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Submitted by Leah Marie on July 6, 2010 – 1:29 amComments

What is it about airlines?  Why oh why are they so impossibly difficult to deal with?  Maybe there is some special training program each airline employee must complete before they are qualified enough to successfully annoy and confuse each customer.  Airline school teacher: “When a customer calls and asks to change their flight, what is the first step?” Naive student: “Tell them we can help them in any way possible to find a new flight that will resemble their old one in price and in departure and return times?” Teacher: “Ha ha ha, little children.  Let me guide you in the ways of the airlines.  First, speak extremely fast and with your best foreign accent.  Next, take, at the very least 10 minutes to find their old flight information, and then take another 5 minutes correcting the spelling of their name.  Customer service here is not about making it easy for those on the other end of the phone line, its about keeping them there as long as possible so they have no choice but to spend an hour out of their busy day to do what any robot could have done.  Never let them forget, you are a person too.”

I must say, these folks at Iberia Airlines must have had exceptional training.  Not only did I have to ask 17 times for my human flight changer to repeat what he was saying, but it took me over an hour to make him understand that no, I could not return to New York on September 1st, I said August 1st.  I understand in some respects they cannot make changing a flight, especially an international one, super easy.  Otherwise, everyone would be doing it, all the time.  The thing about flights is that once you book them, you are kind of obligated to stick to them.  Unless you have money to burn or someone died, changing a flight from New York to Spain is not something I recommend. 

Too bad I just had to change it.  I brought this whole mess upon myself, and despite the lack of death and funds, I felt my reasons were compelling enough to get them to waive the fee.  Turns out that despite the person on the other end of the phone, who’s  foreign accent was impeccable and who spoke at a faster rate than I type, did not see it that way.  It’s a funny thing in this digital age, where human contact is limited and 9 times out of 10 you can take it upon yourself (barring any computer glitches or internet problems) to change a flight, or a train, or a restaurant reservation.  My hour long conversation with Dax from Iberia this morning counts for that 1 time, when surrendering to the archaic process of over the phone international flight change is inevitable, and frustration unavoidable.  Could I have done this faster with my macbook and ical? It’s possible.  But I think I subconsciously wanted to speak to a human, because even though he did not share my sentiments about fee-waving, he still listened to me raise my voice and tell him how ridiculous it was to charge me half the cost of my original flight to book a new one.  Sometimes talking to robots, i.e. computers or automated voices, makes me feel crazy,  and

talk to me

thus sometimes talking to a person makes me feel like one.


I’m still waiting for my confirmation email.  Maybe I’ll call Dax back in a few minutes and ask him to repeat my email address so we can make sure it’s correct, but my phone battery might not last that long.  This example of technology severing human connection makes me think I’ll wait until I get to the airport next week to give the airline a piece of my mind.  In person.

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