Archive for August, 2008
Enjoy Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman, as they demonstrate all the benefits of the money-saving “no frills” service now being offered by a major airline. It may be no frills, but look at all that legroom!
Admit it, sometimes you have felt like you were flying on this airline!
In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That is almost an appropriate description of this past week for American Airlines. It was week of good news, and bad news.
The good news first.
American announced that “American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia signed a Joint Business Agreement (JBA) to cooperate on flights between North America and Europe, and announced that we plan to expand our global cooperation.”
“Though our three airlines will continue to operate as separate legal entities – with our own fleets, employees and brands – we will cooperate more closely to improve travel choices, offer more convenient schedules and give customers more opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles.”
What impact will this have? A huge impact for travelers making transatlantic flights. It will open up many new options for flights from America to Europe, and will also provide greater flexibility on flights within Europe. It will have no affect on flights within the United States.
When can travelers expect to see these benefits? “As a key first step, our three airlines – along with Finnair and Royal Jordanian, our transatlantic partners in the oneworld global alliance – plan to apply today with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to receive global antitrust immunity.”
The agreement will require approval from the United States and, I would think, also from the European Union. American can only say that these changes “will take some time to be implemented.”
There is one point that AA does not address in their announcement. American AAdvantage members currently earn AAdvantage miles on all flights on British Airways except those between the US and Europe. Those flights compete directly with AA’s service, so no are miles awarded on them. (Miles are awarded however on service between Canada and Europe.) Will this change when the new agreement is implemented? I have no idea.
The three airlines have set up a website with more information about the JBA. Moretravelchoices.com provides information about the proposal. Among the expected benefits to customers are:
- The combined route network would offer seamless service to approximately 443 destinations, in 106 countries, with 6,277 daily departures worldwide:
- Greater expected availability of lower fares and more routing choices.
- Discounts for corporate customers to more destinations and on more frequencies in a single contract.
- Expanded opportunities to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles and elite tier benefits on flights worldwide and continued reciprocal airport lounge access. Reinvigorated competition as the oneworld alliance would finally be allowed to compete on equal footing with other global air alliances that have longstanding immunities.
I have no doubt that this will bring about more routing choices and more frequencies in a single contract, but I have not seen anything in an industry that now charges for the first checked bag to make me believe that there will be a greater availability of lower fares or discounts for corporate customers. However, even if the fares remain the same, the other benefits to make it worthwhile.
In addition, American announced plans to purchase six Boeing 737-800 aircraft by 2010 as replacements for its aging fleet of MD-80s, which average 18 years of service. They will also ground their fleet of Airbus A-300 aircraft which also average 18 years of service.
The bad news for American came when the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) announced a $7.1 million fine against American for maintenance problems and poor implementation of drug testing.
The FAA said that American knew that two MD-80 aircraft had defective auto-pilots, but flew the two aircraft 58 times before making the repairs.
The FAA is also seeking fines for against American for violating drug testing procedures involving several dozen flight attendants and other employees, only one of whom was a pilot.
This is the second largest fine ever assessed by the FAA; the largest being the $10.2 fine against Southwest Airlines in March, 2008 for improper maintenance procedures.
American says it will contest the fine.
“We do not agree with the FAA’s findings and characterizations of American’s action in these cases,” the airline said. “In accordance with FAA procedures for handling these matters, we have requested to meet with the FAA after we have had time to thoroughly review their findings, so that we may discuss the issues. Since these matters are ongoing with the FAA, we will not have any further comment at this time.”
Two weeks since my last post: for that I apologize. Aside from being swamped at work, I have also done some traveling around Texas that has kept me very busy. I’ve visited San Antonio, having a very good and very bad experience, and also visited South Texas shortly after Hurricane Dolly came though.
First, the good and bad of our San Antonio visit. My wife and I planned to spend a weekend in the Alamo City. We enjoy all our trips to San Antonio, it’s an easy 90 minute drive from home and we have had a great time whenever we have gone there. Our plan called for us to attend an event at the Alamodome on Saturday, spend the night at a motel, then do some shopping and act like tourists on Sunday. At least that was the plan.
