28 February 2010

When Code Share Falls Apart

I had an interesting time this weekend trying to get home. But while there is a story here about the value of persistence - I am really trying to look at the way the alliance between Delta and Air France/KLM should work.

I made a big mistake - failed to book the right day on my flight. OK - it happens. Accepting my fate - i got up at the crack of very early and took my car to the airport in London. (If you want a good tip - DON'T even THINK about trying to use the tube/underground on the weekends in London). But I digress...

So lets start with the process of checking in. I have a DL code share flight number and a DL ticket. So I get the usual email - time to check in. I click on the link. Eventually DL's website sends me to KLM UK. Air France who will operate the flight doesn't want to check me in. I input the data (after calling AF to get the code share correct AF PNR RLOC) nope doesn't work. But it does then send me BACK to Delta with a link... and the process starts all over again. (BTW I copied each web page to prove my point).

I called AF back - no you cannot check in - go to the airport early!

I get to LHR (they said 3 hours before the flight but I was one of the first at 1 hour before departure). I use the automated check in but check with the AF/KL sales rep to see if the frequent flyer number made it into the record. (It doesnt print on the AF Boarding pass nor does it give my status - the Frequent Flyer's nightmare - lack of recognition!) Her comment - I hate these code shares - it confuses us and not to mention the passengers. So I make it through security and board the flight. (Imagine the following is spoken in a very heavy French accent). "Ladies and Gentlemen - Air France regrets to tell you that there is a slight delay of 2 hours due to bad weather in Paris." OK so that means I will miss my connection in CDG for Seattle. So your intrepid traveller heads up the aisle to speak to the purser.

"Absolutement NON! If you want to leave the aircraft then I am sorry but you will have to pay for a new ticket. It will be very expensive. And besides - all flights in CDG are delayed by the same amount." I can assure you - there is no need.

Back to my seat - I pull out my laptop and log onto the network (thank god for 3G dongles... I can surf on the aircraft). So i now have better information than the agent. So yes there are seats available. Back up the aisle to speak to the purser and the agent...

But saith the Professor... "I have a Delta ticket".

"Then it is up to you..."

So I grab my carry on and head up with aisle. I speak to the gate agent (Cobalt) Well I guess. But you are on your own.

I deboard the aircraft - am officially offloaded. So now I have to go all the way through the airport to the Skyteam checkin terminal transfer desk in T4. Its about a mile walk from Gate 25 to there.

Same story (now on its third retelling) "No you can't do that!" ....But I have a Delta ticket....

"Oh yes then you can!"

The Cobalt agent works hard and gets me on the right flight. I end up getting home. And as for the flight from CDG to SEA? AF306 was canceled! I would have been stranded in Paris along with a heck of a lot of other folks.

I think that there is a lot of integration to do. The way Skyteam works is frankly very poor. Star Alliance has had a lot more time to get this right. Their UA+LH interconnection works a lot better.

What is clear - AF's legendary (and not good) customer service is still no better than it ever was. AF is misleading customers with their bad advice. The Cobalt team at LHR really did pull out the stops to get me fixed. I am indebted to them for solving the problem for me.

However - without insisting on the changes to my flight - I would not be back in the good ol' USA.

Moral of the story - avoid booking on AF if you can. Your DL Elite card is worthless to the AF staff. A DL ticket seems to work a lot better. Oh yes and they have a LOT of work yet to do to integrate their operations.

So much for seamless service! Check out this ad in LHR Terminal 4.


1 comment:

Alex said...

Hi Professor,
I like those stories , about code shares.
They only work , if the sun is shining and there is enough stuff around, who are trained and have skills.
First of all , flying personal can`t handle any irregularities regarding scheduling, they are trained to calm people down. They have to rescue them in emergencies, there they are doing a great job.
But this is the worst nightmare: ground personnel with a lack of competence. This is obviously wanted by the airlines. Take the 80 vs 20 ratio, your experience is somehow collateral to the savings an airline has. Where are the gray or red jackets, people with skills and competence? Endorsement, involuntary rerouting or FIM , forget the good old Airline times, when customer service was Key.
DO not believe, that alliances will improve this situation. Customer recognition , or even simply good customer service is not priority number 1 in their compliance policy.
So stay with the carrier, you have a status and do not expect anything more.
What I do not understand is, the airlines could save money in not letting passenger strand and have expenses for hotels etc., but the danger in rerouting a wrong ticket and getting charged a higher price is obviously more dominant than execute good customer service.