Friday, November 27, 2009

Upgrading for Nothing

Recently I had an opportunity to wrap up some business in the middle of an extensive series of trips around the country. That meant that I could leave from where I was, in this case Rochester, New York and fly to my next destination a day early. Here begins the problem.

Gone are the days when a simple call to the airline would rebook the ticket and often at no charge. My continuing ticket on Continental Airlines was, according to the travel agent, no longer worth the paper it was written on - the $150 change fee of plus the additional cost in fare based on what was available for the time I needed to travel was over twice the remaining value of the original ticket. I had to start from scratch.

That being the case I discovered a thru-flight on Air Tran that fit my plans beautifully and for less than the cost of Continental's change fee alone. I'd never flown Air Tran before so that added to the small sense of adventure I was having. The additional cost to the company in having to buy a plane ticket at the last minute was virtually negligible and I was getting a lot done and in less time than anticipated. Things were going great and were looking even better when I got to the airport.

For only $49 I could upgrade to First Class on the first segment of the thru flight or both segments for $20 more. The company wouldn't pay for the upgrade but I didn't mind shelling out of pocket myself to experience a more comfortable level of service at such a reasonable rate. Sold. I had a smile on my face right up to the time we took off when things went downhill from there.

First Class on Air Tran in my estimation is much ado about nothing. The seat was fine, of course, but the service added up to little more than anything Southwest Airlines might offer. I don't drink so I don't care about the free booze while the pretzels, cookies and hard candy were an open disappointment for me where I was expecting at least a cold plate service of some kind. The extra room was nice, yes, but all I really got that was different from the coach experience was free servings of Fuze soft drinks.

Uh...not. If I were a more frequent customer I would at least be accustomed to the true nature of the upgrade product. Air Tran is not strong in my home town and my business travel will not ordinarily take me to any markets where they compete. The flight attendant and the seat were both fine but even for less than $70 the upgrade doesn't add up to anything I would voluntarily pay for again.

Gotta go.

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