Donnerstag, 10. April 2008

KLM Lounge Revolution

The revolution started at 4am last Monday. Privileged air travelers had been withering away their time at the KLM/Air France lounge at Bangkok International airport. They knew that flight KL 878 to Amsterdam was delayed by hours. It was supposed to leave first at 2, then 3, then 4am. Beyond that, they knew nothing. There was no information being provided by the lounge staff. We were just told - if we asked - that all will be fine ... - At 4, one screen suddendly moved the departure time to 5.15am. That was the moment when patience ran out. A scene worthy of a short movie ensued. A French teacher, by this point slightly drunk, grabbed the lounge phone and called the gate himself. He insisted he wants to talk to the technician and wants to be called back with an update. The KLM guy at the gate was staggeringly rude, so that our French man started shouting. As that didn't help, a CEO-type Dutch man took over. He tried to talk sense into the KLM gate rep. He tried to get an outcome, in a reasoned and calm way. You could see the seasoned manager at work. But it was to no avail. We continued to know nothing. Another woman then remembered her social conscience. Pointing out that not all air travellers are privileged to spend time in the lounge she went down to the gate to join the other waiting customers. She 'threatened' to take beer and coffee to them all (which I thought was a splendid idea, but sadly, it didn't come to that anymore). Finally, a small, shy man who we had all seen at check-in (itself several hours delayed) showed up to bring the bad news. The flight was cancelled. After more than 7 hours at the airport - and at now close to 6am - we were told that we would be transferred to a hotel. There will, the small man said not very convincingly, be another flight tomorrow night.... - That was the moment when I stopped watching the 'revolution shorts' and joined the action. I wanted to know when exactly our flight would be and why KLM could not ensure that we are transferred to other, sooner flights to somewhere in Europe. Through my travel agent I found out that a flight direct to Berlin was leaving at noon. I pleaded with more than 7 ground staff to please contact someone so that they can book me onto this direct flight (even though it was with a different airline, of course, but I am not a frequent climate killer for nothing!). They all told me that this could not be done. That I had to wait for the evening. That noone was able to do anything. At the end, they pleaded with me to just go to the hotel (and shut up). Eventually, I booked that noon flight myself, expecting that KLM will reimburse me later. At 10am, when it opened, I showed up at the KLM desk at the airport (and yes, you are right, I had now been at the airport for some 13 hours - and had not slept). To my astonishment, I then discovered that someone in some KLM call centre somewhere had had their thinking hat on, after all. KLM had booked me on the noon direct flight to Berlin. Only - they hadn't told me! So, here I was, knackered as hell and having two tickets for the same flight. As luck has it, the ticket I had bought in desperation at 7am or so could no longer be returned. The poor lady at the KLM desk (who was extremely kind and helpful!) was clearly not authorized to do anything. She tried to get me a reimbursement for the ticket I had paid for. She tried to get me at least a letter that stated what had happened and had gone wrong. She succeeded in none of this - even though she called the people who, unlike her, had the power to act, at least 15 or 20 time. God knows why. Eventually, I ran out of time, caught the noon flight and - some further 12 hours later - was finally home. I have rarely been so happy to sleep in my own bed! I have rarely been so disgusted by the complete incompetence of a corporation as I was with KLM that night (and day). - In retrospect, watching the Lounge Revolution was fun (though my heart goes out to the family that was caught in the midst of all this trying to get to a funeral!). It's not a bad story. But it certainly was a hell of a day! One I will find it hard to ever forgive KLM for.

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