I have an awful story of terrible business that needs to be shared with the world. It is long and full of details, so feel free to skip to my #6wordsummary at the end.
For Super Bowl weekend, a group of us flew to San Diego for a day and we were going to drive to Las Vegas the next day. Seemed like a great plan.
Then at approximately 1:00am sitting out on the roof of a bar overlooking Petco Park as the bar signals last call (who has last call at 1:30am), we decide we are not ready for last call. What if we could get to Vegas now??
Sure enough, I find a 6:30am flight on the Kayak app on my iPhone via Spirit Airlines for $35 per person. Since we still haven’t made arrangements for the rental car yet, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. We could be in Vegas by 7:40am instead of 5pm. And the flight leaves in a few hours. Perfect.
So, I decided instead of trying to book a flight for 4 people using my thumbs on my iPhone, I’ll call up Kayak and just it done quickly over the phone.. Wrong!!
After being on hold for 15 minutes, I finally get someone to start booking the flight that will be boarding in less than 5 hours. I could tell the woman was getting frustrated with me because it was loud and my AT&T service was less than stellar. So after I get the first three people’s info to her, she hangs up.. or we get disconnected.. doesn’t really matter. The point is after being on the phone for 37 minutes, I now am no closer than when I first had the idea to fly to Vegas.
I call Kayak again figuring I can just give the remaining person’s info and then be done.. Again wrong!!
After waiting on hold for another 10 minutes, I get connected to a different person and explain my story. “Do you remember the agent’s name?” the new agent asks. I have no clue. “Well then I’m sorry. We cannot complete an order by started by another agent.”
After several infuriating attempts to convince her to use my name, phone number, etc. to find my existing order or the person I was just on the phone with, I gave up and decided to start the process over again. Now I knew there were only 5 seats available to begin with, so just to be sure I ask if the seats are still available and still for the deal for $35 each.. Wrong again!!!
Because it’s after 2:30am that deal is no longer valid through Kayak and I have to call Spirit Airlines directly, otherwise it’s $75 per person and that’s the best we can do. Unacceptable..
So, being very patient and only slightly upset because I’m still in amazement at this great deal I am trying to book for a flight in a few hours, I call Spirit. More holding only to find out that the deal is only available through Kayak. I try a little persuasive arguing with no luck then I start to get a little annoyed and ask for a manager.
Once I get the manager, I explain the situation and kindly ask that Spirit honor the deal from Kayak. Not gonna happen.
And finally, this is where empowerment comes in. I explain to this manager the ridiculousness of the situation. Spirit Airlines would rather have their flight take off with four empty seats than to honor a deal they were happy to provide an hour earlier. They would lose this additional revenue on something that is a fixed, sunk cost then to accept the four additional passengers (plus their absurd $40 / bag fees). I explained that at $75 / person plus tax plus $120 in bag fee (my friends still check bags) that there is no way that we would fly with them and that we would rather just drive.
I couldn’t hold back anymore. I told this woman that this is a prefect example of why the airline industry is constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. I told her that this is why the economy has fallen flat on it’s face. And that because of poor business decisions like this, we have rampant unemployment. I also felt bad and told her that I realize it wasn’t her fault.
Then I hung up. About to give up and about to resort to the 5 hour drive through the desert, I went back on to my Kayak app on my iPhone, saw that their app never took down the deal for $35 tickets and booked the flight at 3:30 AM a mere 2 hours and 45 minutes before boarding using my thumbs and crappy Internet connection.
So. Yes. I should have just spent the time to book the deal through my phone in the first place. No, it is not fair to get angry at the super late night shift of customer service for both Kayak and Spirit. But come on. Empower your managers to make a decision. I can guarantee that if the CEO of Kayak and Spirit realized that they would miss out on revenue because of this incredible lack of empowerment, they would be quite embarrassed. Sorry for the lengthy ranting post, but these things need to be said.
#6WordSummary: empower employees or business fail miserably