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Do you have a story of a Nightmare on an Airline?

Customer loyalty and customer accolades come from how you manage the situation when problems occur

When you think about it, air travel is amazing.  You walk into a piece of machinery that weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds and that machine takes off, climbs to about six miles above the earth, and then deposits you at your destination a few hours later.  You, in the meantime, are sitting back, relaxing, having a few drinks, watching a movie, eating, or sleeping.  Before you know it, you’re there.

When the pilgrims came to America, their ship could take anywhere from 50 to over 100 days to arrive - and there was a good chance they’d die on the voyage! Today we can get from London to New York in about eight hours.  It’s a miracle, and when you think about how convenient air travel is, and the cost, you really have to believe that we live in an amazing time in history. 

That is until something goes wrong and you actually have to deal with the airlines.  You’d think after having commercial air travel for almost 100 years, these air carriers would have figured it out.  Apparently they haven’t.

A customer of ours was scheduled to travel to Jamaica for a vacation to Hedonism II, leaving Las Vegas on Saturday morning at about 12:30 AM on United Airlines.  Unfortunately the customer got confused and arrived at the airport on Saturday evening, thinking that the flight would be leaving at 12:30 AM on Sunday, even though Sunday is the next day.  Of course the customer should have paid closer attention, but we’ve actually done the same thing.  For whatever reason, it’s easy to get confused with those flights that leave right after midnight.

The customer was told by the gate agent that she could not rebook the same flight, as that flight was no longer being offered by United.  Frustrated, the customer went home and called us.  Sunday morning we spent an hour on the phone (that’s right – Sunday morning!) with United trying to rebook this customer on another flight to Jamaica.  To say the experience was frustrating is an understatement.

Over the phone, we were told that in fact the same flight was being offered by United.  In fact, the flight was available for the customer to fly out on Monday, at 12:30 AM, however United would not make the ticket change.  Apparently United has a rule that if the customer does not show up for the flight, and the customer does not contact United within 2 hours, the ticket change must be handled by a special department, which is only open Monday through Friday.  This of course, was Sunday morning. 

Further, the agent went on to tell us that even if the ticket was changed, the customer could not get on the 12:30 AM flight on Monday, or even the 12:30 AM flight on Tuesday, because when the ticket is changed, the travel time must be more than 24 hours from the date of the ticket change if you are going on the same route. However, the agent did say that the ticket could be changed on Monday and used on Monday if the customer chose a different route, but naturally the different route that was available went through different cities and resulted in a significant increase in travel time.  Again the agent couldn’t actually make the change, nor could the agent tell us what the change would cost, if anything.  For that, we needed to contact this special department that is only open Monday through Friday.  Of course this whole process was even more aggravating as the person we were dealing with clearly in a call center on the other side of the world, and seemed quite unperturbed by the ludicrous nature of the situation.

So a customer who thought she was going to be at Hedonism II on Sunday, sitting by the beach, drinking cocktails and getting naked at the nude pool, is stuck in Las Vegas waiting to speak to this special department that is only open Monday through Friday.  She will be lucky if she gets to Hedonism II by Tuesday, having lost about three days of her vacation. 

Things go wrong.  That’s life. It happens.  But how you manage problems and issues when things go wrong is the true test of a company’s customer service and competence – something we at DPT firmly believe in. It’s easy to deal with customers when everything goes smoothly, but customer loyalty and customer accolades come from how you manage the situation when problems occur.  We are surprised that United Airlines hasn’t figured that out.

If you've got an airline or other travel horror story, send it to us.  If it's good enough to make it onto Dream Pleasure News we'll send you a reward coupon for $100.

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