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The Eric Factor: Are airlines more focused on serving their customers?

It's nice to be back on Good Morning Quad Cities this morning after visiting my parents in Southwest Florida. Both getting there and getting back were quite interesting.

Allegiant: A day later than planned

The trip didn't begin as planned, however. On Thursday, April 5th, I was scheduled to depart from the Quad Cities on an Allegiant A319 aircraft. Just before we were to board, an announcement that the plane needed maintenance. I sent a direct-message to Allegiant via Twitter and was immediately greeted with information on the options. I talked with others in the waiting area who did the same and also received pleasant customer service. Unfortunately, for this airline, the fleet is much older than others. But the lack of "frills" keeps the ticket price lower...so it's a give and take. I think in this regard, the "timing out" of the crew also played a role as laws prevent flight crews from working to the point of fatigue.

Unfortunately, for Allegiant, and the others traveling to Florida, there was no solution available until the next afternoon. The airline provided hotels to those who traveled more than 50 miles and travel vouchers to everyone, because of the inconvenience.

We lifted off the next afternoon with only a half-full flight. I imagine for those who didn't travel, a refund was given. I have to admit I was lucky enough to visit family so I didn't have to negotiate for hotel stays and cars that weren't used. On our way to Punta Gorda, Allegiant staff was friendly and gave free snacks and beverages as a way to say thanks for sticking with them.

Am I just bad luck?

On my return-trip I flew United, connecting through O'Hare, then over to the Quad Cities. On final approach to O'Hare, we had a sudden change in the last minute of the flight! Looking out the window, we were already over the runway when the pilot aborted the landing; climbing swiftly back to 5,000 feet. A few minutes later, he came on the intercom and said there was "a plane where it shouldn't have been." It could've been that the plane ahead of us was slow to move off the runway, but we went around anyway, got into line again, and landed 15 minutes later.

Nervous we wouldn't make our connection to MLI, I sent a direct-message via Twitter to United Airlines. They told me I had a 21 minute walk from gate C9 to F21 and that they would check back in with me to see if I made it to the gate before the scheduled departure. It was tight and I had to use a pierced-eye to oncoming walkers that I was coming through, but I made it. Within 40 minutes, we were on the ground in the Quad Cities.

Again, really great service by an airline. Should I be surprised? Just a few years ago, you were on your own traveling but at least for me, it seems that Allegiant and United are there for you if you need them...and that's what made these hen you traveled, you were on your own.

These days, I think there can be a positive experience. But it depends on whether you, as the traveler, are being positive enough in the first place. If I was the angry, fed-up, or complaining customer, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today with a good story and a few travel vouchers in my hand.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen