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Clueless Airline Employees  
User currently offlinePlanenutz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2371 times:

I'm wondering if anybody has ever had an experience similar to mine.

Three weeks ago I flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Cape Town. The cheapest fare was with Virgin Atlantic, Flt. 20 to LHR then Flt. 620 to CPT with a 7 hour layover at Heathrow (which I didn't mind because of the great spotting opportunities).

I presented at the Virgin Atlantic check-in counter at SFO's new International Terminal 2 1/2 hours before departure. I approached the next available agent and handed over my passport and tickets. She pulled them out of the envelope and proceeded to stare at them blankly for about 5 minutes, flipping back and forth from ticket coupon to ticket coupon.

She then asked if I was going on to Cape Town with Virgin Atlantic, this when my onward ticket to CPT clearly indicated a VS flight number. I said "yes" and she then told me that she didn't even know that Virgin flew to Capr Town! She had to look up the airport code, even after I told her it was "CPT".

She then had to look up on the computer whether or not a visa was required for travel there. When she couldn't find the information in the computer she had to call over to another employee to find out. I assured her that one wasn't required, but she didn't want to believe me, and subsequently spent another 5 minutes moving from agent to agent trying to find out.

Once she had the airport code and visa requirements squared away she began checking me in, which for some reason took forever. The printed out two boarding passes, one for the SFO-LHR segment and then another for LHR-CPT, however, she told me that she was unsure whether or not I was really checked in all the way through to CPT, and to check-in anyway once I reached LHR. I told her that it appeared that I was checked all the way though, but she insisted that I make sure once a reached London. I thought this to be truly bizarre.

When I asked her what made her think that I wasn't through checked, she said that there was no gate assignment printed on the boarding pass. I told her that gate assignments aren't determined this far in advance at LHR, but she said I should check in again "just to be on the safe side". Needless to say I became quite concerned that my baggage wouldn't be checked through to CPT, but the agent told me that it was, and produced baggage tags that indicated that they were indeed going all the way to Cape Town.

Virgin Atlanic hires its own staff at SFO, and there is no handling agent. It seems that their training would include such items as the cities the airline serves, and how to check people in through to their final destination.

Once I got to LHR I exited customs and went straight to the VS customer service counter in Zone A departures. The agent there told me that I was checked through to Cape Town, and that I wouldn't have to wait in the monstrous line in front of the VS check-in counters. When I told her of my experience with her colleague at SFO, she told me that staff there are very used to only dealing with passengers who are flying point to point to LHR and no further, and that they just aren't used to checking passengers onto connectring flights.

Still, this didn't prevent me from emailing VS to complain.

61 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineDC-9CAPT From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2062 times:

You will get over this.

User currently offlineWpr8e From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2039 times:

And your point is?

User currently offlineJaspike From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2008, 1 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2028 times:

Virgin are good. I went with them to Japan from England. She probably checked your tickets etc. for safety reasons or something.

 Big thumbs up

User currently offlineTravatl From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 2177 posts, RR: 6
Reply 4, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 2006 times:

As an airline employee myself, I totally understand. With the economy as good as it's been, and airline's not paying competitive introductory wages for their ground crews, it has been very disheartening to see what is working at the counters and gates these days. Don't get me wrong, the majority of airline ground staff are indeed competent, efficient, and professional, but these folks hired in the last few years who are just in it for a paycheck are really frustrating.

I miss the days when it meant something to work for an airline. Now, it's just mass-transit.



User currently offlineRjnut From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 1561 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1982 times:

I know the feeling... I have had similar experiences, even with senior agents with major US carriers, especially if entails anything out of the ordinary...One lady at Delta took 25 minutes to issue a free ticket , when i presented a cerificate (that only DL can Issue to you in person at the airport which is 30miles from town in KC)..she even started out by saying she didn't have time and could i come back some other time..Yeah , right!

The only airline people that can always be helpful and never seem to be "stumped" are those at Southwest,,because they dont complicate their product!!

User currently offlineBoeing757/767 From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 2286 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 1955 times:

A lot of it, quite frankly, is a lack of geographical awareness among Americans. Add to that a low-paid job and you get a lot of "Duh!"

