Finally Flying Midwest, er Frontier, er Chautauqua (Trip Report)

It seems like I’ve been trying to fly Midwest for years. When I was in school in DC in the ’90s, I always wanted to fly the airline that had fancy seats and delicious meals. Even more recently when the product Dawn Over the Clouds 2had been completely altered, I still tried to fly them. They canceled our flight before we could try it. But this was finally going to be my chance to “fly” Midwest. I put that in quotes because there’s really very little “Midwest” about it. In fact, I would argue that the cookie is pretty much the only thing left. Don’t get me wrong, the flights were nice, but a blown connection meant our trip took a lot longer than we had hoped.

We paid a mere $158.70 per person for the one way on a redeye to Milwaukee with a 2.5 hour connection before heading on to Indianapolis. Leading up to our flight, I watched the potential ice storm approaching Milwaukee with fear. This was going to be ugly. Surprisingly, it was actually the weather in Denver that caused us problems, not Milwaukee.


December 23, 2009
Midwest #754 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 1130p Arr Milwaukee (MKE) 511a
LAX: Gate 67B, Runway 25R, Dept 2h31m Late
MKE: Gate D47, Runway 7R, Arr 2h30m Late
Aircraft: N914FR, Airbus A319-111, Stretch the Egret Tail, 100% Full
Seat: 8A
Flight Time: 3h31m

This flight comes in to LA from Denver as a Frontier flight and then turns to Milwaukee as a Midwest Midwest/Frontier Gate at LAXflight. They don’t dedicate aircraft to one operation. The snow in Denver kept causing taxi delays, and we sat at home watching the flight get pushed further and further.

It did get in the air (finally) and we headed to the airport. There was no line at security, and we wandered up to the same gate (at right) we used to fly Virgin America before they moved from Terminal 6 to Terminal 3. People were sprawled out as best they could (the armrests aren’t moveable, drat). The only other flight around was a Copa flight down to Panama.

I saw on FlightAware that our plane wouldn’t be arriving until just before 1a, yet they had a 117a departure posted. Yeah, right. Our flight had been delayed so much that I was now afraid we would miss our connection. I went up to the gate agents to ask.

There were four agents standing in a circle, three with their backs toward me. I asked them if there were other flights with seats available were we to miss our connection in Milwaukee. A grumpy woman behind the counter said that wouldn’t happen.

After her repeated assurances that everything would be fine, I finally said to her, “look, can you just tell me if there are other flights to Indy with room just in case?” She said, “they’ll handle that in Milwaukee, but you won’t miss your connection. They’re holding all flights in Milwaukee.” I’ve heard that one before. Exasperated, I just looked at her and said, “You can’t just check?”

Apparently annoyed that I had tried to ask her to be helpful, she started typing in her computer while the agent next to her reminded her that the code for Milwaukee was MKE. Oh boy.

A couple seconds later, she said, “nope, no seats for the rest of the day. But you’ll make your connection.” They said the same thing in an announcement to all the customers.

As predicted, the flight arrived at about 1a and took absolutely forever to turn around. My understanding is that the PA system in the gate area doesn’t work, and they’re still waiting for LAX to fix the problem. That only added to the chaos to hear agents shouting things out. The line to board backed up to the beginning of the jet bridge, and it was moving very slowly. Eventually, we all got on the plane, but the turn took a solid hour.

The flight itself was a blur. I’m not sure if they served the traditional Midwest cookie because I actually passed out pretty quickly from exhaustion. Everything else on the plane was distinctly Frontier. Midwest isn’t even a brand anymore – it’s just a name they seem to use for selling purposes but that’s it these days.

Frontier Milwaukee's Welcome Letterdoes have some nice leather seats with headrests and, of course, LiveTV, so I can’t complain. I woke up over the Rockies and went in and out of sleep the rest of the flight. When we passed over Iowa, we hit some bumps, but that was about it. The captain told us it would be bumpy coming in to Milwaukee, but it wasn’t at all.

We landed in a dreary, cold, and snow-filled Milwaukee about 10 minutes after our connection was supposed to leave. I whipped out my phone and found that our plane had already left. Bastards.

