Jenny and I were able to pop off to California over the weekend to attend the wedding of our friend Andy. It was a nice mini-vacation, and good to see some friends we hadn’t hooked up with for a while.
For the first time in nearly five years, I didn’t choose Midwest Airlines for my flight. As I wrote about last spring, the service at Midwest has just completely collapsed and as a consumer who has the right to vote with my wallet, I did so for our trip to California and instead decided to try out Air Tran instead. My criteria for brand loyalty is pretty simple: price and service.
I am pleased to report that Air Tran not only met my criteria, it exceeded my expectations.
To begin, the price for a direct flight from Milwaukee to San Francisco was slightly lower than the competition. Check in at MKE was simple and non-eventful as it should be. The first thing that made me realize we were on a different carrier was while we were waiting to board the airplane in MKE, the captain came out and started talking to those who were waiting to board the flight. He wasn’t using the microphone, but just talking in a loud friendly voice that everyone could hear.
At first, I cringed when he came out and started talking. Something must be wrong, and in all probability, we’re going to be delayed. Then it dawned on me that the pilot wasn’t delivering bad news to those awaiting the flight, he was delivering a few quick jokes to the crowd along with an update on the weather in SFO. He thanked everyone and said we’d be boarding in just a few minutes.
Jenny and I exchanged a slightly bemused look and proceeded to board the plane. The flight was uneventful except for the captain breaking in from time to time to point out landmarks along the way, which is something I always appreciate and enjoy.
When we arrived in San Francisco, we discovered that our card had been charged twice for the checked baggage fee back in Milwaukee. “Oh great” I thought, “here we go..”. But my unease about the prospect of facing another airlines “customer care” line was resolved in the 5 minutes it took to get a live agent on the line to fix the problem and credit our card. They even apologized for the mistake!
This is about as stark a contrast as I could have imagined from the terrible experience we had with Midwest back in April. We weren’t accused of doing something wrong, weren’t told “that’s not my job”, and weren’t hassled. It was just fixed by the excellent customer rep. who handled our call. That, my friends, is what customer “service” is all about.
The trip home was as uneventful as it should be.
Kudos to Air Tran. Their employees in the air and on the ground helped make our trip a pleasurable one and I can say with confidence that the next time we need to choose an airline, it will be Air Tran who gets the call.