It gives me no pleasure to write this post. As those of you who’ve been traveling around the world with me these past 4.5 years know, I rarely write negative reviews. Delays happen, mistakes are an unavoidable part of life on the road. Sometimes a hotel employee having a bad day can tarnish your experience, but it doesn’t mean the whole hotel deserves a bad rap. I try to vent about travel providers only when I see a systemic issue that needs to be addressed, and given my recent experience with Silver Airways, I feel you faithful readers deserve to be warned.
LET’S GET MARRIED!
One of the first tasks on any bride’s to-do list, aside from STOP EATING & WIN THE LOTTERY, is finding the perfect venue for the Big Day. Since Rick & I knew we wanted a tropical destination wedding that could accommodate a rather large group, it was important for us find a destination with an affordable hotel and affordable, plentiful flight options. Having attended some 2,941 expensive weddings in my life, I know all too well how financially burdensome someone else’s nuptials can be. (That’s one of the main reasons I only have a maid of honor and no bridesmaids – I just don’t want to pass on extravagant costs in addition to travel expenses to my people.)
After a few site visits, we landed on the perfect hotel on Treasure Cay, Abaco, in The Bahamas. But what about those plentiful, affordable flights?
Way back in April, we researched options from Florida, New York, Texas, Wisconsin & Tennessee – the markets where most of our guests live, and found that Silver Airways (in partnership with United) offered plenty of options to both Marsh Harbour (MHH) & Treasure Cay (TCB) during our wedding week. Satisfied with the options, we booked a few dozen flights on Silver to the tune of several thousand dollars, with many more to come as additional guests coordinated their individual travel plans.
I was crushing the wedding planning game like Fat Amy – way ahead of schedule, slashing that to-do list like Valyrian steel.
“Look how easy it is to travel internationally, y’all,” I told my guests. “It’s so easy to get to The Bahamas,” I said.
Weeks & months went by and wedding planning continued. White dresses & linen suits were purchased, invitation design was in progress and fat checks were written for various deposits. There was no turning back.
WHEN IT ALL WENT WRONG: THE SILVER SAGA BEGINS
Months after confirmations were received and BOOK FLIGHTS was checked off my insanely long list, Silver Airways sent out a middle-of-the-night email to the dozens of guests who had already booked.
Oh, just a little schedule change? My left foot.
This wee “flight time change” meant at least one unplanned night in Fort Lauderdale on the way to the wedding for many guests. Others found that portions of their itineraries had been canceled completely with no mention of rebooking, essentially stranding them in The Bahamas. (There are worse places to be stuck, but most American bosses aren’t like, “Oh sure, take all the time off you need! Stay gone on vacation forever. Rest up!” What do you think this is — France?!)
Here’s just one example of this scheduling buffoonery. My grandparents were reserved for 4 flight legs total, set to arrive on Wednesday & depart on Sunday. Check out their updated itinerary:
Notice anything wonky here? Now they are stuck with a night in Fort Lauderdale that they didn’t sign up for, which means not only will they miss all the Thursday wedding activities, but they’re also on the hook for an unplanned hotel night in FLL. What’s even worse, their return flight from The Bahamas to Florida has just mysteriously disappeared from the itinerary.
Sorry, Grandma & Grandpa, you guys get to swim back to Fort Lauderdale!
And this didn’t just happen to the grandparents… aunts & uncles, Mom & Dad, siblings – seriously, everyone who was scheduled to return home on Sunday was left hanging, and the only indication they received that their whole trip was upended was that there was a mild “schedule change.”
Call me crazy, but after researching for hours to find the perfect flight schedule, reserving it on Silver’s website, paying hundreds for it and receiving a CONFIRMATION number, one expects to arrive on the selected and CONFIRMED dates.
I mean… travel dates generally aren’t optional, right? Even with unforeseeable delays that could crop up, it’s fair to assume the airline will do everything it can to get you where you want to go at the promised time. Right?
Wrong. Silver Airways, was all, “Dude, don’t be so uptight, man. Reservations are like, harshing my mellow.”
Most customer service reps I spoke with (in dozens of conversations following hours spent listening to truly nefarious on-hold sounds not to be confused with actual music) couldn’t grasp my frustration at all. One told me to just chill and see how things played out over the summer.
Yeah, because I’m like Beyonce swimming in my giant pool of money! I can just pay all the deposits for venue, flowers, accommodations, etc. & if there aren’t enough flights to get us to the wedding, it’s totes NBD! I can just gas up my private jet and me and Jay-Z and Justin Beiber will be there, no problem.
Other guest relations yahoos countered that the flights would still get there, probably, eventually, just like, a day or two later than planned.
Super cool, I was so hoping we could all sit around staring at each other at the airport for a few extra days. It’s the perfect way to extend wedding week – psych!
