AirTran Rant

Get it together, Airtran.

I’m sitting in the Atlanta Airport and I have a few moments to kill, so I thought I’d share something that really bothers me. In the airports that AirTran services, they have kiosks set up where they sign people up for credit cards and give them some ridiculous teddy bear or something. Cool.

I don’t have an issue with people being signed up for their cards. I have one. I ­do have a problem, however, with the way they’re going about it. Customers are called over by one of up to three or young persons standing behind a counter. People are called over as if they’re being helped, but they’re actually being signed up for a credit card. The whole process takes less than five minutes, and in the time that I sat and observed it (although I’ve seen it many times before), it disgusted me to the point of wanting to interrupt the transactions.

They trick unsuspecting customers into thinking that they’re giving out free business class upgrades (for fun?). The dialog (which I observed for several minutes) goes something like this:

Shady AirTran employee:

“[Sir/Ma’am]? Are you flying AirTran today?”

::Employee beckons clueless own-business-minding traveler to the kiosk as they say yes::

Shady AirTran employee:

“We’re giving away free business class upgrades today. You’ll fly first class next time you fly.”

This is where most people realize they’re being hoodwinked. Unfortunately, others react as if Christmas came early.

Clueless customer:

“Really? Are you serious?” (actual quote)

Shady AirTran employee:

“Yep. All you need is a driver’s license. We have a promotion in conjunction with the AirTan Visa Card and our frequent flyer program.”

The clueless flyer (more often than not) gladly divulges their name, number, identification, and signs of a pulse (the only thing needed for a credit card these days). In a few moments, the slightly miffed traveler is on their way with a new credit card on the way and the AirTran employee has earned another commission. Lovely.

It really bothers me that cards are being marketed covertly like this. With the economy in the toilet and tens of thousands of families clawing their way out of debt that came fast and easy, I don’t see how AirTran can justify something like this.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I understand it just fine. I just don’t like it. Are there no better ways to generate revenues? Why not improve their already outstanding customer service? Why not create an innovative referral program that rewards flyers for referring their friends? Why connect with customers on their languishing Twitter account (an account that hasn’t been updated in almost a year)? I realize it might not really be the company’s account, but there are measures in place for companies to take control of accounts made in their name.

I’m a big fan of AirTran. I like them because of their ridiculously low fares, outstanding customer service, in-flight wi-fi, excellent website, generous rewards program, etc. This credit card situation is unacceptable though.

There’s got to be a better way.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.