I love to travel. A long drive, new faces, new cities and scenery are all wonderful to me. But air travel and airports….. not so much. Generally, I travel across Canada and the United States, but also Europe and Britain. Two of my four young adult children also travel independently regularly, and are experts with airports and reservations.
Last week my 20 year old son was returning to Canada from Europe on his own, after spending 10 days with sporting teammates. It was a great adventure for him. After going their separate ways home, my son waited for his flight, arriving early at the airport. About an hour before the flight was scheduled, there was a delay announcement. The travellers were told it was difficult to refuel the planes because of the 100 degree F heat. Fair enough. It was delayed for 2 hours or so at first, then a little more, then the flight was cancelled. Travellers were informed by announcement that the airline would reschedule flights for them and then call or contact them by email. Large lineups ensued. An announcement was made somewhat to the effect of – don’t line up at customer service as we cannot help you.
Now as travellers, we understand that sometimes things happen, and we can’t get where we want to go on time, and yes we’d rather be safe. I’ve been in airports before closed down by snowstorms, and I get it. but what is important here is being treated respectfully, being able to be comfortable, and knowing that you will be looked after.
According the THE EVENING STANDARD https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/amsterdam-airport-schiphol-delays-flights-to-and-from-netherlands-face-disruption-over-refueling-a4197731.htm The aiport was shut down because the fuel supplier was unable to refuel the planes because of a system failure and over 250 flights were cancelled. According the article “field beds” were being set up in case passengers had to sleep at the airport.
My son then waited for news of his new flight, tried to use his “SERENITY SERVICE” from his health insurance provider, which should supply lounge access, perhaps a hotel reservation, or some serenity, but none was offered. At first he found out that his delay was shorter than 3 hours, so not entitled to anything. Then we found out that as his flight was subsequently cancelled, there was no serenity to be had at all. I was told that as this was free with his travel heath insurance, it was really a pretty good deal?
That said, we tried to find him a hotel reservation at or near the airport and everything was full – fair enough. He said that he saw someone get a small meal voucher – but just one. Water bottles were being handed out, so no problem there. Field beds? Information? New ticket? Nothing.
The airline customer service desk closed, despite the long lineup still waiting. He settled down to sleep on the floor next to a few hundred other travellers. He contacted the airline as suggested using Whatsapp and Facebook, but to no avail. I contacted the North American office of a related airline, and eventually the agent provided me with the last available ticket (she said) on a flight the next morning. I was assured his baggage would not be lost. There were some confusing moments, as the flight did not appear on the tracking system for the airline, his boarding pass would not print at the self serve kiosk, and he was told to go to customer service for the airline – but here’s the thing – the customer service desk was still closed in the morning and he said there were still hundreds of people in line. I also tried the Facebook contact method suggested – I received a response 1.5 hours later after he was already checked in). A few more calls to the Atlanta office, and we were told that as he had never left the secure area, he should just go to the gate for his ticket and he could get the boarding pass there, and no worries the baggage would follow him. Thankfully he arrived home safely the following afternoon. Still waiting for the luggage!!
Here’s a quote from the airlines website:
“A delayed or cancelled flight, or missing a transfer connection is extremely frustrating and a huge inconvenience. Together we can find a solution and try to minimise the nuisance: – We will rebook you on one of the best available alternative flights, giving preference to XXXXXXXXX partners.We will provide your new schedule via e-mail, text message or telephone.”. If he was given the last seat on a new flight when I called, would he ever have gotten that new schedule automatically? When we looked at his booking in the online portal for the airline – we could not rebook online.
“In any event, we will ensure that your baggage is automatically delivered to your final destination.” Still looking forward to that.
“To take care of your essential requirements, we will offer you coupons for food and beverages, as well as a prepaid telephone card. If necessary, we will also arrange a hotel stay, including transportation to and from your accommodation.” He must have missed that line-up!
So that was a bit of a rant and a story, but honestly, we all know that things happen with travel and flight cancellations. It will all work out in the end, but when things like this happen, you would expect more customer service assistance not less. In general, whenever I have spoken with any customer service people regarding the flight or baggage, they have been extremely polite and sorry. I suspect there may even be some sort of points or financial claim offer. The delay is OK, it’s all nice to be sorry and offer compensation (if that happens), but what is important is clear and concise information to all, not just the few.