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Airline Disrespect

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007


Quote of the Day: “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Fact: never in my 39 years have I EVER missed a plane. Neither through fault of my own, delay, or mechanical problem. I have never missed a flight.

Can you guess where I’m going with this?

Our plane was supposed to leave at 0650. At least that is what Carrie said and because I trusted her, I didn’t check (another fact that was thrown in my face later, but I digress).

In reality, the plane’s departure was nearer to the “0625” timeframe so our plan to show up at 0530 was a bit risky.

It did not help that we had to stop to pick up our friend Paola…

… but she was ready and it looked like a kidnapping. We had realized Carrie’s our timing mistake by this time and was, how should I say….not wasting time in the speed department.

The next thing that sucked pig-butt was that we came up on a cop so had to obey the law of the land. In essence, we were caught in a one-policecar traffic jam with nothing but clear road in front of us.

I guess it also didn’t help much that I had left my Blues trousers at work and we had to swing by there too. I will save you the rant but since I’ve lived in San Diego, there hasn’t been one time I have NOT forgotten something at work that I had to swing by and grab on the way to the airport. Never.

When we finally got to the airport, jumped out of the car like a Chinese fire drill, hugged Paola, and got to the ticket counter, it was 0530.

I repeat, it was 0530.

And there was a very long line.

That wasn’t moving.

We were screwed.

We stood there for 15 minutes without any progress. I had left to reconsider the $2 per bag charge for curbside check-in but my airline was not offering that, I discovered.

When I got back, I was just in time to hear a very apologetic ticket counter worker tell us that the 45-minute cutoff was upon us and they could not check anyone in for our flight.

Then she showed her greenness by continuing to apologize and admitting the following:

- It was their fault we didn’t get checked in
- 3 people had called in sick so they were shorthanded
- The two of them behind the counter were brand new
- One had not even been to training
- They would rebook us on the next flight and not charge us
- They had called a manager and he would be there soon

Among the people in line, I was one of the calmest. I know that’s hard to believe but I was. Maybe it was my grief and the fact that I really didn’t need to be there until Thursday.

Nothing happened for a good hour because the manager didn’t show up until then and the ticket counter workers were at a loss to do anything but look busy typing for an hour with no progress.

When the manager showed up, he seemed upset but the strange thing was that it seemed to be aimed at us. Then he started making comments to the other two that he was not going to waive the rebooking fee ($50 a pop) to us because “all these people couldn’t have been here at 0530.”

I stayed calm and by the time I got up to the counter, I got the UN-apologetic one who seemed to share the manager’s attitude. She typed away at her keyboard until she came up with her offer to rebook me for the 0900 flight and I could be on stand-by for free or confirm for $50.

I calmly explained to her that I was not going to pay a rebooking fee when it was their unsatisfactory performance that caused me to miss my flight and delay me. Plus, I WAS there at 0530 and if they would have been properly staffed, I had a good shot at making the flight.

She countered by saying she left at 0540 and no one was in line.

It was at this time I asked to speak to the manager.

She quickly explained her side of it to him and he brushed her off by telling her to take care of something and he would “take care” of me.

I took this to mean he was going to fix it and authorize the waiver of the fee. I thought that they were not going to waive the fee automatically unless we asked and I was a little bit proud of myself for speaking up and getting the fee waived. And maybe, you know, an apology for delaying me from getting to my grandmother’s funeral.

I let him work, not wanting him to stop his fee-waiving process, and after 15 minutes of typing, he looked up and…

Gave me the identical options.

I was livid because other than the obvious, the other passengers were snatching up the available seats on other flights while Mr. Manager played “watch-me-type” for 15 minutes.

I explained to him what I had told her and told him that I was, in fact, in line at 0530.

I shit you not, this is what he said…

“I can’t take sides on this. She says you weren’t here, you say you were. I was not here so I have to charge the fee.”

I stared at him, not believing what I just heard.

“Doesn’t tie go to the customer?”


“Doesn’t tie go to the customer? Isn’t the customer given the benefit of the doubt if it’s close?”

“Well, YOU would say that in this situation since you are the customer.”

It was at this time I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere with him and anything I had to say to him would be heard through a background of loud cursing and violence.

Plus, I was afraid that if I didn’t get these seats confirmed, they might be snagged while I bickered with the worst customer service I have ever received in my life.

I knew that I would be getting my money back via a letter to the company so I let him book us on the last two seats of the last plane.

He was man enough to give me a food voucher which made me feel better until I saw it was for a whole $5. Well, a Starbucks on good old Mr. Customer Service.

By the time we got all of this settled, we had to get to our flight other than KNOWING it was going to be the seats in front of the exit row that didn’t recline (which it was), the flight was uneventful.

In Denver, the 3 ½ hour layover was buffered by the fact that they have a kick-ass USO.

