Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Frontier Airlines is incompetent

Things always seem to start out so smoothly. Start out. But not when it comes to Frontier Airlines.

On Saturday, I was booked to fly from Washington’s Reagan National Airport on a mid-day flight to Milwaukee. I know. Wisconsin in the winter. Yeah, yeah, but I was scheduled for visits to several campuses, including some classroom lectures, along with catching up with some folks, and a quick jaunt over to the State Capitol for the 39th notch on my state capital building belt.

Note that I say I was booked.

My ticket on Frontier Airlines had been bought and paid for. The boarding pass for flight 321 had been printed out the day before the flight. I arrived at the airport around 45 minutes before the departure, and proceeded to the TSA screening area, and then the gate. Getting through the TSA security went quickly, as it should on a Saturday morning.

But to my surprise, once I sat down in the seats outside of the scheduled departure gate, and then connected with a gate agent, i was told the gate had closed 25 minutes prior to the departure time, and flight 321 to MKE had taxied away from the gate, and was in line for flying out of Washington.

This was news to me. An airplane leaving early. And not a full international flight leaving two or five minutes early, but an undoubtedly empty domestic carrier taking off a full 25 minutes prior to the scheduled departure.

Now, before you get all up in arms about this, understand that the gate agent said he had paged me. No, didn’t hear a thing in the terminal. No, didn’t hear my name on the overhead. No, I frankly don’t believe that he paged me. And further, he said he paged me once. Haven’t we all heard individuals paged more than once when planes are about to depart. Wouldn’t an air carrier want to insure that a passenger would be on board, particularly when that passenger was already booked and provided a boarding pass, complete with seat information?

Apparently not.

And how legitimate is the use of an overhead page for a passenger. What if that passenger had hearing issues. Or what if that passenger was engaged in conversation with a TSA official, or another representative of the airlines, or the airport authority, or anyone else for that matter, and was temporarily unable to hear a page.

To me, this defense doesn’t pass the sniff test.

Nor does the response of the gate agent to my dilemma, and my request, which was to get me to Milwaukee that afternoon.

His response. No. Not gonna happen. Not on Frontier Airlines. After all, I was told, it's your fault.

I was told there were no other Frontier flights to Milwaukee that afternoon. I was told, but only after I asked for options on Frontier through other cities, that there were no guarantees that I would make the 20 minute connection in Kansas City if I was put on that flight (d’uh), and most significantly, was told that I would not be allowed to be placed on a flight out that afternoon on any other carrier because it was my fault that I missed a flight that left the gate 25 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

That’s right, it’s my fault the airplane left early, without me. It’s my fault the plane left without me, even knowing that I was slated to sit along the window in 12A that afternoon. It’s my fault that I placed trust in a carrier I had previously not flown, and undoubtedly will not fly given the way this matter has been handled.

Well, we’ll see. It is possible that i am the only air passenger ever put in this position. I am the only one I know of, but I suspect Frontier has acted in this cavalier way with others. Perhaps even on this flight, on other Saturdays. Who knows. If it happened to me, it may as well have happened to others.

If you’ve got a similar story, let me know. I will gladly add this to the mix in what will likely be an interesting discussion with Frontier. I would like Frontier to reimburse me for the cost of my ticket. It would be even more responsible for them to reimburse me for the one way cost of the ticket I purchased on a competition carrier. Let's see if they step up, acknowledge the error in this unusual gate decision, and provide a satisfactory response.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 Oscar Picks

Best Film:

127 Hours
Alice in Wonderland
The Black Swan
Fair Game
The Fighter
*The Social Network
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Leonardo DeCaprio, Inception
Robert Duvall, Get Low
*Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Best Actress:
Annette Bening, The Kids are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
*Natalie Portman, The Black Swan
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Naomi Watts, Fair Game

Best Supporting Actor:
*Christian Bale , The Fighter
Bill Murray, Get Low
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, The Black Swan
*Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Julianne Moore, The Kids are All Right

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky, The Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland
*Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
David O. Russell, The Fighter

*asterick indicates projected winner

Friday, January 7, 2011

No, it's not a Porsche. But it's close.

It looks as though yet another opportunity presents itself.

This one is something I have been waiting on for a while.

