Thursday, March 19, 2009

Airline customer service

I recently had an interesting (positive) experience with one airline's customer service which contrasts with some similar experiences that were handled poorly by other airlines.

Back in February I was on a flight from Johannesburg to London with British Airways (on my way back home to Steamboat) when the in flight entertainment system failed completely. Those of us in business class received in flight shopping vouchers to the value of £75 (roughly $US108) whilst the economy passengers received £25. The interesting thing is it was an overnight flight and I went straight to sleep, so I wasn't going to watch the movies anyway!

As good as that was, I had an even better experience in 2003 with Singapore Airlines when they sent me a voucher for $US100 when I had trouble with the movies on a flight from Singapore to Seoul - the difference was that I was flying economy and the total value of my ticket wouldn't have been more than $US400.

By contrast, the last three long haul flights I've done with Qantas I've failed to watch a complete movie due to problems with the in flight entertainment. What do they offer by way of compensation? Nothing, nada, zip. I have the highest tier status with Qantas which means that they treat me a lot better than the average passenger, but I don't even bother complaining. My experience is that Qantas customer service have a form letter that they use to respond to every complaint, which translated from airlinese into English basically says "the dog ate our homework".

Apart from venting (which is cathartic but otherwise unconstructive) I've actually been thinking about why the Qantas system is so unreliable. As best I can tell, their system is supplied by Panasonic. Enough said. Japanese consumer electronics firms are abysmal (on a good day) at software and user interfaces.

I also flew business class with South African Airways from Perth to Johannesburg back in February, and whilst I didn't have any technical problems, it's the only time I've not been able to find anything worth watching on a system with 50 or more channels on demand.

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