How to lose an airline customer:

  • Decide that the brakes need cooling well after a flight has landed, and order an air conditioner to do that well only after all passengers boarded.
  • An hour after a wheelchair passenger was boarded, figure out that the only way to load his wheelchair is with a forklift that needs to be ordered from a hanger.
  • Refuse to request connecting flights delay their departure, because of policy.
  • Refuse to automatically retrieve luggage of connecting passengers, although the passengers’ connections had departed and the passengers would be forced to spend the night.
  • Advise passengers that if they want their luggage, they must wait up to 3-4 hours, and even then there was no guarantee the luggage would be retrieved, and refuse to consider delivering the luggage to the motel.
  • Tell your passengers to take the Best Western shuttle from the airport, but don’t tell them that’s not where they’re staying. Have them line up at Best Western, only to have the Best Western personnel tell the group of travelers that they couldn’t stay there, but the next motel over, across the parking lot.
  • Put up your passengers at the cheapest motel possible, where the sheets were like sandpaper, the remote didn’t work with the television, one could hear noise from other guests above, next to, and below your room.
  • If your passenger was traveling with a friend, make them stay in the same room (even though throughout their trip they hadn’t roomed together).

I write this from a cheesy, super cheap motel room in Detroit, Michigan, Americas [sic] Best Value Inn (I guess they couldn’t afford the apostrophe). I should be with my wonderful husband and menagerie in Ontario, after a long 5-day absence. Solely because of Northwest Airlines‘ incompetence and carelessness, I’m not.My return from my business trip was supposed to have started tonight from Washington, DC (DCA) at 6:30 pm to Detroit (DTW), transferring to a 9:00 pm flight to Kitchener (YKF), arriving at 10:15 pm.

The flight was slightly delayed, supposedly because of air traffic. But the major delay occurred when the flight was fully loaded, the door closed, and only then Northwest personnel realizing that they had a heavy wheelchair to load on the plane. The person in the wheelchair had taken his seat a good 45 minutes before this discovery. The pilot announced to the packed plane first that there was delay first because they had to apply air conditioning to the brakes. Ten minutes after this announcement, there was a subsequent announcement of a continuing delay because of the need to load the wheelchair. About 15 minutes later he announced that the wheelchair was too heavy, so they had to get a forklift to lift the chair.

Many of us on this full flight had tight connections in Detroit. I asked the flight attendant to radio ahead to see if they could possibly hold my DTW-YKF flight for a few minutes. First I was told no, that wasn’t the policy; then she agreed to pass my message onto the pilot. It did no good. My connecting flight–on a very small plane, likely with only a handful of passengers–left early.

So . . . onto gather my luggage and travel voucher. Travel voucher, no problem; luggage, another story. Travelers beware: Northwest will make no effort to provide you with your luggage if it’s checked through to a final destination, even if there is no possibility that you’ll reach your final destination that day. So you have to go to baggage claim, to be told that it would take up to 3-4 hours to find your luggage, and even then, there’s no guarantee it’ll be found.

Nor will they deliver it to your hotel. It’s not policy.

So, here I am, with no clean clothes or other normal amenities, thanks to Northwest’s failure to understand that an electric wheelchair is heavy, and thanks to Northwest’s wise policy of refusing to provide luggage after a trip has been interrupted because of their own fault.

I do have a choice in airlines. My next trip, I’m going to exercise that choice, and avoid Northwest.