Airlines – Do they give a damn?

Returning from a recent trip from Greece my flight from Athens was delayed by nearly 3 hours. There was a plane fault which eventually required a switch of aircraft, not the airlines fault and the sensible decision was taken.

I had booked an on-going train journey to Manchester however and had allowed 3 hours but the ticket was non –transferrable. Due to the delayed flight I missed the train and was forced to purchase another expensive ticket.

On arrival at Heathrow I visited the airline desk; Aegean. In fact going some distance out of my way to report to their desk. Despite the delayed flight and the possibility that passengers may wish to speak to a representative there was not anybody from the airline present at the desk.

taking a hot air balloon flight in La Garrotxa in Catalonia, Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Not your average airline

Instead my query was eventually dealt with by a ticket sales representative from BMI who explained that airlines do not hold themselves responsible for missed on-going travel arrangements. When I asked about this dodging of responsibility she basically just absolved herself from further explanation by saying she did not work for Aegean. The implication was that she was doing me a favour by providing any explanation at all.

In fact Luma from BMI was quite unsympathetic even when I pointed out that there was obviously some form of reciprocal cover and she was actually talking to me as a representative of Aegean. She was quite obtuse and evasive in her replies not providing any further explanation when I enquired if this dodging of responsibility was an airline wide policy.

My encounter with customer services had been totally unhelpful. It is particularly disappointing that an airline can appear not to consider its passengers important enough to have its own representative available to field any queries.

I do not have any issue with the delay, these things happen but to merely absolve themselves from any responsibility, thereby requiring passengers to pay for a second ticket is disgraceful.

The only possible redemption left for me was that Virgin Trains maybe more helpful and exchange my ticket even though they were not under any obligation to do so.

Their ticket office however was unfortunately equally unsympathetic, and for the second time that day I was faced with an unreasonable attitude.

I accept that it was not essentially a Virgin Trains issue. However, surely exercising a little common sense would be preferable to having a customer need to purchase another full ticket and travelling with a sour taste in their mouth. It would not Ferry to the Saronic Islands from the port of Piraeus in Athens, Greece on Mallory on Travel adventure photographyreally have been difficult for the train company to replace the ticket; the missed train was not any fault of mine. This could have been proven as the flight details were still available.

Even if there had been a small administration fee for making the exchange it would have been preferable to paying twice the cost of the original pre-booked ticket. The important point here is I would have left in a much better state of mind and been far happier with Virgin Trains.

This is the problem of monopolies, without competition they do not feel they need to really please customers. I wonder if this was Mr Branson’s original vision for public transport.

My experience demonstrates how little customer care travel providers and airlines in particular really have. The lack of a real policy for dealing with delayed flights and on-going travel arrangements is shocking. Their only policy appears to be to absolve themselves from blame or responsibility which is disgraceful. The motive for this policy is certainly financial, flights are delayed too often and compensation would make a dent in the huge profits of most airlines.

Not even having a representative available to discuss the concerns of delayed passengers seems to display a lack of customer care and respect for passengers.

I have taken the only advice offered by Luma, which was to contact Aegean through their website and am currently waiting for their reply. I will keep you informed of any developments or communication from them. The representatives themselves are not really to blame they are only relaying the policies outlined to them by the companies they work for. Their attitude however could have been a little more helpful and sympathetic. the meaning of customer care appears to have been lost on them.

After over a month I finally recieved the following reply from Aegean Airlines, customer services:

“In regard with your flight from Athens to London on July 16th, we deeply regret or any inconvenience caused and would like to provide you with some further information.”
“Based also on our reports, we confirm that flight A3 602 departed with a delay of 02.25’ due to an unforeseen technical occurrence.
However, every of our action is based on specific procedures and the relevant flight was finally operated. At this point we would like to mention that only  for onward connections issued on single ticket, the operating carrier is obliged to offer further assistance.
Any other extra costs that occur at the final destination are not refundable.  Neither is a compensation foreseen for flight delays. Based on that, we are unable to respond positively to your request.”
“Mr. Mallory,without any doubt it is of our outmost concern to operate our flights as schedule and we would like to assure you that every effort was made so as to transfer you as soon as possible to your final destination.”
This reply does not come any surprise, it merely confirms that in common with all airlines they have absloved themselves from any responsiility. Customer care is not their priority, maximising profits whilst providing minimal service seems to be.
This airline may not be one of the ones making huge profits, however the executives that make and enforce these policies probably make more than anybody reading this article. They can afford to write off £100 or so but I imagine that if one of them had to purchase another train ticket due to a delayed flight with their own airline they would merely claim it back in expenses.
Enough said from me.

It would be useful to hear of any airline/transport company customer service you have experienced good or bad, providing a balanced and complete article. Are other forms of transport better at dealing with passengers? Please add your feedback in the comments section, help me finish this article.

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Comments 10

  1. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    I’ll be waiting to see if there is any updates on this, Iain. My only experience has, over the years, been exactly as you mention; screw you over no matter what with zero regards to customer service. In 14 years or so of traveling, I’ve never had an airline accept responsibility for any FUBARs. It’s *always* ended up in my lap needing to pay extra for the hiccups.

