• Bryan Horn

Fly the Unfriendly Skies

In March 2019, I booked a trip to Arizona to be taken in May. Being from Utah, Arizona is a quick and inexpensive destination for a weekend getaway. I booked a hotel and flight on a major national airline. This airline touts how it has some of the best customer service ratings in the nation. However, my experience was just the opposite.

I booked a flight and hotel from Salt Lake City to Phoenix. Due to some unexpected circumstances, I had to cancel the trip. My hotel was refunded and my flight voucher was good for one year. In February 2020, I decided to use my ticket. I went back onto the same website and followed the exact same process. I booked a flight and a hotel for late April, went to the billing portion of the website and redeemed my flight voucher. However, the website would not process my voucher. No reason, no explanation. I called the reservations line who kept me on hold for over twenty minutes. Their official answer was that because it was a vacation package, I had to call a different department the next day (twenty minutes to figure that out!). I called the vacation department the next day, and was on hold in excess of thirty minutes. Finally, a less than friendly agent told me they could not help me either. I had to call a special customer relations number. So yet again, I called another department. I explained the situation. I was transferred to 4 different agents. No one wanted to help or even cared to figure out why my voucher would not work. Finally, the last agent gave me a slight ray of hope. She said she would book the flight and take care of me. I picked out the flights and the hotel over the phone and was told to wait. I waited another several minutes when this agent told me she was having the same problems as the others. By this time, I had been on the phone with the various departments of this airline for over two hours. The agent brought in a manager who diagnosed the problem: I was traveling in April, but booking the ticket in February, and it had to be used by March. I explained how ridiculous that was. What difference does it make when I actually travel versus when I make the reservation? This agent proceeded to tell me that because I made the initial reservation in March, I had to fly by March. I countered that the previous reservation was made in March but the travel was actually in May, so why is it different now? The agent did not have an answer for me.

I was not able to adjust my travel plans in March. So, this airline told me that I had to comply with its demands or was out of luck. I asked for a refund of the ticket, and they said no. I asked to purchase a new ticket under a different confirmation number for the same price, and they said no. I asked to speak to a manager, and they said no. I had to comply, or die. Anytime I asked what they actually could do for me, it was met with crickets chirping on the other line. But, they had plenty of things to say when telling me how they could not and would not help me. Eventually, I did get my money back and booked with another carrier. I have vowed to never fly this airline again.

As stated previously, this airline claims to have some of the best customer service in the nation. Upon researching this further, I found out this customer relations department has over four hundred agents handling thousands of angry calls a day. I find it very hard to believe that a business who needs 400 specialized customer relations agents could have the best customer service in the nation. It was horrific, asinine, and would almost be funny if it had not been such a dreadful experience.

This is what millions of frustrated consumers experience on a daily basis. Companies hold consumers in shackles and force them into submission. “Comply, or die” is the new customer service philosophy from most organizations. I truly believe that business has gone out of it's way to design a process contrary to serving the customer. They have plotted in great detail a dysfunctional process that is the exact opposite of good service. They want you to suffer, they want you to be annoyed, they want you to be angry. It's as if they get some kind of sick satisfaction over the power they can hold over another human being. They know you need their services, and thus you have no choice but to submit to their tyranny. It is a form of business slavery. They hold all the power, and we have no choice but to endure their horrible service. It is an appalling truth that needs to change.

Bryan Horn is a customer experience and employee development expert who has authored The Customer Service Revolution: 8 Principles That Will Change the Way Companies Think About the Customer Experience and the Employees Who Work For Them.

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