Friday, October 27, 2006

Midwest Airlines - A study in how to blow a sale

UPDATE: I heard from them today. They apologized and I have reservations for the time I wanted at the promo code price.

Below is a letter I sent to Midwest Airlines. I needed to fly to Orlando over Thanksgiving on short notice and wanted to fly them. Long story short, website acts screwy, first CSR helpful but screws up, second CSR prevents billing but can't do anything else, and then third CSR acts like a bitch in my opinion. I was willing to forgive the mistakes up until the last CSR. Way to capitalize on brand loyalty. Best care in the air, indeed.

I want to make you aware of how you lost a sale today. A few weeks ago I received the "Ever feel like you just need a cookie?" card in the mail with the offer for the $175 round-trip fare to any Midwest destination. I thought this was a very nice gesture but since I had no plans to fly anywhere before it expired at the end of the year, I set it aside just in case the need arised. Yesterday (10/25/2006) my sister and I determined that I really should come to Orlando for my dad's birthday. I originally planned to do something separate with him instead of going to Orlando because of the time and price involved but also because they were just planning on going to Disney and the Holy Land Experience. My sister in the meantime has arraigned for him to take part in a veteran's flag lowering ceremony at Disney but also researched his unit in Vietnam and found a bunch of information including contact addresses and email addresses, all of which she planned to give as a scrapbook for his birthday. So now his birthday is a big event and I should go which means I need to book a flight. Another complication, his birthday is the day after Thanksgiving, which as the last CSR I dealt with repeatedly emphasized to me is a very busy travel time.

So understanding the task before me, I endeavored to find an affordable flight. That's when I remembered I had the $175 offer. I checked all the terms and conditions looking for that blackout dates small print we all expect but there was none. So it is good for any date. I did note term #3 stating the itineraries must be booked in "R" class and seats are limited and may not be available on all flights. I believe this is a way of not having to explicitly list blackout dates but I thought I would try anyway. I logged onto your website and tried booking the flight using the promo code. I tried various itineraries and several times the web page indicated the promo code would apply but when I clicked through it would then say the promo code did not apply. After many, many attempts at finding an itinerary that triggered the first web page to say the promo code did apply, I decided to call your customer service number.

So I placed my first call at 10:53PM. The CSR worked with me and scheduled me on two flights in the time window I wanted and I was able to use my promo code. She gave me the confirmation code [--redacted--] and gave me instructions on how to send in the card with my promo code. At 11:24PM she called me back to explain that she had applied the code wrong and that she could ticket me right away at the quoted price and I did not have to mail the card back. I gave her the go ahead to bill my credit card.

I waited a little while and again went to website to verify everything. I found the reservation but there was an issue. Instead of a round-trip flight from Milwaukee to Orlando and back to Milwaukee, she had booked me on two flights out of Milwaukee to Orlando, not round-trip, two separate one ways from the same location. Obviously this wouldn't work so at 12:32AM this morning (10/26/2006) I called your customer service again and spoke with another CSR and explained the issue. She told me she would take the credit card off so it wouldn't be billed and leave the reservation in the system but I needed to call back after 6AM to speak with a lead because only they have the authorization to get me on the flight I want. No problem, if they can resolve this I will call back.

Today at 10:26AM I called back and explained to the CSR what happened and that I was told to talk to a lead. She said she needed to read what the others had left as notes. She said to me "You are trying to use a welcome back promo and fly at Thanksgiving!?! Most of the welcome back promos are scheduled months in advance." I asked to speak to a lead. She told me there was nothing a lead could do because I was trying to travel around Thanksgiving. I asked what flights were available that I might be able to use this code with and she told me the earliest she had was Tuesday the 28th because I was trying to travel around Thanksgiving. I asked what was available without the code but what she quoted was significantly more. But at that point it didn't really matter, I had decided that I wasn't going to purchase a ticket from her. I declined the reservation completely and ended the call.

Here's why you lost my sale. I understand I'm trying to fly at a busy time but that's when I need to fly, I have no choice. I need to be there for a specific event. Someone constantly insinuating I'm being stupid for trying to travel at Thanksgiving on a promo code every other sentence isn't going to convince me to book another time with your airline. I had a promo code without stated blackout dates and I tried to use it. I understood that I may not be able to but the value would be worth the effort. In fact, I went to bed thinking I was able to use it after talking to two other CSR's so I don't think I was all that crazy for calling today. Also, while what the last CSR said about the promos being scheduled months in advance could be true, according to the terms and conditions I have roughly a three month window to use this promo code. The first two CSR's made no mention I was trying to fly Thanksgiving, they just tried to assist me as best they could. The third one couldn't stop talking about it. The phone service she provided is why you lost the sale.

A final note. I follow a website call The Consumerist ( It's a site that deals with CSR experiences, outstanding companies, service complaints, and other general consumer advocacy issues. In the past I had mentioned your airline as a good airline to deal with. However I feel I need to share this experience with them as well so I will be forwarding a copy of this email to them as well. The editors there may or may not post this and if they do it's probably going to have a headline like "Best care in the air...but not over the phone" or somesuch thing. That's the kind of site they are. Snarky. Not meant as a threat, just letting you know ahead of time so you're not surprised.

I have not heard anything from them.

UPDATE: I heard from them today. They apologized and I have reservations for the time I wanted at the promo code price.


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