Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flying Fiasco

Segregation is alive and kicking and separating the masses in 2012.  In our inability to use religion, skin colour, gender or physical abilities to judge and discriminate against, in our ‘modern ‘ society, we now clutch at the straw of fiscal spending

Profit is lord; customer service the serf. In a bid to survive in the cut throat airline market, I am sad to say that our national airline has finally sunk to the levels of the interlopers.

It all began one fateful morning in February this year. Purchasing a ticket online bound for Melbourne with our preferred carrier, I was happy in the knowledge that I could travel direct at a reasonable hour, to and from Melbourne.  Fortunately, I had passed Online Purchasing 101 and could decipher the ticketing splits offering bag and food options, and ordered the ‘works’.

Confident in my purchase that coincided with two other couples travelling to the same event, I waited for my departure date.  Alerted to a change in airline scheduling by another couple on the same flight, I telephoned our airline to discuss our booking.  The 0800 operator advised me that no changes could be made as none had  appeared on their system. 

Many weeks later I received a call on my cell phone advising the ‘*changes’ and that an email would follow with amended ticketing information.  This never happened of its own volition.  After further follow up calls I eventually received email validation.

*Two flights now departing an annoying earlier hour......argh! 

New tickets printed, I headed off to meet up with friends for our four day sojourn.  
At check in, a red flag should have gone up when  chased by the check in operator,  advising us that we had to pay for the baggage we had just checked.  I advised the ‘changes’ that the airline had made and the magnanimous supervisor overrode the error.

Once on board nestled/wedged in our economy seats, we were then graciously transferred to business class to join our fellow Koru travellers.  They had requested we utilise the empty seats beside them. 

Joyful in our sudden change of status we settled in to our new surroundings and commenced luxuriating in the extra space.

Then the fun and games began.

As the food and drink cart made its rounds we were identified; seemingly by a yellow Star of David or the likes on a list of purchase options as “Seat only”.  Having purchased a ‘works’ ticket originally but then been rebooked by the airline with no monetary exchange, we had no verification of the original booking. 

With a rising blood pressure, I did my best to explain this to the previously accommodating staff, who could only proceed on what they had in writing.   Henceforth my husband and I were treated like lepers who had escaped the colony.  A bottle of water was placed on both our tables separately, then a bemused steward returned and removed both bottles without a word.  The food trolley circled us making no eye or wheel contact as we sat salivating all the while, being avoided like the plague.

Stewing in my own juices at our treatment, my mind raced as to how I would prove my legitimacy.  Once landed, I hurriedly logged onto my email and produced the original booking verifying our full ‘works’ purchase.

Triumphant in my findings I found the person in charge....who knew all about our faux pas.  She smilingly pulled me aside making all the right noises and expressions but ultimately like Mick Jagger,  gave me no satisfaction. 

I got a generic card to call for these sorts of problems and sent on my way.

Awkward, Irritating, Riling, Niggling, Zapping is apt description for our airline where managerial discretion has been replaced with revenue outcomes. Customers have been relegated to a choice on a list, and grouped accordingly. The bygone experience of international flight has been pared down to the bare bones of transportation.

Whilst there is still a living breathing steward to interact with, I expect empathy, understanding and company pride.  Otherwise what is the point of real people.  In a bid to modernise, streamline and survive in the airline industry, are robots the way of the future?  If so, the current staff  I dealt with do a very good impersonation.

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