Saturday, July 11, 2009
As most of you know, I flew out to Seattle last month to visit with friends, stomp on my old stomping grounds, and head out to Boise for a triathlon there. What you may not know is what a miserable time I had getting back, thanks to the d-bags at Northwest Airlines. And just becase it happened a month ago, and I'm only writing about it now, doesn't mean I wasn't really pissed off. I actually wrote a very detailed account of what went down soon after I got back, but it turned out way too long; when I printed it out to mail to NWA, it was close to 5 pages. So this here is the condensed version:
All right, first of all, I got to the airport late. Is that a crime? On the way to Sea-Tac I had to return the bike and the wetsuit I rented for the triathlon, and even though I allowed extra time it took much longer than I thought it would. (For one thing, I had to sit in Montlake traffic for 15 minutes without moving. I think the bridge was up, maybe.) At any rate, I reached the NWA counter 25 minutes before the flight. The airlines apparently stop checking bags 30 minutes before a flight, and the good folks at NWA would not even consider making an exception for me.
So fine, right? Stick me on the next flight home. Except all they had to offer was something arriving the next afternoon, about 24 hrs after my original arrival time. (This was at 3 in the afternoon). There was a flight through Detroit arriving earlier, but I couldn't fly standby on it because my original route was through Minneapolis. Conveniently, that allowed NWA to bill me $150 for a change-of-flight charge. To get on the Detroit flight, they also wanted another $100 to upgrade my seat. When I spent some time trying to find other options, then called back again, I found that the price had gone up to $587 (or close to $200 more than my original fare for the whole trip). The story they told me was that the other seat had been snapped up, maybe by someone online, and the $587 fare was the next-best thing. Luckily, when the agent checked again, the $250 fare had magically become available again.
And yes, I had to do all this over the phone, even though I was right there at the f$^%#ing counter. The NWA people working the counter were, almost to a person, inept and inefficient. Not too sympathetic, either. And believe me, when you're stuck far from home and the price for getting back is going up hundreds of dollars every time you turn around, you are totally dependent on the kindness of strangers.
At any rate, I made it back the following morning on a redeye, following a 4-hr layover in Detroit. Even made it to work on time. And it was my fault, right? I got to the airport late. Except this was the kind of thing that could really have happened to anyone. I've only arrived late for a flight once before, also due to bad traffic, and in that case United put me on the next flight without any extra charges. That was a long time ago, before 9-11, and I know things are different with the airlines now. But why the hell would I ever fly Northwest again? I don't think I've ever had a good experience with them, and this one was just wretched. And unfortunately their taint has now spread to Delta, which bought NWA a while back. There's just too many other options ...
Even if it costs you extra for a ticket, people, don't fly Northwest! And if you're wondering about the photo at the top, those are pissed-off travelers who were on another NWA flight that was delayed. The one good thing about my long layover: plenty of time to document the incompetency.