I mean, there are people here in the U.S. that think New Mexico is in Mexico or that Toronto is in the U.S.

Free-thinking, left-leaning secularist
User currently offlineDeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 9027 posts, RR: 11
Reply 7, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 1946 times:

Right, Americans don't really know much geography. I have also presented a boarding pass to board Delta when it was Medallion boarding time, but the agent claimed it wasn't on the ticket (it was).


User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 1931 times:

Having worked for two airlines, I've seen the incompetence first hand, not only when working, but also when flying non-rev. I've been booked on the wrong day for a flight by a gate agent, was given the run around about using my flight pass (I hadn't gotten my flight card yet), and when I was bumped, was told that I would have to wait until the next morning to fly out. The customer service rep wouldn't even put me on a flight that would get me closer to home, even though there were empty seats on that flight. Most frontline employees, gates agents, ticketing agents, customer service agents are having to do the job of several people alone, because many airlines cannot keep workers because they do not pay them enough to keep them there for longer than a few months. Many of the gate agents I dealt with had no clue about what was going on at ramp level. I've had them come up to me and ask for a certain bag (or if a certain bag was on board) telling me that it was a black bag (aren't they all!!). I've had them ask me where the crew was (what am I, a crew resource manager?), or do you know where the catering crew is? And I've been asked by the baggage agents at the terminal is the bags for a certain flight had gone landside, when I was in the transfer point on the other end of the concourse. What it simply boils down to is a lack of training, communication, and cooperation. Many customer service agents have no clue as to what goes on at the ramp level. They know nothing about having to load 100 bags with only one person, they have no clue on how to do a quick turn, they've never pushbacked or powerbacked an airplane, and lastly, they complain about having to be out in the weather for more than 5 minutes. This describes many, but not all customer service agents.

User currently offlineTan Flyr From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 1983 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 1888 times:

Actually, this is a great thread. What Planenutz experienced is endemic to the entire US economy. Several factors already listed by others contibute to the "I don't know,so I don't give a s*** attitude.( yes we should do a better job of teaching geography, but i gues it doesn't pass the touchy-feely test of the NEA)

For several years the robust economy meant anyone could get a job anywhere. No commitment on some folks' part to a job.The recession will cure that, believe me. Maybe some employers will take the opportunity to weed out the dumb & dumber.

Srbmod covered alot of this from his front-line perspective. It's "Walmartization" of America.

User currently offlineSJC>SFO From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (15 years 1 month 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 1866 times:

This is kind of strange. Though I might expect it from a short term working domestic agent (really no offense to ANY gate agents here, but I think you'll know what I mean) I have had 2 horrible experiences at the (old) intl terminal with United. United assigns each flight certain lines that you have to go in to, and on my trip to LHR last summer even though I got there well ahead of the flight, I had to wait in line for a very long time before finally getting to a completely incompetent agent who was supposed to have been being trained at the time, but her supervisor wasn't there so she was completely lost when I asked about a simple change of seating assignments, so I finally gave up on that and nicely asked for the boarding passes. She directed to walk down the international concourse and find my gate on the screens. ONE PROBLEM. My flight wasn't leaving from the international terminal...... UAs 777s do CDG and LHR depart from a shared (AA/UA) gate at the North Terminal.... yeah so that added just a BIT of a walk for me. I would think the agents would at least know where the gates are. The other was a problem with a flight to Toronto but I don't think anyone got to this point in my post so I'll skip it today.

User currently offlineA330_DTW From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 371 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1829 times:

Even as an airline employee, I agree with Planenutz. There is no excuse for this type of incompetence from an airline that flies only TO or FROM one city (LON).

There are only four cities beyone LON that someone would be flying to if they were leaving out of SFO--CPT, JNB, ATH or DEL. Sure they fly to HKG, SHA and NRT. And that would only be three more city codes to learn! (But who from SFO would fly through London to get to Asia?!)