I cannot imagine anything more painful than a 2-day forced layover with all of our relatives. I love them all dearly and I’m so glad everyone is excited to share in our special day, but as God is my witness, that could turn into a refugee situation really fast. People could get hurt. Who’s going to clean up that mess — Silver Airways? Yeah right.
When you book a specific flight, it’s because you have somewhere to be at a specific time.
So what’s the solution? I spoke with a few truly apologetic Silver customer service reps who just weren’t equipped to deal with this scheduling nonsense. I appreciate the one honest rep who confessed, “I have no control over this and no information on what might happen in the future.”
On the other hand, I’ve spoken to others who see no issue with the schedule changes whatsoever, telling me dismissively, “All airlines do this.”
A word-for-word excerpt of one email response I received:
Please be advised that schedule changes are normal in the aviation industry to streamline operations.
So, let me get this straight. Other airlines completely alter travel schedules after booking, leaving customers stranded in foreign countries with no compensation or recourse?
Um, no they really don’t, bro. Because they’d be out of business.
How about this Tweet exchange:
A. Guest Relations did not help in any capacity. That is the crux of the problem. Guest Relations is not equipped to deal with scheduling issues.
B. Thanks for that thinly veiled, verbal middle finger, but, this actually does not tend to happen with airlines in general. I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles on dozens of airlines, including bottom-of-the-barrel carriers like RyanAir, and this kind of inconsiderate, careless, schedule-screwing dickery has never, ever happened to me.
Shauna from Guest Relations let me know that maybe the flights were cancelled/changed since October is low season in The Bahamas. Hey, Silver, if you’re concerned about filling those low season flights, here are some options:
- Don’t offer them
- Give them time to fill up
I did the math and there’s potential for $50,000-$75,000 in revenue for Silver here on my guests’ flights – so the rationale that it’s low season so they have to cancel service is just bunk.
And sure, I don’t have any experience running an airline, but I’m pretty sure $75,000 during low season is a like, a pretty good thing for the bottom line. But yeah, idk.
It’s misleading to consumers to publish the flights, allow bookings & plans to be made, and then decide it’s not convenient or profitable anymore. It demonstrates a real lack of concern for customer experience, and while I don’t expect much from airlines in this day and age, I do rightly expect confirmed reservations to be honored.
We are literally planning the most important day of our lives around flight availability, and Silver is like, “Hahaha, let’s mess with these two happy people and see if we can get them to break up!” WHAT THE ACTUAL FLIP.
Some questions that I have for the folks at Silver Airways:
- What exactly is a FLIGHT CONFIRMATION good for in the Silver Airways world? Is it more like a FLIGHT SUGGESTION, or a WE MIGHT FLY YOU TO THE BAHAMAS IF YOU’RE COOL certificate?
- Who foots the bill for the extra, unplanned night(s) at layover airports? And what about meals, ground transportation, etc.?
- Can you talk to my irate & panic-stricken relatives and explain to them why I lied about how easy it is to travel to The Bahamas? Because everyone thinks I lied and I’m going to get exactly ZERO blenders/toasters out of this whole wedding thing now.
- Can someone in Guest Relations cancel the hotel reservations for the nights already reserved in The Bahamas & book extra nights for those stranded?
- Can you rearrange all our golf cart reservations and cancel our snorkeling excursion?
- Go ahead and rebook all our prearranged ground transportation, too.
- What’s the compensation to travelers for completely getting rid of a confirmed flight? If you pay $600 to get you to and from home, eventually you’ll need that return flight back to the U.S. to do so.
- Who’s going to help my grandparents swim back to Florida to catch their FLL-JAX flight? Could you get us a rowboat of some sort?
LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN
All the affected wedding guests either cancelled and rebooked from scratch or spent hours dealing with Silver’s customer service department in an attempt to adjust the new Silver schedule to fit with the days they were meant to be in The Bahamas. In this second attempt at getting to The Bahamas, we researched flights on Bahamas Air & American Air, the only other options, and while there are a few flights, there weren’t nearly enough to get everyone to MHH & TCB, and most flights weren’t on the days we needed them. (Which is why we didn’t book them to begin with.)
So most folks just adjusted their schedules to go with Silver’s new flights. Many had to request extra days off work, leave a day or two early, or had to accept that they’d miss out on various wedding activities because the airlift that was initially promised & reserved had been removed.
And it should be noted, for those of us who cancelled and started from scratch, the prices went up, so each new flight ended up costing a good $100+ more. In the end, Silver actually made more money off of screwing up the flights. What a scam, right?! (Who’s swimming in a big pool of money now?! I think we know.)
After many more hours on the phone (hours which I was unable to do my actual job or coordinate other aspects of the wedding – sorry, there will be no flowers and we probably have to eat on paper plates), most everyone was rebooked and reconfirmed, and the nightmare that was my Silver Airways debacle had come to an unsatisfying end.