Before they let everyone off, they told people that the Pittsburgh flight was still there, but all the other flights left, so we had to all be rebooked. Not cool at all.

Fortunately, someone who does PR for Milwaukee’s airport had emailed me before asking me a fair bit about the blog and wanting to learn more about what type of PR I would like to see from Milwaukee. I mentioned off-hand that I was actually flying through Milwaukee for the first time. When our flight got closer, I found an email from her saying we had been put on the guest list for Midwest’s Best Care Club. That was very nice of her and it really made our lives infinitely better with our long layover.

So even though they said to see an agent to be rebooked, we wandered over to the clubOur Claimed Territory in the Best Care Club Milwaukee and we were the only ones there. The woman working the front desk had a bag of MKE goodies waiting for us with a personalized poem (above left, click to enlarge), and I asked her if we’d be able to get out. She said that we had already been rebooked and she had our boarding passes for the next flight. It was only half full. The LAX agent lied.

So we went into the club, had a traditional cookie, and then passed out for a couple hours. Kirsten was thrilled that the MKE gift bag included a fleece blanket. She stole it and made herself a nice little nap Excellent Bookstore at Milwaukeearea on the ground. I, however, couldn’t sleep.

The club is actually one of the nicer ones around. It’s very oddly shaped, which is perfect, because it creates a few, smaller private areas. We found the big TV with a fireplace on the other side of the room, and I sat there watching as I checked my email.

A friend of mine was coming into MKE around 11a, so I figured I would go meet him. The club attendant assured me that security lines wouldn’t be long, Trying to Rest in the Midwest Best Care Club - Milwaukeeso I went out to the main area and walked around. There’s a fantastic old bookstore with tall stacks and lots of cool old books for sale. (I found some very old United government documents for sale in a book for $75, but I didn’t buy it.) Then I went over to the aviation museum where I met my friend.

It was a great way to spend the time, but I just wish that central area was inside security. The lines to get back were short, however, and soon I was back in the club. Kirsten was still passed out. You know when you get to the point where you’re so tired, you’ll do anything to sleep? Yeah, I was there. I kept trying to rearrange the furniture to help me sleep better, but alas, I never did.


December 24, 2009
Midwest #1205 Lv Milwaukee (MKE) 120p Arr Indianapolis (IND) 320p
MKE: Gate D28, Runway 19R, Dept 5m Early
IND: Gate B13, Runway 5L, Arr On Time
Aircraft: N380SK, Embraer ERJ-135KL, Generic Colors, Mostly Full
Seat: 3C
Flight Time: 35m

This flight was at gate D28, which actually boards from underneath the main concourse. We had to walk out into the cold air before boarding on a snow slicked ramp up to the airplane. This plane was an ERJ-135 that used to see service as American Connection out of St Louis. They had given it a new, generic Our Airplane on the MKE Ramp - N380SKpaint job, but not much else changed.

Our flight attendant was surprisingly old for what I’ve come to expect on a regional carrier. Then I remembered that Midwest pilots and flight attendants were now working at the bottom of the seniority list. I asked, and sure enough, she used to work for Midwest. She did a great job.

This flight was like pretty much any other. We sat in the clouds most of the time, and our flight attendant came by handing out cookies. After a very short ride, it was time to land in dreary Indianapolis. We were exhausted.

Tomorrow, I’ll have our return on American in First Class . . .

As a postscript, I thought it worth noting that I’ve already received a personal email apology from the station manager at LAX. That was a very nice gesture.


30 Responses to Finally Flying Midwest, er Frontier, er Chautauqua (Trip Report)

  1. Dan says:

    I’m just curious… did the LAX agent really lie to you about availability, or did a bunch of mis-connects free up seats?

  2. Anon says:

    Your trip reports have become less and less useful to average travelers who don’t operate well-known travel blogs, because it’s pretty clear that you get a lot of special treatment while traveling. I appreciate your disclosure, but your travel experiences are pretty atypical (e.g., free passes to clubs, actually receiving an appology after dealing with a surly/incompetent gate agent).

