Triangle Trip

Tag: airport terminal review

Delta’s JFK staff continues to provide bad customer service in 2010

by Captain G on Jan.28, 2010, under Airlines, Business Travel, Vacation

Furthering my previous post from last year about Delta’s horrible customer service, I really think New York’s JFK Delta customer service (gate agents, check in agents, ticketing agents, etc.) agents give New Yorkers a real bad name. This excludes Delta’s New York-based flight attendants of course as I have not experienced consistent rudeness on flights.

Apparently Delta’s call center isn’t that much better (see Terminal D’s previous post).

In my attempt to help Delta address its customer service issues at JFK, I just sent the letter to Delta’s Customer Service Department. Let’s see what I get for a response.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I want to first commend Margie Z. at JFK’s Terminal 2 Medallion customer service department. Margie showed compassion and provided excellent customer service by booking me on a later flight because I barely missed the baggage check in time requirement (one hour at JFK vs the norm of 45 minutes at other airports or airlines). Margie is a diamond in the rough in Delta’s customer service department at JFK.

I was booked on yesterday’s (January 27, 2010) 7AM flight from JFK to SFO - Delta flight 717 - and arrived at JFK at 6:05AM. Unfortunately for me, I had to check in baggage - a snowboard for my weekend in Tahoe that I have been greatly looking forward to. When I arrived at the baggage drop off area, the baggage agent told me I was FIVE minutes too late to check in the bag. The agent then directed me to a customer service agent post next to her. The baggage drop off agent told me to stand in line and wait for a customer service representative to assist me. That line consisted solely of one person, me. There is never a line at 6:05am at JFK on a Wednesday.

While standing in “line” for about two minutes, I observed the FOUR customer service representatives each typing away on their computers almost purposely ignoring me - they were probably checking emails for all I know but they were certainly not doing anything that appeared job related. One male employee finally acknowledged I needed help and began to assist me. I told him that I couldn’t print a bag check ticket because I was five minutes late and asked if there was anything he could do. He explained to me that I had somehow missed my flight, the one that wasn’t scheduled to leave for another 55 minutes! To say I was shocked and dismayed is a severe understatement. There was no line at security. I could have easily made it to the gate, grabbed some breakfast and written a short story to boot.

After slowly comprehending the expression on my face, the customer service representative then corrected himself and said that I hadn’t missed the flight, rather I could not go on to the 7AM flight if I had to check in any baggage. He also added that I was 13 minutes late and not just a few minutes late as if to antagonize me further. Perhaps if any one of the four customer representatives had performed the most basic part of their job description I could have explained my situation sooner. To add even further insult, the customer service agent then tried to charge me an additional $50 for booking me on the 9AM flight and checking my bag despite the fact that I explained I am a Gold Medallion member and the change fees should be waived.

Upon hearing that I am a Gold Medallion member the customer service representative refused to help me any further and suggested that I see the Medallion agents around the corner.

I understand that the US airports and airlines are at a heighten security alert level and all checked bags need to travel with the passenger. However, I firmly believe the Delta agents at JFK could have easily put me on the flight and gotten my bag on the same flight if they had just tried to provide some level of real customer service. The one hour prior to departure bag check rule is there to provide the airlines and baggage handlers with enough time to get the bags onto the planes - it’s certainly not a hard and steadfast rule. I have had bags checked 35 minutes prior to departure at Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco International on United without any issues. Perhaps they are running a better and smoother operation?

In addition, the customer service representative did not need to say I was 13 minutes late which was clearly unprofessional and rude. Given the high level of service I received from Delta flight attendants and other agents like Margie Z. at JFK, I expected Delta to better train all of its agents at JFK. I am sure this is not the first time you have heard complaints about JFK’s customer service staff. I have written a similar letter to you last year about a different incident.

As a loyal Delta customer, I really wish that you would pass this letter along to the appropriate JFK manager and address your customer service issues. I would hate to give my business to another airline given the long relationship I have with Delta and the otherwise excellent service you provide. I appreciate your attention into this matter and expect a response from you soon. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions regarding this incident as I am eager to help you improve your service and retain your loyal customers.

