Trip dates: SEA-MSP 4/21, MSP-SEA 5/3 (argh!)
This trip started off on a strange note. I usually fly this route on NW, since I am a CO OnePass member, and want the elite miles. However, a couple of months ago I had a strange turtle-related emergency that required a last minute booking. Needless to say, the NW fare was not the best one available for a one-day turnaround flight, so I booked Sun Country, as they were far and away the best option, even for the 1-stop fares.
After some phone calls, I managed to get some people who could take care of the turtle issues, and no longer needed the flight. So I called the customer service line, got a number that I could use to rebook later, and kept an eye on dates for my next trip. (My girlfriend lives near MSP, so this is a common trip.)
A few weeks ago, the next opportunity arrived, and I called their customer service line, asked for the dates I was interested in, and got everything lined up. This is where my aggravation began. The new airfare was about $60 less than I had paid originally, and there was a $50 change fee associated. I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll just use that for the change fee, eat the $10 loss, and call it a convenience fee for their great ticketing prices and policies.” Wrong! The change fee is a separate fee, and you have to pay it, regardless of any credits.
So I was going to have to pay $50, and lose $60. This was even more unacceptable to me, so I talked to the nice customer service lady I was working with (who was first-rate, one of the nicest phone service people I have ever worked with) and arranged to get a 1st class upgrade, which is a flat fee on Sun Country. (A nice feature, I approve.) So I ended up having to spend another $90 more than I already had, just so I wouldn’t lose $60 for no return. I asked twice if the flight times were identical to the flights I had originally on both legs, and it was confirmed. I then asked for an e-mail copy of the new itinerary, and was told it was no problem.
The day of my departing flight comes, and I still have no copy of my itinerary. I call the customer service line again, ask once more for a copy, and arrange my seating arrangements for the flight out. I head to SEA a couple of hours early, enjoy the gorgeous views in the new A terminal, have a drink, and board the flight early.
The plane is a brand spanking new 737-800, delivered only the week before according to the gate worker handling the boarding announcements. I am inclined to believe it, since the first class seats are immaculate to the point of not even having a crease, and that fresh new leather scent is still strong in the air. The FA working the cabin is nice and helpful, with a drink before departure, and attentive throughout the flight.
The food for the flight is chicken with rice and veggies, a limpish mixed greens salad, and a cookie. It was far from impressive. I’d say it’s in the same league as a Y-class meals that CO serves, and that’s just nothing to be proud of in a First Class cabin. It wasn’t horrible, just not special in any way. The drinks were always flowing though, and there were hot towels before we landed.
The flight itself was pleasantly uneventful. Takeoff was slightly delayed, in part I think due to the sheer volume of US Postal mail in the forward hold. They filled up almost 3 entire luggage carts with mail while I sat in my seat, and it took quite some time! We got some nice views of the Museum of Flight taking off to the north, with a gorgeous look down on the Concorde and friends. I saw a 777 outside of BFI, but I couldn’t tell if it was the 772LR or not, and I have no way to verify. Oh well. We also got the standard gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascades. Touchdown in MSP happened quickly thanks to the 777 book I was engrossed in, and my bag was the first onto the carousel. Awesome!
This is where the trip really starts to turn sour. After a week of holiday, I am ready to head home. (I was there to celebrate Passover with my gf.) Since I can’t really use electronics until the last two days of the holiday are over, I’m cut off from the real world from Friday night until Sunday night after ~10:30pm or so.
I hop online and check the status of my flight for the next day, and see if I can do an e-checkin or not. (Sun Country is strange in that they only allow it on certain legs, and I don’t ever remember which.) I get to the website, and it says the flight is fine, but it’s for 7:15am. This isn’t what I was led to believe based on my multiple confirmations on the phone. I check Tuesday, and it’s at the time I expect.
Now I’m confused. I know that I had to shuffle the days I was taking around, but I could have SWORN I asked for and confirmed a 2:20pm departure on Monday…but that flight doesn’t exist? I decide to check my e-mail and look for the itinerary I have now been promised on two separate occasions. It’s not there. Aggravated once more, I go to their website, grab the customer service number, and call in. They’re closed. No emergency number, no nothing. I can’t talk to a live person until 6am the next morning.
Now I’m just short of livid. (At least, for my standards. I’m pretty mellow.) I know that there’s even odds I am either on the Monday flight, which is in just a few hours, or the Tuesday flight, which means I screwed up in asking for time off work, since I received two conflicting pieces of information, and NO ITINERARY.
I now have to decide, do I get up at 5:50am, call at 6am, find out for sure, and rush to the airport and possibly miss the flight anyway? Get up at 5:15, head right to the airport, and possibly find out I didn’t have to be there, and ruin myself for the Monday, or take the chance on it being Tuesday? I ended up going with the 3rd option, knowing there was a good chance I was going to be screwed, but not caring since I was exhausted and angry.
I get up, call in, and sure enough, I was on the Monday flight. I ask the rep I am working with why I never received the itinerary I was promised on two occasions, and she replies, quite simply: “I don’t know why they promised you that. There’s no way to e-mail it to you in the system. We can’t do that unless you book through the website.” I am also told I can go on standby Tuesday, or confirm a ticket for another $50. She was nice enough to admit that the plane looked pretty empty, so there were very good odds of me getting on. I decide not to cough up the $50.
Tuesday I head to the airport at 12:20 to make sure I get everything straightened out. I head straight to the first agent available, and it’s a trainee. I explain the situation, he gets a supervisor, and after 15 excruciating minutes, I have a ticket on the flight. (No standby, so that was nice.) Since I now have a ticket, I ask about upgrades. I’m not going to hold a grudge at my own expense after all. The day-of upgrade was a reasonable flight, so I went with it. I now have a ticket, and head in.
Return flight is on the same 738 as the flight out. Still love that leather smell, too. Dinner is the same as before, except with some kind of lime beef dish, and cheesecake bar instead of cookie. First class is empty, so there’s plenty of attention and drinks once more. Thoroughly enjoyable experience once more. Bag is very early of the plane once again, and I am home not long thereafter.
Summary: It’s a shame, since I thought the equipment and airport service was truly first class, but I am now fairly certain I am going to avoid SY from here out unless I end up in the same “Desperate for a LOW fare” situation again. The lack of flexibility they showed in providing documentation, coupled with the laughable customer service hours means I don’t feel like I can trust them to provide for my needs in a trustworthy fashion on a consistent basis. I realize that I had my own shortcomings here, in not being more meticulous about ensuring everything was as it should be, but I still find it unacceptable that they couldn’t provide the kind of services that even LCC’s manage to pull off with ease.