  3. Zach says:

    Cranky–I always immensely enjoy your trip reports. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the MKE staff, who obviously went to some impressive lengths to make you feel welcome, but who were destined/doomed from the start to be part of a negative report due to the incompetence and nastiness of the LAX crew (although the distinction between the two is quite clear).

  4. Ed Casper says:

    The used book store at MKE is a branch of a really large used book store located in downtown Milwaukee. Unfortunately the name of the store escapes me as I haven’t been there in years.

  5. frank says:

    and, who’s that in the picture with their FEET ON THE FURNITURE?
    Who’s reduced a beautiful CLUB into a refugee camp!

  6. CF says:

    Dan wrote:

    I’m just curious… did the LAX agent really lie to you about availability, or did a bunch of mis-connects free up seats?

    They lied. Milwaukee actually ran mostly on time that day. I think there was a flight from Minneapolis was late, but just about everything else showed up on time. When the agent handed us our boarding pass, I mentioned that we were told all flights were full. She looked at us funny and shook her head that it definitely wasn’t the case.

    Anon wrote:

    Your trip reports have become less and less useful to average travelers who don’t operate well-known travel blogs, because it’s pretty clear that you get a lot of special treatment while traveling. I appreciate your disclosure, but your travel experiences are pretty atypical (e.g., free passes to clubs, actually receiving an appology after dealing with a surly/incompetent gate agent).

    I’m sorry you feel that way, but I never explain who I am while traveling. Yes, the MKE people set up a club visit but that was the only special treatment I got. Nobody at the gates or on the plane knew who I was, and I never tell them. The experience I had was exactly the same as anyone else would have had with the exception of me spending the layover trying (and failing) to sleep in the club instead of at the gate. By the way, I probably would have done that anyway – it’s only $35 for a day pass and with that layover, we would have paid it.

    Zach wrote:

    Cranky–I always immensely enjoy your trip reports. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the MKE staff, who obviously went to some impressive lengths to make you feel welcome, but who were destined/doomed from the start to be part of a negative report due to the incompetence and nastiness of the LAX crew (although the distinction between the two is quite clear).

    The only staff we interacted with in Milwaukee was the club agent. She has only worked for Midwest for 2 years, and she did a really nice job with us and the other people who trickled into the club over the next few hours.

    Ed Casper wrote:

    The used book store at MKE is a branch of a really large used book store located in downtown Milwaukee. Unfortunately the name of the store escapes me as I haven’t been there in years.

    Now I had to go look it up – it’s called Renaissance Book shop. Great place.

    frank wrote:

    and, who’s that in the picture with their FEET ON THE FURNITURE?
    Who’s reduced a beautiful CLUB into a refugee camp!

    Ah come on – I kept my shoes off the furniture – just rested my legs.

  7. David SFeastbay says:

    Who is that sleeping in the chair, you or Rick Moranis? For some reason in that pic that’s who it looks like…….lol

  8. @ Anon:
    CF wrote:

    Ah come on – I kept my shoes off the furniture – just rested my legs.

    I think you’re just trying to do the CF look far too hard in that picture…

    I’ll be interesting watching how Frontier and Midwest are used by Republic…

  9. Joe says:

    You call both Milwaukee and Indianapolis “dreary.” Couldn’t think of another adjective? I guess you don’t like the Midwest (the region, not the airline) much.

  10. CF says:

    Joe wrote:

    You call both Milwaukee and Indianapolis “dreary.” Couldn’t think of another adjective? I guess you don’t like the Midwest (the region, not the airline) much.

    I was talking about the weather more than the cities. I actually love Milwaukee. When I lived in Chicago, I used to go up for Brewers games, some good brats, Summerfest and more. It’s a great town, but man, the weather sucks. I don’t like Indianapolis as much as Milwaukee, but I have nothing against it either . . . other than the weather.

  11. JayB says:

    Cranky,

    Having drunk the Kool-Aid for some time now, I always find your reports/stories/issues/comments extremely interesting.

    I’m struck by how difficult airline travel seems to have become. Isn’t it supposed to have gotten easier? Of course, I can still remember worrying about whether those Electra wings were going to stay on and not fall off somewhere over Oklahoma, or whether this trip might be a repeat of some New York City or Grand Canyon mid-air collison.

