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Etihad Airways - don't live their "vision" - poor customer service

Discussion in 'Airlines' started by Belinda Webb, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. Belinda Webb

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    We have made several attempts to establish Etihad’s complaints’ escalation process to no avail, and are never able to get beyond a Guest Relations Officer, who only ever quote “Etihad policy” (which we are fully aware of), and appear to have no autonomy to do what is right for the customer and the Etihad brand.

    We recently submitted a complaint on behalf of, and with the permission of our son who is currently travelling and unable to contact Customer Relations.

    He flew on 17 September, on Etihad Airways, to Thailand from Heathrow - he is “backpacking” in Thailand and Australia for 2 months having just finished university, and having spent a considerable time saving for his “trip of a lifetime”. Prior to booking his flights he spent time researching various airlines and chose Etihad, despite not being the cheapest by a long way, for its reputation, reliability and customer service, confident Etihad would be an excellent customer experience and start to his “trip of a lifetime” - with the vision of being “cultured, considerate, warm and generous” and having achieved “World’s Leading Airline” awards for several years.

    At “check-in” he was informed he had booked/paid for extra baggage (£89 x 2) - a complete surprise to him. He's “backpacking” and travelling very light (evidenced by his hold baggage being only 12 kilos). Clearly he never intended to be carrying excess baggage. He booked and paid for baggage, in good faith, not realising it was included in the price of the ticket - he's a young and inexperienced traveller on his first independent travel experience. A very upsetting start to his trip, having realised he’d spent nearly £200 unnecessarily (and that he could ill afford).

    Whilst we appreciate that Etihad's policy is for pre-paid baggage to be non-refundable (full or partial), we had hoped that Etihad would be reasonable and flexible and would consider a goodwill refund, as this was a genuine and honest mistake on our son's part. He hasn't even made the return journey yet and he'll still have paid for baggage he doesn't have !

    All the Guest Relations Officers seem able to do is quote the policy and that pre-paid baggage is non-refundable - this is not customer service. We are stunned and very disappointed by this small-minded and curt response. This was a genuine and honest mistake on our son's part and Etihad have effectively had £178 from him for nothing - they haven't incurred any costs for his mistake. That sum of money means nothing to Etihad (especially not having to do anything for the privilege), but it means a lot to our son. Clearly this doesn’t come across as the approach of a world class airline with a vision of being “cultured, considerate, warm and generous” - think they have a way to go to achieve that vision .

    We have made numerous attempts to contact senior executives in Etihad to establish if they agree with/support this hard-nosed approach by Customer Relations for a genuine and honest mistake on the part of a young and inexperienced traveller, but there's never a response. It just gets referred back to Guest Relations who quote the policy again.

    Quoting policy isn't customer service - anyone can quote policy - I can read policy on their website. Customer service and being truly devoted to a good customer experience is about putting yourself in the customer's shoes, empathy and understanding.......and sometimes putting policy to one side if it's the right thing to do for the customer (and the company brand)
     
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  2. Patina

    Patina Moderator
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    Belinda, when you mention contacting senior executives, did you obtain their email addresses from the Company Contacts link at the top of this forum? If not, please visit the link and see if there are any executives that you have not contacted. If there are some additional options to contact, start with writing to one asking for an exception to their fare rules. Be upfront that the mistake is your son's. Be polite, professional and brief. Wait one week to receive a reply before moving to the next name on the list.

    It would not hurt your case to be complimentary toward the airline stating something about your son's research is what lead him to choose Etihad. It will hurt your case if you preach to them about your vision of customer service. The idea is to "kill them with kindness" rather than point out their flaws. Good luck and please let us know your progress!
     
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  3. sas80

    Staff Member Advocate

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    I understand! Being frugal (read tightwad) myself, I would be completely upset if I learned that I had paid for a service that I could/would never take advantage of!

    May I ask you - is the cost of the baggage included automatically in the ticket price? Can you 'opt out' of paying for baggage? did you son miss un checking a checkbox that wasn't clear?

    have you simulated the booking process to determine if this item is an 'opt out' item and if it was difficult for him to determine that he could, very well, opt out?

    That might make a difference in your claim.

    I agree with @Patina, you should write to the executives, one at a time, a week apart, and explain your situation, perhaps armed with the baggage opt out info.

    here is their info
    http://elliott.org/company-contacts/etihad-airways/

    I do have to say that I don't believe that they will refund your son's money, but I do believe that they will issue you a voucher in that amount, if you ask for it. Probably not the resolution you are looking for, but at least something. If you go this route, just be sure you understand when the voucher expires.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
     
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  4. Belinda Webb

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  5. Belinda Webb

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    Thanks for your feedback. Yes we did obtain their contacts from this forum. And yes, we were very upfront that this was a genuine mistake and that we appreciated their policy, and didn't expect them to change it - we were merely looking for a goodwill gesture for a genuine mistake. I maintain we have been polite and professional and on the first occasion waited a whole 2 weeks for a reply and had to chase - however, it's very difficult not to criticise when they don't reply (without prompting) and then just go back to quoting "policy".
     
