There’s something about traveling that makes me uneasy.
I guess it’s kind of ironic for a remote worker. Someone who could literally work from anywhere with a halfway decent wifi connection.
Ironic because I find myself shackled to the safety and comfort of my 4-walled terrace in the Great British Countryside.
Like many, for me traveling is a source of anxiety and frustration. It’s often plagued by trivial disasters that often lead to service sagas.
Complaint after complaint would be filed falling on the deaf ears and sand-enclosed heads of service managers who quite frankly couldn’t give less of a shit.
I’m led to believe airlines are the worst. Despite my previous foray into the world of airline customer service proving exceptional, it’s a cold hard fact that it’s more cost effective for airline service to be
utter horse shit not great!
The outbound transit to Bangkok for HelpDocs retreat number 3 was no exception.
This time though, I’d try something a little different.
A Passive Aggressive Realization
Before I’d even set foot outside my comfort zone I found myself contending with my first challenge.
The unhonored seat reservation.
I know, I know. It might seem like such a small thing. I guess in reality it is. But when you’re about to embark on a 16-hour journey, it’s nice to have control over where the 12 hours locked inside a tin can drifting above the clouds will play out.
It was a red-eye flight—meaning it would be almost all overnight.
I tend to prefer red-eyes. It means you can get some sleep on the plane and the transition on the other end isn’t so jarring.
I’d been smart and booked a window seat so I could rest my head on the wall of the plane to get a little better sleep. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I’d flown a few times. Some of them overnight. Enough to know that my seat preferences go window > twin > aisle > everything else.
So when I went to complete Thai Airways online check-in to find I’d been placed in the middle row of the middle column of seats, you can imagine my frustration.
Nobody wants a middle.
The middle sucks.
The middle is for people who were stupid enough to not book. Or for parents traveling with their kids. Stick em in the middle.
Aisle seats are fine. You can get out if you need to. Sure, you might get bashed by passengers and attendants, but you’re not restricted.
For an anxious and introverted individual like me, being boxed into the middle of a middle is hellish. For me, it's one of Dante’s 9 circles of Hell.
Cue the influx of “What ifs”
What If I need to get out?
What if I start getting a cramp?
What if the people either side of me are tooth suckers or snorers?
It was too much for my anxious mind to take. Luckily I managed to get the last remaining aisle seat and saved myself from, well, myself.
I drew to the end of the mobile check-in process, submitted my details and felt the immediate sucker punch.
Sorry Mobile Tickets are Unavailable for you.
What the actual fuck?! 🤔
Long story short, it turns out Thai Airlines and Android phones don’t get on. While I can download their app and go through the check-in process, I’d need to ask at the check-in desk for them to print me a boarding pass.
Seeking to vent and rectify the situation, I did what every sane person does and immediately took to Twitter.
As support channels go, Email is the mainstay. The firstborn child. The one all the other support channels look up to and try to emulate in their own way. A digital comms leader of the pack.
Live chat is the young and irritating youngest sibling. The one that annoys everyone by just being good at what they do without really making much effort. Irritatingly successful and likely the future.
Twitter, by contrast, is the support equivalent of the unloved middle child. The one that really had so much potential but couldn’t deliver. The one that promises so much but ultimately gets the least attention.
Nobody loves Twitter support.
Yet here I was, poised and ready to moan through a social media channel without even thinking about questioning my life choices!
I could do without @ThaiAirways screwing up my seat booking tho! 🙄 And not letting me actually get my boarding pass on the mobile check-in 🙈🤷🏻♂️— Matt Bradford-Aunger (@MattMadeThings) June 15, 2019
As passive-aggressive tweets go, tagging Thai Airways in a response to an excited HelpDocs CEO is probably up there as a prime example.
And after a few tweets back and forth lamenting about the impending doom-stricken journey that was sure to follow, I had a sudden realization.
I do this every time.
And every time I have a shitty experience.
So maybe this time, something needs to change. And the only thing I can really change is me!
The Conscious Choice
We would like to inform you that as our social media team we do not have authorized to access the information.We are sorry for the inconvenience again.— Thai Airways (@ThaiAirways) June 15, 2019
After the initial exchange in which Thai Airways surprised everyone with their rendition of “I Give no Shits” by the famous group Yet Another Airline, I made a decision.
Instead of bitching and moaning the whole way, let’s just let it play out.
It’s controversial, I know.
Instead of moaning at people who—in my not-so-vast experience of complaining to airlines—probably couldn’t help me, I’d just let the flight play out.
After all, how bad could it be?! 🙈
The answer? Actually not that bad at all.
Playing it out
When I got to the airport, I queued up at the Thai information desk at Heathrow Terminal 2.
The attendant looked me up and down. I felt judged. They pointed me to the
mile-long check-in desks and shorter self-service queue.
I pointed out I’d already checked-in to which they responded by pointing me to the
mile-long queue for the check-in desks and shorter self-service queue.
Cool Cool Cool!
There was no way I was going to queue at the check-in desk so I jumped in line for the self-service machines.
I neared the front only to find the machine I’d wound up with didn’t support Thai Airways (despite being next to one that did and being in the Thai Airways part of the airport.
I queued again. Luckily it wasn’t too long before I’d got my boarding pass and was flying through security. And a couple of uneventful hours later I was boarding the plane.
I took my seat next to a couple who’d been visiting their sons from Australia. They were on their way back to the land of Oz and would prove to be lovely travel companions. They had the right level of “we can talk briefly, but also leave me the hell alone so I can watch Game Night on this tiny entertainment screen”.
You might be waiting for something extreme to happen next. I know I was. After all, what was the point in writing this story if there was nothing particularly exciting or tragic?
To be honest, nothing else happened.
I mean, the flight attendant spilled cold coffee in my lap. But it was forgivable. There was turbulence. Shit happens. 🤷🏻♂️
The truth is, I realized that complaining is a sure fire way to a shitty experience.
At the end of the day, if you just crack on life goes on regardless. 🙃