The Biggest Customer Service F*ckups I’ve Experienced in Travel


Photo Credit: Adam on Flickr

Louie CK has a hilarious skit where he compares fliers describing their harrowing journeys akin to surviving the Oregon Trail. From epic delays to lost luggage to missed connections, whoever said, “Enjoy the journey, as much as the destination” clearly never had a layover at ORD. Everyone who’s ever traveled has a horror story or two about getting there. Here are some of mine.

Enterprise – With a motto of, “We’ll pick you up,” you’d think Enterprise would go above and beyond to make the car rental experience easy. Well they do, until they decide to sell the car you’re driving. Apparently, Enterprise (and a few other rental car companies as I’ve learned), have a whole separate division setup to sell their used cars that doesn’t communicate with rental operations to know what’s in-stock and what’s unavailable. And if that car you happen to have rented is bought while you’re driving it – you’re SOL. They need you to return it ASAP, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It was a huge inconvenience to have to drive the car all the way back from the city to the suburbs where I rented it, completely disrupting my vacation without so much as a thank you or sorry it won’t happen again. Sure, I got an upgrade when I returned it, but the replacement car came with a completely empty gas tank, which they didn’t bother to check when they threw the new keys in my hand. Not only did I have to make one unnecessary stop to return the car, I then to make a second stop to get gas. Serious customer service #fail.

Air Berlin – Oh Air Berlin. Worse than Ryanair in my eyes, during a three-week romp through Europe, after of course charging me to check my bag, they lost it. “Don’t worry,” everyone said. This happens with all discount carriers. “They’ll find it, and it’ll be delivered to you in your next city.” Wrong. My clothes and all the souvenirs I’d acquired after being gone nearly a month were never recovered. Washing their hands of any responsibility and failing to communicate any action aside from a few “out of office” emails in German, they simply told me to file a claim with my insurance carrier. Like any good Jew, I threatened to sue. Going back and forth and harassing the sh*t out of them for weeks, they finally transferred a measly $300 into my bank account. This being the second time I’d completely lost my checked luggage (the first was on American Airlines, who without any fight gave me over 3k to replace everything for a mere week-long trip), I have learned to take nothing but a carry-on that doesn’t leave my sight.

Frontier – Sensing a theme here? Flying can be stressful, sometimes even before you get to the airport. Super excited I found a reasonably priced ticket to SXSW, I was willing to brave Frontier despite the horror stories I’d heard since being taken over by Spirit’s CEO. Skyscanner is one of my secret weapons to always finding low fares, and this is the only time they’ve ever let me down. I booked my ticket, my credit card was charged and I received my confirmation email. All seemed fine and dandy. About a week before I was supposed to fly, I realized I never had a seat assignment. I tried to select one on Frontier’s website, but I kept getting an error message that my confirmation number was not valid. Frustrated, I called their 1-800 number, which did not even give me the option to speak to a person. It was just an automated message, “We’re experiencing high call volumes, if you’re not flying within the next 48 hours, call back and try again.” Click. There was nowhere to even leave a message. I’m not sure how you were supposed to be connected to anyone if it was an actual emergency. Needless to say, emailing them was just as futile. Apparently my ticket had never been issued, despite being confirmed. They accepted no responsibility and insisted I had to rebook, despite being a week out and fares being over $200 more. Needless to say, I still haven’t made it to Austin.

An Airline I’d Like to Remain Nameless – This is probably my favorite travel story of all time because it’s just so ridiculous that years later I barely believe it even happened. Flying home from college for Thanksgiving one year, it’s not unusual to be delayed for weather as both Colorado and Chicago are snowy destinations. After taking off three hours late, everything seemed to be going according to plan. That is, until we landed. Once on the tarmac, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. “We’ve reached our destination, but while we were in flight, the crew decided to go on strike so we physically cannot let you off the plane until we reach an agreement with management.” Yes, a plane full of people were essentially being held hostage and used as bargaining chips for the union. You can imagine the mood on that plane. After being delayed a total of eight hours (three for weather, two in-air, three while we sat helplessly awaiting negotiations), I got a lot of frequent flier miles for that trip.

Anything like this ever happen to you? Let’s hear the tales!

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