AirTran Would Rather Me Stinky

Nelle writes:

You could say I brought the following situation on myself by getting on a plane on Labor Day weekend, which everyone knows is one of the busiest travel weekends in the U.S. But had I known my poor little suitcase would suffer for it, perhaps I would have trod differently.

Missed flights, opaque ticket desk clerks and being forbidden from accessing her own luggage, inside.

    “This weekend I intended to fly from Philadelphia to Houston, changing planes in Atlanta, on AirTran airways. (I now know Southwest flies that route directly, but I didn’t know when I booked the tickets.) Alas, my Atlanta-Houston flight was the last flight out of the night, so when my Philadelphia-Atlanta leg arrived an hour late I knew I was going to be stranded unless the airline would do something.

    Well, of course, they didn’t do anything, but I sort of expected that. I expected the gate agents to look at me with stone faces as I asked them about other carriers who could get me to my destination. I expected them to dial the wrong number, twice, when trying to find the one person in the entire building who apparently could help me find an alternate route — and then they gave up on finding that magic person. And of course, when I asked them to change my Atlanta-Houston ticket for a flight the next morning that I would be able to make, they told me it was Atlanta’s responsibility, and that I would have to go to customer service there and beg for a ticket transfer. (Never mind that it’s ALL ONE AIRLINE. Luckily the operators on the 1-800 number were able to rebook me for free — thanks, GetHuman!)

    “Where am I supposed to stay in Atlanta?” I asked the gate agent.

    “Well, I guess you’ll have to find a hotel,” he sassed back. Oh, really?

    Needless to say by the time I actually got to the fabled ATL, I was ready to toss myself into whatever discount hotel bed I could find. But after half an hour at baggage claim I was not reunited with my little Samsonite which I had taken pains to check because it contained the banned liquids and gels. (And my clothes, and presents, etc.) So I found myself in a very angry line at AirTran baggage services in Atlanta, where I was told I would not be able to access my bag overnight.

    “See, since you’ve transferred flights, your luggage is locked in a pre-board area,” the agent said.
    “But I’m not traveling till tomorrow morning.”

    “We’re holding onto it for you. It will be at your destination tomorrow morning.”

    “Is there any way I can get to this bag?” (“Because besides being pissed off and exhausted, I am also stinky. Do not provoke me to prove this last point.”)

    “It will be at your destination tomorrow morning.”

    That’s peculiar. Given that I am an adult who has been traveling alone since she was 14, and that I would have gladly accepted getting to the airport earlier the next day to recheck my bag… the airline decided I was not ready for that level of responsibility. Or maybe they didn’t care that I was ready to see some clean clothes. Were they concerned that, given my luggage, I would choose to go to another carrier, thus depriving me of a reason to ask for a refund? Their luggage “lockbox” (tm Al Gore 2000 — and I say that with love, Al, really) sure ruined whatever was left of my night to ruin.

    In the agent’s defense, the bag office was anarchy (the man behind me kept creeping up to pass me in line — and I’m pretty sure he was older than, say, 7) and even if she had had back-up she probably wouldn’t have had the authority to yank my bags from wherever they were hiding. But I ask you, AirTran: What gives you the right to hold my baggage from me? If it was in the airport, what would have been the harm of letting me shower with my own shampoo and change into clean clothes?

    Although my weekend host was gracious enough to not turn me away on account of yesterday’s clothing, I wish AirTran would give me a round-trip do-over. As I stood in line for coffee the next morning, I fantasized about dumping it over myself, eradicating Eau de That Guy Next To Me and Eau De Random Ramada Bar of Soap with one clumsy hand.

    That’s my story. Let it be known that I would like to see Atlanta sometime when it is not 1AM, and also that I enjoy your site a lot.”