Forget about those dowdy old-school Olympics. What we need is an international competition to see which airline can suck the most, since everyone is getting so good at it. In the category of Random Rudeness, this AirTran agent and her equally hostile supervisor would have a good shot at the gold—especially since they aimed their hostility at a honeymooning couple.
Completely unrelated to delays, bumpings or overbooking, we had a shockingly traumatic customer service experience with Airtran coming back from our honeymoon yesterday morning that I wanted to share with you.
We were checking three bags at Boston’s Logan airport and the woman checking us in said one of our bags was oversized and would incur a $29 oversize bag fee. We were surprised, since we weren’t charged a fee for an oversized bag on the first leg of our trip. When we asked her about this, she acted really put out and annoyed and got her supervisor. Her supervisor came over, even more annoyed, and said “If you don’t watch it, I’ll charge you for that first leg, too.” (From a conversation with a customer service person 20 minutes later on the phone, we learned that this is absolutely not authorized under Airtran policy…I’m not sure where that “retroactive extra fee” would have gone).
We protested, and asked for her name and title. She refused to give us her last name and walked away. We asked the woman checking us in for her name–she too refused, and tucked her name badge inside her sweater so we couldn’t see it. Fortunately I had already looked and wrote it down. Deciding that our conversation was over, she yelled out “Next!” We didn’t leave, and asked again for her name and title because we wanted to complain about her hostility and her threat to charge us retroactively for something that obviously wasn’t our fault.
Her response? She yelled “Get the hell out of my god damn face!” in front of about 100 people waiting in line, including many families with small children. We were absolutely shocked, and when I asked her “Did you really just say that to me?” she screamed it again, making threatening gestures and frightening both us and the people around us. Her supervisor watched from about 20 feet away, doing nothing.
When we approached her supervisor to complain, the supervisor’s response was “She didn’t say that”, and her tone insinuated that we had made it up. She added, “There aren’t any witnesses.” When we pointed to several people who could attest to the fact that a) her employee had indeed exploded in the unprovoked, threatening manner described above, and that b) there were dozens of witnesses, the supervisor responded to the effect of “Don’t worry about it. Go to your flight and I’ll handle it.” Her tone was casual, dismissive and condescending, and I’m fairly certain that no disciplinary action was taken since she had essentially watched the episode unfold before her eyes without doing or saying anything.
I’d like to note, too, that when asked again, this supervisor refused to give us her full name.
We had a plane to catch so all we could do was file a formal complaint on the phone and demand our money back for being subjected to such an emotionally traumatizing experience without cause or provocation. They said the best they could offer us was a $25 travel voucher, since “the airline doesn’t compensate for rudeness.” When we explained that this incident transcended rudeness to include being physically threatened and lied to about corporate policy, they didn’t budge.
Any ideas for what we should do next? As you can imagine, we’re furious and want some kind of appropriate resolution–no company should be permitted to treat paying customers like that without repercussions, and we feel like Airtran knows it can get away with this without any consequences.
Jon, your best solution is to buy your own airplane. Ha ha, but seriously, we hope you didn’t accept that voucher just yet. Check out this soldier’s story of how he persisted with his demands until they were finally met—it may give you some idea of how to proceed. Check out our “Fighting Back” post for other tips.
However, if AirTran really doesn’t compensate for rude treatment, then the voucher may be all you’ll be able to get—in which case we suggest you cross AirTran off your list of desired carriers.