Big leather reclining chairs that lay out almost flat. Computers with Internet access. Free food. Free drinks. Free books. Free magazines.

I caught some winks in the chair before we had to catch our flight which ended up being in the body of a mosquito. It was a puny little prop-job that you had to duck in to enter.

A great way to spend an hour, I’ll tell you.

When we got in to Wichita, my cousin and my other cousin’s husband was there to meet us. It was strange because I had made this trip a few months ago and it was déjà vu.

We knew that the next couple of days would likely involve a lot of casseroles from well-meaning folks so when we got word that we could either have some lasagna casserole or stop in Wichita for something

…something it was.

The 45-minute wait at the steak house was a little too much something so we opted for the Mexican restaurant.

I know, there is something inherently wrong about going home to a funeral full of Mexicans who will undoubtedly cook massive amounts of good, authentic Mexican food at some point, and starting off the trip to a Mexican restaurant and having second-rate M-food.

I’ll blame it on delirium.

By the time we got back to my aunt’s house in the city of my birth, it was late. But my mom was there, my aunt and uncle, and my cousins.

Everyone but Grandma.

We were glad to be there and see people we loved. We stayed up late, talking, remembering, laughing.

Here is the letter I sent to the airline. I won’t name the airline with the poor service….the hell I won’t. It was Frontier.

My name is Jason Grose and I am currently serving as a Major in the Marine Corps. My grandmother passed away on December 15th and I took emergency leave; making plans to take my wife from San Diego to Kansas to attend the funeral.

We bought tickets on Frontier and was to leave at 0625 on December 19. We were running a bit late but arrived at the ticket counter at exactly 0530. Knowing it was going to be close, we were disheartened when there was a very long line at the ticket counter.

The line did not move for 15 minutes despite two ticket agents at the counter who did not seem to be helping anyone. At 0545 one of them got on the intercom and announced that they could not check anyone else in due to the 45 minute cutoff. She apologized and announced that because they were shorthanded, they would rebook everyone and not charge us for this.

I heard one of the ticket agents explain that three people had called in sick and that of the two that were there, both were brand new and one had not even been to the training. They had called a manager and we all waited until 0645 before he even showed up. No one was happy and he seemed somehow upset with all of us and for some unknown reason, he seemed to aim this displeasure at us waiting in line. His name was ().

Under the circumstances, the crowd of people were, in my opinion, calm and like my wife and I, just wanted to get on the next available plane.

When I got to the front, one of the female agents helped me and said it would cost $50 each to confirm the next flight. I calmly explained to her that I was on time and it was the ticketing personnel’s fault, by their own explanation. I also reminded her that the other agent had announced that we would not be charged.

She claimed that she had left the counter at 5:40 and no one was in line. At that point I calmly asked to talk to the manager.

He seemed flustered, distracted, and argumentative as I tried to explain my situation. I told him I did not feel I should be charged the fee since I was here before the cutoff, the agents admitted they did not have the experience to handle the extra workload after three people had called in sick, and they had announced a waiver on the fee.

Here is where I have the biggest issue. Mr. () said he would take care of the situation and took another 15 minutes typing on the computer.

After what I assumed was him getting us seats and waiving the fee, Mr. () told me I could stand by for free or he would charging me the fee which was basically the same explanation the other agent had said only now, the seats were being snatched up by other customers who were not challenging the fee.

I once again brought up the fact that I was here on time and should not be charged the fee based on the fact that his people failed to get us checked in on time. He actually told me he could not “take sides” because she said no one was here at 0540 and I said I was there at 0530. In essence, he was taking her word over mine.

I looked him in the eye and told him I was there at 0530 but that did not seem to matter. He asked me if I wanted the confirmed seats or not.

I then asked that if there is even a question, shouldn’t the customer get the benefit of the doubt?

His response was “Well, YOU would say that because in this situation, you’re the customer.”

I really do not appreciate my integrity being challenged in this manner and do not feel I have to argue my status as a customer nor as a commissioned officer in the Armed Forces to justify my truth-telling habits.

At this point, I had no choice but to agree to the charge because the remaining seats on alternate flights were going fast. As it was, we got the last two seats on a later flight and when it was all done, I was 5 hours late to my destination.

I would like to make a formal request to have the $100 fee refunded. I missed my flight due to the delay at the counter, I arrived 5 hours late and was made to wait in airports the entire day, I had my integrity questioned, and quite frankly, was treated in a manner I would described as disrespectful by Mr. ().

With a choice to fly with many different airlines, I was disappointed with my decision to avoid Frontier Airlines in the future. My father worked for Frontier for years and not only did this create a nostalgic tie to Frontier but I had never had any problems prior to this episode.

Please contact me in regard to this matter by email.

Thank you for your time.

Free Advice for Today: “Donate two pints of blood every year.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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