Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Opuscula

Specials meals
In the air?
Only if you're lucky

 

IF YOU NEED a special meal on a flight from Here to There, plan to pack your own food.

Airlines have a l-o-n-g history of failing to deliver ordered-well-in-advance special meals.

THE SPOUSE JUST RETURNED from an overseas flight via Delta and Alitalia.

When the flight was booked, she called Delta and told a Customer Care person that she needed special meals both going and returning. Since the international legs were to be flown on Alitalia aircraft, she asked the Delta agent if she needed to contact Alitalia.

No, Delta told The Spouse; it's all arranged.

About 48 hours before departing, the Spouse called Delta and reminded the Customer Service Representative (CSR) that there was a special meal request.

The Delta domestic leg was sans meal. The Alitalia leg had meals on both flights. Not particularly GOOD meals, but edible.

On the return flight, The Spouse tried to confirm her special meals via the WWW.

Can't be done.

She tried calling Alitalia but was unable to contact a real person.

Not a problem, right? After all, The Spouse HAD spoken with a Delta agent who assured The Spouse that Alitalia knew about, and would honor, her special meal request.

SO, she gets to the airport and, after clearing all the checks, makes her way to the Alitalia counter to check her luggage.

She asked, as she had been told, the agent to make certain her boarding pass was marked showing she ordered special meals. The clerk checked the computer and told her, No mam, no special meals are ordered for you. He told her to check with a ticketing agent.

The ticketing agent reached a new high in rudeness and told The Spouse she should have confirmed her special meal request 24 hours in advance of the flight. Ignoring the fact that The Spouse TRIED - and was unable - to contact the local Alitalia office, Ms. Rude dismissed The Spouse with "There's nothing I can do."

The Spouse asked to speak to the woman's supervisor and was told "There are no supervisors over me."

The Spouse returned to the guy who collected her suitcase and reported no progress. This clerk made a note in hiss computer and escalated the issue to his supervisor.

The Spouse's forgotten meal apparently is a common occurrence with the Italian airline - the same happened to me on an earlier flight.

I once flew via British Midland International - then owned in part by Lufthansa - from England and back. On the outbound leg, no meal. On the return leg, the flight attendant gave my meal - with my name on the box - to another passenger sitting. Fortunately, my United connection - that was held up for my late-arriving BMI flight (thank you, United) - had food for me.

Lest anyone think missing meals only happens on foreign flight, not so.

Back when Pan Am was in business, a special meal that I was assured was on board by a counter agent, was left at JFK. When I complained I was told that I - the paying passenger - should checked with the stewardess (this was pre-"flight attendant") as I boarded to assure my meal was on board.

Since meals have to be ordered at least 24 hours pre-flight, asking the flight attendant (FA) if my special meal is on board had zero value and the FAs cannot or will not do anything to get a promised meal on board.

My next flight was domestic on US Air (when there WAS a US Air). When I got the Charleston NC I hunted up the Station Manager, explained about my Pan Am experience and he made certain my special meal was on board my flight to Boston.

Iberia, which I've flown on several occasions, always managed to get the special meals on board; the only problem with Iberia is the Madrid hub and the short time to rush from arrival gate to departure gate, always on the far side of the terminal. (Barcelona, on the other hand, is nice.)

A thought. It's too bad that an international passenger, once cleared at the originating airport, cannot wait in a secure area for a connecting flight, avoiding having to run the gauntlet of no shoes, no belt, nothing in pockets, no computers in bag time consuming recheck; once ought to be enough (unless the passenger exits the secure area. Domestic changes of planes or carriers don't require a re-check. Why must international passengers suffer, at least when flights originate in a country with tight pre-boarding checks.