So I got home from my work trip Friday night, and my family picked me up from the airport so we could get dinner together. My brother was telling me how he told his coworkers he was coming to pick me up from the airport, and they commented on how much I travel.
Jeff's response? "No, no...she's too good for domestic travel for pleasure; it was only a work trip."
The truth is, there are many amazingly awesome places in the States. Jen's galleries here and here are proof of that. And yeah, I will admit that there are less places I am dying to see domestically than places I really want to see globally. But the truth is, it isn't domestic travel itself that I hate -- it's traveling domestically.
In other words, American airlines (meaning all domestic airlines, not just American Airlines, although I wholeheartedly include American Airlines in this group) frankly suck.
(A disclaimer: After a number of years hating Southwest, I now recognize they are basically the only U.S. airline that I will exclude from the following discussion. They don't charge bag fees, their flight attendants aren't assholes, their flights are relatively cheap, and my unscientific evaluation is that they are late way less than their competitors. Plus, here's a travel tip. Get the Southwest Visa during one of their promotions and you'll get an obscene amount of points just for signing up. I flew roundtrip to both Florida and Chicago free on those points.)
I don't know why, but the United States is practically prehistoric when it comes to quality of travel compared to other countries. And although I am mainly discussing airlines here, let's throw in trains too. Amtrak has a monopoly, and so they get away with overbooking "reserved" trains and leaving late without explanation all the goddamn time.
In fact, I was talking to someone recently who told me a study was done on the on-time percentage of the trains in Germany. The German trains were on time 97 percent of the time. 97 percent!! And if that isn't amazing enough, get this -- the Germans were outraged by that 3 percent! Can you imagine? I don't know what the rates are here, but I feel like the result of that survey in the States would be something like, "Wow, 63 percent, we're really moving on up! Way to go, Amtrak!"
But back to air travel. I will give you an example. Jen and I flew British Airways to Paris last fall, and we returned on British Air operated by American Air (insert menacing DAH DAH DAH music here).
The flight to Paris was a dream. The flight attendants had charming little accents and not only did they provide us with the standard blanket and pillow, they gave us each an iPad loaded with movies, music, and games, as well as what felt to me like a little care package. The package included a foldable toothbrush with toothpaste, a pair of soft socks (that I still travel with), an eye mask, and a pen. Throw in the FREE mini wine, the extra leg room for only $40 more, and we were set.
Then came the flight home.
The jetstream back resulted in a trip that was two hours longer, and you know what American Air gave us? An itchy blanket, the opportunity to buy shitty headphones, and shade-throwing flight attendants. Forget eye masks and socks; don't even THINK about an iPad or complimentary booze. Shit, we didn't even get the standard back-of-the-chair touch screens.
Welcome home, and screw you.
Earlier this year, my roommate and I traveled to Tokyo. As Jen told you, we found a great price through The Flight Deal. Ended up booking it roundtrip on Delta through Orbitz. For a reason that makes no sense to me, we were to fly an hour and change to Detroit out of Reagan International, switch planes, and fly the rest of the way to Tokyo Narita.
It was early, but I practically jumped out of bed because I'M GOING TO JAPAN TODAY, but 10 minutes after I got up, I got a text message notification that the flight to Detroit would be delayed. OK, we can still make the flight to Tokyo. Two minutes later, flight is canceled due to "weather."
I look outside, it's not snowing. It's not even raining. I get online and check the weather in Detroit, perfectly fine as well. So I called Orbitz, and they tell me that Delta has canceled all their flights to that part of the country for the day, and it will take eight hours for an Orbitz rep to get a Delta rep on the phone, so we would be better off calling them ourselves. So I did.
"Due to the large volume of calls, we have extra staff answering phones today. Your approximate wait time is six hours."
Excuse me? EXCUSE ME??!?! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!
So I go online and check out trusty Southwest. Sure enough, we can get from BWI (which is closer than Reagan) to DTW in plenty of time to make our flight to Tokyo. Which we did. At the airport, I asked Delta if they would reimburse us because clearly, the mysterious weather disturbance was not an issue since Southwest got us from the Baltimore/D.C. area to Detroit with time to spare. And of course they tell me no. (Note to self: Unleash your father on their customer service department upon return.)
Blanyway. As usual, Delta lived down to expectations. We rushed our asses off to get to Detroit, only to get on the plane to sit on the runway for two hours. Not exaggerating, I nearly finished "Despicable Me 2" by the time the plane took off.
Why? Because shit was frozen. Because...you know...cold weather in Michigan in January is a really novel thing that never happens, and airline people definitely shouldn't prepare for it in advance.
The flight attendants were crotchety, as usual (pick a new career if you hate it so much!), the food was horrifically inedible (I almost broke a tooth on the "shrimp" cocktail), and the water went out with two hours still left on the flight.
And I don't remember hearing any apologies, because honey badger don't give a fuck.
I don't like to rely on my parents too much to do many things for me, but when it comes to manhandling customer service people, no one does it better than my dad, Herb.
So when I got home, he gave Delta a call. They said sure, we'll reimburse your daughter for the first leg of the trip, not a problem!
A couple weeks later, I checked my credit card statement, and they had.
They reimbursed us with a whopping $36!
Delta, when have you EVER sold a flight anywhere for $36? The 1960s?? I mean, I know Detroit isn't exactly everyone's favorite destination, but I call bullshit.
Their logic? The reimbursement was proportionate to the percentage of the miles traveled on the entire trip.
Dear Delta and all your money-grubbing brethren, may you all go bankrupt without a government bailout in sight to save your asses.