British Airways Strike – A Lesson in Customer Service

“DirecTV doesn’t want you to see your favorite programming” – AMC
“AMC is refusing to provide programming to you through your DirecTV subscription” – DirecTV

We’re Going Public

We’ve all seen stuff like the above. Companies bicker with each other and can’t sort out contracts behind closed doors, so they take it public and make fools of themselves in the process. Unfortunately, their politicking tends to gather support on either side, and consumers lash out at one side or the other. When it comes down to it, they’re all guilty. Consumers are merely pawns in their negotiation tactics, and it makes me roll my eyes so hard you might mistake me for WWE star The Undertaker.

via GIPHY

British Airways strike, September 2019

A similar thing took place in the last 24 hours or so with British Airways. I say similar because it’s a labor dispute between the corporation and the pilots’ union that led to a strike.

Yesterday at 4:54 pm, I received two emails from British Airways notifying me that our flight back to the United States would be canceled. Cue the anger. Cue the panic. The end of the workday suddenly turned into a big ball of stress as we tried to figure out what we would do. Should we book an alternate return trip? What if prices are crazy – do we try and cancel everything else and work out something with the cruise ship reservations? Thousands of dollars are at stake. Here we go.

My wife quickly found an alternate set of flights back the next day, meaning we’d have to stay an extra day in Rome (twist our arms). The rate was pretty reasonable, so she jumped on it. I booked an Airbnb. The trip wouldn’t be canceled. Cool. What about refunds for the return trip, though?

A Customer Service Brick Wall

British Airways wouldn’t answer phone calls. They simply told you to try again later. Wow.

Further, their website said several troubling things to us. Our options were limited to working with them on rebooking a way back or canceling the entire trip (there and back) for a refund. Neither of those options was acceptable. We did what we had to do to solve the problem they made for us. Now we just wanted our money back for the return trip. It sounded like British Airways was going to pocket the money they took from us for the return trip if we didn’t cancel the whole thing.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that we booked through an online travel agency, Vayama. We’ve booked through Vayama before and got killer rates on flights, and that’s why we did it again this time. However, with the extenuating circumstances British Airways caused – they wouldn’t deal with us directly and told us to work with Vayama. Talk about passing the buck.

I mean, that’s kind of the theme of the entire public dispute:

Responsibility? What’s that?

Each side is pointing fingers, shifting the blame. Neither side is admitting responsibility for this whole situation. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are dealing with changing travel plans, spending lots of money, not sure if they’d get refunds, etc. It’s a damn mess.

So after spending plenty of time booking new flights and reservations, on the phone, writing emails, and composing tweets… We get the following emails this morning:

That’s right. Less than 18 hours from the initial cancellation emails that sent thousands into a panic, they started sending out “LOL JK” emails. In a way, I’m thankful we got these notices. Ultimately, we were able to cancel our alternate trip back to the states as we were within the 24-hour cancellation period. But I know that many are still out there trying to sort out their travel plans and are worried about the investments they made.

Further, I’m just appalled by the poor decision making that caused the initial emails to go out. If they used verbiage like “may be canceled” in the initial emails they could’ve saved themselves at least some headache.

TLDR

My point is that using consumer pain as a negotiation tactic is a bad look for all parties involved. Whether you’re sorting out TV deals or a certain percentage pay raise, sort it out on your own behind closed doors. Don’t let it get to the point where you’re causing harm (time, money, etc) to consumers. Egg on your face isn’t a good look.

Race Report: Across the Years 2018-2019

So, uh. I ran 100 miles last week. More specifically, I did it within 24 hours, and all I got was this lousy (awesome) belt buckle. I toed the line with a couple dozen other like-minded (read: crazy) folks on New Year’s Eve at 9 am. I didn’t stop moving until New Year’s Day at 8:55 am. This is my story.

A year ago, my (now) wife and I signed up to run Across the Years. What’s that? – you may ask… It’s a timed race, meaning that you sign up for a block of 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or SIX DAYS and you run (or walk or hobble or whatever you need to do) as much or as little as you’d like during that time. It’s a one-mile loop that runs through the outer concourse of Camelback Ranch’s baseball practice fields. Normally, crowds gather here in March to watch the White Sox and the Dodgers – but for a week in December / January each year – a bunch of lunatics like me come out to test ourselves.

In the 2017-2018 version of the race, I got up to 50 miles and called it quits. That wasn’t really the plan, but I took a break which ended up lasting probably half an hour, and I just couldn’t muster up the will to get back out there. Besides, I just wanted to hit the 50-mile mark so that I’d have a little more self-confidence before running the Black Canyon 100K in February.

This year, though? My goal was to run 100 miles in one go. My wife will tell you, though – I didn’t have much of a game plan. She’d probably also tell you that I didn’t train enough. She knew I could do it, but I don’t think she was as confident as I was when I started that New Year’s Eve.

I’m glad she was there, though. If she had any doubts, she didn’t let them show. She ran with me every so often (as allowed) and it was nice to chat a little bit in between podcasts, music, and audiobooks that otherwise kept me company. Things would get rough at times, but her smile along with encouraging words from other friends at various times of the day (and night) were all I needed to keep my feet moving.

As the clock drew closer to midnight, I started calculating how much time I’d be killing at the start/finish line to countdown the new year with Laura and take a quick swig of champagne. As soon as we did that, we were back on the course to keep moving ahead of the crowd. I say crowd because they let spectators take a lap after midnight just for kicks. I loved seeing so many people on the course with me, but I didn’t want to get stuck among the herd. I had a pace to keep and the clock was ticking.