    Today, it seems it’s about customer service, or the lack thereof, and who is actually operating this flight. Yes, my ticket says Northwest, but the plane says Delta, but the seatback magazine says SkyWest! On-time? What flight number are you asking about?

  12. Andrew says:

    Enjoyed the report, Cranky.

    I also flew “Midwest” over the holidays (DEN to MSN via MKE on 12/19, then in reverse on 12/23). Growing up in WI, I had a lot of chances to fly the old “Midwest” and while I never saw what the big deal was, it was generally a pretty nice airline. This was the first time I had flown Midwest in years, and I only did so because they were by far the cheapest option for my odd itinerary. (What UA charges for their direct DEN to MSN flights is highway robbery).

    What struck me about the whole experience is the only time I saw a “Midwest” logo was on the boarding passes I printed at home, and on the gate signage. my DEN/MKE legs were on E170s with Republic Airlines livery, and my MKE/MSN legs were on random, unbranded tin cans painted white and blue like yours, Cranky. The flight attendants all had Republic Airlines tags, uniforms and jewelry (“Republic 35th Anniversary” pins).

    When I went to drop off my checked luggage at the Midwest counters at DEN on my way out, and at MSN on my way back, they put my luggage receipts in Frontier-branded folios. This is especially interesting to me since Frontier has never served MSN, although when I asked the counter agent about this, she said she had heard Frontier was probably going to start serving MSN directly (I didn’t have the heart to ask: “Frontier as in the real Frontier? or Republic? Or Frontier operating as Midwest? Or Republic operating as Frontier? Or Midwest operating as Frontier? Or…”)

    While during a long layover in MKE, I watched several Frontier airbusii pull up to Midwest-liveried gates serving high traffic destinations (PHX, TPA, etc.). Lots of Republic-branded EMBs, too. In fact, I was surprised how few planes I saw using the Midwest livery.

    I think I would agree with the assessment that Frontier is the real winner in this merger, and Republic seems to be keeping Midwest’s brand around only to as a token to the city of Milwaukee and to MKE, where “Midwest” still controls an entire concourse and has their name-stamp all over the city.

    At the end of this week, I’m flying DEN to CAK on “Frontier”; This is one of the routes that lost its airbusii to Midwest routes out of MKE, replaced by “operated by Republic” E190s. I’ll be curious to see how that goes.

    Joe wrote:

    You call both Milwaukee and Indianapolis “dreary.” Couldn’t think of another adjective? I guess you don’t like the Midwest (the region, not the airline) much.

    I can’t speak for Cranky, but I lived in WI for almost 37 years. I think even calling it “dreary” is charitable, especially this time of year. ;) There’s lots of things to love about Southern Wisconsin, but the weather is not one of them.

  13. As far as I’m concerned, the real Midwest Airlines went away when they sold the last 717. We’ve flown Midwest operated by Republic and it just isn’t Sconnie any more. It’s too bad you never had the opportunity to fly Midwest’s Signature Service. It was good enough for me to cheat on American Airlines for DFW/MKE flights.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say about your flight on AA and the ride in the front of the plane.

    =M=

  14. Oliver says:

    @CF — did you get the apology email from the station manager in response to this post? Or was it an apology just for the delay?

  15. CF says:

    Oliver wrote:

    @CF — did you get the apology email from the station manager in response to this post? Or was it an apology just for the delay?

    Neither, really. I sent my experience to a friend at Frontier, because I knew he’d want to know what happened. I’m guessing it somehow filtered over to the station and that’s when I got the email from the station manager. It came in before the post went out, so I know it wasn’t in response to that.

  16. Stacy says:

    Marty Near DFW wrote:

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say about your flight on AA and the ride in the front of the plane.
    =M=

    Just don’t ask for any orange juice!

