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This is the incident that sealed my hatred of Easyjet.  Up until this point, they were just crap.  Once they’d cancelled my flight, I was introduced to the unbelievable world of Easyjet Customer Relations – a strange place, staffed by people with strange names and an uncanny ability to avoid saying anything useful…

 

10th April 2010

 

EasyJet Airline Company Limited
Hangar 89
London Luton Airport
Luton
Bedfordshire
LU2 9PF

 

by email to:  [email protected]

 

Dear Customer Relations,

 

I used to prefer EasyJet to Ryanair.  Not by much you understand, but EasyJet was the lesser of two evils.  Not any more.   Ryanair has yet to completely ruin a planned holiday whereas you have done so comprehensively – and with a level of customer care that Attila the Hun would be proud of.

 

The story begins when my wife and I decided to go on a walking holiday to Madeira.  On Sunday 17th January, we booked seats on a flight from London Stansted to Madeira Funchal departing on Tuesday 23rd March and returning a week later.  We arranged our accommodation privately and paid for our apartment and the car hire in full.

 

On Friday 19th February, I received an email which began:

 

We regret to advise you that due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to cancel the flight….

 

Not as much as I regretted being advised, believe me.  It said that you “had to cancel the flight”.  This is a transparent lie.  You did not have to cancel the flight at all; you CHOSE to cancel the flight.

 

The plane didn’t have mechanical problems or if it did, you still had over a month to fix it.  The pilot couldn’t have been ill or if he was, the chances are he would recover in time.  Both airports were open and accepting flights.  You did not endear yourselves to me by lying in the very first line of the email.

 

The email continued:

 

We would like to offer you one of the following in accordance with our obligations under EC Regulation 261/2004:

 

Presumably then, but for Regulation 261/2004, I would need a canoe.  I never expected to appreciate a European Directive.  However, Regulation 261/2004 had evidently come to my rescue and as a result, my first option was:

 

- A full refund of the cost of your flight ….

 

I didn’t want a refund; I wanted to get to Madeira.  But that was OK because there was a second option:

 

- A free transfer to another flight on the same route within 30 days of the original flight date. If your flight is part of a return trip, you will be able to change any directly related sector(s) within the same booking free of charge to keep your initial intended length of stay.

 

That’s just peachy.  I could stay in Madeira the same length of time – FREE OF CHARGE!  Not at the SAME TIME you understand, just the same length.  I could still go for a week, just not the week when I had a hire car waiting and a villa booked, both of which had been paid for in full.  But it was FREE OF CHARGE.  You were not going to charge me extra for ruining my holiday. That was very big of you.

 

The email continued:

 

Please click here to choose one of the options offered to you.

 

 

This is where you started to really take the piss.  Pressing ‘here’ took me to a website button that allowed me to choose either the refund, or another flight.  My button press decision was “FINAL”.  Absolutely NO OTHER INFORMATION was provided.  Could I see WHEN my new flights were leaving and returning before I pressed the button?  COULD I HELL!  What was I to do, book a flight when I wasn’t actually on holiday or risk not being able to go at all?!

 

Finally, there was a ‘helpful’ footnote:

 

Please ensure you cancel your travel insurance and/or car rental, if any.

 

Wasn’t that nice?  You were reminding me to cancel my travel insurance so that it would be impossible for me to claim on said travel insurance for the considerable cost of the one thing you didn’t remind me to cancel, MY ACCOMMODATION!

 

You complete blithering idiots!

 

I didn’t press the button.  Why would I when I was presented with only two completely unacceptable choices?  I dispatched a brief email of complaint to you, asking for a contact number so I could discuss alternatives.  Within seconds, the auto-responder spat back a reply:

 

Please note that we are receiving high email volumes.

 

 

Really, good heavens!  What a surprise.

 

Therefore it might take longer than usual to respond to your email.

 

 

Like, maybe a year or two…

 

As a consequence of this we would ask you not to send another email. 

 

What would be the point, there’s probably no-one there anyway.

 

So I didn’t send another email.  I waited patiently for a response.  It arrived 26 days later on the 17th March, just 6 days before we were due to fly.  But it wasn’t an answer to my email at all.  It was the auto-responder again: 

 

From our records, we have seen that we have not yet responded to your request and this is below our usual next day standard.

 

Forgive my scepticism but I doubt that very much.

 

Responding to our customers as quickly as possible is a top priority for us, so we have already doubled the size of our customer services team to meet this demand.

 

 

So there are now two of you!  I’m so pleased you have someone to talk to.  However, it is now exactly 50 days since my email to you.  I’ve had two customer satisfaction surveys (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) from my friend the auto-responder but no reply of any kind from a human being.

