Sunday, August 20, 2006

When Good Airlines Go Bad

It’s amazing how different airline personnel can be, whether we’re talking about different airlines or even the same airline but at different airports. Take the KLM staff in Amsterdam for example. We’ve dealt with this airline in several different countries and not had problems but their local staff in Amsterdam is beyond rude. Have a problem and need them to fix it? Hell no! It’s your own damn fault and had better have a darned good idea on how to rectify the situation yourself before you go and ask one of the kind blonde women behind the blue counter for assistance.

You’d prefer a more recent example? Fine. When we were getting ready to visit the Down Under we attempted to check-in online only to be told (after hours of trying) that Emirates online service was down that day. Ok not a problem. After all, despite the problems we had encountered at the Nairobi airport in the past, this time we were flying on a great airline and who are always wonderfully smooth running. Dang we were naïve; we should have remembered that the airport always trumps the airline.

The two people on duty there were busy checking in an A340 Airbus full of passengers eager to get the heck out of Dodge and wing their way to Cloud City (aka Dubai). Moving at a pace that even the snails thought was rather slow we edged our way closer to the check-in counter. By the time it was our turn to obtain boarding passes, Hubby and I had already had four fights, made up five times (an extra kiss never hurt anybody, thank you), found a cure for bird flu, and cobbled ourselves a pretty cool plan for world peace. (It involved kissing too!)

Once at the counter, we discovered that not only could the brilliant Emirates employee not provide us with boarding passes but also that she could barely figure out how to check our luggage in. We should have taken this as a sign of things to come. We were directed to sit in a corner with other Losers Without Passes (like Doctors Without Borders but less into healing and more into wreaking vengeance upon incompetent Emirates employees). We all watched as dozens of people in line after us walked away with passes and made their way toward the boarding area.

Hubby glowered at them menacingly for 30 minutes at which time they succumbed to his evil powers and called him over for ticketing. More stern and angry looks got us seats together on the first flight. We then politely asked for exit rows seats on our next flight. “Sure. No problem!”

You’d think we would have learned to stop being so darned naïve. Not only were the seats they gave us NOT in exit rows, they were directly behind an exit row filled with screaming babies. Flying out of Nairobi is just so much fun… or something.

All this, you see, is in direct contrast to the amazing service we received from Qantas last Friday as we departed Cairns for Brisbane.

The briskly moving line at the Domestic terminal quickly steered us to the good-looking Australian girl behind counter number five. We handed Aussie Lady our ID, tickets, and frequent flyer cards and smiled tiredly at her. After a few minutes of keying information into her computer she turned to me. “Where is your ticket for Brisbane to Sydney?” Say what?!

First of all, that wasn’t even the flight we were checking in for. And second of all: HUH?! She explained that it looked like someone had inadvertently torn it off already. (Picture, if you will, me starting to have a nervous breakdown as the tears started to well up and I looked fearfully at Hubby.) She verified that Hubby’s ticket hadn’t been kidnapped (doesn’t that just figure!), and smiled at us reassuringly.

Taking our tickets in hand, she jogged over to the ticketing counter a few yards behind us. Meanwhile at the check-in counter, Hubby and I were contemplating my new Aussie life since I was about to be stuck in Brisbane for the foreseeable future. Good Lord, I was going to have to get a job!

Moments before I fainted, Aussie Lady returned to us. She explained that she had noted in the computer system what had happened with the missing ticket. All we needed to do was go to a ticketing agent in Brisbane before we left and they’d give us a new ticket voucher and we wouldn’t have any problems. She even wrote these instructions onto the ticket envelope so we wouldn’t forget.

The moral of this story is that we’re naming our first-born child after Aussie Lady (not that we know her name), and we love the Qantas staff in Cairns. Oh and the next time Hubby tries to leave me behind in a foreign country, he’s going make sure that there are no kind hearted Qantas staff on hand to bail me out.

Post Script: On our way home we had to fly through Syndey and bug the local Emirates staff there for boarding passes. A woman at the information counter saw we had no baggage (it had been checked through already courtesy of the ever wonderful Qantas staff) and called us over. Dealing simultaneously with us and three other sets of passengers she stayed calm and sweet to all of us. Not only that but she hooked us up with exit row seats giving the seats we were supposed to get to a rude couple that pushed in front of us.

Emirates staff in Sydney: we love you!

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