A Story of Poor Airline Service - All Wasn't Rosie

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Thursday, November 10, 2005

On a recent flight to Istanbul and subsequent return flight from Venice Ellen and I had some unfortunate experiences with your airline, KLM. I have detailed the first part of our journey in chronological order, for clarity:

17-09-05 - We were scheduled to depart Toronto at 6:00 pm on flight # 692 for Istanbul via Amsterdam. When we arrived at the airport we were continuously told throughout the evening that the flight would be delayed until further notice. Finally at 10:30 pm we were told that the flight would be cancelled and re-scheduled for the following evening. We were given a telephone number to call regarding the flight information for the rescheduled flight. We went home.

18-09-05 - We called the telephone number given to us the previous evening. The people who answered the telephone were unable to give us any information what-so-ever and were taken aback and confused as to why all of the 'sent home' passengers had been given that number to call. We were told that we would have to speak to a KLM representative at Pearson International Airport. We went back to Pearson International at 3:30 pm and were told once again that the flight would be delayed until at least 10:30 pm. I had planned a special celebration in Istanbul for Ellen's 50th birthday on September 20th. It was a very special, very personal birthday event for her. Since further delay might very well cause this occasion to take place in mid-flight we went to the KLM customer service counter, explained our dilemma and asked to be put on an alternate flight. We were assigned seats on Air Canada flight # 856 to London Heathrow, and then British Airways flight # 676 to Istanbul. We would arrive in Istanbul on the morning of the 19th. The day had been saved - it seemed.

19-09-05 - Our luggage did not make it to Istanbul. Upon arrival at Istanbul International Airport we went directly to "Lost Luggage" and explained the events of our trip. They made a report and told us that we would be able to track our luggage on their computer system. They also told us that because our final carrier on the journey had been British Airways, British Airways would now be responsible for our luggage. They also told us that as soon as our luggage arrived, probably on the next flight, they would deliver our bags to our hotel. We went to our hotel, confident that the situation was under control. In the early afternoon I went to an Internet café and called up the "Lost Luggage" website. It showed no trace of our luggage. I went again to the Internet cafe at 10:30 pm - still nothing.

20-09-05 - I quietly slipped out of our room early, before Ellen had awakened and went to an Internet café to check once again. This time I was shocked to find that our record of trace had been removed from the "Lost Luggage" log. I panicked; then found the KLM website and sent an e-mail pleading for direction, or acknowledgement of our plight - something. (To this date KLM has not responded to my e-mail) When I returned to our room I immediately phoned "Lost Luggage" and was told that our luggage had not yet left Toronto; that it was the responsibility of KLM, and that because British Airways, really, at no time were physically involved in the movement of our luggage, the record of trace had been dismissed. I looked at Ellen, who was sobbing uncontrollably on the corner of our bed.
"Don't worry." I said, "At least they established where our bags are. It's just a matter of getting them to us now."
"You forgot." she replied.
"Forgot what?" I became tense and slightly sensitive to her two-word confusing reply. "I've been chasing after the luggage since yesterday afternoon. And I've been running around this morning trying to get answers. What more can I do?" I continued.
"My birthday, my special birthday. We planned this together; to be in Istanbul on my special birthday. And you forgot it."
Ellen sat on the corner of the bed staring into the corner of the room fully dressed. Her pant leg and coat covered with dried mud; the result of a splash from a water filled pot-hole in the road that a driver had bounced through the previous night.
And myself, I had forgotten Ellen's special birthday - the one we began planning in May, four months earlier. I hung my head...ashamed and downtrodden.

21-09-05 - I phoned "Lost Luggage" at 9:00 am. They told me that our luggage had arrived and that they would deliver it to our hotel room. I offered to jump in a taxi, come out to the airport and pick up our bags. By now we both smelled quite bad. The "Lost Luggage" people said that it was unnecessary, that they would make the delivery in short order. After several more telephone calls, and being told that our bags were en-route they finally arrived at 9:30 pm - twelve and one half hours later.
Typed on our luggage labels were the words: "Passenger re-routed, label not amended"

Return flight:

Our return home to Toronto via Amsterdam was scheduled to leave Venice on October 31st. When we arrived at the Venice check-in counter we were told that our reservations had been cancelled because we had been "no-shows" on the original October 18th flight from Toronto - even though it was KLM who had arranged for us to fly out of Toronto on the Air Canada flight. We explained at length the entire situation to the customer service person in Venice and she was able to get us on the flight to Amsterdam. She tried unsuccessfully for twenty minutes to telephone KLM in Amsterdam to get seat availability confirmation for the final leg of our journey to Toronto. Because she was unable to make contact with KLM it became necessary for us to collect our luggage upon arrival in Amsterdam, then go to the KLM ticket office to get re-booked on the Toronto flight, and then proceed to check-in.


I will summarize in order of the magnitude or effect that these journeys with KLM had on our lives and also explain to you why we chose KLM in the first place:

ˇ Our travel plan was for a six week period. Aside from a couple of T-shirts and some under garments that we bought to try and quell our body odor we simply had no room in our luggage for new clothing purchases. We decided to wait and hope that KLM would come through in a timely fashion. We did of course have to buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant. It might be a good idea if the "Lost Luggage" facilities could be equipped with these types of toiletries to give to travelers in situations such as this.

ˇ It was very disturbing that KLM chose not to respond to my e-mail of distress regarding our missing luggage. Or to try and make contact with us, possibly through "Lost Luggage" or some other avenue that I'm sure must be at their disposal in cases where situations such as this occur. We just never, throughout the entire ordeal, got any sense that KLM cared about us.

ˇ As mentioned earlier, we had gone to great lengths to plan the flight that would best suit us. We eventually chose KLM because there was a five hour stop-over in Amsterdam. Ellen had been to Amsterdam many years ago, loved it, and wanted to show off the city to me. As mentioned previously, the cancellation of our return flight by KLM, and the inability of the customer service person in Venice to make contact with KLM in Amsterdam caused us to have to collect our luggage and go through the entire routine of ticketing and check-in. This took almost two hours and it was suggested by one of KLM's customer service people that we abandon the idea of going to the Amsterdam city centre with such little time left at our disposal.

ˇ While we were at the re-booking counter I was offended at hearing the clerk tell me that our problem was a computer error. I told her that it is people who input information into computers - not the machines that cause problems.
The clerk said, "What can I do? These things happen."
"Someone at KLM could have answered the telephone this morning." I responded. "That would have alleviated this problem entirely and we would have been able to visit Amsterdam."
She began to argue, saying that the phones would have been answered if the calls were made - as if I had concocted a lie.
I told her that I stood in front of the customer service person in Venice, saw and heard her attempts to contact KLM in Amsterdam. Annoyed at the ticketing clerk's attitude I asked to speak with her manager.
She paused for a few moments and then said, "You are not a citizen of this country and therefore you cannot speak with my manager." I began to ask what on earth my nationality had to do with my request, but decided instead to simply abandon this ridiculous conversation. We had our tickets and would soon be gone from this place.

KLM made no attempt to contact us regarding compensation for the poor service, cancelled flights, cancelled reservations and severely delayed luggage.

More importantly though, Ellen spent her 50th birthday sitting on the edge of a bed, dirty, smelly and crying, while I sat on a chair, horribly ashamed at my unforgivable faux pas of forgetting her special birthday. This would not have happened had KLM made the simple effort to show they cared.
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