Northwest Airlines General Incompetence

Close Encounters of the Cheap Kind has a new home at www.CheapEncounters.com!

I got this from my brother-in-law (the same one I referenced in my last CVS post) and thought I would share his experience with the world. And just when I thought the US Postal Service had taken the prize for poor customer service and general incompetence, here comes Northwest Airlines to claim this dubious distinction. Here is his tale of a trip this past week from Houston (IAH) to Tri-Cities (Tennessee), which was supposed to be just a simple connection in Memphis:

This is a brief recap of the 16 hour trip.

Basically, northwest selected me to refine their customer disaster plan policies.

I made it to the Houston Airport at 6:00am. The flight from Houston to Memphis was slightly delayed but landed with about 15 minutes until the next flight’s departure to tri cities at 9:15am. It was two terminals over so I ran as fast as could in dress shoes (I now am experiencing shin splints for the first time ever) and made it there 7 minutes before departure. The girls at the counter wouldn’t let me on because they “closed” the flight 10 minutes early. That decision doomed me for the rest of the day. I found it odd that they would do that knowing there was a connecting flight that had just arrived a few minutes earlier. They then made me step aside for the next 20 minutes so they could “finish” something, though they didn’t appear to be doing anything at all. Finally, they re-booked me on a flight that was going through Detroit to tri-cities but was departing in, guess what, 20 minutes and was two terminals over. So yet again, I was running as fast as I could (did I mention shin splints?). Once I go the gate for this flight, it was delayed until 11:30am, so there was no way I was making the connecting flight in Detroit. So the lady at the counter re-re-routed me through Atlanta to tri-cities which was scheduled for 1:40pm. That gave me a little time to eat lunch. I ran into a friend from high school, so we hit up interstate BBQ, which was quite good. After lunch I went to check what gate the flight was leaving from only to sa in big red (I think) letters “Cancelled, See ticketing Agent”. I went to the nearest ticketing counter and the lady there re-re-rerouted me through charlotte scheduled to leave at 2:30pm with the last connecting flight to tri-cities being at 6:14pm. That flight actually boarded and was on the runway accelerating for take-off when the pilot put on the brakes and returned to the terminal for maintenance. That took about an hour and a half, so there was no way I would make the connecting flight. My last option was a 7:30pm flight from Memphis to tri-cities (the same flight the ladies wouldn’t let me on earlier). So I told the ticketing agent that they needed to re-re-re-reroute me on that flight. He kind of mumbled and wasted about 45 minutes saying he was working on getting me on that flight but once 4pm hit, he said that another guy would take care of me and punched out. So the other guy boarded everyone that was still going to charlotte, and when that was done I asked him to put me on the tri-cities flight. He looked at my itinerary for a second, and then (I’m not joking) went and sat down in a chair by the window and started drinking a coke. I asked for his manager and he said one was coming in about 45 minutes. I wasn’t very happy with that and told him to get on the phone and get someone down there immediately. A lady came about 10 minutes later and said started trying to explain the “intricacies” of northwest airlines and how different companies actually ran the planes and there was no way she could put me on that flight… Basically, she was pawning me off to someone else. So I had to go to the gate where the flight was leaving from and talk to the agent there. When I arrived, the agent was there but was “off the clock” and couldn’t help me until 5:15pm (about 45 minutes later). Instead of getting angry, I sat down and played my guitar a little (I had been carrying it the entire day). Once she was officially “on” the clock she looked at my ticket and said she couldn’t help me b/c US Airways had “control” of the ticket. That made absolutely no sense seeing I hadn’t dealt with US Airways the entire trip. So I had to go find the only US Airways counter which was, of course, two terminals over. Once I finally talked to that ticketing agent, she looked at everything and just shook her head. She said there was no reason they couldn’t have helped me as NWA had control of my ticket the entire time. Using my itinerary she managed to print me out a boarding pass and handle everything so that I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. She said my experience was typical with the regional flight workers for northwest. So finally at 6:30pm I had a ticket in hand for the flight. So I went and ate Corky’s BBQ (also quite good) and waited for the flight. A guy who was sitting down had a guitar too and asked if I wanted a seat. I said sure. It turned out, we were on the same flight and we talked guitars and music for over an hour. It was great.

I arrived here last night at about 10:30pm…

So after 16 hours and walking/running for roughly 6 miles, I was happy to finally go to bed. It was a pretty long day.

What makes this all worse is that his experience was after being booked to go the previous day on the same routing only to miss his flight because of a backup coming off the beltway to the airport, a backup getting into the parking garage at the airport, once in the airport some woman backing into his car busting his turn signal and putting a hole in his front bumper, and then his flight being moved from one terminal to another and finding the security line for the other terminal is out the door because one of the metal detectors went down. Just to think he elected to try his trip again the next day rather than to try and be re-routed the day he was originally scheduled because he wanted to avoid this type of disaster.


April 13, 2007 - Posted by | Customer Service, Travel

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