Everyone tends to go home for Christmas. You can stay away during Easter, or during birthdays, or during summer…but for Christmas, hell no!
I spent Christmas 2011 in Berlin, but for Christmas 2012 I said: let’s go to see some friends and parents in Italy, and let’s do it with Air Berlin.
The plan was really simple: fly from Berlin to Venice on December 23th, and then back on December 30th. Simple uh? Read on!
My flight to Venice was on December 23th, from Berlin Tegel at 4.55pm with Air Berlin AB8990. I arrived to the airport 2 hours before the departure (yeah, I know, no need to, but I feel kinda safe this way), and immediately I did the check-in procedure, leaving my bags and passing through metal detectors. All good. Excited to go home!
I was with my girlfriend Giulia waiting for our flights like 1 hour before the departure time, spending time reading and walking around, since Berlin Tegel is a really boring airport. Around 4.30pm (20 minutes before departure), I was checking the timetable when I saw a terrible thing: MY FLIGHT WAS CANCELLED.
Now, you can say: “It can happen, nothing new here”. Yeah, you are right. That morning there was even a bit of snow and maybe ice, but other flights were still on time and departing from the airport.
So, the first reaction was: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?
In that moment, Air Berlin cancelled other flights, and in the same room there were like hundreds of people like in a shock state (I saw people crying) for this. And the funny part? There was NOBODY from Air Berlin assisting us.
FIRST IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
When you plan to cancel a flight, send immediately someone from the company explaining what happened and what’s gonna be. To ALL the people, so with a megaphone or something similar, just to calm people down.
You have to consider that people were going home for Christmas, and so the feelings were amplified and the reactions too.
After many minutes (where I saw people yelling, crying, picking up phones calling for assistance…), a woman arrived with NO smile, and without explaining a thing, just screamed: “FOLLOW ME!”.
So imagine hundreds of people following a woman, passing again the check-in to arrive at the airport entrance. The woman was so quick that actually I lost her , till I find myself inside a huge line of people who were asking around what was happening.
SECOND IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
Send someone from the company to pick up the passengers, and EXPLAIN the procedure, with a SMILE, because sometimes a smile can solve a bad situation. STAY with your customers and do NOT disappear after you made your job. Where is the passion?
So we stay in this line for almost 3 hours, while people were calling home saying “we don’t know anything yet” or “sorry mom, I can’t make it tonight” or “sorry man, it was supposed to be a surprise but fuckin airberlin cancelled my flight”. During these 3 hours, nobody showed up. We only knew that at the end of the line, there were two guys that maybe were able to put you in the next flight, but we didn’t know for where, and when. NOTHING.
THIRD IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
Since we were in a line for 3 hours, in a cold space, why not offering a tea or a coffee? or water? I mean. It does NOT cost a shit to you, but you make your clients happy. Moreover, while put ONLY two people inside a box planning again our journeys? Even if for security reason only those two guys could book another flight, why not putting other Air Berlin assistants to explain the option, so the customer could think about it before arriving at the end of the line, making all the process faster?
I tried to call Air Berlin hotline too, but the guy said: “yeah, I’m seeing your flight has been cancelled, but I cannot do anything”. WHAT? You work for the same company right?
FOURTH IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
Use your hotline, twitter, facebook, emails to reach your customers and explain to them what happened and options. Or are you using our email just to spam your stupid offers? Remember: permission marketing and not interruption marketing should be your focus.
After 3 hours in line, they said to us there was the possibility to have a flight the next morning at 6am, with one stop on the way to Venice. We took it. I asked the guy what happened and he said: “It’s not our fault, but it’s Venice airport’s fault”.
FIFTH IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
Don’t bullshit your customers. I called Venice airport immediately and they say all was OK and actually other planes from Berlin arrived. So, you don’t know the answer to my question? Shut up but don’t bullshit me. If you are not true with your customers, you’re going to have big troubles.
After the booking for the day after, they said: you can sleep in hotel tonight, near the airport, at our expensive. OK good! But they added: “you have to pay the taxi to get there and the dinner is not included”. WHAT?
SIXTH IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
Pay for the taxi and for the dinner. Come on, you already created a big problem, and now you are making fun of me AGAIN! Where is the customer care? Where is the magic in a bad moment? Where is your willing to keep your customers even if you gave a bad service? Customers are able to forgive you, if you act in an awesome and customer-oriented way.
So, I missed the surprise to my parents, and I missed my best friend’s birthday (another surprise!).
