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links for 2006-01-27 (Search Champs Edition)

January 27th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Bookmarks, Windows, General | no comments



America West Should Die

Wow, I’m finally home. And it only took me fifteen hours to get from Seattle to New York. And no, I’m not bitter, not at all.

So, America West apparently merged with US Airways a year ago. Being that I don’t travel as much as I’d like, I thought when I agreed with Microsoft to take a USAir flight, I’d be getting a decent airline. What I didn’t know is that the AmWest’s purchase of USAir has created a beast with two heads and no brains.

My itinerary was simple. Leave the hotel at 6, leave Seattle at 8, arrive in Vegas at 10:15, leave Vegas at 10:55, arrive in New York at 6:39. Nice red-eye flight, get some sleep, no need for meals. Instead, I arrived in New York a broken man.

My flight from Seattle, America West 831 to Las Vegas, left at 8:40, exactly 43 minutes after it was scheduled for. Given that I was supposed to have 40 minutes to make my connection, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to make it. When we landed, they informed a good percentage of the passengers that we had indeed missed our connecting flights.

What pissed me off early on wasn’t just the delay. It was the fact that all appearances pointed to this being simply a case of gross incompetence. The previous flight on the plane sat around when we should have been boarding.

Once we were on the plane, already twenty minutes late, the flight crew bumbled around, seemingly confused as to what their jobs entailed, making a bad situation worse. The computer systems were down (and were still down at the Vegas gates), meaning we could not make arrangements ahead of time, we could not get information, and the flight crew had to do everything by hand.

Did I mention that AmWest’s plane could not have possibly had smaller seats? I was seated between two “wall” armrests, and I had to keep my legs tightly closed to fit in the seat. Now, I’m a relatively thin man. Had I eaten that night, I wouldn’t have fit.

Upon landing in Vegas, after a mad dash to the counters, it was quite a sight to see so many pissed-off, inconvenienced travelers. As I said, the computers were still having problems, meaning that while they could see America West flight info, they could not communicate with other airlines.

The lady at the counter tried what she could offering me flights that would take 26 hours, flights that would take me to New Jersey, even discussing staying the night in Las Vegas. While I’m sure she was doing a good job (unlike every other America West employee I encountered), there wasn’t a single decent flight in the system.

Finally, she gave up and actually ran over to the Delta counters, found out their flight info, ran back to her computer, printed out a payment slip, ran back to Delta and got me a boarding pass. As I said, this was probably the only person who actually did their job with any sort of competence.

My new flights were on Delta, going to Atlanta, then on to New York. I’d be arriving almost four hours later, but at least I wasn’t stranded in Sin City, or worse, going to New Jersey.

As I waited, I realized a major problem. My flights had no time in between them, and they were each relatively short flights. I had not eaten a meal in eight hours, and I was looking at another nine hours of flying. I had planned a red-eye flight so I wouldn’t need to eat; now I was facing a situation where I wouldn’t get any food till lunch, and I hadn’t had anything substantial since the previous day’s lunch.

I asked a different America West person if Delta served meals on those flights, and she said probably not. I asked if there was a way I could get some food, or that they could get Delta to get me food (or just upgrade me to first class, which had food). The woman remarked, “You can eat, or you can make your flight”.

I had a word in my head at that point, and it wasn’t “itch”.

I had to run to make my flight. I had forty minutes, the same forty minutes I would have had between my original flights. Except…

Once again, I get screwed over. To get to the America West counter, you have to leave the secured area. That means passing back through security yet again. Now, I’m a pro at this. My pockets are clean, my belt is in a bag, my shoes untied and my laptop in hand. But…

There’s a law, or a policy, that flags last minute one-way tickets as suspicious, and flags that person for further security screening. The computer had flagged me as suspicious, not accounting for any of the actual circumstances surrounding the situation, including that fact that I hadn’t bought a last minute ticket, America West had! Ridiculously, person after person was getting flagged and searched, because we were all screwed over on the same flight.

So, I have to open all my bags, clear out the little non-metal items in my pockets, worry that they are going to break my electronic devices, put back on all my clothes and refill my pockets and run like a madman to the gate, arriving as most of the plane has boarded. I try talking to the Delta agent about my food situation, but he had no time and no interest. I tried calling AmWest, but they wouldn’t help me.