To start the whole thing, my pace was somewhere in the ballpark of 10-11 minute miles. That’s an easy run. My marathon pace is probably closer to 9-minute miles, for reference. As time went on, it got closer to a 14-minute average. Some loops took 18 minutes. Some were in the 12 range. It really just depended on how I was feeling at any given moment or whether I was eating or needed a bathroom break… By the time midnight had come and gone I calculated in my head that I’d need to keep up a 14:30 average over the remaining 30+ miles. Easy enough, right?

Well, that number pretty much dictated the rest of the race for me. I kept to it so much so that things really came down to the wire in the last hour. A little buffer would be nice, right? Also, I determined that I’d hit 100 miles halfway through one of my laps. Remember when I said it was a 1-mile course? Well, it’s more like 1.05 or something. I asked a friend if the tracker at the halfway point would count, and on my next lap they confirmed that I’d need to finish the entire lap before 9am – something I considered but didn’t really take into account with my lap pace. He shouted at me as I passed through and realized I had a little over 15 minutes to complete another lap. That’s within my average pace up to that point, but it lit a fire in me. I pushed as hard as I could to not come in under the gun, and as I stated at the top of this report – I finished with 5 minutes to spare.

It was one of the most difficult accomplishments of my lifetime, and I’m already looking back on it with pride.


Photo by Chris Worden

One thing I didn’t think too much about was recovery. I was so focused on what I’d need to do to knock out 100 miles that I didn’t take into account just how long it would take before I’d be back to normal again.

After I was done running, I could finally stop moving. I could finally sit. I barely stopped and stood still for 24 hours and didn’t sit at all in that amount of time. After nearly an hour of sitting in front of a portable heater (during which time my body temperature and heart rate dropped a LOT) I somehow made it to my feet and slowly waddled to the car. Oh, how I would get used to waddling for the next 36 hours…

We got home late morning on New Year’s Day. After a warm bath (an underrated luxury) and a quick bite to eat, it was off to sleep (finally!).

My body temperature rose again as inflammation set in everywhere and my heart rate settled into an elevated state that it wouldn’t return from until January 3rd. I’ve experienced an elevated heart rate after a tough 50K, but it never lasted more than half a day or so. This was nuts. I just kept resting and eating during that time, and once I could stand without using my arms as leverage I started walking again as much as I could muster. One thing I’ve learned from my wife the physical therapist is that active recovery is a key to rehabilitation.


I’m slightly obsessed with my Garmin. Heart rate, sleep tracking, all that jazz.

We’re about a week out now, and I’m not in any rush to get back to regular training, though it’ll come soon. I don’t know what my next race might be, but I now know that I CAN run 100 miles. I can do whatever I set my mind to.

Game on.

Race Report: Across the Years 24-Hour Race

Just a few weeks before this race, I set a new PR for the 50K distance at McDowell Mountain Frenzy. I know, a 50K PR doesn’t necessarily mean a ton with all the variation in trails, but it still felt like a pretty good accomplishment and boosted my confidence in my preparation for the Black Canyon 100K in February 2018.

Next up? Across the Years, starting the morning of New Year’s Eve and (theoretically) finishing the morning of New Year’s Day.

Laura put together a game plan to take the race on conservatively and run slower than one might think to run. Overall, her strategy worked out nicely as she and her running partner kept each other going.

My strategy, though, was to not really have a strategy. I’d run a pace that felt good, keep it no faster than 10-minute miles, and see how it goes. I put Finding Gobi on my phone via the Audible app and that got me through most of my race. Sure, the book is less than ten hours long, and I had planned on running 24 hours – right? Well, that changed…

Half marathon: ✔️ #acrosstheyears

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I cranked through the half marathon distance at a decent clip. I had set a PR just months before running sub-9-minute miles, so this was no big deal.

Marathon: ✔️ #acrosstheyears

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By the time I got closer to the marathon distance, though, I was still running a pace that I wasn’t quite used to over that distance, and so I started to fade a bit…

50K: ✔️ #acrosstheyears

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Once I got to the 50K distance, I decided to take my first extended break where I actually sat down and ate a bit of a sandwich. I figured this would be the first of many breaks like this as I ran through the night. No big deal.

Uncharted territory for me.. 50 miles: ✔️ #acrosstheyears

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Yeah, so.. I started taking more breaks. Nothing big, but just decided to take care of myself along the way. Plus, my book was done at this point, so I didn’t even have that to keep me going. Music was fine, but it wasn’t nearly as distracting. Distractions are good with such a monotonous race as this. The people are great, but you can only get so excited about running a 1 mile flat loop, y’know?

By the time I hit 50 miles, I was under 11.5 hours into the race. 100 miles could be doable, but I really didn’t feel like it. My motivation was shot, and I took an extended rest break. The air had gotten cold and I found a heater, and that was pretty much it for me. I’d go back out for a handful more miles, both on my own and to accompany Laura, but I was fading fast.

Happy New Year! #newyears #aravaiparunning #acrosstheyears ?: @happyjubilee

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New Year’s came around, and I celebrated with Laura and other friends. I was talking big heading into this race, in that I wanted to run the underwear beer mile after midnight and all that… Yeah, no. I layered up and laid down in the tent, not to emerge until the sun came up the next morning. Laura joined me some time later when her mileage had caught up to mine, and we crawled out into the next day to hobble around one final mile before turning in our trackers.

I felt pretty good about nailing down nearly 60 miles. It wasn’t quite what I thought I’d do, but it was more than enough for this venture. And I proved to myself that I could definitely run for the 100K distance. Game on, Black Canyon.