  17. Scott says:

    Now Brett, you know it’s a long shot to say the agent lied. You’re one who has always defended Customer Service staff as having jobs more complex than the media gives them credit for, why not in this case? If it was necessary to remind them of the airport code for MKE, perhaps their claim was supported by incompetence, looking at the wrong information, wrong date, wrong city pairs? True, the service you got was abhorrent, but you can’t tell if it’s an outright *lie* unless you’re looking at the same information at the same time. An agent in MKE wouldn’t have known the flight was showing sold out to an agent in LAX the exact moment you asked the night before, nor could you have known if the agent had looked up the information correctly. It’s entirely possible the agent looked at loads of flight availability on a later connection and was either too lazy or too poorly-trained to rebook you, but how can it ever be proven?

  18. Spencer says:

    Nice trip report.

    How do you figure out where your plane is coming from ahead of time before you get to the airport. I know on continental.com they tell you, but none of the other airlines websites tell you, that I am aware of.

  19. Darren says:

    Any comments from the LAX station manager you are willing to make public?

    BTW thank you for being candid about your experience at LAX, making instances like this public makes airlines more accountable to treat customers with basic dignity.

  20. CF says:

    Scott wrote:

    Now Brett, you know it’s a long shot to say the agent lied. You’re one who has always defended Customer Service staff as having jobs more complex than the media gives them credit for, why not in this case?

    Ok, did the agent see that there was room and then told me the opposite? I doubt it. More likely than not, she didn’t even bother looking and instead just brushed me off. I’ll never know, I suppose.

    Spencer wrote:

    How do you figure out where your plane is coming from ahead of time before you get to the airport.

    There are a lot of ways. Sometimes, you can tell just by knowing the routes, other times you can use airport websites or FlightStats.com. This is one of the services we provide at Cranky Concierge.

    Darren wrote:

    Any comments from the LAX station manager you are willing to make public?

    The LAX station mgr just apologized and gave me a detailed explanation around some of the things that happened to cause the delay.

  21. Chad says:

    Midwest of today (& Frontier as well) have absolutely no resemblance to the midwest of the Kimberly Clark era. Quite frankly if the “cookie’ is as what the CEO of Republic holdings “what keeps those in Milwaukee flying his airlines, I thing he is sadly mistaken. he need only look at the increasing boardings over at AirTran to see someone doing a better job than his acquisitions are doing. I now prefer AirTran or Southwest over his “overzealous” commuter operation. If this is offensive to anyone, this is how I see it, and Im a very frequent MKE flyer.

  22. Terry says:

    What a shame your reports are not a fair representative of the great experiences I have had when travelling Frontier & Midwest.

    May I suggest your mood prior to setting off (late inward service) set the tone and you were treated in the same discourteous manner you treated the staff with? As a frequent flier based in the UK, I know world class service comes from within. You treat staff with respect you get it back 10 fold!

    As someone has said, seats become available due to misconnects. I’ve yet to come across any agent worth their salt who would lie. Its more than their job is worth.

    And as for the comment your “reports have become less and less useful to average travelers” I totally agree. Remember sir you come from a classless country. You are no better or worse than the agent in front of you, then and only then will your postings be representative again.

  23. Adam says:

    @ CF:
    Cranky –

    You’ve got great insights on the industry and I enjoy reading your blog more than any other. Keep it up. My comment isn’t an attack on your creditability, as I just said I think you’re great, but I have been wanting to ask you about this for sometime. It really goes to the journalistic line between reporter and blogger.

    BUT I can’t help but agree with Anon. Are you a journalist or an airline enthusiast who writes about the industry? Frankly it doesn’t matter which one you consider yourself because it’s what readers and most importantly what the industry think. Seems to me they see you as the former because they treat you like a member of the press as they give you press passes and offer interviews and special access. But unlike the press (who can’t and won’t accept freebies, you do accept club passes, gifts… Do Ben Mutzabaugh (Today in the Sky) or Scott McCartney (Middle Seat) accept freebies?

    I too appreciate the fact that you disclose your gifts but it’s could be a slippery slope. Gifts whether disclosed or not provide undue influence and that’s where the potential for bias could appear into your postings and stories. Could your story about being delayed in Milwaukee have been a little “crankier” (forgive the pun) if you hadn’t had club passes? I work in politics in DC and I don’t see any difference between lobbyists buying a member of Congress dinner or gifts and airlines offering you free stuff because they’re both trying to exert influence. That’s why lawmakers made receiving gifts from lobbyists illegal and I do think journalists and bloggers could all aspire to be more ethical than politicians.

