Columns 2000

A little honesty would be refreshing

About a month ago, I wrote a fairly positive column about Alaska Airlines and their services aboard a flight I took.  I recently took another flight with Alaska that re-enforced for me the fact that, for whatever reason, Alaska seems to be able to hire some pretty good staff.

During the flight in question, a gentleman sitting across from me slammed down five drinks in a row and then got angry when he was refused service for the sixth. He got fairly loud and looked to me for sympathy.  He stopped doing that after I told him I didn’t think they should serve liquor at all on flights.

The flight attendant dealing with this problem did it courteously and professionally, never losing her cool but never being anything but firm in her statements to him.  He continued throughout most of the flight to attempt to solicit sympathy from others around him by whining and stating loudly that she should go back to get retrained on how to handle customers. I personally thought she showed that she had been well trained in handling a potentially nasty situation in a manner that kept the annoyance to the other 99% of the passengers on the plane to a minimum.

Having seen what Alaska Airlines is capable of producing in staff, I find myself wondering why their corporate world can’t follow their example. 

I understand that Alaska is in it to make money. I just wish they’d be up front with their customers about that fact and stop touting programs like their current permanent fund ticket deal as something that has been put together to give their passengers a better return on their dollar. What it is, in fact, is a way to get more of our money by allowing us to spend even more of it than we got from the dividend this year. What’s it’s not is more consumer friendly.

Let’s look at the facts.  How many of you honestly know not only where you want to be next December but the exact dates you want to be there?  To take advantage of this program, you need an answer to both those questions because you can only purchase these tickets with both destinations and dates in hand and they must be purchased by Oct. 31.

Alaska’s answer to any potential date or location problems is that you get one free change on the tickets.  This is of limited benefit if you have a ticket for San Diego and have to go to Chicago instead.  Those are two different classes of tickets.  You don’t get to make that change.

Of course, you can do what I am guessing many Alaskans are doing right now and make bogus reservations just to be able to buy the ticket.  Alaska Airlines does not seem to be worried that this program will leave them with thousands of potentially fake reservations made only to qualify for a ticket. Who will that inconvenience the most?  I would guess the consumer who tries to make a legitimate reservation only to be told the plane is booked.

I’m guessing most of the people in corporate headquarters at Alaska Airlines don’t know where they want to be next month let alone next year.  This might have something to do with the exact location of their heads that seem to be up the lower regions of their anatomy.  But they don’t have to worry about that because I doubt they need to use a PFD ticket for their travel. 

Is it just me or do I hear faint echoes of the words “Let them eat cake” drifting out of their offices?