On the Cattle Trek – Another One on Customer Service

There I was, looking forward to a weekend in Germany visiting my dear lovely goddaughter and her family, most of whom I haven’t seen in 5 years and hence sort of hoping that things would go well with the flight and all.

Lufthansa was on strike – Phew! Luckily not the airline I chose. So I was happily setting off for the airport at 5 AM in the morning. What could go wrong at this early hour? Traffic jams are unlikely and despite the holiday season the first flights of the day should still be all right, shouldn’t they?

I had booked one of these cheap airlines; but the strike and the previous BA disasters showed that booking an expensive one wouldn’t guarantee success either. However, strike is a major incident and BA had to deal with acts of God – meaning fog and computers! As long as we are talking standard business I had this rather naive idea that the deal is as follows:

Airline and I make a contract by which I’m paying them money, committing to their rules of having my luggage the correct size, weight and consistency and being there 2 hours early – that is TWO hours of my valuable time – and they promise to bring me places. And even more naively I thought that parts or the two hours were allocated for passengers spending a lot of money at airport shops.

In order to stretch this shopping slot to the limits I decided to travel light, to just take a backpack and not to check in anything. I had the preposterous thought of quickly getting my boarding card, queuing a bit at security, and then indulging in all those lovely shops – particularly the ones with the shoes.

Nope! That’s not how it works, at least not at the airport and the airline I chose.

As I understand it a lot of companies are fighting over the title of ‘Best Customer Service’; even some airlines do these days. The cheap ones however seem to have erased this term entirely from their vocabulary, and it makes one wonder about the future of travelling, given that everything gets more expensive.

We all more or less expect hold-ups to happen when travelling, don’t we? But when stuck in them, they are a nuisance nevertheless. I usually proclaim that knowing about reasons eases anger and enhances understanding for staff dealing with the situation, but unfortunately this is not the common doctrine in customer service -neither on airports nor on trains.

Well, in regard to trains there are certain established traditions. Stations are mostly old facilities – at least the trains are – at least in the UK… Since forever there are more tickets sold then there are seats. Everybody knows that, and hence there is a certain empathy felt for railway staff as surprises are bound to happen with that sort of policy.

Airports are different!  Airports are modern; and airplanes – one expects them reasonably well maintained and looked after. Since flying is a newer means of travelling one expects more sophisticated, new-style management structures to be in place as well. The buildings are more spacious because at planning stage intelligent people did intelligent studies about estimated lead times and all sorts of other important stuff. Even new roads are built, often under strong objection of rodents and rare nettles who don’t like tarmac spreading in their neck of the woods.

After all that effort one might think that it is well understood, how to manage these streams of previously predicted customers, and hence I’m contemplating the question on why one would have to queue at check-in for more than an hour and not even having anything to check in?

I, good girl - kept my bit of the contract: Arrived bang on time, and my bag was in pristine condition. From there it all went a wee bit downhill.

On arrival at the check-in counter, a huge crowd of more experienced travellers than me was already waiting patiently. I joined, realising that there was no order whatsoever and that people were wedging in whenever possible. There was no going back either – one could have had a lovely coffee while the crowd got sorted – but I was cornered by a second crowd closing in behind me.

A little boy in a buggy was fenced in by legs and luggage and nobody came to the rescue. Nobody organised a queue with children, elderly and disabled at the front, and nobody sorted out the sad figures like me who already showed signs of shopping withdrawal.

Eventually I made it: One hour and fifteen minutes!

Oh, oh?!?

With boarding half an hour before take off I was left with 15 minutes for security and getting to the gate.

And then: …security wanted my shoes! ‘Oh no, ... I’m on a countdown here…’

At least the bell is not ringing; gathering my stuff - backpack hanging from one shoulder, plastic bag with liquids in one hand and shoes in the other I tip-toed barefoot to a chair at the other side of the hall. Should have accepted the plastic wrappers – now the feet are dirty and I have knobbly bits in my shoes, dashing through the transfer hall saying a quick farewell from far to Kurt Geiger Shoes and all the other lovely shops, and just made it into the train heading towards the terminal.

No new water bottle bought yet, and in desperate need for a loo. Opposite ends of the body asking for urgent attention:  7 minutes to go…

Up some flights of stairs and along corridors: 4 minutes to go – damned which gate was it again? 12! Nobody there and it says Cologne, not Stuttgart. On asking a disinterested member of staff I was told to read the monitor.

Oh well, eh… thanks!

Gate 15, and 30 = THIRTY minutes delay.

Yippee! I don’t think I will ever again appreciate a delay as much as I did then. With water levels adjusted evenly throughout the body it was easy to calmly looking forward to a flight without hospitality. The caterers were on strike, and as long as one is equipped with a water bottle that even has advantages. A good hour of flight without a food trolley bruising my elbow.

And hubby is happy about an untouched credit card – basically a win-win along the line.

Well, the shops missed out quite a bit!

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Cattle Trek
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Oh No, not again!
Wrongly Wired
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How Embarrassing
Homage to Monica
I'm on Strike
Humble Pie
We Had It All

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Copyright 2007 incredible-ladies.com
Author: Rika