Having related to countless Silver representatives that 150-200 seats would ultimately be booked on the remaining available flights, I thought the ludicrous clowning around with the schedules would come to an end.
SILVER SUCKS: THE SAGA CONTINUES
Less than one week after sorting out the whole foolish and unnecessary situation, another round of late-night emails from Silver dropped into our inboxes like so many flaming brown paper bags of poo, with all new changes, cancellations and septuagenarian swims back to Florida.
As you might’ve guessed, the excrement promptly hit the oscillating ceiling blades.
Messing with customers’ hard-earned, limited vacation time & cash is disgusting – and any company worth its salt should know that. But from what I have experienced in all this interaction with Silver is that this airline is run by some JV squad of dinguses with no regard for customer satisfaction. (I don’t think I want to know who’s flying the planes if they can’t even get the schedules right.)
What I don’t understand is why Silver is canceling & rescheduling flights for passengers who have already paid thousands of dollars to fly on those specific dates and times – twice. Every single person, we’re talking dozens and dozens, who has booked with Silver so far has either had random flight legs cancelled or rescheduled so significantly that they risked missing the wedding altogether – twice. TWICE.
Basically, Silver Airways is the honey badger of airlines. They literally don’t give a sh*&.
In the latest Silver scheduling muck-up, Rick’s brother & sister-in-law were told they’d be spending 3-4 days in Fort Lauderdale airport. THREE TO FOUR DAYS, y’all. They were initially scheduled to arrive early in the week, but the earliest Silver could bring them in after the schedule changes was Saturday. Well that would be great if the wedding wasn’t on Friday!
EXISTENTIAL MARRIAGE CRISIS
Brides are pretty stressed out to begin with, but I think destination-wedding planning brides have even more potential for drama. Trying to coordinate all the details of the special day from hundreds of miles away offers its own special challenges, and the cultural differences, a.k.a. island time, can make things a notch trickier at times.
As Round 2 of the Silver Airways saga unfolded, I went full bridezilla and had a rare Mother Flipping Nuclear Meltdown.
*Hyperventilating* Should we even do this? Is all this a sign that we shouldn’t get married? Maybe we aren’t supposed to fly because the planes are going to crash and this is God trying to warn us!*Text from Grandma: Well, have fun at your wedding because we are done with all this nonsense*OMG, maybe we should elope*Calls fiance*BABE, I THINK WE SHOULD ELOPE! I’m FREAKING OUT*Sobs uncontrollably* I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO*THERE ARE NO FLIGHTS*NO ONE IS COMING TO OUR WEDDING!*Fiance rethinks this whole marriage thing*Throw invitations on the ground*Sob on the floor*Snotty tissues everywhere*Research refunds on wedding dresses*Give up on marriage*
After breathing into a paper bag for a while (not the aforementioned flaming poo ones), talking to my mom & sister and remembering why we’re going through all this mess in the first place (we’re in love, dangit), we eventually found a solution.
We cancelled every last flight on Silver Airways and rebooked on Bahamas Air.
Sure, we have to spend a day driving to West Palm Beach in order to catch that flight, and then we all have to pay for parking for 7+ days (instead of just taking Uber to the airport in JAX) and then of course everyone has to drive all the way back home after a week away. Surely, all that effort that has to be better than potentially suffering through another round of the unbelievable Silver Airways Wedding Saga. It took a full work-week of hours in total for me, not to mention what it took for other guests, to book, unbook, rebook, unbook and rebook new flights.
I have to give Silver some credit… there have been many phone calls & emails from various employees since I turned to Twitter to vent my frustration; unfortunately none was equipped to do anything about the schedule, and of course no one has a clue if there could be more cancellations. Mostly there were just empty apologies & CYA-conversations. But it doesn’t even matter.
At this point, I’m feeling like this kid:
I’ve learned my lesson, and there’s no way we’re going to risk EVER flying with Silver again. Especially not when the happiest day of our lives is on the line.
So we’ll improvise. Traveling to The Bahamas will be less convenient & more expensive for everyone involved. Chances are, fewer people will be able to attend – and obviously, that’s crushing for Rick & me, especially since we really tried to pick a location that was affordable for most guests.
In researching for this post, I came across this excerpt from Silver Airways’ mission statement:
- Treating each customer with personalized, caring service and genuine appreciation
- Supporting team members with the resources to do what’s right for our customers
Having just read these for the first time, I’m just going to go on record and say LOLLLLLLLLLL. Silver, you have a long way to go.
Travelers, beware of this airline. If you’re heading to The Bahamas, find another way.
Have you ever flown on Silver? What’s your worst air travel customer service story? Tell me below… I know I’m not the only one!