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KhaoYai

Perseverance Pays Off

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Posted (edited)

I would firstly say that any references to rules or laws in the following paragraphs are to UK rules and laws.

 

I travel to Thailand regularly and have done for many years. Since 2003 when they started in business, most of my flights have been with Etihad. When travelling often you are going to get some problems some times, it 'goes with the territory'.  However, I have always believed that the measure of how good a company is at taking care of its customers is how they deal with those problems.  On that score, I have found Etihad lacking, to say the very least.

 

When Etihad first started, nobody could touch them in terms of price taken along with quality of aircraft and attention by cabin crew etc. In the early days when I had a couple of problems I swore I would never use them again but was always drawn back by their prices.  Nowadays, there are many other airlines that I believe compete on very similar terms and often beat Etihad on price. However, once you have gained 'Gold' status on Etihad's reward programme and have a problem, any thoughts of switching airlines disappear when you remember that if you start from scratch with another company, you are going to have to queue up with 3-400 other economy passengers.  You're not going to get fast tracked through immigration and you won't have access to their airport lounges until you have racked up enough miles with the new airline.

 

There are a few other benefits to having 'Gold' status - i.e. additional baggage allowance but for me, the most useful ones are being able to use business class check in and the business class lounges.  The thought of arriving at Manchester airport and seeing 400 passengers queueing at check in fills me with horror 🙂. Over the last few years, some of these benefits have been reduced and others have been removed entirely but the core ones remain.

 

So, when I have a problem and tell them I'll never fly with them again - firstly they don't give a damn and secondly, I'm unlikely to actually carry out that threat.  Everyone has their limit though.

 

In June I flew to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi as usual, together with a large suitcase and a well wrapped cardboard box.  The cardboard box was the one thing I worried about but it arrived fully intact at Bangkok.  It was a different story with my suitcase though - they've managed to damage my cases before - even crushed one but never any major damage internally and they were only cheap cases anyway.  However, last year I invested in an Antler brand, hard shell suitcase in order to try and prevent any potential damage.  This day, having pulled my box off the carousel, I waited and waited for my suitcase. Eventually, one of those gray plastic trays appeared on the conveyor and dropped down to the carousel.  To my horror, my suitcase was on that tray, wrapped in a plastic bag along with much of the contents.  The zipper was open all the way around the case. Before removing my case from the bag, I took it to the little desk behind the carousel that at that time was staffed by Lufthansa on behalf of Etihad to make a report.  I was asked to check the contents, there didn't appear to be anything missing. The case had a few dents and scratches, it had clearly been poorly handled but the broken zip was the main problem. I was issued with a printed report that listed the damage as 'broken zipper'.

 

I was staying in a Jomtien condo for the first night in order to collect a rental truck the next day and planned to get a bus down there. I had agreed to meet the condo owner before 10pm (his deadline). However, the problem with my case had eaten up an extra hour and there was no way I would make it by bus. I took a taxi and arrived on time.  On my return journey to the UK, I had made the zip on my case sort of work but had it wrapped to prevent further problems. I had therefore incurred additional costs as a result of the damage to my case.

 

Upon my return to the UK I emailed Etihad to make a claim for the damage. I was sent a claim form and asked to provide a lot of documentation regarding my flight and luggage, fortunately I had kept everything. I scanned them and sent them back with my completed claim form.  I had spoken to a guy at a suitcase shop who told me that it is very difficult to put a new zip in a hard shell suitcase and in any case, it would probably cost more than the case did.  I therefore claimed the cost of a replacement case and the additional expenses that I had incurred.  I knew I'd have a problem with the last part but included it anyway - no way would I have taken a taxi in normal circumstances.

 

Weeks and weeks went by. Several phone calls and countless e-mails to both baggage handling and customer services all failed to get an answer as to the progress of my claim. All I received was one e-mail after 3 weeks stating that they were 'investigating the matter' - it didn't look good.

 

Then, on 14 August I got a response from baggage handling stating that they considered the damage to my suitcase to be minor and therefore rejected my claim under paragraph bla bla of their terms and conditions - they suggested I contact my insurers!  I didn't even bother reading those t&c's because I was fully aware of my legal position. I bought my ticket in the UK and my flight originated from a UK airport - it was therefore covered under UK rules and further, by something called the 'Montreal Convention' - both of which state that the airline has a duty of care to handle passenger's suitcases properly and that they are responsible for any damage or shortages - there is an upper limit though.

 

I was furious, there is no telephone number for baggage handling so I called customer services and vented my anger.  I asked them how they could consider the damage to be minor if the suitcase was un-usable.  The agent agreed with me and said he would take the matter up. I was promised a response within a couple of days.  A week went by and no response was received so I called customer services again. By now I had resolved that I was not going to spend any more time on the matter and would place it in the hands of a solicitor, adding the bill to the claim if I didn't receive a SATISFACTORY resolution within 24 hours. I played a bit of a 'blinder' with them and told the agent that I was flying to Bangkok again this coming Sunday and asked if the check in staff would accept my suitcase with its broken zip?  I was told that they certainly would not allow me to check in a broken bag.  I said 'so how can you classify the damage as 'minor' if I cannot use the suitcase and you will not allow me to check it in?' The young lady I spoke to agreed and more or less said the same thing as had been said the previous week but she promised me a reply by the next morning and gave me her personal e-mail address to contact her through if nothing arrived.

