Want better airline service? Power up your smartphone

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Liz Owen needed help, and she needed it fast.

She had rescheduled a flight from Washington to Los Angeles on Virgin America to avoid superstorm Sandy, which was about to slam into the East Coast. But she’d forgotten to order a wheelchair.

Owen, who works for a nonprofit organization in Washington, had recently broken her foot, which was in a cast. “I had been on the phone on hold with Virgin America for well over an hour,” she remembers. Halfway to the airport, she decided to send Virgin America a tweet — a message on the microblogging service Twitter.
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Spirit’s Baldanza: “We don’t force customers to pay for services they don’t want or need”

Spirit's Ben Baldanza. / Photo courtesy Spirit.
Spirit Airlines is at it again — first denying a dying war veteran a ticket refund, then announcing it would raise its fee for carrying a bag on its flight to $100. Passengers are outraged. A Facebook petition to boycott the carrier is gaining momentum.

At a time like this, I like to hand the mike over to Ben Baldanza, the airline’s CEO. I did this morning, but his handlers said he couldn’t answer my questions by phone. Here’s a transcript of our awkward email interview.
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