    As for your assertion in your response to Anon that you receive no special treatment, many times in your blog you actually admit the very opposite. One example of this I’m referring to is a posting you made on July 1st of this year titled, A New Addition to the Cranky Family. http://crankyflier.com/2009/07/01/a-new-addition-to-the-cranky-family/ You contacted your “PR contact at Delta” and asked them to surprise your brother and his new fiancé on their recent engagement. They didn’t disappoint. You even pointed out, “That’s a really nice gift basket nice gift basket” which was filled with wine, fresh fruit, candies and snacks. You then asked, “Now this can’t be normal, right?” and then you answered your question with, “I can’t imagine Delta does this for everyone”. That’s right, it’s not normal and they don’t do it for everyone. You go on to say, “It can only engender loyalty during a very memorable and emotional time.” I think the PR Representative who arranged for the gift basket, and the nice picture on the tarmac, knew that it was going to “engender loyalty”.

    Now to your recent Milwaukee trip. “Fortunately, someone who does PR for Milwaukee’s airport had emailed me …” “When our flight got closer, I found an email from her saying we had been put on the guest list for Midwest’s Best Care Club… “That was very nice of her and it really made our lives infinitely better with our long layover.” That’s where the issue lies, the benefit to you wasn’t immaterial, it made your layover infinitely better. If it was only $35 (x2) for a day pass then why not just pay for it? Where do you draw the line? Free tickets? Comped Miles? Upgrades to first class? Consulting deals?

    You mention PR Representatives often in your blog and I thought I’d ask if you think it’s plausible that PR representatives for airports and airlines know when you’ll be coming through their airport? You said in this case that, “Nobody at the gates or on the plane knew who I was”. What about other times? Airlines already have alerts when top flyers pop into their system, and many other industries have their own way to pay special attention to customers, secret shoppers, press… so it’s not hard to believe, whether you’re aware of it or not that United, American and many other airlines have your name or frequent flyer # tagged to send them an alert when your reservation enters the system. Last thing is how do you respond to requests from a PR representative who contacts you, “wanting to learn more about what type of PR I would like to see” at their airport or airline?

  24. CF says:

    Terry wrote:

    What a shame your reports are not a fair representative of the great experiences I have had when travelling Frontier & Midwest.

    I agree. It is a shame, because my previous experiences on Frontier were actually quite good.

    Terry wrote:

    May I suggest your mood prior to setting off (late inward service) set the tone and you were treated in the same discourteous manner you treated the staff with?

    I have stood behind a customer service counter getting yelled at by passengers many times. I can assure you that I was in no way rude when I got up there. It was only after repeated requests were denied that I started getting a bit agitated. But I can tell you that I never became angry or raised my voice at all. This was simply poor customer service.

    Now, did the agent lie to me? That may be too strong of a word. The flight had plenty of room so misconnects would not have played into the equation. At best, this agent simply didn’t bother to look up the actual information and instead just used a blanket statement to get me to go away. At worst, she lied. But I did not treat her poorly.

    Adam wrote:

    Are you a journalist or an airline enthusiast who writes about the industry? Frankly it doesn’t matter which one you consider yourself because it’s what readers and most importantly what the industry think. Seems to me they see you as the former because they treat you like a member of the press as they give you press passes and offer interviews and special access. But unlike the press (who can’t and won’t accept freebies, you do accept club passes, gifts… Do Ben Mutzabaugh (Today in the Sky) or Scott McCartney (Middle Seat) accept freebies?

    Great comment, Adam. And this will make for a great discussion. It’s certainly something that I’ve considered often and I do have a personal code that I abide by. I think you’ve inspired me to put it on my site. Look for a post on this in the next week or so and maybe we can get a lot of discussion around this. But I’m happy to address a lot of this now.

