Key Advice Blog

Customers rule – don’t they?

Posted on: 29/06/2009

On a recent flight back from Canada I  had the most appalling customer service experience by an airline to date – and I’ve been flying for 35 years. The interesting social phenomenon was that the passengers rallied to provide what the airline staff were not – information, support, comfort, food, chairs.

The catalogue of errors started with a cancelled flight, due to a tech fault, that was not posted on the the boards, nor at the gate as delayed or cancelled. Passengers who checked in early (me and a few others) sat stunned as our flight was loaded with passengers from an earlier delayed flight. Not telling us meant we were denied the opportunity to re-book on other flights leaving that evening. Those checking in later were kept in the terminal, but also not informed as to what was going on. We were all gathered together, and one woman, without a microphone or it appeared the resources to handle 200 passengers without a plane at 9 pm, struggled. As anger rose, so did a young man over 6′ tall, who repeated her information in a booming voice. Thus began the resourcefullness of a crowd of strangers.

We were put up in a hotel, and advised of a 13.30 departure time, which dribbled on to be 16.30 (meaning a 04.30 am arrival in the UK). And more chaos to look forward to. But, people were trying to help each other out by getting train times in the UK, looking for taxi sharing, and general humour to make it seem lighter than it was.

But, for some it incurred costs that would never be repaid by the airline. Missing a grandmother’s birthday. Missing a wedding. Missing work – and losing pay or holiday days. Missing the first day at work.

In the departure lounge the service was incredible in its absense. At times there was no one at the gate at all. And when one girl got a bit hysterical about the lack of information (teen on first flight), the attendant went behind locked doors and called airport security. She was with her Mother who was more than capable of calming her down, and other passengers formed a human circle to help her.

The woman I was taking turns watching bags with – had put her bible in her suitcase instead of her carry on. Turned out that decision put her luggage over the 20kg limit (and she was not allowed to take it out), which resulted in a $180 overweight charge.

The list goes on. But, really, what did the airline gain by being so callous to so many. A lot of bad publicity, loss of future business, and claims.

I shall be writing to the customer services department – although I have no name of the ‘Duty Co-ordinator’ our letters were stamped with the department address only.

With a better policy, some staff training and communications this story could have had a happy ending.

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1 Response to "Customers rule – don’t they?"

dear friend
this is sad story

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