 

Perhaps the two of you could toss a coin to decide which of you replies.  Then again, perhaps you only employ computers and nobody ever gets a reply.  Perhaps though, you employ deities…   because, fortunately for EasyJet, God intervened on your behalf.

 

Yes, your spectacular failure to respond in any meaningful way to my plight and your contemptible attitude to customer care turned out to be completely and utterly irrelevant, thanks be to God.

 

Not 24 hours after the flight cancellation, the Big Customer Relations Department in the Sky sent the biggest storm to hit Madeira since the dinosaurs went on walking holidays there.  Not only did it kill an alarming number of people that were unfortunate enough to get in its way, but it filled our holiday apartment with enough mud and rubble to build a causeway to Morocco.

 

As soon as I saw the breakfast news footage, I sprinted to the computer and hit the button to choose my refund before thousands of people tried to cancel flights that you hadn’t already cancelled yourselves and the whole system came crashing down around your ears.  To my amazement, the button worked!

 

We ended up going to Norfolk.  We had a very nice week.

 

However, I still want several things from you.  First, please confirm just for my peace of mind that you had nothing to do with the storm in Madeira.  Second, I would like a human being to write to me personally explaining exactly why you “had to” cancel the flight.  Alternatively, a written admission that you lied in the notification email would suffice.

 

Next, I want a detailed explanation of why it is not possible to communicate with a human being when your regular and arbitrary cancellations wreak havoc with your customers’ travel arrangements.  Finally, I require a full and sincere apology for the distress and inconvenience caused to me and all the other unlucky people who were booked on the same flight .

 

If I don’t receive a reply soon, the dear little auto-responder won’t know what’s hit it.

 

Yours etc

 

Anthony

 

I received the following reply to the email copy of the this letter from one Özge Sarial, Easyjet’s Customer Experience Champion! It would seem that Ms Sarial had her sense of humour surgically removed at birth unless referring to me as ‘Ms’ is her attempt at levity.

 

13th April 2010

 

RE: easyJet [Incident: 100410-000802]

 

Dear Ms Matthews,

 

Thank you for contacting us.

 

I apologise for the inconvenience created by the disruption of your flight and I am sorry to hear that your holiday plans did not go as expected. The cancellation of your flight on 23 March was due to operational reasons.

 

Also, I would like to apologise for the delay in response. In case you need a speedy answer to a question in the future, I can advise you to call our contact centre. Because, we have been dealing with a huge backlog of e-mails. I have included an email for the telephone numbers that you can call us:

 

http://easyjet.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3158/kw/phone/r_id/166

 

I do hope I have been able to answer your question fully, if I have not, please click here and we will be more than happy to assist you further.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Özge Sarial
Customer Experience Champion

 

So, there was at least one person in the customer relations department!  I couldn’t very well leave it there could I?  I clicked ‘here’ as suggested and was taken to a webpage that invited me to open an online account with EasyJet.  I completed the email address, password and other details only to be told that I already had an account.  I was redirected to a page that allowed me to retrieve the password and so re-entered my email address.  The page promised to email me my password.  It didn’t.  I tried again.  No password.  To hell with it, I just hit the reply button:

 

15th April 2010

 

RE: easyJet [Incident: 100410-000802]

 

Dear Özge Sarial,

 

You have a very interesting name.  You have an even more interesting title.  Customer Experience CHAMPION!

 

Why are you a champion?  Did you win the customer relations department egg and spoon race or could it possibly be that you are supposed to CHAMPION the interests of your customers?

 

If it is the latter, perhaps I could make a few suggestions so that you can fully exploit the considerable potential of your title:

 

If your customer takes the trouble to inject a little humour into his complaint, make an attempt to respond in kind.  Humour helps to dissipate the anger that most of your customers feel towards your employer.

Try to include some information in your replies to customers. Providing information is HELPFUL!

I think three apologies in two paragraphs is about right.  Well done.

NEVER say that a flight was cancelled ‘FOR OPERATIONAL REASONS’

This last point is perhaps the most important.  Saying “for operational reasons” is akin to the mother who says “just because, darling” when her little daughter asks “Mummy, why is that man so fat?”.  The correct answer is “Because he’s a lazy git and he drinks twenty pints of bitter a day, darling”.

 

In other words, be honest.  There is enough bullshit in the world without you adding to it.

 

With this in mind, perhaps I can ask again:  Why was my flight cancelled?

 

And another question as I appear to have decoded your incident number:  Was mine really the 802nd complaint that you received on the 10th of April?

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Anthony.

 

It was a little more than a week later when I received a reply:

 

24th April 2010

 

RE: easyJet [Incident: 100410-000802]

 

Dear Ms Matthews,

 

click here and we will be more than happy to assist you further.

 

Thank you for contacting us.