The other issue, spending 25 minutes on entry requirements to South Africa, is unbelievable! A few keystrokes in Timatic and the information is readily available. Even if you have to use Timatic Help, it's just a matter of filling in a few blanks to find visa requirements!

For an airline that prides itself on customer service they sure do need to improve their training for ground services employees!

User currently offlineZoomer From Netherlands, joined Dec 2000, 221 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1813 times:

I've had numerous experiences with inexperienced ground staff, not only in the States but here in Europe too. It's down to poor salaries, rapid staff turnover, seasonal staff requirements, poor training, poor resources etc. etc. The frustrating thing is that when you try and help them (I've been in the business 32 years) they want to insist that they know better than you (when in fact they seem to know very little). I have often witnessed unfamiliar pax getting bum info from agents. By the way, this problem isn't restricted to the airline business. It's the same with all transport companies and many other industries too.

User currently offlineWpr8e From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1814 times:

Did you ever consider it her first week? Maybe her first day? It is not that big a deal. Please stop with generalizations about American's geographic incompetence. Sometimes they have to learn new entries and sometimes they may not know that American's don't need visas to SA. If she put him on the plane and he did in fact need a visa it would have been her ass on the line, since VS would have to fly her back at their cost.

Let's give her the benefit of the doubt. Did he miss the flight, lose his bags, misconnect, get the wrong seat, end up in TYO? No. So who cares?

User currently offlineSevenair From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2001, 1728 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 1781 times:

Staff at Teesside are thick as two short planks! After having to sufffer them for 12 hours i have came to the conclusion that being thick is a pre-requisite for working at this airport. I completely confused the catering staff by asking for peas with my sausage and chips instead of beans! They just couldnt understand what to do, with the price, even though i had a delay voucher with no change given, so a matter of a few pence shouldnt have mattered! I was at the airport 4 hours before anything resembling a plane came in-not mine unfortunately- that ame 8 hours later.

User currently offlinePlanenutz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 1768 times:

I guess at US$1,500 per ticket, I care.

Interestingly enough, when I checked in at CPT for the return flight, the contracted ground handling agent who worked for Swissport was able to check me in through to SFO without any problems or hindrances whatsoever. I was at the counter and heading to the gate after no more than 10 minutes with both boarding passes (CPT-LHR, LHR-SFO).

I think this opposit experience might illustrate to a certain extent most Americans lack of geographical knowledge (?).

User currently offlineWpr8e From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 1768 times:

I still don't get it. So it took you a few extra minutes to check in, what is the big deal. Virgin does not carry that many connecting pax across London so maybe it is new for them.

Well your experience certainly does give a concrete example of why Americans are stupid. Thanks for your insight. Your airline check-in example is just the kind of thing you should post on the www.whitehouse.gov website.

As one of my fellow American's, I hope you had a nice trip to South America.

User currently offlineZoomer From Netherlands, joined Dec 2000, 221 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 1722 times:

Well, there you go, an American who thinks JNB is in South america!!! Big grin

User currently offlineVirginA340 From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 15 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 1715 times:

I had the same problem with Kuwait Airways at JFK when I was traveling to DEL via LHR and Kuwait city at $1800 USD per ticket (3 tickets) You bet I do care. Simial instances happend to my dad when he flew Britsh Airways and UAL on the same route minus Kuwait City.

User currently offlineHa2vegas From United States of America, joined Apr 2001, 148 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 4 hours ago) and read 1667 times:

As a Station GM for a US flagged carrier, my concern wouldn't be whether the agent knew ALL the ins and outs. As was stated maybe it was her first flight of her first day. I can excuse some temporary ignorance of the restrictions in place and of the timatic entries needed to find them.
Was she cordial, was she attentive to your needs, i.e. eye contact, pleasant attitude while explaining why she was having difficulty, reassuring you that she would handle those needs... these should be the earmarks of an aviation customer service professional.
Lacking theses characterisitcs, then yeah there are some issues here. If present, then yeah cut the agent a break and check out the service the next time you fly to Southhampton. Big grin

User currently offlineSJC>SFO From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (15 years 1 month 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 1657 times:

lol JNB in south america...... sweet jewsus....

