For a Bonafide Web Two-dot-O Experience, Get Stranded


This entry can alternatively be called, "Why American Airlines Sucks."

Before leaving ad:tech I had a conversation with a blogger who lamented learning little of value at the conference. He wasn't the only one who complained; surface-skimming conversation with a few girls at last night's Batanga party betrayed a pattern.

I hate to file yet another complaint into the ether. But after some serious thought, it occurred to me that you can't really learn about how people are communicating - manipulating brands, and media, in the process - unless you're sharing their space, communicating right along with them. That's not the kind of thing you can really be taught at a seminar.

Which leads me to why American Airlines sucks.

If you've ever wondered why the American Airlines logo has a suspiciously shaft-shaped embellishment, it's because it subjects frequent flyers to inappropriate back-door molestation.

Recall the drama of my ad:tech arrival.

At present I'm sitting at O'Hare International. In all fairness I should be home by now. But American has canceled at least 9 of its flights this evening and, insult to injury, will not cover a hotel stay.

So I'm here until at least 7 AM tomorrow morning.

Considering ad:tech Miami didn't exist before this year, I think it was great for what it was. Latin media populators share the same struggles, concerns and insights the marketing and advertising community at large do, which is perhaps a better revelation than any myth of exotic difference.

Like some mega-church, maybe ad:tech is meant only to bring the like-minded together for inspiration, motivation and a spirit-lift, even as it reinforces - on a grand scale - what we as an industry already take for gospel.

In an increasingly smaller world, it goes without saying that industry pros, no matter where they're from, all march to the same beat. (The only difference is, in Miami, the beat's got hotter drummers.)

To get a real feel for what's happening out there media-wise, however, you need an education that can perhaps only be forced upon you by getting stranded at O'Hare.

I'm sitting at a computer hub, which is essentially a long table with some seats and a series of plugs across it. I'm video-chatting my roommate in Ithaca, who's offered to help me find a nearby hotel while I relate the tale of my suffering.

Bleary-eyed from writing, I look at the dude to my left. He's a few years younger than me, and his left hand is flipping lazily across the keyboard. The other hand holds a gigantic set of BOSE headphones over one ear. He's on a program called Fruity Loops, making a beat.

I look to my right. Here's a man in glasses, suffering from programmer's pallor, watching some kind of full-screen video of himself and another guy braving the ocean waves on a vessel. Onscreen, they are smiling and tanned.

The guy glares at me, and I set my eyes back onto my own computer.

Picture us three at this little hub in Chicago, stranded with our media. Just a couple of years ago, this scenario wasn't even possible.

The dude on my right is a recent implant. Before him I was sitting next to a man named Barry from Arkansas. His flight has long since left. The friendly Southerner was in town for a conference on transitioning from print publishing to digital.

Here's his gazette.

Before he departed, we shook hands and lauded the perpetuity of content across any platform, the ones we know and those that have yet to unveil themselves.

The meeting of traditional publisher and online content furnisher occurred like that of a war ship and a flying saucer in the night. Our languages are similar but different, but we both seek to convey messages that don't quite belong to us, to audiences broader than our own voices can reach.

In the end, we're two soldiers of the same struggle, aren't we?

by Angela Natividad    Jun-28-07   Click to Comment   
Topic: Industry Events   

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you know-- if you're ever stuck in Chicago again call me.

Posted by: Paul on June 28, 2007 12:30 PM

PS: did you remember to AJAX the airport before you left?

Posted by: PS on June 28, 2007 1:41 PM

Angela, you are ever so brilliantly insightful:-)

Posted by: Steve Hall on June 28, 2007 2:25 PM

When will American Airlines get its act together? Recently I wrote about them here:

Good piece, Angela! (Don't feel compelled to share the URL above if you think it's spammy... I just wanted to get on the I-feel-your-pain wagon.)


Posted by: Eric Raymond on June 28, 2007 2:44 PM

I had a similar experience with AA cancelling flights from Seattle to NYC. They completely stink and I avoid them at all costs.

Posted by: Jeanine on June 28, 2007 2:50 PM

No offense, but isn't AA canceling flights due to the pretty much terrible weather everywhere in the midwest this week? There are plenty of reasons to think most airlines suck, but if you flight gets canceled because they don't want you to die on your way to your next destination is that really a reason to hate on them?

Posted by: Steve Zissou on June 28, 2007 4:13 PM

Zissou: The least they could have done was helped the lot of us out with a hotel room someplace in the Chi. Even people stuck until Saturday didn't get that assistance.

So yes, hate hate hate.

Posted by: Angela on June 28, 2007 6:06 PM

So people stuck by weather until Saturday should be put up in a hotel? No offense, but have you seen the amazing amounts of money the airlines in this country have made in the past few years? You may have noticed pretty much every major airline going bankrupt. What did you pay for your ticket? $350? If they made a fat $50 profit off that ticket, and I'm guessing they didn't make that much, and put you up for three nights in a hotel you just cost them a couple hundred bucks for the pleasure of your business. That seems unreasonable to me as a marketer to expect from any business.

The airlines don't make it rain, and obviously would be happier if the weather was great all the time. If they mess something up (like all of them pretty consistently do) - lost luggage, broken airplane, unreasonable delay due to crew problems - then I totally agree with you that they should put you up in a hotel. When they can't fly you because the airport you are going to or leaving from is closed or the weather between both of those airports is bad enough to cause serious safety concerns that isn't their fault. It's not your fault either, but it's a total reality of the traveling world and in those situations today, pretty much regardless of who you are flying, you are on your own to get a hotel room.

It's just my opinion, but you paid an airline to get you from point A to point B, if they pull that off at as early as saftey permits than they have fulfilled their obligation to you.

Like I said, there are a multitude of reasons to think airlines stink right now and I would support you on just about anything beyond your current rant. This one just seems weak.

Posted by: Steve Zissou on June 29, 2007 10:10 AM

First, let's talk about my ticket. My trip from Miami to NY via O'Hare, purchased two months in advance, cost more than twice your suggestion - almost as much as round-trip fare to Paris, France in summer of last year.

Market conditions aren't kind to airlines right now. But neither are market expectations. And unfortunately, over the long-term, doing your best to meet market expectation is a major determinant of market conditions.

I can see your point from a business perspective, but it just makes sense to ensure a customer is, if not totally convenienced, at least sated for the inconvenience.

After nearly a decade playing the customer service game, I've found customers don't often care about the why. The why may even be too complicated to explain. But at the very least your brand can indicate, somehow, that you do in fact care they chose you over some other carrier.

An airline employee sees mistakes happen all the time. With that in mind, it's easy for them to look at any number of people who think they've got something pressing and say, hey, you can wait.

But for the person on the ground-floor, the mom who has to pick up her kid from the sitter's tonight and not two days from now, or the businessman who's got the critical conference in the morning and has already been delayed on his way into town, these aren't just everyday occurrences. They really matter in the scheme of their little lives.

It's nice that American maybe saved us. But instead of hitting us with indifferent ground-floor attendants, a standby period that extended three days, they could have at least acknowledged they saw where we were coming from. Dude, even a dinner rebate would have sufficed. (Only 12 percent of Americans redeem rebates!)

But they didn't. They slapped us with "you should be grateful."

And well, whether right or wrong, that shit ain't good enough from a CRM perspective.

Posted by: Angela on June 29, 2007 10:26 AM

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