The continuation of a travel horror story. Part II, the happy ending everyone wants.
A couple of days ago we ran a travel nightmare story involving AEGEAN Airlines and a passenger who was refused boarding because of a date error on her passenger locator form (PLF). The article was scathing. This is, in part, because as a longtime fan of the award-winning airline, I could not believe their customer service could ever drop the ball and strand an elderly lady in a huge airport.
In brief, Olga Mirtsopoulou, who is the 68-year-old mother of one of my son’s teachers, had input the date on her PLF incorrectly, which showed her arriving from the United States to Thessaloniki a day later than her actual arrival. A Frankfurt, Germany AEGEAN station manager had taken the hard-line and did not go the extra mile to help a senior who needed wheelchair assistance. The manager did not go the extra mile, at the end of the day. It was, as I described in the earlier report here, a PR nightmare.
I had tried to shortcut and mediate the situation by contacting a few AEGEAN officials I knew, and by engaging their wonderful social media team. I advised Mr. Mirtsopolis, who then followed the prescribed channels to communicate the grievance. Unfortunately, the response was once again, the hard-line where ‘to the letter” corporate policy seems to have been used by a tier-one customer relations person. Again, neither Mirtopolis nor I could believe what we were reading. Like I said in the previous report, AEGEAN has a flawless record worldwide, which for an airline is miraculous.
At the end of the day the whole mess appears to have been a miscommunication. From my point of view, a supervisory tier customer relations (and PR) situation never got past the level where baggage is lost or seats are uncomfortable. Excuse the cynicism, l please, but I know the business of customer relations and PR. There was no need, in my estimation, for Mrs. Mirtsopoulou to have been turned away. Officials in Greece confirmed for us that the PLF could possibly have been amended in order to help her.
At the end of the day the world”s best regional airline performed like the world’s best air carrier. Once the situation was conveyed (albeit via a circuitous method) to the proper decision-makers at AEGEAN, the airline phoned Mr. Mirtsopolis to issue a formal apology, as well as to afford Mrs. Mirtsopoulou another trip via AEGEAN in compensation. In my estimation, and for Olga and her son, this was “big” of AEGEAN, and the kind of reaction 99% of the airline’s passengers have come to expect.
In closing, let me say this. The pandemic has made rough every edge of private and business life we know. In a good year, anyone can have a bad day and react unbecomingly. The crisis has frayed our nerves and our pocketbooks to the breaking point. So, it is easy to understand how even a trained station manager could act in a less than perfect manner. It”s also easy to understand how customer problem handling can become overtaxed, and how operational guidelines can always miss the mark. What’s important for me, and what is ultimately important for clients of this airline, is the fact that AEGEAN did take the high road. The fact that, once the real problem was understood, the world’s best airline came through, is what I will always remember.
We wake up every day with a hundred opportunities to act ‘big’ or to act “small”. Yesterday was a good day when we learned once again that great companies and brands understanding that winning is being bigger than your competitors.
Thanks, AEGEAN, for renewed faith in a time of crisis.