I thought you maybe interested in a horrific experience my wife and I had with an Airline that will remain nameless.
Below I include my initial complaint letter sent to the airlines customer services. I have removed the airlines name as feel it was appropriate to do so… Its a long one, but well worth the read – ENJOY! – I’ll follow it up throughout this week.. so stay tuned! Check part 2 out here
My wife and I have just returned from our holiday to South Africa and the Seychelles, and we feel it is necessary to document the absolute nightmare Airline and its partner airlines have put us though over the last 3 weeks.
Overall the experience we have been subjected to has been, and continues to be nothing short of diabolical, with a mix of poor communication, extremely poor customer service (one may even say rude), delays, cancellations and loss of property to name just a few issues.
I will summarise to start with and then go into detail… However I must start with my utter disbelief of what has occurred from what we thought was one of the most professional airlines in the world. We currently have been completely put off further long haul travel, however if we did decide to try it again – we would be using a real world class airline such as Emirates or Virgin. Currently we will NEVER use your airline ever again.
To summarize we have experienced
- Over 50 hours of delays, with no single flight departing/arriving on time
- Over 5 flight rebookings – some without our consent or knowledge of
- Potential re-routes via Lagos, Istanbul, Dubai and Bahrain (one flight rebooked via Nairobi)
- Some of the worst customer service and worst communication we have ever experienced
- Rude, and I hate to say, incompetent staff members
- A huge amount of broken promises and potential lies
- Lost Baggage for over 24 hours.
Our original saga started at Heathrow on 5th of April, where we arrived at the airport at 6am, for our 9.05am flight to Johannesburg via Abu Dhabi. We were checked in and happily awaited more information of the flight gate and times. After 2.5 hours of waiting and only 30 minutes left until boarding we located the Airline staff around a gate and enquired as to what was happening. We were informed that the flight had been diverted to Manchester earlier that morning due to fog. It was funny that certain planes landed but this one couldn’t! We were then informed that the flight crew had exceeded their hours so a new crew would have to be allocated to/in Manchester. Honestly it was chaos at that point at the gate – but the frustrating part was that we had been allowed to sit and stew for 3 hours before any communication was given. It was a shambles! If we were told of the issue before checking in (as it was known by then) we could have gone home and come back later… however I understand these issues do happen. After the crowd died down we were told that the flight would be departing at approx. 3pm, a good 6 hour delay. Upon hearing this we immediately knew that we would miss our connection to Johannesburg – so bought this to the staff’s attention. We were asked to wait and told that the airline would rebook us on an alternative flight. Two hours went by, and I enquired again, to find no further information, another half an hour passed – still nothing, and lastly the last 30 minutes – making it around midday we were automatically booked on the flight at 3pm to reach our transfer destination stay there the night, then catch a flight to Lagos with a 7 hour layover and then arriving in Johannesburg on the 7th of April.
I had a number of issues with this, one would be that we would miss our tour that were booked on, as we would be over 48 hours in transit. Number 2 is that Lagos is in Nigeria, a known dangerous location for travellers. Thirdly that Airline would put us at risk by having us 6-7 hours in a dangerous country that the UK foreign office advises that we should avoid! This was not acceptable, however what made things even worse was that your own staff there even shook their heads and verbally agreed that Lagos was unsafe! That is from your own staff! Now why would an airline even contemplate such a dangerous move without even consulting us? It was at that point that I literally had to beg the staff to find an alternative. And after some begging of her own the Airline staff found an Air Kenya flight via Nairobi that would get us in the same day (the 6th at 2pm – making us just 10 hours delayed). This was the most acceptable solution – and would enable us to make our tour by a few hours – so we agreed. This flight was scheduled for 8.30pm – giving us a lovely 14 hour stay in Heathrow! It was also funny that I had originally reviewed Air Kenya for the trip, but decided to spend more money on your airline as believed there were a better, more professional, safer airline. We also researched Air Kenya and had seen some horror stories, including safety concerns – now we were flying them. This flight although uncomfortable, very crowded and not very professional got us to our destination in time for our tour.
Upon completion of our tour, and having a few days with my uncle in Johannesburg I contacted the airline feedback service to document a complaint regarding this atrocious start to our holiday with standards falling very short of what we would expect from a leading airline with core values focused around the customer and professionalism!!!!. I received an email back the next day from a gentlemen (name hidden) dated 22nd of April requesting my contact number. I immediately replied giving them my uncles number on the 22nd, but received no call. I also advised that we would be in Johannesburg airport and the Seychelles airport if I could speak to a representative there on either occasion. Again none of these happened! I also advised that we would be back in the UK on Monday the 28th for them to call me on my UK cell number. Since then I have not received any communication from them, and actually just today got another email 30th of April asking exactly the same thing that had already asked a week earlier! That’s over a week for any feedback… I also over the next 7 days emailed them with the reference number provided 3 times but no response… Absolutely shocking customer services… They simply just didn’t reply to any of my options or even acknowledged any of the issues I am about to document.
We arrived at Johannesburg airport to go to the Seychelles via your partner airline on the 22nd of April (12.25pm), to be told that the booking made for us was not correctly in their system. This luckily was rectified quickly and we were told that the flight would be 2 hours delayed (approx). This I do not have too much issue with – as we know that delays happen with all airlines. However the issue regarding the booking not being correctly made was just another example of the shocking service by your airline.
