I received an email today from Robyn Chalmers, SAA Head of Corporate Communications. (My original is below her response). Please leave a comment and tell me what you think!
Thank you very much forwriting to me relating your experience at OR Tambo International Airport(ORTIA), I really appreciate it.
Travel can at the bestof times be a stressful experience and please accept my sincere apologies forthis unfortunate incident and for your treatment which was completelyunacceptable.
We understand howupsetting such treatment can be and for this reason we are embarking on a freshdrive to improve our customer service. We are starting at the top and recentlyran a workshop with managers in the airline who pinpointed the crucial areaswithin the airline where we speedily need corrective action.
ACSA, the owners of the airport, took adecision about three years ago that ORTIA would be a “silentairport”, where no announcements will be made. When we have a delay ACSAthen activates the system and SAA can use the PA system within a specific framework.For us to function to our full capacity we depend on service providers such asACSA, which is also responsible for listing flights on the display boards. These boards may havemalfunctioned on the day in question.
I would like to thankyou for your loyalty to SAA and hope that you will remain a loyal SAA customer.
Should there be anyother way we can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate tocontact me. We can also facilitate any Voyager requests, should you wish us todo so.
From: Henk Kleynhans[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 200812:42 AM
To: Robyn Chalmers
Subject: Please help withaddressing an unfortunate and unnecessary SAA experience
Dear Robyn,I write to you directly after a journalist friend suggested I speak to you andas I think my experience with SAA today might be symptomatic of an underlyingproblem that could easily be solved, thus preventing further harm to yourclients. I am a fervent supporter of SAA, am a Voyager card holder and recently receiveda Voyager Credit Card as well. (Getting through to Voyager’s Call Centre forsupport is a different matter for a different day…) This evening, April 1st, I was scheduled to fly with Flight SA369 at 8pm. I had had a long day in Johannesburg,but managed to get to the airport early, and promptly checked in and clearedsecurity just before 18:30. I found a location to sit where I could both keep my laptop charged as well assee the information screens and clearly hear any announcements. (There is verylimited seating at Gate C10 and no place I could see to plug in a laptop, evenif I were to sit on the ground) The boarding time was scheduled to be at 19:30. However, when there were stillno announcements on the screen and no boarding calls for the flight by19:45, Iwent to find out why the flight was delayed and how much longer it would take,in order to make arrangements for my arrival in Cape Town. However, I discovered to my amazement that the airplane door had just beenclosed! According to the girl at the desk, this was because all 75passengers were on board. I asked her why there were no boarding announcements. And she matter-of-factlysaid it wasn’t necessary and that I should check my boarding pass. I told her that I sat in front of the info screen since 18:30 and looked outfor the boarding announcement. She then said something about it being ACSA’s fault. (She was wearing an SAAuniform). I then asked her who was responsible for making boarding calls, but she refusedto answer this question. (Why is this?) She said that she could take me to her supervisor, and kindly walked with me meto the check-in counters to explain to her supervisor. At this time I wasextremely distressed at the possibility of having to stay the night in Johannesburg and beingaway from my wife for another day. While we were walking she told me that it was policy to only make boardingannouncements when flights were delayed. She told me that I would have to pay extra to upgrade my flight. I said that Iam not happy about this and that I would contact SAA and asked her for hername, which she refused to give to me. I find this surprizing if indeedprotocol was followed. I explained my situation to the supervisor, who rudely admonished me for notstanding at the exact boarding gate (C10) at 19:30 and furthermore told me thatSAA hasn’t been making boarding calls for the last 3 years! She sent me to thereservations desk where I had to pay an upgrade fee. (I paid approximatelyR2300 for the original return flight) Is this really true then? Does SAA simply not bother to update the informationscreens? Shouldn’t there then be a notice in large text on the screens to saythat the information for SAA flights cannot be trusted? Is this perhaps thereason I often sit on an airplane to be told some customers didn’t pitch afterchecking in and that their luggage would have to be offloaded? I am not so upset about the R345.00 that SAA has charged me to”upgrade” my flight, although, to my mind, this is really done in badfaith. What I am really upset about is the entirely unnecessary inconvenience caused. And although I really looked forward to seeing Althea, my wife, this evening, Iam saddened that she had to stay up much later than she is used to, to pick meup from the airport. She currently works as an Occupational Therapist at atertiary hospital in Cape Townand on top of that is doing her Masters in Disability Studies. It should beSAA’s mission to bring people together as quic
kly as possible, whether forbusiness meetings or to rejoin loved ones. I have been a staunch and continued supporter of South African Airways. Buttonight I felt mistreated and disrespected by your staff. I am incredulous atyour policy of not informing passengers through the info screens placed allaround the terminals. What is their purpose then? I would love to see SAA turning a bad experience into a good and long lastingrelationship. (It managed this once before, though unfortunately only aftermany hours of phone calls.) In 2006 the company I founded, Skyrove, received the Technology Top 100award for the Most Promising Emerging Enterprise. (You may have seen our logoat the airport information screens as it was flashed at airports around South Africa).And although we’re still a small company, we have since then tripled ournumber of employees and our executive directors fly on a frequent basis, andalways with SAA. I look forward to your reply. Yours faithfully, Henk p.s. Skyrove recently got good exposure because of its efforts of activelyengaging its community (the Web 2.0 word for customers). Please have a lookhere: http://www.mikestopforth.com/2008/03/21/skyrove-starts-a-conversation-and-saves-thousands/#comment