When you have a customer service problem with a company, it can usually be cleared up with a quick phone call or email. Unless you’re dealing with an airline.
It seems air carriers like to shield themselves as much as possible from the traveling public, particularly when things go wrong. And I should know. I’m this site’s director of research, and it’s my job to connect people with companies.
If you’ve ever called an airline’s toll-free telephone number to resolve a problem, generally with a lower-level customer service agent, you’ll have a real understanding of what the word “exasperating” means.
Take, for example, the problems experienced by passengers Cheri Rosenthal and David Weinberg, who traveled last year with two bicycles, paying $300 to check them on American Airlines and AirBerlin.
The bicycles were packaged according to airline standards with bubble wrap and a cardboard cover, yet when they reached their destination, one of the bicycles was nowhere to be found. When it finally turned up two days later, after being lost twice by AirBerlin, it was damaged beyond repair, having a large crack in the frame.
What followed could certainly be considered an exercise in futility.
Since they’d traveled on two different airlines — American out of Minneapolis, AirBerlin out of Miami to Malaga, Spain — they contacted both airlines for assistance with their claim. They even emailed the CEO of AirBerlin, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, and the COO, Helmut Himmelreich, and heard nothing.
(And as a side note to this, within a couple of weeks of the AirBerlin page going live in the database, both executives changed their email addresses and we still haven’t found the new ones)
After many phone calls and emails, some taking weeks to get a response, each airline blamed the other, with the result being no one is offering to replace the damaged bike. A year later, the couple is still trying to convince them both to accept responsibility for what is clearly airline negligence.
Rosenthal is now what could be politely referred to as “miffed.”
“We learned the hard lesson that you get your boarding pass, give them your baggage, and hope you might see it again,” she says.
And the takeaway in all of this for Rosenthal and Weinberg? “Airlines today are soulless corporations that take no responsibility for their actions, whose leaders shield themselves with low-level gatekeepers and arcane procedures,” she says.
Think they’ll ever fly American or AirBerlin again? Neither do I.
Another airline that’s given the readers here a difficult time is LAN and TAM Airlines, with both falling under the umbrella of LATAM Airlines Group. Because of a merger in 2013, none of the contacts shown in the database are now working.
Not long ago, the owner of this site, Chris Elliott, was contacted by a representative from LATAM, Megan Williams, the Marketing Director in their Miami office. Responding to an article he’d recently written about a customer who’d had a poor experience on a TAM flight, Williams sent Chris an email to let him know she’d taken care of the problem.