… written 20 February 2010, video shot on 13 February 2010…
I just cleared check-in at Beijing airport. The security personnel (the equivalent of the TSA) were courteous, friendly, helpful, and they even spoke English! They explained the procedure, helped me remove my computer from its case, helped load the x-ray machine, and then helped me to put my luggage back together. Getting TSA officers to answer a straightforward question without sarcasm is close to impossible.
When I departed for this trip, I had the occasion to be “greeted” by TSA Officer Hamilton. The guy was rude, he was a jerk, he was sarcastic. Specifically, queuing travelers were only using one of two lines to clear the security check-in. “Let’s go people, there are two lines! It’s not that difficult!” Really? Is all that necessary? TSA Officer Hamilton reminded me of a guy who had been trying to get into the Sheriff’s office for 12 years and couldn’t get in because he was a closet pedophile or had some other skeletons in his closet and now he’s very bitter. He’s probably worked at the Portland Mall for the last 8 years fantasizing about being a cop dreaming of having some real power. Well Hamilton, that day will never come, but instead, oh boy, does the Federal Government have a job for you! Yes, you get to continue being a jerk and now you do have a “little” power. No power in any real sense of the word, just enough to make everyone’s life a little more miserable as they travel. And in this, you excel.
After each aircraft has departed, the entire staff of all Chinese airlines stand in front of you as the announcer broadcasts over the loudspeaker that the crew is here to serve you and to make this a pleasant flight. Then (get this), the entire staff bows. On my flight out of China in December with United, the stewardess refused to give me water (I was blocked in by an elderly man who was sleeping). She said that I had to get up to get it myself or else wait for the drink service at the meal. In total, the United Airlines crew came through with drinks once (aside from the meal service drinks). In total, beverages were offered 4 times on the flight. In contrast, two weeks ago my flight from Seattle to Seoul, S. Korea, Korean Airlines attendants offered drinks 14 times on a 13 hour flight.
Don’t even get me started about meals. The last US carrier I flew charged for a bag, for a meal, and for a movie. KAL took two bags (oversized), had streaming movies and video games, and a meal that actually filled you up.
The difference in service between American air carriers and ALL of our international competition could not be more different. So long as foreign carriers are blocked from domestic flights in America this will never change. For those of you that don’t travel internationally, take my word for it, American air carriers are lacking.
The Chinese and Indians are hungry for business. So long as the ambassadors of America (our corporation’s employees) have a bad attitude, we will continue to lose market share. We are going to get killed in business this next decade if we don’t change our attitude of arrogance and entitlement.
Update 21 February, 2010:
My flight from Seoul to Seattle was delayed about an hour due heavy head winds resulting in me missing my 1230 flight to Portland. As I entered the baggage claim area (you must receive and recheck bags after arriving on any international flight), I heard my name called. As I approached the luggage area I saw a KAL rep holding a sign with my name on it. When I approached, I was handed an envelope with a 1640 boarding pass, a standby pass for the 1430 flight, a meal voucher for $15, and the agent walked me to the map and gave me detailed directions on how to get to my next gate. I was impressed.
If you have ever had a bad experience wtih the TSA, please post your story in the comments section. Thanks!
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