Thursday, July 19, 2007

Here, there, and everywhere

Where to begin? We went back home at the end of July, for Berit’s memorial. Because we purchased our tickets late (having to do with my not getting approval to leave until the last minute because I was away) we found that it was actually not much more expensive to purchase tickets on MaxJet, an all-business-class airline, than it would have been to get last-minute coach tickets elsewhere. It meant flying into Dulles instead of somewhere more convenient, but hey, I’ve made that drive dozens of times. So, cool, right? Except that when we arrived at the airport to leave, we found out that our flight was delayed. Bad, right? Except that MaxJet had set aside rooms for us at the airport Radisson for us to hang around in to wait. Good, right? Except that (ok, I’m gonna stop the “good new/bad news” thing now…) they called to tell us that the flight had been cancelled. Long story shortened slightly, they put us up there for the night (in two adjoining rooms), paid for our meals, and the next day paid for a van/cab ride from Stanstead to Heathrow so that we could catch the evening flight on Virgin Atlantic… in Upper Class, including access to the “Clubhouse,” where EVERYTHING is complimentary. Sweet! Now, I did some research, and found that according to EU rules, they did everything they were required to do (and probably to a slightly higher level of quality than required) except for one thing: They’re required to compensate us with cash as well. To the tune of 600 Euros. Each. Now, let’s hold that thought for a moment.
Cut to the return leg of the trip. There we are at the check-in counter at Dulles, and the desk agent says, “We had some equipment problems with our aircraft.” Now, by this time we’ve done some research on MaxJet, and discovered that they only own three airplanes. Because of this they’ve had some problems meeting schedules, and had in fact cancelled several (some would say “many”) flights in the past few weeks. But they also had a partial solution, which some of the bloggers we had read were a bit lukewarm in their reviews of. And in fact, although we expected the agent to continue with, “so we’ve had to cancel the flight,” instead he said, “so we’ve leased an aircraft from another company. We think you’ll like it, it’s the Dallas Mavericks‘ team plane.” I leaned back to Susie and gave her this bit of news, and she told me how she had heard of people getting the Mavericks’ plane and the reports weren’t great. I mentioned this to the agent, and he seemed surprised. “It’s nicer than our planes, I think,” he said. Then he explained that since the plane was configured differently from their regular planes, we weren’t able to get the seats we had pre-selected. “FAA requires us to put families together, so we put you in the ‘club’ seats. That’s two seats facing two other seats, with a table in the middle.” Sounds good to me.
So, as he’s checking in our bags, the gate manager comes over, and says, “We’re really sorry for the inconvenience of you not having the seats you selected, so to compensate you for that, and for the uncomfortable nature of seats that face backward, we’re going to give you a $500 travel credit. Each.” Great! We proceed to the lounge; as “business class” passengers, we were entitled to use the NorthWest Airlines lounge… free drinks, snacks, open bar… not as nice as Virgin’s Clubhouse, but better than the standard uncomfortable gate-area seating. When the flight was called for boarding, we got on, and found our seats. Now, I can’t really describe this as well as these few pictures can, so here’s the View Forward from my seat, here’s the view aft. Here’s Lily watching a movie (look at how massive her seat is!) and here’s me helping David with his homework. And these are the seats that the VP of Customer Service refers to as “uncomfortable seating” in his email to me with the instructions on using our $500 travel credits. Uncomfortable? I guess my standards aren’t high enough…
But the real question that remains to me now is… remember the first part of our trip, where the flight was cancelled? Remember the 600 Euros each we were supposed to get, “for our trouble,” under EU laws? Yeah… what do you think?Should I write to them and ask for what I’m entitled to by law, or should I let it go and call it good? Comments welcome!

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