Submitting this dispatch to the Notes from the Road series from another Delta Sky Club at a ridiculously early hour.
Short story - Weather/air traffic control/mandated pilot rest period (or some combination of, we never really got a full and/or definitive story), caused cancellation of a bucketful of late night flights heading out of NYC last evening, including the one your humble correspondent had boarded and had been patiently waiting on for about 3 hours before No Joy was called. Nothing like a planeful of angry passengers who, at about 1:00 AM, get informed that they are not, in fact, going to make it home at all after such a long delay, and had better scramble to make alternate arrangements or prepare to sleep in the airport.
Me being the smart and savvy frequent traveler that I am, managed to book the best available alternative flights home, (and I do mean flights, I will enjoy flying about 300 miles past where I actually live, in order to get on another flight to come back). I then pulled some Elite Status traveler magic (or so I thought) to get a room at the closest hotel to the airport, figuring I could get about 4 hours of decent sleep before coming back in the morning. Only when I arrived at said hotel did I find that no, there were no rooms at all available, and the reservation the nice man on the Elite phone line made for me was actually for TONIGHT and not last night (which had already turned into today, as it was about 1:45 AM when this was all happening).
So now who was the savvy traveler?
Not me. Now I was looking at only about 3.5 hours or so I had to kill before heading back to the airport, sitting in a deserted hotel lobby that had no room for me, (except on the couch in the lobby where I hunkered in to ride it out), and praying that I didn't wake up and freak out from not knowing where the heck I was.
Sure, things happen in business travel, these kind of bad nights are almost unavoidable from time to time. But there were a few customer service/training and employee empowerment kinds of things I noticed that if handled better, could have at least taken some of the sting out of the problems.
1. I'll will try to find out is better than I don't know, which is better than the wrong answer
I had to try and figure out, since I was switching to a different NYC departure airport, if I needed to get my checked bags back from the original plane. I think I asked 4 different airline personnel questions about how to make that happen. I basically received three 'I don't knows' and one essentially incorrect answer. Only when I pursued the line of actions that proved to be incorrect did I find out what was really happening. No one offered to actually try and help, (except for the guy who simply gave me the wrong information).
2. Generalists are more valuable than specialists most of the time
I think the primary reason why it was so hard to find out what the process should be for recovering my bags lies in the fact that every person I encountered had one primary role and if that role did not directly involve the baggage handling procedures, they were simply not able to offer any advice. I may have well been asking them to break down the quadratic equation or recite some sonnets. Customers can't be asked to maneuver their own way around your org structure and hierarchy when they need assistance. Having even one or two people that could reliably address a wider range of customer issues would have made everyone's lives easier last night.
3. Different parts of the organization need to communicate more effectively
The hotel debacle last night was pretty simple when you analyzed the cause - the agent on the phone did not back date my reservation by a day, and since it was already past midnight local time, the reservation was made for the wrong day. A bad error on his part, but sort of understandable at least. But the bigger issue was when I arrived at the hotel and the counter agent told me about the reservation problem, he added that 'This happens all the time when flights get cancelled late at night. Phone reservations keeps sending people here with a reservation for the following night'. Sure enough, two more folks after me turned up in the ensuing hour or so in the same situation. So obviously the moral here - if this happens all of the time, why can't someone at the hotel near the airport talk to someone at phone reservations to build in some kind of process to safeguard against it happening in the future? Ticking off your best customers because two parts of your organization don't know how to communicate is simply not acceptable.
Ok, that is it - rant off for the day. Going to try and get on another plane. Hopefully this one will go a little farther than the end of the tarmac and back.