Northworst Air

The NorthWest Experience.


Will Keith Ever Get Out of LAX?

(***The following is correspondence among various parties concerning NorthWest Airline service. Please keep the various dates and the distance between them in mind while reading the letters. Each letter will be preceded with a series of asterisks and followed with a series of asterisks. Anything in between are comments by me.)

(This first letter was mailed Overnight Delivery and Certified)


Alfred Checci, President NorthWest Airlines
NorthWest Headquarters
5101 NorthWest Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55111

September 4, 1991

I am writing to you regarding a most unpleasant experience my son Keith just had with your ground personnel in LAX, Los Angeles. He is a US Marine who was returning to his base in Japan after being home on leave.

Keith originally had reservations on NorthWest for September 14 from LAX to Osaka, Japan. For personal reasons he decided to return earlier than planned. We contacted our travel agent, Debbie Amoscato at Bay Head Travel Agency (521 Main Avenue, Bay Head, NJ 08742, 908-892-8200), who, after contacting United (Newark to LAX) and NorthWest (LAX to Osaka), changed his tickets for him even though they were government (military) tickets and Bay Head Travel had no investment in them. Mrs. Amoscato was assured by your NorthWest people there "would be no problem changing reservations" as there were plenty seats available on the earlier flight. They even went so far as to confirm a nonsmoking window seat for the flight.

Keith left Newark, via United, with no problems. But when he got to NorthWest at LAX, he was told his ticket had been cancelled. He was also told by your LAX manager, in no uncertain terms, "It was not the policy of NorthWest Airline to make changes in government tickets." Despite the fact there were many empty seats on the plane; and the young marine was 3,000 miles from home; and NorthWest was responsible for his predicament (by telling Debbie "there was no problem changing flights"); NorthWest would under no circumstances honor his ticket before September 14, but he could "buy" a ticket for this flight.

Keith is now stuck in Los Angeles until he can either a) catch a military flight to Yakoda in northern Japan where he will have to somehow make his way to his base in Iwakuni, several hundred miles away. Or b) catch a flight back to Newark as soon as his dad can make arrangements via Debbie (not on NortWest you may be assured). Or c) sit in a wardroom at Camp Pendleton until September 14. All options are expensive and consuming precious leave time.

I find it difficult to believe that any airline, much less a trans continental one, would be so rigid and unfeeling in their service, particularly to a serviceman of our country, and most especially when it was the fault of airline personnel to begin with. Whether it was a foulup in Northwest ticketing department by okaying the original ticket transfer or a misunderstanding by your LAX people, my son is now in a jam because your people have responded poorly. Mr. Checci, if they were my people, I would have a talk with them.

Thank you for your attention.

Gösta H. Lovgren
***************** End of letter ***************

(****As you will see, NorthWest responded to the above letter with a phone call from NW headquarters requiring further conmmunication on my part to Mr. Checci.)


Alfred Checci, President NorthWest Airlines
NorthWest Headquarters
5101 NorthWest Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55111

September 17, 1991

I am writing to you regarding yet another most unpleasant experience my son Keith had with your ground personnel in LAX, Los Angeles. He returned to LAX on September 14 for his reserved, confirmed seat to Japan after having spent the previous 9 or 10 days of sitting on his hands due the previous NorthWest fiasco (You may recall the letter of September 4).

Actually beyond belief, Keith was refused a seat AGAIN. Your people told him his seat had been cancelled two days before. This again despite the fact there were empty seats AND the 4 other marines booked on the same flight with him coming over were let on.

As of this date, September 17, Keith is on a waiting list at Camp Pendleton for a military flight that might have room some time this week to Okinawa (still hundreds of miles away from his base). He doesn't know how much trouble he will be in when he finally gets back to Iwakuni for overstaying his leave. He figures he is out about $1,000 so far, and that doesn't count any fines that might be levied, waiting around in California, what he lost from not being able to return to his off base parttime job as an English tutor to Japanese children and adults, leave time used up.... There's more but you get the idea.

This afternoon a Mr. Bob Faust called "To see if he couldn't straighten out this misunderstanding." A copy of my first letter to you "just landed on his desk." He must not read well or be able to calculate dates because I don't know what he thought he could have done about a situation that should have been resolved at least 4 days before.

He seemed a nice enough young man but he is obviously ill equipped to handle angry people. I was naturally distraught after the latest incident and when he told me "he had no idea what could have happened and didn't know my son had been refused a seat yet again.", I became angry. I suggested he should have gotten the facts before he called. The longer he talked the more it became clear to me he was determined that NorthWest could/would not be at fault. I had the distinct impression that if I were to behave myself (not be angry at NorthWest), I might get something out of it. Probably some frequent flyer miles, as I would imagine you have plenty of them laying around unused. While he never identified his job title at NorthWest, given his somewhat patronizing attitude I suspected him to be some junior level lawyer.

He several times accused me of calling him a liar (which I did not). I had told him "..that after this most recent incident what could I think but that Checci, or one of his people, cancelled my son's seat to get even for the letter written to Checci." which he apparently interprets as a lie, even though he could provide no better alternative.

Although at no time did I use profanity, nor call him any names, he accused me of abusing him several times which I did only once and that was at the end of the call. (I recommended he perform an unnatural act upon himself and then hung up).

Frankly, Mr. Checci, I am appalled at your response to this whole matter. When I wrote the first time, I expected to get a prompt reply from you (I know you received the letter in the morning of September 6 as I have the Certified Return Receipt.), and that Keith, when he got to LAX on the 14th, would get an apology and maybe an upgrade to first class for the flight to Osaka. To have some inexperienced flak catcher come in well after the fact, when nothing can be done, is insulting.

You may find it of interest that when we received no response from you by the 13th, I posted a copy of the first letter on the computer Travel Board of Compuserve. It appears we are far from the only ones to have problems with your airline. It seems NorthWest is better known as "NorthWorst" among experienced flyers.

When I suggested you "talk to your people", I have to wonder whether they:

I hope to get a better response when I forward our correspondence (one sided though it may be) to my Congressman, who, I believe, sits on the Armed Forces Committee. There may be some interest the next time NorthWest's military flight contract comes up.

Gösta H. Lovgren

*********************** End of letter *****************************
( Following is a copy of Keith's notes on the incidents at LAX. Stuff in brackets inserted by me for clarity.)
************** Start of Keith's Notes **************