Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cathay Pathetic Airways

The lovely, smart and looks 25 years younger than her age wife made reservation for our daughter to make a summer trip to see grandparents and relatives in the US this summer and generally relax with her favorite aunt and work at a summer job. The wife flies a lot and has bookoo frequent flier miles on her account and we used 40,000 of them to get a ticket from Leeds in the UK to Dallas via London. We made the reservation online and were happy to get the flights so well routed.

All was well and good until my wife called Cathay Pacific and confirmed the tickets. The phone girl didn't know the definition or difference between the word "Confirmed" and the word "Canceled" and she canceled the reservation. We didn't know this until we didn't receive a route and confirmation number and my wife called back. Since Cathay Pacific offers great in flight service we expected them to make the situation right. They went back and checked the tapes and discovered that my wife had indeed said "Confirm" and not "cancel." Up to this point we had no complaint. OK mistakes happen. It was what happened next that lit my fuse. Despite this whole episode being their fault they offered no suitable recompense. They wouldn't even restore the flight!

After a bit of angry talking on the phone they offered to replace: Leeds to London to Dallas on affiliated airlines they offered Birmingham to New York's JFK and then Newark to Dallas with a 4 hour layover. The Newark airport is technically a New York Airport but it is in another state. There is no subway between the two as in London between Gatwick and Heathrow and no dedicated bus service that I know of. How does a 20 year-old single female without a drivers license and who doesn't know the route get from JFK to Newark? When my daughter was small we lived in the NYC area, so I know it is probably a one to three hour trip depending upon the traffic. That's an expensive Taxi ride for someone without US money. It is also easily possible to mis that connection. In the end after arguing with them on the phone for more time than it should have taken since we were not the ones at fault, we got our daughter booked on a flight from London to JFK on a Cathay Pacific flight and then to Dallas on American Airlines but with rather mind numbing 8 hour layover in JFK.

Would it have hurt Cathay Pacific to say "Whoops! We screwed up. You have a right to be upset with this situation. Here, we'll put your daughter in a London to JFK flight with a complimentary ticket even if it means a business class upgrade. Then you can use your Asia-miles to get the American Airlines flight to Dallas. " Indeed since business class is seldom sold out all it would have cost them is a couple of meals. By taking responsibility and solving the situation in favor of the customer without an argument they would have created a lot of good will in what until now has been a very loyal customer in my wife. Their response was "Look you're getting free ticket anyway. Don't complain."

Frequent flier programs are not free tickets. They are rewards for loyal customers.
My wife flew Cathay Pathetic even when they were more expensive to get the miles into the system. She flew Cathay Pacific even when it meant longer routing or an additional stop than it would have meant with a different non-Asia miles airline. Airlines should use these programs to build loyal customers not drive them away. They've probably driven us away.

It might be time to start looking at Star Alliance to see if they have better customer service.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who doesn't really like to fly anyway.

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