Our next crossing with your airline came on our final leg which was supposed to be our home leg – on the 27th of April to Abu Dhabi – then to London on the 28th. We left from La Digue Island at 2pm and arrived at Seychelles airport at 5.30pm. Upon check in we were told that our onward flight to London was cancelled and that your airline wouldn’t allow the staff who were partner airline staff to board us… We were told to return to our hotel, which was an impossibility (as was located on a different island), and wait further instructions! This was appalling and as you can see another jewel in the crown of your airlines service! Upon complete shock, we were then told that your airline had changed their minds and that we could check in. Phewww we thought… After 3 hours in the departures area, spending all of our local currency, ridding ourselves of all drinks, insect repellent and sun cream to get through security. We were called to the gate and again told us that your airline had cancelled the connecting flight to London and that the airline would not allow us to board our flight. Could this get any worse? I then had a very heated conversation with your partner airlines employee, who pretty much didn’t care that we were stuck and told us that is was not their problem! He shrugged his shoulders and walked away from me mid-sentence… I was furious…. After another 30 minutes we were escorted from the departures lounge and into the back office, and left there for 30 minutes… with the promise that the supervisor was ‘on his way’. At one point we were left there alone for over 15 minutes. Honestly we could’ve done anything in there… it was so dangerous and utterly unprofessional.
The supervisor appeared and after over an hour of discussions we were told we were originally put on the next flight that was with a competitor airline at 9.55pm, however your airline also put a stop to that as we would be stranded in a different city. We even saw that our names were on the competitive airlines flight manifest but the only flight out of London from the transfer city was fully booked except for Business Class that Airline wouldn’t honour!!!!!!! I mean for all of the issues we have had they couldn’t even do the courtesy of upgrading us for a homeward flight… So we were literally in this airport for 6 hours until we had no choice but to take a hotel room and wait for your next flight at 8.30pm the following day. Guaranteed that we were booked on it! We were even denied an earlier flight with another competitor that left in the morning… The supervisor told us numerous times that he was trying to speak to your airline all day and couldn’t get ahold of them at all. This we later found out was lies… and we even heard that our flight never was cancelled just delayed… I have no idea what to believe…
This was completely outrageous… not only was it another issue with this so called world class airline, but we were treated disgustingly. No one should have to endure what we endured that night and that situation! It was so shocking that my wife even broke down in tears.
We eventually left the airport at 10.30pm, and were booked into a local hotel. Upon arrival we were given a very soggy grilled cheese sandwich and put in a room with virtually no air conditioning. This was the worst night sleep I had all holiday, sweaty, not knowing what was happening, with no confidence in the airline or the staff, and in trouble with both of our employers as we would now miss a days work. Airline had now not only dramatically affected our holiday but now our life’s at home…! We obviously contacted the feedback service again and demanded they call us to discuss it, but no reply!
20 hours spent in a hotel with no local money, we had very little to do except sleep and worry if we would actually get home. 5.30 came and we returned to the airport again. Upon check in we were completely unsurprised to find ourselves not booked on the flight, that we were promised/guaranteed the day earlier. So the situation started to get from awful to completely ridiculous. We were also told that the flight was fully booked!!!!! We spent 2 hours dealing with the rudest staff ever… some just ignored us, others didn’t care, and one even told me to shush as I was explaining the situation and history to her. Your airline representative at the Seychelles airport was so not interested in our ‘fairy-tale story’ that she just frowned and said ‘there is nothing she could do’. We never saw her again after that… Somehow after 2 hours of waiting at the desk with our unbelievably rude staff member, we were put on the flight and told we would have an upgrade on British airways flight leaving our transfer city at 2.15 am on the 29th. Funny thing was that your airline flight was surprisingly delayed by 2 hours when these bookings were made, and we knew before we left that we would miss the flight! A point we tried to bring to the staffs attention but were ignored, and informed that you would honour it or the plane would wait for us… It was just another lie, we knew we would miss it and your staff were no longer going to help us. Just another example of the world’s best airlines customer service! And what a waste of money… It just gets worse and worse! By this time we were simply disillusioned with your airline and everything it stood for…
The flight was cramped and very uncomfortable, and the funny thing was that 13 of your partner airline staff members were also on that plane! No wonder it was fully booked… I can’t believe it…
So we arrived in the transfer city at 2.25am and missed the connection that we already knew about. The queue for the transfer desk was over an hours wait and eventually when we got there, we saw the first glimpse of Airline service with a lady who was very kind, listened to our full saga and for the first time emphasised with our situation. She also was the first person to apologise to us… We were then informed that in their infinite wisdom your airline had rebooked us to fly to Turkey in the morning and then to London arriving at 7pm on the 29th! Another days worked would be missed. We also were told that our Business Class ticket upgrade was worthless and that they couldn’t honour it. At this point we just wanted to get home, we were already over 24 hours late with a day of work missed, and another in jeopardy. We again begged the staff to help and we were put on the 8.30am direct flight. These 6 hours in the airport were cold and uncomfortable however worth it just to get the direct flight.
We arrived home to the final surprise by your airline – Yes that’s right they left our luggage in the transfer city words to describe the service and utter disbelief at what had been a holiday we had been looking forward to for months. The stress of the whole situation has completely taken away that holiday itself!
A world class airline? Really?
As we were at Heathrow this was our final chance to speak to an Airline representative to discuss this situation, as no emails were being replied to or taken seriously. We did find the staff here much improved, very sympathetic and in disbelief at what they heard. Although another rare glimpse at what the airline should be like – this doesn’t retract from the appalling experience we had on all legs of our holiday.
Please find below our original booking details with flight details, I have kept the majority of other booking information and if required can supply them.
I really hope this will be taken seriously, as not only has it had a dramatic effect on our lives, but has also completely removed any desire I have to travel long haul again. I feel completely indifferent towards travel, and I want you to know that this is directly your company’s responsibility.
I await your reply and further discussion.