Friday, January 30, 2009

Another AirTran Debacle

AirTran is an airline that I really want to like. They're a low-cost carrier, but they've got bigger ambitions:
  • They're partnered with Frontier, essentially giving their route map twice as many destinations.
  • Their planes have Business Class seating.
  • AirTran's A+ Reward program offers an Elite status benefit that offers perks like complimentary upgrades typically only found on legacy carriers.
In other words, there's a lot there that should be impressive. And I'm an A+ Elite member, so I theoretically get the best treatment one can get from the airline. Yet whenever I have flown AirTran--here's one example, and here's another--and I've been disappointed:
  • Check-in lines are long.
  • Elite check-in lines are closed or not staffed.
  • Flights are late.
  • Business Class is filled with young children who spend the flight whining.
The latest comic scenario from AirTran continues this fine spirit of setting lofty goals but failing to achieve them. AirTran Flight 373 was supposed to take three hours to get from Columbus, Ohio to Orlando, Florida. There was ice on the plane, so it couldn't fly.

There are two good choices here: replace the plane, or cancel the flight. AirTran did neither. Instead, it delayed the flight for an astonishing nine hours, turning a three-hour trip into twelve.

And would you believe that when the plane did finally arrive, some of the passengers' luggage wasn't on board?

AirTran apologized, and all 84 passengers on the flight were offered round-trip tickets to destinations of their choice. But is that enough? Round-trip tickets make poor compensation when it's likely that the next flight will be no better.

I want to like AirTran. But the truth is, as an airline, AirTran consistently fails to achieve the level of service that it claims to offer. When is that going to change?

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