:48 PM

As a frequent flier, I see and experience bad events, people, and situations all the time. Rather than harp on that, I simply wait for the good things and then tell the airlines about them, rather than the negative. Has it ever gotten me anything? Nope. But I believe in karma and if it's on my side, maybe a free upgrade to business of first class on my flight from LAX to Australia in two weeks will come my way. You never know.

Posted by: alan | August 13, 2007 3:42 PM

Was trying to fly from Oakland to O'Hare on United, when the first leg of the flight (OAK to DEN) was cancelled. Skip over the terrible customer service in Oakland. Got rebooked on a flight from SFO to BWI then back to ORD. On the way from OAK to SFO, got a call saying that the BWI to ORD leg was pre-emptively cancelled. Told the phone agent, we're on our way to SFO, we'll deal with re-booking there.

The desk agent at SFO took pity on us, and "found" a way to put us on the red-eye to ORD, which we had previously been told, several times, that it was oversold and we could not get on it. So, a big thank you to the United agent at SFO for getting us to our destination much faster than anyone else at United said they could.

Posted by: chris | August 16, 2007 3:47 PM

Trying to think of something good about recent flying experiences . . . . for me its all about space. The best surprise I ever had was years ago on the KLM charter airline that ran from BWI to Amsterdam. My charter seat was in the upstairs part of a 747 (usually first class) and there was a a good 30 inches between the last row of seats and the wall. I lay down with blankets for most of the flight and slept and they didn't make me get up!

Posted by: Alexandra | August 16, 2007 5:00 PM

We live in Miami Beach, FL and our middle daughter lives in Atlanta, GA. It was June of 2000, and she was due to bear her first child. My wife bought a restricted economy roundtrip on Delta, figuring the dates were "safe" for her to be there for the main event, but our daughter went into labor 3 days before the ticket date and called us at 6 PM. I quickly called Delta, and they said the only remaining flight from MIA to ATL was leaving at 8 PM and there was a waitlist of around 70 people. My wife said, well, that's that. I told her to grab the bag she'd already packed for a possible sudden earlier-than-planned departure. We rushed to MIA and I parked in the close-by short-term parking and we ran into the terminal. She asked how she could possibly make that flight. Begging and pleading, I told her. We finally got the station manager to come out. He heard our story, jumped her over the entire waitlist, changed her ticket with no fee, and 5 hours after our daughter called, she was astonished to see her mother walk into the hospital room. Two hours after that, our first grandchild - a boy - arrived.

The station manager seemed somewhat bemused by the whole thing. He told us that Delta would do this but only this one time. My wife felt badly about a woman with two little kids who was on standby for that flight. I said, I feel badly too, but her kids have already been born - she can wait till tomorrow morning - you can't.

This was the nicest thing any airline has ever done for us. Thank you, Delta!

Posted by: Richard.Rosichan | August 22, 2007 2:32 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company