Shannon (Someday Satori, at left) has been planning to go to Dublin for Bloomsday for months. This is a well-plotted adventure for her, as it is for most of us who travel, especially overseas. And Bloomsday is a specific day, a specific event, the kind of thing you, oh, I don't know, show up several days early for and leave several days late, to give yourself the time to absorb the experience without being rushed...

A week and a half ago, the NYTimes published a story about how airlines are now routinely over-booking flights in order to increase their profits. As a result, passengers are being denied passage on flights they've paid for and have shown up on time for -- and because so many flights are not just booked but OVERbooked, they are then put off for DAYS while they wait for another flight.

This is entirely unacceptable. Remember how we made jokes about Soviet airlines after the fall? This is just as bad. A ticket on a US airline is now gets you little farther than a pair of sneakers: have shoe will travel?

And while the airlines may be viewing us all as bulk-rate parcels to move from place to place, we are all, in fact, priority packages containing time-sensitive materials!

Like Shannon (Someday Satori Link):

THE SOONEST I CAN LEAVE IS THURSDAY?!? But I'm supposed to be walking in the steps of Leopold Bloom on Thursday! Well, from here everything deteriorated to tears and teeth gnashing. The girl looked at me with her big round eyes, probably expecting me to flip out. I was in complete, pissed-off, shock. I started renegotiating my plans again: If I leave on Thursday, I actually arrive on Friday, and then I leave early Tuesday morning...for god's sake, that's like flying to Dublin for a long weekend. Why the hell would I do that? "Okay. Here's the problem," I said. "The issue I have with this is the time I'm losing by leaving on Thursday. That means I won't get in until Friday and then I leave early on Tuesday. Can I tack on the time that I'm losing now to the end of the trip? So the original trip was from Tuesday to Tuesday and the new trip would be from Thursday to Thursday?" It made perfect sense to me. "I don't know if we can do that," the other woman said.
But the people at the counter are the not to blame.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Brigid Mullin, a gate agent for US Airways here. On one or two flights a day, Ms. Mullin is left to explain to passengers that US Airways sold more tickets than it has seats on the plane.

“People are going to yell,” Ms. Mullin said.

Mr. Beall, the US Airways official, said, “Employees call in sick because they don’t want to deal with overbookings.”

So who is to blame? Several jerks in several offices who play with computer programs that tell them how much they can overbook to maximize profits -- jerks who never SEE the agony they're putting people through, the trips they're ruining.

Mr. Beall entrusts the overbooking to people like Sherri Owens, 22. An economics graduate from the University of Virginia, she joined US Airways a little more than a year ago. Like nearly 50 other analysts, Ms. Owens uses software that scans the past no-show rate on flights, breaking it down among as many as 26 fare levels.

People paying the cheapest fares, which are typically nonrefundable, show up; those paying the most, usually refundable fares for business travelers, are more frequently no-shows. Midwesterners show up. People leaving Las Vegas often do not.

...

When employees like Ms. Owens become proficient at the art of overbooking, they tend to leave for other jobs, her boss, Mr. Beall, said.

“They used to stay for two to two and one half years. Now they stay for one and one half. It takes three months to train them,” he said.

“In-depth knowledge is fleeting.”

Okay, the bit about Vegas is funny. But there is nothing amusing about the rest of this. Human beings have appointments, events, special days, and while we can be put off for an hour or two, we cannot be put off for days -- something computers and recent college grads obviously have trouble grasping.

I mean, what is the point of gambling hundreds on a ticket to ride? Should we all start booking our flights for three days in advance and show up to request to be bumped to the time and day we really wanted all along? (Presumably they would have restrictions on bumping you twice?)

I cannot think how else to end this but with a curse: #^*@!**!!!

Newer Post Older Post Home