Companies can pay millions of dollars in advertising their superior service. But if their staff doesn’t actually deliver that service, all that advertising does is set up expectations that aren’t met, then you get unhappy customers.
I was excited about flying Emirates Air, as my friend Randy Gage waxed on about their service. Granted, Randy flew in one of their First Class suites (private bedroom, shower available). I was in coach. Although I’d flown Singapore Air a number of times, I wanted to check out the Emirates service to see how it compared.
My 15-hour non-stop flight trip from SFO to Dubai got off to a rocky start at check in. The gate agent was insistent that my carry-on not exceed their 7 kg limit. I flew internationally four times last year. Singapore Air had the 7 kg rule, but no one stuck to it stringently.
I took everything out of my Travel Pro bag (the kind flight crews carry) and empty it weighed 5 kg. My laptop weighed another 3. I was already over the weight limit and I didn’t even have my purse, jewelry or on-flight reading in the bag. I told him I wasn’t comfortable checking my jewelry and he didn’t allow an exception. So I quickly stuffed my jewelry boxes into the outside zipper compartment of my checked bag, as he wouldn’t allow me to board with an overweight bag.
When I unpacked in my room in Dubai, the outside zipper was partly undone and the case for a pearl necklace and earrings was gone. I felt stupid for 1) checking the jewelry in the first place when in the light of hindsight it would have been smarter to just wear it or put it in my pocket; and 2), not taking the time to unlock my bag and put it in the locked compartment.
The agents in Dubai were little help. When I tried to explain what happened they kept thinking I lost the jewelry from my carry on bag. They said I should have reported it before I left the Dubai airport. How could I report it when I didn’t know it was missing until I unpacked?
I decided the best way to handle it would be in person at the airport. The agents there were of no help either. I thought, “How hard can this be? It either fell out in SFO or in Dubai. Don’t they have a luggage lost and found?” Evidently, no.
When I brought this up with the supervisor at the gate she, too didn’t seem to understand. I asked politely for her supervisor. None came. She said to check at SFO. But she did upgrade me to business class!
Business class was great — lie-flat seats, an extra 1″ mattress to make it more comfortable, in-seat massage units, larger video screens, better amenities and food. The 15 hours passed quickly.
At SFO I went immediately to baggage claim to ask about lost and found. While pleasant, they said I had to call LA to report the loss. Again, couldn’t they just check lost and found? Evidently this was impossible. I took the names and phone numbers of the men “helping” me and gave them mine. I asked them if they would check lost and found and call me in the next two days, no matter what they discovered. They agreed.
I called the LA number the next business day and left a message with the pertinent info. I waited a week. No return call and nothing from the men in SFO who promised to call whether they found something or not. I called the LA number again and got a public affairs man. We talked for 20 minutes. He, too, didn’t listen, thinking I lost something on board even though I clearly explained I was forced to put my jewelry in the checked bag at check in.
He informed me that jewelry is not covered as stated in their rules of carriage. Since I did not intend to pack my pearl necklace and earrings, I didn’t review their policy that states they don’t cover jewelry. However, I’d have appreciated the agent refreshing my memory as he saw me pack my jewelry in the checked bag.
He also said they didn’t cover pilferage. I said, “You hire people who steal?” He said it happens, and if someone is caught they are fired and punished. He said he’d send me a form to complete.
I is a month later and I have yet to receive their form, let alone an apology.
What did I learn?
- Buy a lighter carry-on bag
- Buy a lighter laptop
- Never check your jewelry, wear it all if you have to
I am grateful for the Dubai agent who did not have to upgrade me. It does not replace my pearls, but it was a nice treat.
However, the lack of anyone taking any ownership of my issue, including not following through with promised phone calls or mailing me complaint documents, is their problem.
Am I overly picky because I’m an expert on customer complaint management? Perhaps. But actually, I’m always looking for great examples to include in my seminars. Unfortunately, this example will be on the thumbs down side when I wish it had been thumbs up.
Will I fly Emirates again? If I am going to Dubai, yes, as the non-stop from SFO saves me 10 hours over any other airline. Will I come better prepared with lighter carry ons? Absolutely! Do I hate Emirates? No. Do I love them? Not as much as Singapore Airlines, but way better than most US carriers when flying internationally.