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  6. Belinda Webb

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  7. Belinda Webb

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    Thanks for your feedback. Yes the cost of baggage is included in the price of the ticket, but he didn't realise and went into the website and added/paid for baggage. He's got a rucksack with him with only 12kg so clearly he wasn't wanting to take anything more ! We've emailed $ senior executives and waited a decent amount of time for a reply but they never reply - just ends up back with Guest Relations who quote "policy" - very hard-nosed for a genuine mistake. He'll remember this - they've lost a customer for life now.
     
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  8. AAGK

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    @Belinda Webb Are you saying he accidentally purchased the pre-paid baggage service even though his bag was small enough that it was included with his ticket price? I wonder how this option presented in the booking process. The airline probably told you it doesn't refund this service bc it's offered at a discount. Everyone would then select it and just play by ear. This is an unfortunate mistake but your son found the total acceptable when he paid, without realizing he added the service so it is hard to argue about the cost as he didn't even notice it.
    I would write and ask for an exception. I'm not sure how rigidly Eithad enforces this rule.
     
    #8
  9. Patina

    Patina Moderator
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    Have you exhausted the list of execs? If not, continue up the chain with your email. Other than writing to the execs I don't have any other suggestions, I'm sorry. It really is unprofessional for them to bounce your email back to guest relations when you have already received "their" reply.....you want an exec's reply!
     
    #9
  10. jsn55

    Staff Member Advocate

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    If he only has a backpack to carry on, why would he think he had to pay for extra bags at all? I'm unclear on how this error happened.

    One thing that is clear is that the tone of a letter requesting a favor needs to be polite, concise and easy to grasp with one read. I would boil your letter down to one paragraph, just stating the facts, and ask for an exception to their policy. You want the person at Ethiad to have some sympathy and want to assist your son.

    We also have observed that third-party complaints are often dismissed by the airline. You seem to have a good reason to be writing on behalf of your son, but they may be ignoring your communications.
     
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  11. Michelle Friedman

    Michelle Friedman Editorial Director
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    I agree @jsn55 ! The letter to Etihad must be one that garners empathy... you are asking them to give you a refund due to your adult son's mistake. Yes, he is a new traveler, but he is an adult and is traveling to far off lands all on his own. I am sure that he is a competent and intelligent traveler , but he made a mistake. He does bear responsibility here. As experienced travelers I am sure that we all have similar stories to recall. It's part of growing up and it's part of life :) I think it might be better if your son writes the letter himself and describes how the mistake happened and asks for a re-consideration for the denial of a refund. I think that would also help your son to improve his traveling and responsibility skills. (PS my advice is as a mother and as a Psychotherapist and not just as a consumer advocate :) )
     
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  12. Christina H

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    SAS80 I tried to do a booking. It is clear that the ticket price in lowest economy includes one bag checked at 23k -- here is what the ticket price says for the lowest price economy deal ticket

    Baggage Allowance per guest
    *
    1PC x 23KG

    After selecting that and putting in name and contacts, there is a screen called extras:

    Need to check-in extra baggage?
    [​IMG]
    Purchase excess baggage in advance and avoid extra charges at the airport.


    Read our baggage policy for more information.


    One has to actually physically add the extra baggage to the ticket -- and physically put in checks for each direction for the extra luggage -- outbound and inbound

    The airline website is not deceptive at all, and does not automatically bundle or force one to opt out. One has to physically click and add the extra luggage/


    I am not able to post a screenshot, as I am getting a server error.

    I have to agree with Michelleloves travelling, your son can find a spot with free wifi or go to an internet cafe and write on his own. To claim that the traveler is a novice and did not understand what he was doing yet is a Uni grad and traveling alone in Thailand, a country not only with a foreign language but a different alphabet, sort of strains credulity, especially when one has to physically check separate boxes on another page and add them to the ticket.
     
    #12
  13. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    I have to agree. That is pretty clear that a bag was included. When you book on your own, you act as your own travel agent and need to understand what you are doing. Thousands of people every day "make mistakes" when they book and learn from their errors and the airlines can't be expected to refund everyone who makes a mistake. Luckily your sons wasn't a major loss.

    If you followed all our directions for writing
    (One executive at a time starting from the bottom) and write weekly up the chain and the answer is no- there is really do, especially if the top exec. days no. Unfortunately, it's a learning experience and I'm he will have learned a lesson,
     
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  14. AAGK

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    I can guarantee your son will find wifi to check Facebook and email friends. I'm sure he forgot about this and is enjoying the trip. Let him request the refund bc once he realizes how annoying the process is, he will be more careful going forward.
     
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  15. Christina H

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    I made a number of errors when I was in my 20s, it is a time to live and learn. Sometimes learning comes at a price.

    The airlines website is not deceptive. One has to just take a minute to stop and read. And then one has to add the extra luggage in each direction.

    Asking for empathy for a novice traveler who is sophisticated enough to travel for 2 months in foreign countries is a bit contradictory. To say that he had not realized that he had checked and added extras until he got to check in is hard to believe. The baggage allowance is listed on the eticket confirmation and the extra luggage charge would be on that confirmation.

    I do think the passenger needs to write, own up to the error and see if there is any possibility. Scolding them for a lack of empathy and telling them how to do customer service is not a good tactic.
    Polite begging is the only way to go. And an adult capable of traveling on their own for 2 months needs to write their own letter.
     
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  16. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    I agree with my colleagues that your son needs to be the one writing, not you. They only are responsible to the ticket holder not his Mom.
     
    #16
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