SEVENTH IDEA FOR AIRBERLIN:
You have my email. Instead of spamming your offers (not wanted in that moment), why didn’t you send a nice “sorry” email, explaining what happened and what you are going to do to fix these kind of problems, and maybe adding some cool personalized little thing to make your customer happy? Think it’s not possible? Well, read this awesome post by Anthony Pensabene.
The day after I arrived at home, demoralized because I want to change these things, because AirBerlin and the other companies need to focus more on the customers.
Air Berlin: you are there because of US! do not forget it!
Ah, Air Berlin (I gave you even a dofollow link, so now you HAVE TO contact me)….these are only seven ideas, so simple I don’t even understand why you didn’t implement them yet. I have other one thousand ideas for you. And I even know how to implement them.
Give me a call, and let’s make your company better.
I posted my post on twitter and other channels, and @airberlin asnwered me back. I’ll keep you posted if there will be other news, and should be according to them.
@madeale Sorry for any inconvenieces. We recently forwarded your feedback to our colleagues who will get in touch with you. Best
— airberlin (@airberlin) January 3, 2013
I just received an email from Air Berlin customer service.
Dear Mr Madeyski,
Thank you for your correspondence. We value your business and appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention.
First of all, we would like to extend to you our regret and sincere apologies for the inconveniences caused by the disruption of your airberlin service on 23rd December 2012.
The circumstances of the disruption will be thoroughly investigated in co-operation with the responsible departments.
Should you have incurred any additional costs for taxi or dinner we would kindly ask you to submit the corresponding receipts by email or fax quoting our reference XXXXXX.
We will contact you again as we have received the requested information.
Thank you for your efforts.
Good, at least they pay me back dinner and taxi. And I appreciate their effort to try to solve the situation. I mean, it’s true I appreciate their effort, but I have to say it SHOULD BE NORMAL for a company to do it (is it because of the post? anyway…). What makes me sad is there is no hint about my ideas for them, and I did not receive any personalized email (is it really THAT difficult?). What I received is a pretty standard email. I’m not happy, because I would have preferred not to receive any money, but see an intention of changing things, changing the way they are gonna deal with these situations.
I really would like to see improvements, and see companies who actually listen to their customers (not standard and cold mails, no intentions to change….I wanna see some MAGIC stuff, because they have the money, they have the power to do it).
So I sent the receipts to Air Berlin, and here is their answer. I must say that this time they used a standard email template BUT they added something (and it was clear because the formatting was difference 😀 ) more personal, mentioning my ideas, so I must say they did great. I really hope they are gonna improve their service. It requires not that much effort. It’s just matter of company culture (oh wait, that’s a big thing indeed!).
Dear Mr Madeyski,
Thank you for today’s email.
We wish to express once again our regret and sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused by the disruption of your airberlin service.
Our customers have every right to expect punctuality from airberlin and we can assure that we do everything we can to maintain good performance. However, sometimes unforeseen circumstances prevent us from operating our flights on schedule.
Our flight records show that the disruption of AB8990 on 23rd December 2012 was caused by bad weather conditions at Venice airport. On the date of your departure, air traffic was severely restricted due to fog and reduced visibility.
With reference to a claim please allow us to state that air carriers are exempted from liability if the incident is attributable to exceptional circumstances, which could not have been prevented by taking all reasonable measures (for example, in case of bad weather conditions, political instability, strikes, security risks, unexpected air safety deficiencies).
Under the prevailing conditions we have taken all necessary measures to reduce the disruption to a minimum.
The receipted taxi and meal costs, amounting to XXXXX EUR, plus an additional XX EUR for the taxi to the hotel without receipt will be refunded to the indicated bank account. Kindly allow some time for the transaction to complete.
Furthermore, as your airline it is our aim to offer you safe transport and to make sure that you feel cared for at all stages of the flight. We deeply regret that the service offered at Berlin Tegel airport during the disruption did not meet your expectations. We have noticed your comments attentively and would like to apologise for the mentioned inconveniences that were caused. The occurrences mentioned by you are, of course, unacceptable and we will forward your complaint to the relevant department for internal attention.
We will use the impressions and experiences described by you to examine our service and to improve it if necessary. We appreciate the indications of our customers so that we have the possibility to notice weak points in our service and to maintain the usual quality or to optimise it.
In spite of the negative impressions you have received we hope that we can welcome you on board of airberlin again in the near future so that we can convince you of our quality and service.