Saturday, August 08, 2009

Easyjet Liverpool Berlin Fiasco

I always knew the only good thing about Easyjet was their cheap prices. I've never expected great service, good food and short queues. However, I have always expected to actually get on a flight I booked...until last week.

Flying back from Liverpool Airport to Berlin, I arrived at the airport around half an hour before the final check-in time. Massive queues. Standard.

I went to the Easyjet service desk and asked what was the best thing to do as this queue was going to take more than half an hour to receed. "Start queuing up and all Berlin passengers will be called forward." I was told. A Thai woman in the adjacent queue was asking the same question and we spoke briefly about how worrying it was the the queue was so long.

I made my way to the back of the queue but noticed this woman was a bit further ahead of me standing with her son. Never one to miss an opportunity to push past people (Germany has taught me this -the Germans hate queuing), I moved up ten or fifteen places to stand with this woman.

It turned out she used to live in Berlin and I chatted with her and her son just to take my mind off the queuing. It transpired that she was not travelling but had just brought her son to the airport. I soon realised all was not right with her sixteen-year-old son. Not in an obvious way as he was a pleasant and cheerful young man but I suspected he may of had learning difficulties and his manner was more of a ten-year-old than a person on the verge of adulthood.....saying that, he was bi-lingual so I could be totally wrong!

He lived in Dresden with his father and had been visiting his mother and her new family in Southport. His father would be picking him at the airport in Berlin.

As the time approached for last check-in time, I began to get nervous but a group not too far in front of us (also travelling to Berlin) went to the desk and were told not to worry as the flight had been delayed slightly.

The mother drew me to one side and asked me if I would keep and eye on her son and make sure he got the flight as she had to leave to go to work. She said he would be OK but just in case etc. I agreed thinking nothing could go wrong and to be honest I was enjoying chatting and joking with him...him laughing at my lack of German vocab despite living in Germany for three years.

We were eventually called out of the queue to check-in and after doing so we sprinted/jogged to the security area.

Again massive queues. Determined not to miss the flight, I pushed my way through the crowds with my new friend in tow. We reached the front and explained to the security guy our situation i.e. the flight would be leaving soon and we needed to get through as soon as possible. The bloke was having none of it explaining that letting us through would cause fights. He said if it was urgent then he would have been told and there would have been an announcement. He asked his supervisor who said they could not let us through. We went back and pushed in fairly close to the front and waited.

Ten minutes later we were through security and once again sprinted heading to the boarding gate.

The plane had gone.

Not to worry, I thought. We did nothing wrong. We were in the airport in good time. We ran every chance we got. They have messed up and will need to find a way to get us to Berlin....maybe late but they will get us to Berlin today!

But then the lies started from the girl at Easyjet obviously determined to cover up the fact they had made a total fuck up of thing.

"We made two annoucements" LIE

"We sent a person to bring people through security" LIE

"75 people checked-in after you and managed to board the flight" LIE.

These lies meant Easyjet were blaming us for missing the flight.

These lies meant Easyjet were not taking any responsibility for making us miss the flight.

These lies meant they would not pay a train fare or taxi fare to Gatwick were there was a flight leaving in five hours time.

These lies meant Easyjet would charge me £38 if I wanted to travel the next day or if I wanted to fly from Gatwick that day.

I wasn't sure what to do and my newly acquired travelling companion did not have his mother's number to tell her what had happened and his father who was picking him up at Berlin Airport was non-contactable.

After much thinking and working out connecting flights, trains etc, I realised there was no way to get to Berlin before 2am and not without a lot of expense.

My idea of asking Easyjet to contact Easyjet at Berlin Airport to explain to the father the situation once he realised his son was not on the flight and perhaps had gone to the Berlin Easyjet desk was thwarted when told they were not allowed to do this.

To cut a long story short, Easyjet tracked down my new friend's step-father who came to the airport to pick him up but not before I had to pay £38 to get on the following day's flight.

Obviously, Easyjet make it as difficult as possible to complain by email and charge premium rate to complain by phone. I'd almost given up until I used Twitter to voice my anger.

I quickly received a message to email a customer service guy and within a couple of hours they agreed to repay my money.

A very messy day and incident caused by incompetence by Easyjet staff at Liverpool and though it's easy to blame individuals the blame lies squarely at Easyjet's penny pinching management who did not provide enough staff or adequate training for their staff. They admitted this in their email to me.

Still, they should have organised for me to get to Berlin that day. I wonder what David Dimberley would have done.

I was concerned to read about the problems you experienced at Liverpool airport and would like to apologise for the inconvenience and the frustration that this will have caused you.
There are procedures in place to ensure that regular and correct information is forwarded to our passengers as soon as we receive it ourselves. It seems from your comments that you did not receive this level of service and for this I sincerely apologise.
We are aware of the fact that at certain airports level of service is not the one we would like to see. We have already taken certain steps in order to change this. We are gathering feedback that we receive from our customers and our Executives have already visited some selected airports and retrained the staff.
Your feedback also confirms that we still need to improve a lot in terms of the customer experience we offer at the airports. Having checked your reservation I decided to refund the rescue fee that was charged at the airport (£38). It will be returned back to the card used for making your easyJet booking within 5-10 working days.
Once again I would like to thank you for taking time to pass your comments to Paul and please accept my apologies for the inconvenience you experienced at Liverpool airport. This feedback will definitely help us to improve the level of service delivered to our customers. I do hope this will not stop you from flying with easyJet again.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Graham Cunningham on Hills and Ladbrokes

Below is piece by Graham Cunningham (my favourite racing broadcaster despite him refusing to print off my racing figures at Pontefract one day...claiming there was no printer in there) which was buried in a recent Betfair piece.

If I ever end up on Mastermind then you can bet 1.01 with confidence that racing politics will not be my specialist subject.

However, the news that William Hill and Ladbrokes are taking their internet betting operations abroad in order to minimise their tax burden really began to grate on me as this week has worn on.

It wasn't so much the fact that big businesses want to find ways to make more money that grated - more the brazen way in which Hills chief executive Ralph Topping seemed intent on blaming everyone bar himself for the decision to head offshore.

Topping probably has a point in describing racing's leadership as "a rabble," but he is well wide of the mark when calling the move to stage the Derby on Saturday "a numpty decision" and really showed his true colours when insisting that racing should realise it is a mere betting product rather than a true sport to rival the likes of the Ashes and the FA Cup.

It's hard to envisage anyone with such a view going out of his way to help racing to any real extent, but what should the sport do in response to the projected loss of around £5m in Levy payments?

Better brains than mine need to provide the answer to that, but it wouldn't do any harm for newspapers and television channels to start restricting the amount of print and airtime given to the omnipresent PR representatives of firms who head offshore.

For example, the Racing Post devoted the first three pages of its Friday edition to the news that Ladbrokes are heading offshore but sugared the pill to one of its biggest advertisers with an adjacent and blatant puff piece about a punter who could win £1m if Red Merlin wins the Ebor to complete his £250 ante post treble.

"Both we and the punter are set for a fortnight of sleepless nights," said Ladbrokes' incorrigible PR spokesman David Williams.

I don't know about the punter, but I've often wondered how Williams, Topping and the rest of their merry gang sleep at night.



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