User currently offlineExcelsior767 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (15 years 1 month 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 1635 times:

Okay, first of all...I think Wpr8e was joking when he said JNB was in South America. He was purposely confusing South Africa with South America like a "stupid American." So, duh to all the rest of you who missed the wit of this "stupid american." As for this whole issue, the airline I work for does not make it easy to exchange tickets, sell tickets in exchange for coupons, etc. It's actually a fairly complicated process and even when you think you've given the computer all the correct information, sometimes it spits it back at you as if you've insulted its mother. I have always said, "Isn't there an easier way to do this?" But there isn't at this point and its very frustrating for agents when the computer will not cooperate and they have a passenger in front of them. As for this agent telling you to check in again in London, I don't see why you are complaining about that. She realized that she might not have been able to check you in all the way through, and rather than make you wait even more at SFO she sent you on your way, telling you to check, just to make sure. She could have said, "Yeah, yeah...you're fine...all checked-in...NEXT!", and then not really checked you in, and then you would have had a problem when you tried to board in London. She was just looking out for you. Its because agents have to deal with people like you who whine about the littlest things that gives the industry a bad name. Give me a break!

User currently offlineA330_DTW From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 371 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (15 years 1 month 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 1629 times:

Okay, I don't think Wp8re was joking when he wrote, "South America". I think he wrote that having only seen the letters "SA" in the previous post and thinking that the author meant South America.

I guess the person who wrote "SA" and meant South Africa has no clue about geography since "ZA" is the two-letter country code for South Africa.

As for the generalizations that Americans know nothing about geography based on the fact that the VS check-in agent did not know the city code for Capetown, that is purely ridiculous. Or the fact that she did not know whether a U.S. citizen needs a visa for travel to South Africa or not.

This has nothing to do with geography. It boils down to lack of training on Virgin's part; she did not know that her company flies to CPT, nor did she know how to access information regarding document requirements.

For a purely international carrier, her lack of knowledge is unacceptable.

User currently offlineWpr8e From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (15 years 1 month 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 1616 times:

Sense it appears that some people have lost their sense of humor on this Board I can confim that I did put South America in jest. As a matter of fact I have been to South Africa and South America and I can confirm to all my fellow stupid Americans that they are indeed different places.

So geographically imparied people everywhere, UNITE. Stand up for your inability to tell the difference between LGW and LGA. Shun those that say you can't distinguish between a rupee and a rupiah. Bet most of you can tell me what the capitol of our own country is? Who cares? Be proud. We rule the world.

Mountain out of a molehill

User currently offlinePlanenutz From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (15 years 1 month 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 1625 times:

As Afrikaans is not my first language (or my second or third for that matter), my English reference to South Africa as "SA" would seem acceptable enough.

Or, perhaps from now on, we should refer to the Republic of South Africa as "Zuid Afrika"? I'm sure it will make the multitudes of monolingual Afrikaanse speakers who use this discussion board quite comfortable.