Thank god for Delta. Once I got on their plane, things were already looking up. Nice, plush seats, legroom, calm atmosphere. I fell asleep like a baby almost immediately, as I did on the connecting flight, waking occasionally to munch on granola bars and wheat bars (I was really hungry). I never got a meal, and wound up going a full 21 hours without substantial food, but Delta’s flight crew did everything they could to keep me going. And after having to chase planes, I needed the boost.

Upon arriving in New York, I got some more great news: America West hadn’t put my bags into Delta’s computer system. That meant Delta didn’t know where my bags were, if they had made the trip with me, or if AmWest still had them in Vegas. If my bags had gotten lost in Atlanta, they would have had no means of tracking them, since that was just another base AmWest forgot to cover. Thanks.

I got my bags, thank god, with little incident but much worry, and headed over to the America West customer service counter. Now, I was pissed as hell, but I’m too freakin polite in person to tear into someone, so I simply explained my situation, told them just how much hell they had put me through, and left it up to them to fix it.

At first, the customer service representative told me to write a letter, then she gave me a phone number. Finally, she gave me a voucher, and told me to still call the phone number for further help. What’s the voucher for? $100 off a flight costing $400 or more. Here’s what I had to say to that:

Are you saying, that as compensation for treating me like crap, you’re giving me the opportunity to pay you to do this to me all over again? I don’t want to go near your planes, ever.

I took my voucher and left, figuring I’d never use it and maybe the phone support would help. They didn’t even try, just giving me another voucher.

Well, screw it. Here’s my compensation, this post. A big screw you to the most incompetent company I’ve dealt with in a long time, one that can’t get anything right, that has planes that should have been put to pasture thirty years ago, that doesn’t give a crap about making customers happy.

I don’t expect anyone from that awful airline to read this and help me out, but I am hoping for a few things. I’m hoping the next time you, the reader, looks to pick a flight, you’ll remember this and pick a different airline. I’m hoping that if anyone else has a bad experience, they’ll send me an email. I’m hoping that if someone who works at America West reads this, they feel ashamed.

These stupid vouchers are probably never going to get used. I’m not giving them one dollar out of my damn pocket so I can ride on their crappy planes and get screwed over again. If anyone doesn’t mind, they can have the vouchers; I’ll probably hold some sort of Photoshop contest to pick the winners.

So, if any of this reached you, try to spread the word, that while quality carriers are going into bankruptcy, America West is just soldiering on, bending the customer over, and screwing them from behind.

January 27th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General | 4 comments

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MSN.be Brand Competition

MSN.be, the Belgian MSN site, has launched� a brand competition together with brand agency TheseDays (where I’ve been working for a few days to help them out with the Pioneer viral clip), Made4IT and LDV United.

Sponsored by Nokia, Weber, SonyCenter and XBOX 360, this campaign invites Belgian surfers to participate in the National Brand Competition and to share which brands they like the most or the least. Prizes to win are: a navigation system, digital cameras, MP3 players, barbeques and XBoxes. Lord knows what the barbecues are doing between those digital toys but hey… everybody needs to eat.

The 10-minute survey polls for the most popular brands in various sectors as� cars, beer, specialty beers, liquor, sodas sports� & energy drinks, water, coffee, supermarkets, banks & insurance companies, fashion stores, fashion brands, sport brands, aviation companies, tour operators, mobile phone operators, ISPs, credit cards, mobile phone brands, toy stores, opticians,� temp job offices, candy, home entertainment and consumer electronics, NGOs, football teams,� political parties, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, tv channels, electronics stores, energy suppliers� and European cities.

After this you’re asked what your favorite all-time brand is,� next they ask for your least favorite. Then some basic gender/age/zip code alike questions and something about your highest obtained degree and profession.

What I noticed that the question about ‘political parties’ was the only one that had on option ‘rather not tell’ and that you could your year of birth starting at 1901. Cool. I’d love to see a 105 year old dude win the navigation system !

Results of this poll will be in the press release in early March. I’ll get back to this when it’s been published. Fingers crossed and let’s hope I win something.

Participate? http://www.msn.be/merkencompetitie� (dutch for brand competition).
All you need to keep in mind is that the first time you see the screen, it’s for your favorite brand, the second time you see the same brands, it’s for the ones you dislike. May the best man/woman win :)

January 27th, 2006 Posted by Coolz0r | MSN, General | no comments