I recently nonreved on America West, and had an opportunity to see the best and worst of the carrier. On the 17th of February, I took HP from ATL to PHX on one of the new A319s. The agents in ATL were professional, courteous, and gave me a comp upgrade. Once on board, the cabin was immaculate, the service superb, and the cabin crew incredibly friendly - and we landed 15 min early. The connecting HPX flt to FMN was a brand new DHC8, with all leather interior, first class snacks, and again we were on time.
Returning, I found HPX again to be a great ride, a nice aircraft, a friendly staff (ground, cabin, and flight) and another on time arrival.
HOWEVER, my great experience with AmWest ended in PHX. Because I started later in the day, I was unfortunately going to have to return to ATL thru LAS. No problem, plenty of PHX-LAS flts to catch. I went to the first, and as I walked into the gate area, the agent was announcing "If your trying to go standby, forget it....try anther Vegas flt".
I took heed and proceeded to the gate of another LAS flight scheduled to depart 20 min later. I arrived at the gate, and explained I was a nonrev with another carrier, and was listed for a later flight, but wanted to try my luck with this one. The agent, never looked up, never acknowledged, simply said, "I.D." then "we'll let ya know". I wasn't offended, I've been nonreving for years, and understand the frustrations of the gate agent well. I then slinked off to an anonymous "nonrev corner" to await my fate.
They begin boarding the oversold A320 approx 12 min prior to departure with an announcement from a male agent (about 20 years old with his his tie off, shirt tail out, and sleeves rolled up to his elbows) that stated "folks this is flight 218 to Vegas, now gonna preboard, First Class and Gold Level Flight Fund members only, let's go!" (The 'let's go' was not said humorously, but rather sounded very irritated). This followed shortly by..."everyone stay in your seats, unless your rows 23 and higher, let's go". And pretty much the same announcement continued throughout the boarding process, always a "let's go" and continually referring to the city as "Vegas"...apparently Las, is no longer used by the Phoenix ground personnel. His last announcement was "folks, this is it, no more boarding after this final call...the door's gonna be shut." Literally, word for word.
I was preparing to take my chances on another "Vegas" flight, when I heard my name and about 5 others called and told to board immediately. It was about 10 min past departure time, so I quickly approached the podium, where the 20 year old snapped, "are you going or not". I nodded I was. Although, my name had not been called previously, I apologized and hurried down the jetbridge.
As I reached the aircraft, I noticed the male flight attendant working up front (also with tie undone) seemed frustrated by the late arriving passengers (but hey, when you board a 150 seat aircraft 12 min prior to departure, what do you expect?) so I quickly, and nicely, rattled off I was nonrev and would check my bag if I needed to sense the flight was full. With no spoken words, he literally, threw the bag tag at me....I subsequently filled out my own tag, and took my bag to the stairs on the jetbridge. Hey, no prob, free ride, right?
I then boarded the aircraft, grabbed the first middle seat (noticing all the empty overhead bins screaming for my luggage), and sat. We continued to sit at the gate for about 20 minutes, with a F/A continually annoucing...."ladies and gentlemen, it is past our departure time.....please sit down so we can leave". As a F/A myself, I understand the frustrations of a hectic boarding, but as far as I could tell....everybody was sitting and ready to go. Mr. Happy, the F/A forward then made the door closure announcement (not the typical, " Ladies and Gentlement, this is America West flt 218 now departing for Las Vegas - welcome aboard. Flight attendants, prepare your doors for departure and cross check." but simply a train conductoresque "218 to Vegas".
We finally departed, with the cabin crew doing so almost begrudgingly....I was so embarassed for the airline and it's employees over what I had experienced in the last hour, I thought for a moment, I was back on an old ValuJet flight.
During the wait, to depart, many passengers around me were saying how this was "standard America West....every time". And on the concourse, it seemed to be the norm at many of the gates as well....people and agents, frustrated and unhappy...although, at the time, there didn't appear to be lengthy delays. Just another day at large carriers hub operation.
Beggars cannot be choosers, of course, and I was riding for free on an industry pass, so I'm not writing to complain about America West....but simply to remind my colleagues that as an industry, our level of professionalism is sliding rapidly...and I see it at all carriers, including my own. Although the passengers, management, and the job can be INCREDIBLY frustrating, we owe it to the pride in our profession, to at least go through the motions of a JOB WELL DONE.