    In short, I don’t know a traditional journalist who doesn’t accept some form of freebies. Oh sure, many will say they don’t but instead they simply get greatly reduced rates so that they did in fact exchange something for it. But even in other cases, it’s not coming out of the journalist’s pocket – it’s coming out of the organization’s pocket. So it’s just a different model. I can tell you that while I have accepted limited freebies, there are even more that I turn down. Where do I draw the line?

    Well, in general I only accept freebies from airlines that have worked with me over time and understand that I can’t be bought. But for those who come to me out of the blue with an offer, I won’t do it. I turned down a free round the world trip on Star Alliance this summer – I had never even spoken to them before. Maybe we can get into this in further detail when I post on this.

    Adam wrote:

    As for your assertion in your response to Anon that you receive no special treatment, many times in your blog you actually admit the very opposite.

    You’re absolutely right. But this assertion was simply in relation to this particular trip.

    Adam wrote:

    That’s where the issue lies, the benefit to you wasn’t immaterial, it made your layover infinitely better. If it was only $35 (x2) for a day pass then why not just pay for it? Where do you draw the line? Free tickets? Comped Miles? Upgrades to first class? Consulting deals?

    I do not do consulting for airlines, so I’d like to make that very clear. Will I accept free tickets? Yes, but not for a pleasure trip. In other words, if someone said, “Hey, we’ll send you to Indy for Christmas,” I wouldn’t do it. But I’ve had British Airways ask me to fly out to try their Club World and their new London/City flight. I have Delta asking me to try their BizElite cabin between LA and NY. I’m not going to take those trips otherwise, so if they want to fly me out and fly me back just so I can experience it, then I’m willing to do that as long as they understand that if things suck, I’m going to say so. (Neither of these trips have been scheduled, by the way.)

    Adam wrote:

    Airlines already have alerts when top flyers pop into their system, and many other industries have their own way to pay special attention to customers, secret shoppers, press… so it’s not hard to believe, whether you’re aware of it or not that United, American and many other airlines have your name or frequent flyer # tagged to send them an alert when your reservation enters the system. Last thing is how do you respond to requests from a PR representative who contacts you, “wanting to learn more about what type of PR I would like to see” at their airport or airline?

    If airlines are alerting their agents that I’m a VIP, they’re doing that for anyone who is able to influence the public and that includes all journalists. So there’s nothing I can do about that. I really hope they aren’t doing that. Sadly, I can’t exactly travel under a fake name or the TSA will not be happy.

    If anyone in PR reaches out to me asking for feedback, I’m happy to give it to them. I wish I could copy and paste my email here, but it ended up being a phone chat. I tend to be pretty blunt when they ask questions like these, but to be honest, I love when they ask.

    I can’t tell you how many insanely stupid and irrelevant press releases and communications I get from the travel industry on the whole. The amount of spam is just absurd. So if someone wants to take the time to understand what sort of news is actually interesting to me, I’m going to jump at the opportunity.

    Looking forward to continuing this discussion.

  25. Bill O says:

    I worked for CO for over 15 years. It is common for the hubs to take out availability during irregular operations like big weather disruptions. Or, they’ll “fill” up the planes with double bookings to ensure the connections make it. If the passengers make the original flights, the bookings cancel and wallah – open seats.

    That Frontier agent may have been telling the truth about the seats. I’ve flown them a few times out of Los Angeles Intl. and they’ve always been great to me with good attitudes and service. I wonder if those agents normally worked until 2A – they were probably tired too.

    Appreciate your good writing. Mutzbaugh at USA Today gets free business class upgrades all the time (see his EK trip on the A380), and I’ll bet Frontier/Midwest would send a note to anyone who sends a detailed complaint to a friend in the company. And it doesn’t sound like they even gave you travel vouchers, did they? That doesn’t sound like special treatment. Just a oooops note.

    Happy New Year to the readers!

    • Ben says:

      Hi all,

      I’m way late to this thread, but I am responding in after discovering Bill O’s comment via a Google search.

      I am not allowed to take freebies from airlines, and the Emirates flight you reference was not a freebie. Actually, I’ve never flown on Emirates — though I was at JFK for as Emirates’ first-ever flight to the U.S landed there. After it pulled to the gate, I was given a tour of the cabin — but was chased off shortly thereafter so the plane could be cleaned and turned for its return to Dubai.