 

I would like to sincerely apologise for the delay in replying to your message. Please, be assured that this is not our usual standard.

 

Unfortunately, due to airspace closure leading to recent massive disruptions caused by volcanic ashes in the atmosphere we are receiving extremely high volume of correspondence. Therefore, the average waiting time for a reply has extended.

 

I can understand the situation you are in. However, I would like to inform you that flight is cancelled due to operational reasons means flights are subject to availability of slots from the relevant Air Traffic Control.

 

I hope the above clarifies.

 

Thank you for taking time to contact us.

 

I do hope I have been able to answer your question fully, if I have not, please click here and we will be more than happy to assist you further.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Dipti Rani
Customer Experience Champion

 

I thought I’d have one last try:

 

25th April 2010

 

RE: easyJet [Incident: 100410-000802]

 

Dear Dipti Rani,

 

I see that you have taken over from Özge Sarial.  Like Özge, you too have an unusual name.  I am beginning to wonder if you use a random name generator to reply to emails.  I even tested it with an anagram solver but many of the answers were extremely rude so I had better not pass on the results.  Be that as it may, your names certainly add a bit of interest to your otherwise exceedingly dull replies.

 

I see too that you are also a Champion but not, it seems, at answering the questions put to you by your customers.

 

You tell me that a flight cancellation “for operational reasons” actually means “flights are subject to availability of slots from the relevant Air Traffic Control”.

 

I average about 50 flights a year and I’ve spent many an unhappy hour sat on the tarmac waiting for a slot from Air Traffic Control.  More often than not, the pilot comes on to tell me and my fellow sufferers that he’s still waiting to find out about his allotted slot long after we are supposed to have departed.  It is not something he knows in advance.

 

How in God’s name then could you possibly have known on 19th February (when you cancelled my flight) that a slot would not be available on 23rd March (when it was actually due to fly)?

 

Go on, be a devil.  Try honesty for a change.  Stop the bullshit and tell me why my plane was cancelled.

 

Anthony.

 

Needless to say, the exchange continued without any honest explanations ever being provided and I got rather bored.  Then several months later, out of the blue, EasyJet decided to get back in touch.  I have absolutely no idea why, but I could hardly pass up the opportunity to shake the tree once again to see what fell out…..

  

This is what landed in my inbox:

 

20th October 2010

 

Dear Ms Matthews,

 

Thank you for contacting us.

 

I would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that the disruption to your flight may have caused to you.

 

After looking into this matter for you, I can confirm that the amount of £355.42 has been returned to the card used in the booking on 24 February 2010, therefore this amount has already left our account.

 

My best advice to you would be to contact your card company, if you have not received the amount. I will be more than happy to supply any details required by your card company to assist with your enquiry.

 

Once again, I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you.

 

I do hope I have been able to answer your question fully. To update your query, please reply to this e-mail and we will be happy to assist you further.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Lalit Rathor
Customer Service Representative

 

I replied as follows:

 

Dear Lalit Rathor,

 

Thank you most sincerely for your curious email.  It’s always a pleasure to hear from EasyJet though I must confess to being just a little disappointed to receive an email from a Customer Services Representative when all the previous emails have been from Customer Services CHAMPIONS!  No matter, I’m sure you will be promoted soon.

 

Anyway Lalit, if I may, I will respond to the main points of your email line by line as if we were having a chat:

 

Lalit:               “Thank you for contacting us”.

 

Anthony:         “I didn’t contact you”.

 

Lalit:               “I would like to sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that the disruption to your flight may have caused to you”.

 

Anthony:         “The flight was cancelled.  There was no flight to be disrupted”.

 

Lalit:               “After looking into this matter for you, I can confirm that the amount of £355.42 has been returned to the card used in the booking on 24 February 2010, therefore this amount has already left our account”.

 

Anthony          “I know.  That’s why I didn’t contact you”.

 

Lalit:               “My best advice to you would be to contact your card company, if you have not received the amount. I will be more than happy to supply any details required by your card company to assist with your enquiry”.

 

Anthony:        “That’s very kind of you but I have indeed received the amount, which is why I didn’t contact you… or the credit card company”.

 

Lalit:              “Once again, I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you”.

 

Anthony:        “It’s very nice of you to apologise a second time but there’s no need.  I’ve come to enjoy these little exchanges and I shall miss them when you finally manage to stop contacting me”.

 

So you see Lalit, that was why I described your email as curious.  I didn’t contact you (at least not for over six months) so I am somewhat at a loss as to why you replied!   Surely, working as you do for such a bunch of idiots, you must have thousands of current and highly justified complaints to deal with without serving another volley in our protracted email tennis match.  I think it’s time we headed for the cyberspace changing rooms.

 

Sincerely,

 

Anthony

 

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