Welcome, new readers! This post has definitely gotten a lot of interest! For actual travel blog posts, you can visit my travel page.
The Press Trip that Wasn’t. . .
Or that time I was so done with an airline I walked off of a plane before going anywhere. . .
If you’ve been reading lately, you’ll know that I was getting ready for a press trip to England a couple of weeks ago. Over the course of the month or so where the planning was supposedly taking place, the communication was pretty intermittent, a week here, several days there. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure it was happening, even up to the morning of my departure. I was excited for the destination; Bristol, England looks like a really cool place to visit. I soon learned that WOW Airlines, the airline getting me there, is a mess.
Three weeks before departure: First, I receive an invitation, then I get asked about my blog traffic and social media handles. In my PR experience, you do all of that first, before inviting people. But I let that piece go.
After the initial few emails, I heard nothing for about nine days, so I sort of put the trip out of my head. I knew that if I was going I had to move some work and social events, told the contact that, and still didn’t get any concrete information. And despite being told multiple times by them that I would have my ticket in 24 hours, days and weeks passed, and nothing.
Friday afternoon, six days before departure: I receive an email that the trip is happening and I will get my ticket and itinerary on Monday. Being less than a week out and still having no idea where I am going or how I am getting there doesn’t sit great with me but I am still excited to visit Bristol! Be spontaneous, right?!
Tuesday, before a Thursday departure: I finally receive the itinerary. At this point, I am more than annoyed at how last minute everything is, but the itinerary looks amazing! I start to get really excited, but I still don’t have any airline details. I then receive four blank emails from WOW Airlines. I start to feel not-so-comfortable with their competence.
Wednesday, before a Thursday departure: I finally am able to open one of the ticket attachments. It has me leaving from Baltimore. I’m in Boston. I’m promised another ticket the next morning.
Thursday, day of departure: I start to feel REALLY wary of the trip when I still don’t have a confirmed ticket. I let my contact know that, and I receive a ticket in response. Okay, I’m going!
Four hours before departure: I get ready to go! WOW doesn’t have online check-in, but I leave with plenty of time to get to the airport. A truck fire in the tunnel means it takes me two hours to go seven miles. Maybe this is an omen.
Arrival at the airport: I finally make it to check in! I hand my passport to the desk attendant, and her first question is “Are you sure you’re traveling on WOW?”
Maybe not? They finally find my reservation and then try to force me to check my small bag, which is under the weight limit. The service was incredibly rude and off-putting, and with the disorganization that had already taken place, I am starting to lose patience.
You’ll note that my departure time, above left, is 1900, where boarding is 1940. They couldn’t even get the ticket right.
Once, I got through security, the delays, without any information, began. I had a glass of wine at Vino Volo and learned from my fellow passengers that none of the WOW customer service numbers they called were connected. Comforting.
We eventually start boarding after the third delay, and everyone around me was worried about connections. WOW is a big connector from Keflavik, Iceland, to other places in Europe, but after looking at their reviews, I now know that people usually miss those connections.
I get to the door of the plane and am told I only have a ticket to Keflavik, but not to Bristol and that I would need to deal with that when I get to Iceland. Except with the delay, the time to do that and make my flight would require a miracle.
I get on the plane anyway. No TV’s. The tiniest seats I have ever been in. I learn we have to pay for water.
And then the pilot announces another delay because we don’t have the needed paperwork to depart.
All of the above frustrations came together at that moment. I felt sick, extremely uncomfortable, and I used something I learned at the Boston Business Women’s Conference.
I stood up for myself and I got off the plane. It felt like the only think I could do. I felt so unsure about the trip and the lack of planning and I couldn’t take another mishap.
I had my passport checked to make sure I didn’t leave luggage on board, and I was walked out of security. And I went home. I emailed my contact who was planning the trip and emailed again the next day, outlining all that went wrong. I never heard back. . .
This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. It was more than a little embarrassing to be the person getting off of a full plane. I wanted to go on the trip. I had cancelled meetings, plans with friends and family, and rearranged my life to be away for four days.
I’ve told the story about 10 times now, and every single person I have told has said they would have given up way before I did. I told many PR colleagues who were horrified at the lack of communication. They encouraged me to blog about it.
I work in PR. More specifically, I work with travel and hospitality clients and have planned and executed dozens of trips for press. Timing sometimes gets off, there are miscommunications. People don’t show up when they are supposed to. But the job of the person planning is to communicate and to make the guest feel excited about the trip and comfortable; otherwise you really aren’t doing a great job of selling your client!
In summary, 1) WOW Airlines failed to impress on every front.
If you enjoy good service, comfort, organization, and any sort of attention to detail whatsoever, you might be best avoiding WOW, at least based on my experience.
2) Trust your gut. I should have turned down the trip earlier in the week. It would have saved me a ton of time, worry, planning and about $100 back and forth to the airport.
I travel a good amount; I think I got in 26 flights last year, that included a trip to Africa, two trips to Sonoma, and three trips to Ireland. I’ve never gotten off of a plane before. I guess there’s a first time for everything! I’ve learned that if something feels really wrong, trust that. This experience is, of course, just that of one person, but I felt strongly enough about it to share. It was upsetting to say the least!
Have you ever walked away from a situation that put you in a bad position? I would love to hear your thoughts on what happened!