      Simply put, I must pay for all revenue flights. If there is a flight that’s a “VIP” or “media” flight for which no tickets are being sold (i.e., invite only), then we decide on case-by-case basis.

      I hope that helps clear that up.

      Ben Mutzabaugh
      Today in the Sky/USA TODAY

      • Ben does this mean you google your name to see who’s talking about you. :-)

        When I used to work in the office reps were always coming in with lunch, giving little (logo) items, nice gifts, etc to us. And while I knew they were trying to be nice so we think of their company first, not once did I ever use one company over the other because they brought in lunch or gave me anything. That’s not how every day life works.

        I think there was a time in life that people could be ‘bought’ by freebies, but now a days I don’t think that is the case. While decades ago people might have thought someone was bought into saying something, today in a cyber world it’s to easy to be blasted for saying something nice about an airline for example after you have taken a trip on them and people think the airline gave you a free ticket so that is why you said something nice. Even doctors offices have signs that they don’t accept anything anymore as a doctor doesn’t want to be labeled as being ‘bought’ by a large drug manufacture and prescribing the name brand just because they accepted a free ink pen or coffee mug.

        In a world of many people, there will always be those who think folks like your an Brett were given something for free and bought into saying something nice if they don’t agree with what you said.

        But you wouldn’t have your job and Brett wouldn’t be doing his if everyone thought you were bought into saying everything you do.

  26. Terry says:

    Its good to see that you realigned your opinion on whether the agent lied to you or not. Afterall its fundamental to the whole experience you received from my favourite low-cost American airline. At the top of the blog in response to ‘Dan’ posing the question you said just two words: “They lied.” The point I’m making is that in the cold light of day we are able to reassess our opinions and in many respects mellow our judgements. Its good to see you’ve done it on this occasion. Maybe it would have been prudent to think through your thoughts fully before a) posting them on your blog b) running to your ‘ friend in Frontier’?

    Finally I put it to you that the freebies you do accept are those that benefit you. To fly BA LCY/EWR is too big of an inconvenience for you I’m sure afterall LAX to LHR is what 13hrs min and then of course the return via EWR, however to ASK Delta for something for your brother is shocking beyond belief and then admit you cant help but be cloudy by their generosity. And on this trip to mention ‘off-hand’ you would be passing through MKE does read a little suspect I have to say. Coincidence? If you want to be seen as a quality authority you need to distance yourself from your ‘friends in PR’ and get on with what you are doing quietly. Your blog speaks volumes and influences so many of our travels but when we read you are taking sweeteners (or are they bribes for good reports?) it quite frankly leaves a sour taste in my mouth!!

  27. David SFeastbay says:

    I do have to agree with others that have said things can change quickly with airline availability. From working at one I know you could look and see things sold out and 10 minutes later there is space. People cancel or change, groups cancel or change, etc so it happens. The ‘zeroing’ out of space (blocking space) is common when there is a problem like weather, it gives the local station some breathing room to get people moving again.

    If the agent at LAX wasn’t very helpful with information, it might be it was blocked for her to see. But being rude is a different matter, that’s never called for from either side of the counter. As a U.S. carrier they 800 number should have be open 24hrs and you could have called to double check. But again those agents would have seen all zeros also if the space was blocked for local station use.

    But look at it this way, you got there, you got home, and will ringing in the New Year all safe and sound.

  28. gobybyke says:

    What is everyones obsession with the LAX gate agent? I’ve worked in the airlines for 8 years and currently at Frontier and I can tell you that if you come to me normal day or irop day i am going to be calm, accomadating, and do the best job i can. If you go to the lady working beside me she is undertrained and self entitled, she has lied, mis informed, and bailed out on lovely things such as cargo and FF tickets on a daily basis. So yes, it does happen! The airlines aren’t what they used to be, nor do they compensate you for the ungodly hours and situations they put you in. So next time you don’t get the results you are looking for move to the next agent and ask again, ten dollars an hour yields different customer service results.

Join the Conversation

*