Essays, Work

Frontier Airlines failed me. Here’s what I learned about business:

Wedding in Chile

I wasn’t gonna miss this wedding for the world…. or was I?

I recently had the worst air travel experience of my life, thanks to Frontier Airlines.

I had booked a crazy weekend trip to Wyoming for a friend’s wedding. It’s important to note that this friend and I shared a tent for a month while riding our bikes and floating on a raft through the undiscovered far reaches of Chilean Patagonia. She met her husband while we were living in Chile a decade ago, and it was the only time in my life I’ve actually witnessed love at first sight. So while this wedding trip made absolutely no sense for me at the moment, I had to be there.

I booked the flight. I’d fly out Friday afternoon and arrive in time for the rehearsal dinner. The wedding was on Saturday.

And then Frontier did what no airline has ever done, at least to me: They straight cancelled the flight and basically said, good luck getting to your destination. As in, no rebooking, no re-routing, and no help or customer service whatsoever.  Ouch.

Customers are Humans

The worst part of my whole travel scenario was not being treated like a human.  As I sat in the airport composing an angry tweet, I saw that hundreds of people had similar experiences. Frontier customers had been stranded in airports while traveling with young children,  taking a daughter to college, and going to weddings, funerals, and all sorts of important life events.

Just like my crazy Patagonia story that led me to attend that wedding,  every person stranded by Frontier had a lifetime of story that led them to purchase that one plane ticket.

(Research revealed that the root cause of these cancellations was simply that the airline got greedy and tried to expand too quickly. To top it off, their pilots are on the brink of strike.)

Wedding pic

Spoiler alert: I did make it to the wedding!

The Business of Being

Here’s the thing:

You can’t run a business that doesn’t affect human beings in some way.

Money matters. Strategy matters. Marketing and operations matter. But at the end of the day, we can’t escape the fact that we are always selling to and serving humans.

In a money-based society, business is who we are. It’s how we show up in the world. It’s the local gift shop where you buy a card to tell someone you love them. It’s the hair stylist who becomes a trusted confidant over the years. It’s the person who builds a website so your passion project can fly. It’s how we shelter ourselves, how we eat, and how we try to have a little fun along the way.

Business is life…. right?

I’m gonna be straight here: I’m worried.

I’m worried that Facebook has built a business model on ruining our relationships. I’m worried that Amazon will eliminate the need for human interaction altogether. I’m worried when an airline, albeit a budget one, refuses to take responsibility for its actions.

I’m worried we’ll forget that business is one of the major ways we show up in the world, right alongside love, art, religion,  the pursuit of happiness, and all the big things.

So this is your reminder, y’all. Take it seriously.

Four hundred bucks on the credit card and a last-minute Delta flight later, I did finally make it to that wedding. Because you know what? You only live once, dammit.

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Sarah

Co-founder at Groundwork!
Sarah lived all over South America, produced a documentary about Patagonia, and worked in digital marketing for a decade before settling in New Bedford to start Groundwork! She loves running a coworking space because she gets to meet the coolest people in the world.
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