And now that it's arrival is imminent, I am trying to see if it is in fact something I still want, something I need, something I will enjoy, something I will appreciate, and something I will utilize.

Still guessing?

No, not a beer fridge, though that would be nice.

A Porsche. Well, those don't just arrive on your doorstep, though I'm willing to be surprised.

A device for scanning information directly into the brain. Would take that one in a minute. Wouldn't we all!

Actually, talking about an iPhone, that last decade time saver, and time abuser. Reportedly coming soon to the cell provider with which I'm contracted until the ashes from my cremated remains are delivered to their headquarters as proof of the need to end service.

Have long desired a tool of this kind, and now that the reality approaches, have to think if it's really worth it. Does it help? Does it suck even more time? Is it fun, and does that make it worthwhile? Will it de-clutter, or will there be yet another item with charger and such sitting around? And if my car stereo can't accomodate an MP3 player, what's the point anyway?

Very much of two minds. Open to thoughts on this one. Oh, yeah, it ain't a bargain, either. But what is? What is.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why we know more about our Chevy than our body

For a long time I have made analogies between car repairs and doctor visits.

Yeah, at times a check up feels like an oil change. Sure, the magazines in the waiting rooms can be quite similar. And invariably there are crying babies nearby, and strange sounds coming from behind closed doors.

Oh, yes, and each costs a boatload of money. $95 an hour to provide incorrect information on my Toyota? You’re kidding. $300 for a diagnosis that my wizened grandmother virtually nailed at dinner the previous evening? Where did you get your medical degree?

But it’s only when you really get to spend time with doctors, and occasionally with car repair people, that you see a gap in this theory, and you learn that you get more information from the grease monkeys than you do from the white labcoats.

Car repair shops sign you in, ask what you would like them to examine, provide you with a disclaimer, and then indicate they will follow up prior to any treatment or repair work on your vehicle. More often than not they do find something, they do follow up with you, and they do manage to improve the quality of your car, at least at that moment in time. When it comes to retrieving your vehicle, you often receive an itemized listing for each repair, each investigated noise or creak, as well as how parts or liquids were disposed, if that was the case.

At the very least, you have in somewhat plain language a printout for what was done to your vehicle, how much it cost, and perhaps even what is recommended in a future visit.

If only a visit to the doctor were so simple, so clear, and so open.

Doctors seem to be a bit hesitant to share information other than very simple facts. They appear reluctant to theorize about the prospects of an illness, or a range of treatments, unless you ask a specific question indicating a base of knowledge in this area. They speak in a language that might as well be Middle English, rarely if ever offer to provide a document explaining their findings, the results of a test, or an outline for a treatment plan. They presume a patient - regardless of the medicine she might be on, the potency of an anesthetic from which they are awakening, or their level of knowledge about medicine - can understand the particulars of what is being said to them.

Difficult news seems to be something not readily shared, but caged, in medical terms that suggest an intellect on part of the physician that is not shared by the patient. Polysyllables with Latin roots often pepper these conversations. And regardless of the proximity of the physician to the patient, there are often miles between them, especially at a time when a patient is working to process this new, and often confusing data, which renders some either speechless or disinclined to even ask the necessary questions.

What might make a difference, and elevate doctors back up to the level of car mechanics. Here’s my list, for starters:

• A bit more clarity
• A bit less obtuseness
• Handout information, particularly when the physician has a hard copy of the procedure findings or post-op results
• A willingness to do the equivalent of office hours, either by phone or online, for all patients who might not otherwise be able to process what they are hearing in real time
• An agreement before the patient leaves that she understands what has been told to her, and has a plan for her health and wellness to follow

Hell, I’m not even going near the issue of insurance, and who carries what, and who changes policies and plans each January 1, and whether prices are known in advance by patients, and whether certain procedures (innoculations, blood tests, etc) need to be done at THAT visit, or whether they could be held off for another six months, or even a year.

Yes, the provision of medical care in America is quite complicated, and more expensive than need be. And it has become politically divisive. But with some relatively simple steps, a culture of physicians, providers, institutions, and individuals sharing medical information and optimally the ability of patients to directly access their own medical information, we might at least be in a position to know as much about ourselves and our health as we do the stations on the pre-set buttons on our car radio.