Here’s my letter to AirTran regarding my flight experience today:
I was scheduled to leave on flight 222 from Newport News, VA to Boston, MA today (4/26/08). However, I am writing this while stuck in Newport News because there was some sort of severe mistake in the booking of the flight, and more than one person was booked into a number of the seats. This was not noticed by the agents until the flight was already boarded and passengers were milling around with nowhere to sit. From what I could gather from talking to your AirTran crew, some seats were sold once in Ft. Lauderdale — where the flight originated — and then sold again in Newport News, where it stopped on its way to Boston. This was my first flight on AirTran, so this was not a reassuring thing to hear. I was also told that the same thing happened on a flight from Tampa that was scheduled to arrive in Newport News later in the afternoon, and the airport staff were scrambling to accommodate the passengers whose seats were confirmed but who would not be able to fly.
The flight crew came on the PA system and asked for volunteers who would be willing to switch to an indirect flight that would take them to Atlanta before arriving in Boston later in the evening. As I could accommodate a delay of a couple of hours, I volunteered and got off the plane. However, once I walked up the jetway and the plane started to roll away, I was told that the flight to Atlanta was not available, and that I would have to stay overnight in Newport News and would not be able to get to Boston until 5pm the following day. This was not what I had agreed to, but the flight was already on its way. I felt like I had been subjected to some kind of bait-and-switch scheme to get the flight off on time.
The one bright spot of the situation was a supervisor named Michael, who took control of the situation and did everything in his power to get me to Boston as fast as possible. He spent about 20 minutes calling different departments, trying to find me and the other three passengers in my situation seats on flights through Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, and other cities. The whole time, he was giving us information updates and treating us with the greatest respect. Unfortunately, the only flight he could give me was tomorrow afternoon, but he did everything he could before coming to that conclusion.
All of this means that my first impression of your airline is a bit muddled at the moment. On the one hand, there is the company that can’t figure out how many people fit onto its planes until the seats are actually full, but on the other, there is the company who employs people like Michael, who can deal with difficult situations with kindness and competence. I’m not sure how these two companies can be on in the same, and I’m not sure if I’ll be paying to fly on your airline again.