Sincerely,

Captain G - provided in my real name of course ;-)

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Why (fly) Clear failed?

by Captain G on Jun.24, 2009, under Business Travel, Travel Partners

Clear was a good concept. Pay $199 for membership to quickly get through airport security. So what went wrong? (aside from not fixing issues highlighted by yours truly from a previous post). Below are the reasons:

1.  Clear was trying to be something they are not. Clear wanted to participate in TSA-related activities but didn’t have the authority to do the job. Clear couldn’t get you pass security any faster than a traveler with airline status because Clear personnel couldn’t perform screening like a TSA agent. Clear only allowed you to skip the first TSA checkpoint - the TSA person matching  your boarding pass against your driver license/ID. You still had to go through the same TSA scanners, take off your shoes, remove your belt, show liquids, etc. And you’d have to wait for the leisure travelers to get their acts together after the screening process to repack. So Clear probably saved you 2 minutes tops - not to mention you may lose a few minutes because the fingerprint authentication machine didn’t work properly.

2.  Too much talk (marketing) and no execution. I have been getting spammed by Clear since its inception. I was also  spammed as a Clear member to get other members to join Clear. I also see tons of Clear marketing people handing out flyers at airports where Clear operates (mostly JFK). What’s the point of handing out flyers at airports when most of the people there are either Clear customers already or will never pay $200 a year because they are vacationers. Spending all the money on ineffective marketing campaings as opposed to focusing on launching airports led to Clear’s failure (see my previous post regarding issues). All that money in the bank should have gone to launch LAX and other important airport hubs which can ultimately drive membership (aka: revenue). I had a Clear membership but couldn’t use it half the time because I am a frequent traveler out of one of the busiest airports in the world (LAX and ORD). What’s the benefit of being a Clear member when I can quickly get through Indianapolis airport security when there are no lines?

3.  Poor leadership and management. What’s the point of gathering all my personal data when it is not necessary? Why do I see 4 to 8 people at Clear kiosks when the registration process and check-in process should be easy and straight forward? I found the registration process to be extremely cumbersome and unnecessary. Clear did not need my fingerprints to validate my identity. I believe two government issued IDs is sufficient proof. Investment in the fingerprint and eye scanning machines were a waste of shareholder funds. Furthermore, it took two people to register me at SFO.

Instead of wasting all the money and closing up shop now, Clear had a perfect chance to save itself. All Clear management had to do was read Triangle Trip and my open letter to the US Homeland Security Chief and TSA (see post). We sincerely hope the airlines are reading our posts as they are important feedback to the industry. I am sure Clear will also be a business case study at some B-school down the road… here’s a free research paper for the kiddies!

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Go to LAX Terminal 6 instead of Terminal 7 for your next United flight

by Captain G on May.06, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel

United Airlines now operate out of Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) Terminals 6, 7, and 8. Following my previous post on how to get quickly get through LAX security in Terminal 7, this post gives you two more options should the LAX Terminal 7 garage security checkpoint is closed for whatever reason or becomes too crowded.

Option 1 – Use United Premier Line in Terminal 6:  United has their Premier check-in counters and security line in Terminal 6. Unlike LAX Terminal 7 (or other airports), Terminal 6’s security checkpoint does not have a pre-screener to look at your ID or re-validate that you are a United Premier member. If you walk into Terminal 6 and make an immediate left, you will see the United Premier security line. This line is generally empty and connects you to the normal Terminal 7 main security line. However, the Terminal 6 security line is much shorter as it does not wrap around like Terminal 7’s main line. If you do see a pre-screener and he/she does not let you go through, just tell him/her that you were dropped off by the rental car bus and have to catch the flight that’s in an hour. If that fails, go to Option 2.

Option 2 – use LAX Terminal 6’s TSA security line to get to Terminals 7 and 8:  This option will require some walking. Terminal 6’s normal TSA security is to the right of United Premier check-in. LAX Terminal 6 does not have many big airlines (AirTran, Continental, Spirit, Virgin America, etc.) so the security lines are generally shorter than Terminal 7. After you have cleared the Terminal 6 security line, make a left and walk through a tunnel that connects you to Terminal 7.

For your convenience, below is a map of LAX highlighting the United Terminals. I have labeled locations for Options #1 and #2 in red.

LAX United Terminal Map

LAX United Terminal Map

I have tried both options and both worked like a charm. I was at LAX at 3:20PM to catch a 4PM flight and there was no pre-screener at the United Premier security line in Terminal 6. I bypassed the normal Terminal 7 pre-screening and the long wrap around line. I have also tried go through security at Terminal 6 and walking back to Terminal 7. The entire process (clearing security to walking to the gate) took less than 15 minutes as no one uses the TSA security lines in Terminal 6.

I am still waiting for Clear to show up at the world’s 6th busiest airport. Here’s a link to my previous post regarding this topic. I would also like to give credit to Statusmonger for telling me about the United Terminal 6 secret.

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