If you are one of the fortunate few Americans that are able to travel right now you are in for a treat once you reach your destination. Virtually all destinations around the world are dramatically cheaper than they were 2 years ago and the budget places that I would exclusively travel to as a backpacker are even cheaper than they were before. Previously I would seek out really inexpensive hostels for accommodation but these days I am finding that I can get 3 star hotel room for the same price I was paying for cheap no-frills bungalows in the 3 countries I have been to in the past couple of months.
Getting around has been nice ever since I hit Central American and Mexico but the journey began with dealing with what can only be described as the worst customer service I have experienced with airline travel at any point in my life.
Just for the record, I have never dealt with Alaskan Airlines and I hear they are quite good
When I began my journey, I wasn't as limited as I thought I would be because most of the major airlines had some sort of ability to accommodate my trip and it was dead cheap too. However, I am not a usual traveler because this time I was going to be traveling with my surfboard and this isn't an item that you can just turn up at the airport with an expect there to be room on the plane for it. Since I wasn't prepared to leave my $500 surfboard at the airport if they didn't have space for it, I needed to confirm that they had space for it before I actually left.
Of all the airlines websites - and by the way you should definitely be booking directly with airlines at this point, none of their websites had a section where you could check the availability of space for special or oversized baggage . The only option you have is to call them or go to an actual office. I do not live in a major city so going to an office was going to be a 2 hour drive for me to pull that off.
No matter which airline I called the wait time for getting to speak to an actual human being was going to be a ludicrous amount of time that reminded me of the hell we all went through with tech support in the 90's for ISP's and various computer reasons.
All of these airlines had awful repetitive music for people on hold and the most irritating part about it was that the hold recording repeatedly told me that all of my questions could be answered by visiting their website, which I had already confirmed could in fact NOT be accomplished by visiting their website.
Trying to use a local office's direct phone number was a waste of time as well since of the 4 airlines that I checked with the local numbers would re-route to their international number and it put you in a queue of all the thousands of other people that were waiting on hold to get a chance at talking to the half-dozen or so people that have staffing that part of their operations.
In the worst and most disheartening situation Delta actually estimated your approximate wait time and that clocked in at a completely outrageous 23 hours. Who in the hell is going to stay on hold for 23 hours?
In the end I called a friend of mine who lives in Atlanta and had him go to the office of American Airlines and speak to a person face-to-face in order to ask my questions for me. I wanted him to simply hand the phone over to the person so I could check and make my booking after confirming there was space and also get printed proof emailed to me that my surfboard could be accommodated. They absolutely refused to do this and insisted that they could only issue the ticket to someone if they were there in person. Frustrated, but with a free weekend I drove all the way down to Atlanta, stayed with my friend, and then went to the airport with the EXACT specifications of my baggage and got it sorted out. In retrospect I should have just had my friend pretend he was me and give the same information.
Once I got to Mexico things changed dramatically. Even though they are dealing with a 2nd language, which is something I would imagine that the USA airlines don't even try to do, I was able to speak to a person in a matter of minutes of wait time and accommodating my surfboard to 2 other countries was just as simple. Therefore, I am seriously going to recommend that if you have the opportunity to use AeroMexico that you do so. All coach sections, which is the only section I can afford, suck equally no matter what airline you are on, so for us commoners I think it is absolutely vital that these airlines have some semblance of customer service in place, even if you are not a rich person.
How is it that the airlines in the USA have sunk so low while much poorer countries have excellent customer service. It just doesn't make sense to me that these same airlines constantly complain about how they aren't turning a profit yet don't even seem to care about how they treat their customers. I know that I will avoid all of them in the future and I don't think I am alone in this feeling. Unfortunately, unless you are traveling abroad, there is zero chance of having an alternative inside the United States.