 

The next morning I did indeed receive a response. They said that they had reviewed the matter and were now prepared to pay for my case but not the additional expenses. By this time I had decided that I'd had enough. I've lost thousands of £'s over the years due to airlines wriggling out of their responsibilities and failing to provide a proper service level. I was 'digging my heels in' I had told them only a satifactory resolution would prevent me from taking legal proceedings. I wrote back immediately and rejected the offer - repeating my threat of legal action and reminding them that I would be adding my lawyer's bill to the claim. I also decided that personally, if no satisfactory resolution was offered, I would 'bite the bullet' and try another airline - not that that would have held any sway - I just couldn't continue using an airline that would not honor its commitments.

 

Within the hour, I received a further e-mail from baggage handling agreeing to settle my claim in full. Of all the problems I've ever had with Etihad, this is the first time I've stuck to my guns and it paid off.

 

If you are treated unfairly by an airline, check out the rules that apply to travel in your country. If you bought the flight there or if your first leg of that journey begins there, it doesn't matter how many times the airline quote their T&C's - they have to honour the rules that apply in that country. Keep at them, they get away with murder - how many times have you missed a connection because the first flight was late.? Try turning up late at check in - you won't be flying, but they can be late. Airlines seem to think they can do whatever they want and in some matters, the rules are stacked against you but if you know you are right - persevere.

Edited by KhaoYai

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I fly samsonite and in 72 flights in the last 5 years I've never had a problem like that. Sods law struck when you went from cheap tat to overpriced British brand. I'd be swinging it both ways and writing to antler too. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Mikisteel said:

I fly samsonite and in 72 flights in the last 5 years I've never had a problem like that. Sods law struck when you went from cheap tat to overpriced British brand. I'd be swinging it both ways and writing to antler too. 

 

 

Many years ago I made the mistake of checking in a Samsonite brief case - because I already had a carry on bag. I could stand on that brief case and jump up and down on it without breaking it - KLM managed to totally wreck it.

 

The first suitcase that Etihad damaged was around 2006 was I believe a Polo brand. Can't remember exactly but it was very sturdy and not cheap - that was badly damaged and hadn't had much use.  After that I just bought cheap ones that probably survived 5 or 6 flights until I bought the Antler.

 

I agree that Samsonite are a superior brand but that's not the point.  The stories about baggage handlers throwing bags around are well known - there is plenty of video evidence on the internet.  In this day and age, given the handling solutions available, suitcases should not be being damaged at all.

 

I often see bits of suitcases - handles, wheels etc. going around on the carousels - its not good enough really.

Edited by KhaoYai

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Posted (edited)

Most of name branded suitcases and travel gear is made in China. Caveat emptor.

 

Having said that, I bought an aluminium Zero Halliburton 26" suitcase in Singapore maybe 40 years ago. This about the same time as I bought a Samsonite alumimum-framed, hard shell briefcase for carry-on (oil field trash standard travel gear!). Cost a small fortune and has a few dents but still good. The only drawback is it's from the era of no rolling wheels so fell out of favour, especially when transiting airports where they started charging for baggage trolleys. Similarly, the Samsonite fell out of favour as once you bought your full duty-free allowance of Camel filters, there was little room for anything else inside.

Edited by NanLaew

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I too have flown with Etihad many times on the LHR or Manchester - BKK route since soon after they started. (Still had some rented aircraft). The service they provide in the air of getting you from A to B, usually on-time and in some degree of comfort is quite good, although the nice touch of a bottle of water in the seat back pocket upon boarding has gone as has the after dinner Baileys, but their ground based customer service is awful.

 

In 2006 I had terrible trip to Bangkok, if it could go wrong it did go wrong. I can't now remember all the details, but the worse part was nobody knew whether we going to Don Muang or the then brand new Suvarnabhumi. Everybody I asked gave a different answer. I went to the service desk at AUH 3 times and asked 3 different people, the answer changed everytime. In the end I got lucky and by chance got talking to what turned out to be the captain and 1st Officer as they walked towards the plane. He explained we were the very last Etihad flight into Don Muang and that arrivals after midnight would be into swampy.

 

On my return to the UK I wrote a letter of complaint. After many months I received a letter in response to another passengers complaints. There followed a series of being given telephone numbers that didn't work and email addresses that either bounced or received no response. Just as the OP, I persevered, each time adding the next failed step to the list of complaints.

 

Eventually I received a response from a polite and helpful lady who admitted "On this occasion our service has fallen short of expected standards" or similar wording. I was awarded some extra guest points. I wrote back thanking her, but saying that given the many, many steps over several months I had to take to get my complaint responded to, I thought the points alone were poor compensation and that an upgrade to business class on my next flight would be more appropriate. She agreed with me and on my next flight I was upgraded all the way to Bkk. Very nice it was too.

 

I wonder how many people would have given up before getting an acceptable outcome?

 

I was at that time a Silver Guest. Back then, silver card holders could use business lounges and fast track security.

Edited by Lancashirelad
Typos + added last paragraph.
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