25 Post contains images Ziffle : Generalisations are not good... But alot of people from the states are blissfully ignorant of alot of things! Heck on the television the other night t
26 Post contains images Zoomer : Now I'm confused. Is Wpr8e joking when he says capitol or can't Americans spell either?
27 Wpr8e : Actually that was a spelling mistake. Capitol=the actual building Capital=the city Is that ignorance or just bad spelling?
28 N509JB : well, of course not a lot of people fly SFO-CPT. she was probably not used to it. and by yer story, it seems like she was double checking to make sure
29 Planenutz : Again, all I'm saying is that for US$1,500 a ticket, I don't think I shouldn't be kept waiting at a check-in counter for 25 min. Incidently, VS respon
30 CactusA319 : Well sir, that's why you arrive to the airport 1-2 hours in advance. Anyway $1,500 to go from SFO to CPT doesn't seem that bad. Like someone mentione
31 Ben88 : Thanks cactus and good point btw. We all know passengers leave their brain's at the door when they enter the airport. So the agent didn't know that VS
32 Expratt : Planenutz, I think you were excessively harsh about the Virgin Atlantic CSA that checked you in for SFO-LHR-CPT. Should she have known that VS flew fr
33 Wpr8e : If you had paid $300 would you of put up with it?
34 Ha2vegas : I don't know, $1500 is what...16 cents a mile? Sounds like a bargain.
35 SJC>SFO : ok ok ok I admit it I used to the LGW was Laguardia. Really I'm not that bad with geography though. If you give me a map of Africa I can locate every
36 A330_DTW : Planenutz, I was making fun of you, buddy! But I guess my sarcasm went over your head! (Talk about STUPID AMERICANS!) You generalized that because the
37 Transat1011 : Hi: I am an passenger agent in Montreal, and well, although I am not very impressed with the SFO agent, I do sympathize with her. I mean, it may happe
38 Post contains images N509JB : Damn, a whole 25 minutes huh? You could have almost watched an episode of "Who’s Line is it Anyway". Life sucks. Screw those people you see in t
39 N509JB : i guess its 5000 miles...i was giving you the benifit if the doubt....bring a few more barf bags! N509JB
40 KRP : Was she new at her job? Maybe - but does the passenger have to bear the consequences of that? NO WAY. Basic 3-letter code knowledge surely that should
41 Lewis : It is not completely her fault, mostly the fault of VS. If those were her first days at work, shouldn't there always be someone else there to help her
42 Planenutz : Wow. I guess I really touched a nerve with some users! In any event, I went though my company credit card statements and came up with the following: F
43 N509JB : there are bigger problems in the aviation industry that the "traveling public" needs to look out for. i dont need you sticking up for me. BTW ive neve
44 A330_DTW : Only feedback like that from Planenutz will get VS to spend a little more time training their agents on the destinations they serve, how to check docu
45 N509JB : its debatable on wether she needed more training...maybe planenutz needs paitence. N509JB
46 Alpha 1 : You wrote VS a LETTER-because you had to wait in line a few minutes?? Good God Almighty! I'm rolling on the floor over this one! You're killing me! An
47 Alpha 1 : Unfortunately, Planenutz and his defenders are one of the reasons that airline travel is such a pain for everyone this day and age. They expect to be
48 AA767400 : dude! you just wanted the miles! and you got her in trouble, becuase you are a jerk! and big freaking deal, she was making sure you would have your ba
49 Planenutz : I'm a very happy man. I fly all over the world on many airlines, from Virgin Atlantic to Kenya Airways, to Aeroflot, and get paid for it. This Tuesday
50 Alpha 1 : And, Mr. Nutz, would that make you feel like a big, testosterone-filled man to have gotten someone fired over your trivial idiocy? What's even more br
51 Planenutz : Whoa! Calm down. You would yhink that for as many emails I send to airlines complimenting them on their services, when, on the odd ocassion, I'm disat
52 Alpha 1 : Just as I suspected-someone who is extremely full of himself. I think you would get a kick out of seeing if you could get someone fired.
53 N509JB : hang on now.... as you know i have been with this post from the begining, and up untill this point, i have respectfully disagreed with you, but yer co
54 Planenutz : I swear. No one can take a joke anymore.
55 Post contains images FLY777UAL : Nutz... If you fly those routes for your company, then why would you care what price the fare was?! Maybe your company should sign a contract with Vir
56 OverseasBHX : Dear all, Peace, please! I really think this has gone a bit out of hand! I don't sense Planenutz's original comment was all that agressive or selfish.
57 N509JB : i dunno...i can joke with the best of them. but you've already proven that you can lighten up. like it or not 25 mins to check in for a intl flight is
58 Planenutz : Correction: 14 round trips over 16 months if you read my post correctly. Additionally, even though my company covers travel expenses, what it spends i
59 DCA-ROCguy : I've encountered unhelpful airline employees more often than clueless ones. The worst experience I had was with American and American Eagle at LaGuard
60 OverseasBHX : Although I've never been as inconvenienced as some of you have by 'clueless' or 'funny' staff, I've encountered a couple of cases that make one wonder
61 Ha2vegas : All kidding and flaming aside, how was the May 1 check in process? Same, better, worse? Same or different agent?
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