Jun 25

You can check in, but you can never leave

Jet_lag_1385638c

It strikes me that more and more brands are promising one experience but delivering a very different one. Take United Airlines. Please!

My business travel experience has gone to hell in a handbasket ever since United absorbed Continental in a recent merger of equals (to which I reply, 'Ha!' There never has been, nor will there ever be a merger of equals). And, to pour salt in the wound, United is running a multi-million advertising campaign touting such achievements as the industry's newest fleet of aircraft, the most destinations of any domestic airline and, yes, Virginia, a solid on-time performance record. Choke me with a spoon!

In the past few weeks alone, I've suffered back-to-back, three hours delays flying to, and from, Manchester, NH, from Newark Airport, a nifty four-hour delay from Logan and yesterday's cancellation of a flight caused by what a Manchester gate agent described as, 'Weather, or a mechanical problem. It's Newark Airport, so we never really know.'

The world-weary United agent then asked if I'd be willing to fly on another airline to LaGuardia. 'Sure,' I responded. She checked the screen, shook her head and snapped, 'Nope. That flight's already over its weight limit.'

Then, my United experience morphed into an act from the theatre of the absurd. 'I'm going to try and get you to Boston!' the gate agent declared. I was stunned. 'But, I don't want to go to Boston,' I replied. 'I'm not going to risk changing planes with your airline's shoddy record.' She then clapped her hands together and said, 'Well, chop chop. Make up your mind. What do you want to do?' She demanded. I canceled my flight, rented a car and drove six hours to get home.

All of this wouldn't matter if United wasn't bombarding me with ads and airport posters containing such, feel-good headlines as:

– 'It's time to fly!

– 'Life is a journey. Travel it well.'

United is a Janus-faced organization, talking out of both sides of its mouth (or cockpit, if you prefer).

If I were prostituting myself by writing completely false copy about a godawful airline, I'd riff on the classic Eagles tune, Hotel California. With United…..

'You can check in, but you can never leave.'

 

Oct 09

A miniature statue of a 5th Century Greek boy? Sure. It’s right by gate 124.

Met I've seen some questionable business decisions in my life, but none quite as perplexing as the sight of a Metropolitan Museum of Art Store right smack in the middle of Terminal C at Newark's Liberty International Airport.

The store features everything from Egyptian cat bookmarks (now there's a perfect stocking stuffer) to busts and miniatures of ancient heroes ('Honey, let's pick up that figurine of Herodotus before we board.'). There are also books on Cleopatra and 2010 calendars featuring the works of Monet and Winslow Homer.

And, of course, the store is completely deserted.

I like to think I appreciate finer things in life and I really enjoyed strolling through the Classic artifacts and facsimiles thereof. But, an art store at Newark? That's like having a Bentley dealership in South Central L.A. It's laudable, but makes no sense whatsoever from an image, reputation or target audience standpoint.

The average Newark Airport visitor appears to be harried, hurried and much more interested in a quick Sbarro pizza slice than a Degas pastel of some South Sea island.

I'm not sure what Met executive made the daffy decision to situate a high-end boutique in the midst of a déclassé thoroughfare like Terminal C, but I'm guessing his or her career will soon be experiencing its own version of 476 AD.

May 27

The ‘N’ Letter

Steve Cody wasn’t allowed through San Francisco Airport security this morning. Why? Because hisBoarding_pass
boarding pass read ‘Steve’ and his driver’s license reads ‘Steven.’ This raised all sorts of possible terrorist warnings to the crack TSA agent, who promptly sent me back to the ticket agent.

I dutifully trooped back, waited on line and explained what had just happened. The ticket agent sighed and said, “Where do they find these idiots?” She then logged onto her computer and began changing the reservation. But, lo and behold, the airline’s computer system wouldn’t allow her to do so because I was on the ‘open’ second leg of a round trip. Oh.

Now, she’s pissed. She has to grab her supervisor and explain the situation. I hear him exclaim, “You must be joking!”

Long story short, he handwrites some sort of hieroglyphics on the boarding pass and has the ticket agent personally escort me back to the surly, oh-so-vigilant TSA agent. He looks her over, looks me over, listens to her explanation and says, “I don’t like it one bit, but I’ll let him through. As for you (pointing to me),” he sniffs, “Next time you book a flight, do so with your full and correct legal name. Got it?” Got it. Yes sir. Thank you, sir. And thank you for defending our freedom and security, sir.

Gimme a break.