TWN Hall of Shame: AirTran, US Airways, AT&T and I-Phone


Feel free to add your own stories, but I think that given the number of times I (and all of us) are asked for customer feedback, I might as well make it public.
I have three culprits to harangue today:

Racism towards Muslims in America must stop — and there is nothing more than ignorance and bigotry that can explain why AirTran would not allow a Muslim family from reboarding its plane after TSA authorities cleared the passengers as a threat of any kind to the aircraft. They were removed from the flight when other passengers heard member of the family talking about where “the safest place to sit” on the airplane would be.
I have heard Christians, agnostics, Jews, and pagans talk about where the safest part of a plane might be — particularly when planes today have run off airways, burst into flame, and even crashed. My United Airlines plane from San Francisco to JFK on New Year’s Eve actually came within feet of touching ground and then abruptly aborted landing, shooting upwards, because of high winds. I wondered to myself whether being up near the front of the plane was better than sitting in the back — but I don’t think United has any interest in banning me from its aircraft for wondering such things.
In any case, banning Muslims who are American citizens from normal life activities — particularly when they have already been subjected to security screening — deserves criticism and scorn.
Update: AirTran offers public apology and airfare compensation.
AT&T and I-Phone
I recently met a high-ranking AT&T executive who confided to me that he/she keeps a Verizon phone around at all times because AT&T’s phone signal is undependable.
Despite hearing that advice, I allowed my staff colleagues at the New America Foundation to push me away from my old, always dependable LG Verizon phone to a new Apple made 3G I-Phone. I’ve had it for about four months, and I’ve been practically miserable ever since, at least in a phone sense. I never know whether I will be able to connect with people who call. I really can’t do cell phone interviews on radio any longer — and after I landed on the once aborted United flight to JFK on New Year’s eve — I needed to place a call to a transport company, and my call was dropped seven times despite all the bars being at “full” on the phone.
I have a very expensive piece of junk as far as I’m concerned — and am on the verge of going back to Verizon. So while this may sound like personal bitching — I can’t believe that I can barely connect in this so-called broadband world we are supposed to be living in.
US Airways
I do a ton of traveling and prefer United Airlines — but as a high-level frequent flier in the Star Alliance, I also frequently fly US Airways. Anyone who flies a lot has to get used to the many adjustments that airlines need to make to be able to handle the complexities of weather, of safety systems, of engine and other machinery wear and tear. I think it’s tough to be an airline in today’s environment and thus I typically am pretty understanding of airline travel bumps in the road, so to speak.
But recently, when flying back from Pittsburgh to Washington, I arrived early enough at the airport to catch a flight that left two hours before the one I was booked on. If I paid a $50 fee, US Airways said it would allow me on the plane – which was nearly empty. I had no bags — it would have been zero problem for US Airways to allow me on the flight to get back early, as part recompense for the many, many times that US Airways had mismanaged by traveling situation in the past, or bumped me from a flight, or been chronically late, or had been incommunicative about what was happening with some respective flight having problems getting going. I would have loved to charge US Airways $50.00 for each time it had a problem.
But when US Airways had the opportunity to do something small — something easy — for someone who clearly had to deal with these problems all the time, they refused.
So, I’ll keep flying US Airways — unless like the Muslim family mentioned in the AirTran Hall of Shame segment above I get banned — but I think that the airline’s attitude and approach to dealing with passengers could use improvement.
But wait. All that said, credit where credit is due.
KUDOS to US Airways for allowing the AirTran-booted Irfan family to fly on its airline after AirTran wouldn’t take them back. So, I have moved US Airways up a few notches in my own assessment of how they operate.

I hope all of you have better experiences that I and the Irfan family have had with these three firms and otherwise have a great start to your new year.
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “TWN Hall of Shame: AirTran, US Airways, AT&T and I-Phone

  1. Workin' Joe says:

    You need to fix your captcha response. I spent a few minutes typing a note, but apparently got a character incorrect in the Captcha box. When I returned to the comment page, my well reasoned, concise comment was deleted. As I am well reasoned and concise only once in a blue moon, I won’t spend the time attempting to duplicate the message. I should be able to return with my comments intact to try again at the Captcha box.


  2. janinsanfran says:

    Interesting about AT&T and the iPhone. I switched to that combo as I am often stuck out in areas of New England where they have the ONLY service. They’ve enabled me to work for the last two years after long previous episodes when I was out of touch.


  3. JohnH says:

    I would put United into the Hall of Shame. Their hostile service is far worse than US Airways annoying profiteering.
    My family was delayed flying into San Francisco by weather. United held us on the ground. When we arrived at SFO about 1 pm., we rushed over to the gate to board our final flight. The plane was boarding. UNITED HAD GIVEN OUR SEATS AWAY DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE ARRIVED IN TIME ON A CONNECTING UNITED FLIGHT. A heated discussion with United “service” ensued. They informed us that there were no other flights available that day to the major metro area we were flying to. They offered us $10/person for lunch but no hotel. We asked for our money back, which they provided. We hustled by bus and BART to Oakland, where we managed to get onto a Southwest flight.
    I have had numerous other unexplained delays on United through San Francisco and encourage everyone to avoid them as much as possible.


  4. FaceOnMars says:

    Unfortunately, airlines’ computer systems do not have a reliable collective memory system to track the infractions (or good deeds) over time.
    After a bad experience with United this summer, I gave up my Milage Plus account and went with a credit card plan which allows for redemption at most any airline. At this point, I’m of the frame of mind that airlines will look out for their own best interest first and foremost, and sometimes that includes helping out the traveler.
    While not shouting, I did raise the point — loud and clear — that airlines seem to have very little problem nickel and diming it’s customers with penalties for stepping outside the intitial boundaries, yet airlines don’t play by the same rules when they drift from their gameplan. Why shouldn’t we get $50 or $100 when they don’t have their act together?


  5. eliza gordon says:

    i was appalled when i read about airtran and their completely
    unwarranted,and bigoted, treatment of the muslim family group.
    so i was quite pleased to see your post. sometimes it’s all too
    easy to let garbage like this just go on by, and the fact that you
    didn’t, and don’t, and responded to this outrage in such a humane
    way felt good. i find it beyond understanding that they would feel
    an offer of a ‘free trip’ on their miserable airline would be in any
    way fair compensation for their reprehensible (and un-
    american)action, and i hope the family refuses the offer. i’d love
    to see a boycott of this prejudiced company


  6. ... says:

    the us gov’t and by extension its people and the people and leaders of the world for being complicit with the ‘election war’ in gaza..


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bought any of the pure CRAP that Home Depot is selling these days, courtesy of the Chinese?
    Seen the way Wal-Mart treats its employees?
    Paid $850 to get a fuckin’ GM blinker switch replaced lately?
    Steve, really, I’m sure we could compile a list to fill a tome. As corporations get stronger and stronger, manufacturing flees the states, and the rest of the globe works hard at catching up with our obscene degree of consumerism, we have become, on an individual basis, a dispensable customer base. If you don’t buy it, there are forty unsuspecting patsies waiting in line to plunk their money down.
    Besides, if all we can get is garbage, both in product and service, what else are we going to do? Where else are we going to go?


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