We bought tickets for the Southwest Championships of Drum Corps International at the Alamodome, and had reservations to spend the night at a Rodeway Inn. Everything looked good.
We arrived at the Alamodome at 11 a.m. and made our way to our seats. They were amazing, the best seats we have ever had in the years we’ve attended this event. The first band marched out onto the field at noon to start an incredible day of music and incredible marching skill. After 12 bands performed there was a three-hour break for dinner, and then we went back to see the top four bands from the morning compete against the remaining eight bands.
It was an incredible evening, featuring some of the best performances we had ever seen. When the show finally ended well after 11 p.m., we left the Alamodome and drove to the Rodeway Inn, anxious to get a good night’s sleep after our very long day.
I got to the motel and went to check-in. There were three people in front of me, including a young mother who said she had been looking for a room for the previous two hours but had been unable to find one in San Antonio. The reservations clerk apologized, but said there were no vacancies, she would have to look elsewhere.
He checked in the next gentleman, who had a reservation, and then me, telling me I was lucky I had a reservation, I was getting the last room in the motel.
My wife and I went to the room; it being Texas in July I immediately turned on the air conditioner, but was not prepared for what I got! The a/c let out a loud screech, it sounded as if a bearing was going out in the fan motor. We turned off the a/c and turned on the fan by itself, but the noise was still there, far too loud for us to be able to sleep.
I immediately called the front desk to complain: the clerk said he would send a maintenance man. A few minutes later there was a knock on our door: since it was almost 1 a.m. I tried to look through the peephole in the door to see who it was but couldn’t do it: when they painted the room they painted over the peephole!
I opened the door and it was indeed the maintenance man. I let him in, the first thing he did was complain about being woken up in the middle of the night. Then he listened to the noise and told me there was nothing he could do. “We are refurbishing the hotel. The new rooms are very quiet, but the old ones sometimes sound loud like this, there is nothing I can do.”
There was no way we could sleep in that room so we left and went to the front desk; we had been in the room for 12 minutes. I told the clerk the room was not satisfactory and we were leaving. He printed up a receipt and charged me the full price for the room!
I told him there was no way I was paying for 12 minutes in a substandard room: he replied that I had made a reservation and guaranteed it with my credit card and he would have to charge me even if I had not checked in.
I said I was glad to stay at the hotel, but needed a room where the air conditioner made less noise than my car makes at 75 miles per hour on the highway, did he have such a room? He refused to answer. I said I was glad to stay but needed a room where I could look out into the hallway to see who was knocking on the door, did he have such a room? Again, he refused to answer.
“If you can’t give me a quiet or safe room, you can’t charge me!” I said. He replied with the company line about needing to cancel reservations 24 hours in advance. I realized I would not get anywhere arguing with a college kid working the night shift at 1 a.m., so I left, saying I would call a manager the next day.
My wife and I drove home, not getting in until after 3 a.m.
The next afternoon I called and spoke with a manager and explained the situation. She again gave me the company line about needing to cancel 24 hours in advance, but said she would look into the matter. An hour later she called, apologized for the situation, and said I would receive a full credit. I thanked her for her courtesy and thought that was the end of it. Sadly, it was not.
A week later, the credit had not appeared on my credit card account. I had to drive through San Antonio while on the way to South Texas and I stopped by the motel to settle the matter.
I spoke with a different manager: she tried to call the lady I had talked with earlier, but she no longer worked at the motel and was not answering any calls from the motel’s phone number. Since that did not work, she started to give me the standard line about canceling 24 hours in advance and that I could not get a refund because I had not done that. Too bad I did not know 24 hours in advance that the room was garbage!
But then she looked in the computer and found my record. “Oh, you have been issued a credit.” Sure enough, she printed the credit invoice for me. I was satisfied with that and left. When I got home I called American Express: they still could find no record of the refund, so they are putting the charge on hold while they investigate; that should take 6-8 weeks. I’ll let you know how that works out.
In the meantime, Rodeway Inn sent me an online customer satisfaction survey about our stay. Suffice to say I gave the motel the worst ratings possible and said I would never stay there, or at another Rodeway Inn again.