Plane silly – when common sense takes flight

Occasionally  I use my blog to highlight examples of great customer service. Occasionally I use it to highlight less than great service.

Occasionally poor service can be triggered by systems and occasionally it is a direct result of interactions by people – and quite often it is people feeling unable to overcome a poor system.

My wife and I are flying up to Edinburgh next week for the festival. We are going to stay with the artist currently known as Fuchsia Blue and originally we had planned to take our daughter too. Last week my daughter decided she would rather stay with my brother than come with us (ouch) so we now had 3 plane tickets booked (and checked in) when only 2 of us were going to fly. 

So my wife phoned up the airline to know it would be just the two of us. The substance of the conversation was this…

‘My daughter won’t be travelling now, so could we cancel one seat please?’

‘No problem’

‘I don’t suppose we get a refund?’

‘No, I’m afraid not’

‘Can I just check that my husband and I will still be sitting together?’

‘Well, your daughter was sitting in the middle so we may resell that seat to another passenger’

‘Ok, could you just make sure we sit together please?’

‘We will charge an administration fee to move the seat’

‘So if we cancel the seat you will resell it – and then we’ll have a stranger sitting between us and we won’t get a refund. What happens if we don’t cancel?’

‘You’ll still have 3 seats allocated to you’

‘We won’t cancel it in that case. Thanks’

It is interactions and processes like this that kill people’s faith in sanity. We aren’t angry, we aren’t any worse off (in fact we have three seats to spread out over!) but there was a ‘win’ available for the airline of reselling our ticket that seems like it would have been just a click away….

How often is customer service just one simple click away – but it’s a click that someone doesn’t feel empowered to take…

7 thoughts on “Plane silly – when common sense takes flight

  1. I hate situations like this, where systems and processes act as a road block and prevent sensible outcomes. Considering you were doing them a favour by phoning up you would think they could at least waive the admin fee to move your seat.

    Enjoy the festival. I’m heading up on Wednesday evening for a few days. Doing a 2 day improv course Thurs-Fri, followed by a weekend of comedy fun. Have you got anything exciting lined up? I wholeheartedly recommend Baby Wants Candy (1 hr long fully improvised musical) and Austentatious (Jane Austin-esque long-form improv) if you want some ideas.


  2. Great example of an employee who probably knew the exact thing to do in order to enhance your experience of the airline but their procedures didn’t allow them to. Hope you have a great time in the wonderful city of Edinburgh and enjoy all the space on the flight!


  3. It depends on the airline I guess. If for example, I pay £50 for a seat with an airline that always sells cheap, then what I know I can reasonably expect is a safe journey. Anything else is extra. Nice extras like shuffling seats around cost extra administration; there’s a reason why they are cheap. I’m cool with that.

    The train is £32 (one way) which is my choice of airport free, low cost, jump out into Princes Street, travel up there.

    I hope you have a fab time at the festival.


  4. “Hmmm, I *could* create better experience for the customer AND increase profits for the business. Nah, better not.”

    Why create win-wins when you can create lose-loses with the same effort?


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