A few shockers in my September mailbox

By | September 15th, 2013


It took the better part of this weekend, but it looks like I’ve sorted through my September mailbag. And I found a few surprises.

For those of you just tuning in, one of my email addresses experienced a total malfunction, holding more than 10,000 messages in a queue since January. I explain everything in this post.

Of course, there are numerous other ways of reaching me — social media, my primary gmail address, elliottc@gmail.com, or phone. But often, people assume a single email always gets to me. Sadly, technology can sometimes let you down.

And at the risk of repeating myself, I feel just awful about that.

Among the surprises:

• A crush of complaints about the usual suspects, most notably airlines. That’s surprising, because I thought airlines were getting their act together when the gripes slowed to a trickle this summer. Alas, it was just the email glitch. Overall, I’m left with the impression that the domestic airline industry is doing whatever it wants when it comes to customer service, and only cares about you if you carry a platinum card.

• An unprecedented number of pitches from companies with new travel products that are completely unrelated to what I cover. These businesses, in a misguided effort to reach every journalist in the world who might want to write about their new amenity kit or lie-flat seat, bombard me with endless press releases. I find the magnitude of this spam to be shocking. Shouldn’t technology allow corporate America to target its pitches better?

• An email from one high-level travel industry employee suggesting there was absolutely no value in working with me to resolve cases, that many of his colleagues felt the same way, and that some simply refused to take my calls. That caught me off guard because no one has ever been so frank in expressing their frustrations with me. I think we came to an understanding after a lengthy private discussion, but I didn’t bother to make an argument that working with me has value. The truth of the matter — that I provide an essential service — is obvious. (By the way, I think we both share a common goal: that one day, the travel industry won’t need an ombudsman. Until then, I’m here to serve.)

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• And then there’s the hate mail. They’re a collection of angry, whiny notes from airline insiders, frequent flier cult members and other know-it-alls. I’m a little surprised by how shrill and illogical most of these missives are.

Why are they upset? Oh, my well-reasoned opposition to the US Airways – American Airlines merger on the grounds that it has zero consumer benefits, for starters. My highly effective takedown of the loyalty programs they worship also vexes them. Mostly, it’s the idea that there’s someone out there who can help a garden-variety, non-elite traveler get to the front of the line that irks them. How dare I?

Where are the travel industry’s thought leaders? Do they even exist?

I’m about to start on the August emails. I’ll have another report soon.

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