Not the friendliest “aloha” at the luggage carousel


Amy Johansson/Shutterstock
Amy Johansson/Shutterstock

Lisa Mikulchik had an unpleasant — and unusual — run-in with an airline crewmember, and she wants to know if the company did enough to address her concerns. Yet as I read her account, and the response, I’m baffled that something like this could happen.

The carrier? Hawaiian Airlines, a company with a well-deserved reputation for friendliness and customer service. And, by the way, an airline I’ve flown on and really like, even in normally cramped economy class.

I’ve always thought of Hawaiian as a class act. But Mikulchik would probably beg to differ. In late May, she flew from Oakland, Calif., to Kahului on the island of Maui. Her misadventure began when she picked up what she thought was her checked bag.

“I quite accidentally mistook a crew member’s similar black bag for my own when we landed,” she says. She didn’t realize the mistake until she heard her name being paged through the airport PA system.

When she returned to the Hawaiian carousel, she was confronted by a male crewmember, whose luggage she’d accidentally taken.

I’ll let her tell the rest of the story:

I apologized sincerely, fully understanding the inconvenience of my mistake.

But he did not accept my apology gracefully, or at all. Rather, he proceeded to lecture me loudly and aggressively and got very close to me physically.

I was shocked by his disproportionate reaction and his unprofessional behavior. He was even still in uniform, as were his co-workers!

I tried to stay calm but I felt assaulted and I knew what he was doing was very wrong. I told him I wanted to speak to his supervisor and he retorted that “he didn’t have one.”

All this time his co-workers didn’t even try to calm him down so I felt ganged up on. I didn’t know what to do so I left the area after that — his final words to me were something to the effect of, “I shouldn’t be allowed to fly on the airline”!

Well, sounds like someone didn’t have a good flight.

Mikulchik says she stumbled around the terminal in a daze of disbelief after the confrontation, not sure of whom to complain to.

“I couldn’t find anyone to talk to in the baggage area,” she says. “But a very kind man in the office who recognized how bad the situation was put me through to consumer relations.”

After numerous conversations with Hawaiian’s agents and a written complaint, here’s how the airline responded:

This is in response to your conversation with Susan Moss of our In-Flight
Department.

We understand you are requesting for compensation. As a gesture of goodwill, we have issued you an e-certificate (also known as an ETCO) for $100 off the purchase of a new ticket on Hawaiian Airlines. Please see below for the terms, conditions and redeeming instructions for the ETCO.

We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concern. We value your business, and look forward to serving you in your future travels.

Mikulchik is unhappy with that offer.

“I just think their compensation of a travel voucher that is useless to me is inadequate and does not show them taking full responsibility,” she says.

Why isn’t it enough? Because it doesn’t really take into account the pain inflicted by the crewmember.

“I felt assaulted,” she says. “When I got to the place I was staying, instead of relaxing and enjoying the first days of a two-week vacation, I felt horrible. I cried. I was exhausted and couldn’t go outside. This lasted for two days. I was robbed of hard-earned vacation time.”

Here’s what would have made me happy: Instead of a robotic form letter, it would have been nice to get a personal response that said, “We’re sorry for what happened. We’ve investigated the incident and here’s what we found out.”

Now, that and a $100 voucher would have been far more meaningful.

Did Hawaiian offer Lisa Mikulchik enough compensation?

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Update (7/9): Hawaiian contacted me and added a few details. A representative writes:

I wanted to make sure that we had responded appropriately, so I asked to see the complaint file. Here is what I found:
The flight that Ms. Mikulchik references took place more than a year ago, on May 29, 2012.

Our supervisory staff spoke to her about the incident on the day of the flight, and apologized for the bad experience. She had also filed a complaint via our website on that day.

On June 12, 2012 we received and responded to an email inquiry about the incident from her travel agent, and Ms. Mikulchik followed up with an email of her own two days later. She received a formal letter of apology on June 15, 2012.

Also on June 15, our VP for Customer Service tried to reach her by phone.

On June 22, 2012, one of our InFlight supervisors succeed in contacting her by phone and again apologized and informed her that the employee in question had been counseled. At that time, she asked for compensation and was subsequently offered the $100 travel voucher good for one year (through June 28, 2013).

On May 20, 2013 (nearly one year after the initial incident and five weeks before her travel voucher was to expire) Ms. Mikulchik sent us the email she apparently also sent to you, asking for a refund of one segment of her ticket.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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