The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
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This Is Your Life
November 5, 2014 -- The coolest thing about running JoeSentMe is that I get to go one-on-one with members about their business travel. They tell me their tales, offer tips, ask questions, air their gripes or, mostly, just want to get a travel experience on the record.
"This is our life," one member E-mailed me recently. "Who else would understand it?"
Here are three stories of life on the road that only we'd understand and appreciate.
A MINTY FRESH EXPERIENCE
A JoeSentMe member from New Jersey returned home from Cairo on a Sunday afternoon and learned she had to leave on Monday morning for a same-day roundtrip to Los Angeles. Her schedule required her to book an early-morning JetBlue Airways flight in its new Mint class from Kennedy Airport and a late-afternoon return in BusinessElite on Delta Air Lines. I asked her to compare and contrast the hours-apart transcons.
"JetBlue, which I had never in my life flown before, was awesome, a term I normally reserve for religious purposes. The staff on the ground at JFK was cheerful and professional. [The Mint] seat is huge, commodious, equipped with every possible lumbar and massage feature and, best of all, it reclined extremely quickly in a way that was easy to operate. The in-flight staff was extremely solicitous without being unctuous. I had the clear sense that they really like their jobs.
"The absolute best part, however, was the food. You could have whatever you want in any combination anytime you wanted and the quality was superb. The smoked salmon was as good as any I've ever eaten. I'm not kidding. So was the celery remoulade on which it was served. The mango and watermelon in the fruit salad were as good as anything I ate in Egypt, which is saying a lot given the quality of the fruit along the Nile. And, get this: There was apple cider sherbet! It was sensational!"
How did the return on Delta stack up? "Pretty good," she said. "If I hadn't flown out on JetBlue, I might have even thought better than pretty good. A comparison, though, precludes that.
"The [BusinessElite] seats were fine, but by no means the extraordinarily roomy seats of Mint. The big areas of difference were the food and the service. The food on Delta was C+ at best while I rate JetBlue an A+. JetBlue's service was right up there with its food in quality. Delta's was competent and no more. Indeed, as the flight progressed, it got decreasingly friendly and more minimalist in response to peoples' requests."
The kicker? "The price," she explained. "Who on earth would fly anything but JetBlue given the price?" She said that because her one-way fare on JetBlue was $809 and Delta charged more than $2,200 for the return.
APPLAUDING A CANCELLED FLIGHT
An Alaska-based JoeSentMe member, who describes himself as "sort of a hostage" of Alaska Airlines, filed this report about what happened when a mechanical problem forced Alaska to cancel its evening flight from San Antonio to Seattle.
"They did a fairly decent job of keeping us informed," he said. "After two hours, they gave out $12 meal coupons. When the flight cancelled, they provided rooms and said they would have all rebookings for connections done by morning.
"When the line for room coupons got too long, the station manager told passengers that anyone who wanted to get their own room would be reimbursed. He also announced the flight would leave at 8 a.m. the following morning.
"When passengers arrived at the airport in the morning, the station manager had forms so he could cut checks for everyone who submitted expenses for the hotel and transportation. He also had complimentary breakfast on board for the entire plane. When we got on the plane, there was a letter on each seat from him as well as a card from the vice president of airport operations [promising] discounts for future flights.
"Here's what the card said: 'We take our promise to provide you with an exceptional travel experience very seriously and truly apologize for letting you down today. We're reaching out to you because your flight was significantly delayed for reasons we believe are within our control.'
"After we were all onboard, the station manager made an announcement thanking everyone for their patience and cooperation and the whole plane applauded him.
"Here's the final tidbit: When I checked my E-mail after landing in Seattle, there was a credit [from Alaska Airlines] for $350."
If you're bowled over by that tale of stunning service recovery, a JoeSentMe member from Vancouver offers the flip side thanks (or no thanks) to Porter Airlines, the carrier based at Billy Bishop/Toronto City airport.
"Several colleagues and I were scheduled to fly at 1:30 p.m., but [due to weather] we did not depart until approximately eight hours later. We spent that time in the departure lounge at Billy Bishop. When I visited the snack bar area, I encountered two Porter employees struggling to accept payment from a passenger trying to buy a bottle of sparking water. Apparently, the credit card machine was down and a sign indicated that cash was not accepted. A line of passengers was forming and they were frustrated with what was becoming a lengthy delay at the cashier. The man attempting to make the purchase patiently stood there while the two employees fumbled.
"I asked why they didn't either use the manual credit card machine sitting in front of them or just let the man take the water for free since we'd all been delayed for so long. The employee became hostile in response. She coldly instructed the customer to write down his name and number on a sheet of paper so that he could be contacted later, presumably to pay for his $3 bottle of water. The other customers in line continued to wait, shaking their heads and rolling their eyes.
"I then asked her to call a manager. She refused. I snapped a photo of them and [one] demanded to know why I had taken her picture. She left her post to find a security guard. Everyone continued to wait. She returned a short time later with a security guard, who seemed confused about why he had been called. She told him that I had taken her photograph and he looked at me, puzzled. He then stood there and watched as the two employees resumed their attempt to figure out how to deal with the gentleman who was trying to buy water."
This column is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2014 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.