The Good: Four Seasons Costa Rica
OK, The Four Seasons is an elite luxury hotel chain and expectations for a terrific traveler experience are high. But inventive use of technology is not what first comes to mind.
After my wife, daughter and I got through immigration and customs, a representative was waiting to greet us. This was to be expected. We were quickly shuttled into a SUV to take us on the 45 minute drive from the airport to the hotel. But what followed was completely unexpected.
When we got into the SUV we were told that it was equipped with free WiFi. It was great since we didn’t have GSM phones and therefore no international connectivity. So my wife and I were able to check in on Foursquare, catch up on email and see what was happening on Facebook.
But then they passed us an iPad. We were prompted to begin a video Skype call with hotel staff to facilitate our check in. This was a great use of the time we had in the car. When we arrived all we had to do was provide our passports and a credit card for incidentals…at our convenience. No waiting in lines.
We then were able to use pre-loaded playlists on the iPad to listen to some music to make the ride more enjoyable. We put on some salsa to get us into the mood.
And when we arrived (they knew the location of the SUV via GPS) we were greeted by staff who knew our names, provided our keys to the room, as well as a glass of guava juice, and taken directly to our room. A great start to the trip.
And now the bad: US Airways
Now for every company that does a great job, there is another who does not. On our trip that other company was US Airways. That US Airways does not provide the same experience as Virgin America is no surprise. But what I learned is that US Airways apparently uses a randomizer to assign seats.
Months prior to our trip, when we booked on the US Airways web site, we were able to get seats in same row and 2 together so that one of us would be able to sit with our 8-year old daughter. But when we checked in online, about 20 hours in advance of our flight, we found that my daughter’s seat on the CLT-PVD segment was inexplicably moved from 16A (next to my wife) to 6F, 10 rows away and my wife moved from 16B to 16A.
Now I can understand that moving from a middle seat to a window may be seen as preferable, all things being equal. But US Air knew we booked at the same time and because it was an international flight they knew the ages of the travelers from our passport data. So why they would deign to move the 8-year old 10 rows from her parents is mind-boggling. And of course no one would help in the call center or at check in. But after some fairly aggressive, but respectful “discussion” at the gate, we were able to get back to our original seats.
The best part is on the plane. I was in 16D and there was another passenger in 16C next to my wife. I figured it would be no problem to switch one aisle for another. The other passenger of course was happy to move – not just because he didn’t mind switching one aisle for another, but because his wife was sitting in 16E! Does US Airways go out of their way to inconvenience the greatest percentage of their passengers?
Now if this was the first time that something like this happened on US Airways, I could more easily dismiss this as an outlier. But 2 years before we had a similar issue on our return from Hawaii….traveling first class. In this case even the gate personnel were unwilling/unable to help us, but luckily a passenger accommodated us.
Upon review, perhaps a randomizer may be an improvement for US Airways seat assignments. Good luck to the new American Airlines.