    Consequently, it’s why I hate flying :), which is odd, considering I love traveling!

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  2. Wilderide

    “Huge profits of most airlines”??? Which airlines are these?

    No airline, or indeed any purveyor of any mode of travel takes financial responsibility for the costs of any unrelated travel plans of their customers. Granted airlines promise service they rarely provide, but they are a transportation provider, and that’s it. I agree it’s frustrating when a problem of the airlines, or act of nature, interferes with or ruins one’s other, often expensive, travel plans, but would you have felt any better if Aegean had paid for an unnecessary staff member to sit at an unused ticket counter in order to sympathetically tell you they were so very sorry, but there was nothing they could do for you, but thank you so much for your custom?

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      Iain

      Airlines making huge profits how about Ryanair and Spirit for just a start http://moneyland.time.com/2012/05/23/uh-oh-fee-crazed-airlines-are-the-most-profitable/ or maybe its only US airlines http://centreforaviation.com/analysis/big-profits-expected-for-us-airlines-robust-2011-predicted-fuel-still-worries-43742 Easyjet are also announcing increased profits despite fuel increases, I think most people would consider profits which are discussed in billions or even millions as huge!

      The flight from Athens and the previous flight from Thessaloniki were both full and from what I understand, most routes are, so why aren’t profits being made?

      I understand that NO airline accepts responsibility for the delays which they have caused by the late arrival of their flights THAT is my point. Absolving themselves of all responsibility for the additional costs incurred by customers flying in good faith is disgraceful. Whatever profits the airlines are making it is likely they are in a better position to afford the additional rail ticket cost than the poor passenger that has suffered due to the airlines delayed flight! The passenger having to pay out of their own pocket for a SECOND ticket through no fault of their own.

      Again you make the point that the additional staff member would be superfluous as they would only be explaining that the airline is officially very sorry but actually does not really give a damn for the extra expense incurred so go and pay for the delay cuased by the late flight out of my own pocket. That is not good customer care, that is greed on the behalf of the airline that does not wish to eat into its profits by compensating passengers for delays caused by them.

      I do believe considering that a FULL flight of passengers was delayed by nearly 3 hours deserved an airline representative to be available to discuss the problem if anybody wished to. Maybe it would have been a waste as passengers used to flying with the airline are already aware there wouldn’t be anybody available so no point in trying!

      I repeat, I accept it is an industry wide issue and not just Aegean THAT is the whole point of the article!

  3. TravelDesigned

    Iain, though I certainly agree customer service is deplorable these days, the airlines are correct they are only responsible for aIr arrangements all on one itinerary/ticket. Example – if you had purchased a separate air ticket for on going travel you would have run into the same problem and replies from the airline.. One way to prevent additional expenses is travel insurance that covers mis-connections.

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      Iain

      I actually have the journey covered with insurance Stephanie, though pretty sure they will also attempt to wriggle out of paying it if they can. That is what large companies seem to do nowadays, its all about profits and they don’t seem interested in looking after customers that actually make their profits possible.

      Whilst they may not feel they are responsible for any additional costs incurred by passengers that miss ongoing connections due to their delayed flight I don’t actually feel this is right. Maybe it is time that they started to take responsibility for the delays, then I bet there would be less delays too! There is still an ongoing battle regarding passengers that have had to sit on planes which were delayed on the runway for several hours BEFORE or during an actual flight.

      Airlines seem to feel they can treat passengers anyway they like without any need for compensating them when they are the cause of additional expenses, is this right? Does anybody actually believe they are entitled to absolve themselves from all responsibility? I know I don’t!

  4. TravelDesigned

    I don’t know about in Europe but in the US, the airlines don’t like delays any better than the customer because they get fined for every minute they are at the gate past departure time. Those fines are very hefty.

    When you file your insurance be sure to file it as a misconnect and not a delay — delays typically have a higher time period before they pay.

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      Iain

      Totally agree Stephanie, planes sat on the ground are not making money so airlines are eager to get them back in the air. The issue is why don’t they feel they are responsible for delays and additional expenses incurred due to such delays?

      Insurance comapnies almost always have excess charges too so even if they pay out won’t fully cover the additional costs involved. Another question for me is why is it the responsibility of the individual, why don’t thhe airlines pay additional premiums on their insurance to cover delays and compensation costs?

      I guess this is why I’ll never be a commercial mogul as I believe in accepting responsibility. Just old fashioned that way, if it is my fault then absolving myself of responsibility is not my priority.

  5. Michelle

    The airline industry’s standards for customer service is poor and seems to get worse by the year. I find in the UK customer services is pretty poor in most industries making it a double whammy. Either the companies in the UK do not give its front-line employees the power to be helpful or the people you speak to are such job worthies they won’t even bother to try to help you or find someone who can, even when what you are asking is reasonable or you suggest a reasonable work around to the problem.

    It might be worth boarding the train with the original ticket, trying to find the train manager (before the train departs) to see if they would be more helpful/reasonable.

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      Iain

      All valid points Michelle. Too many of these large corporations don’t really show any customer service and don’t seem to even care about the little people that pay their wages, provide their profits and keep their shareholders happy.

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