When you travel stuff happens. We know that. Flights are late, transfers don’t arrive and sometimes hotels don’t meet up to your expectations. Having been in this business for more years than I care to confess online I have seen a wide range of travel problems and also a wide range of how different people (and companies) deal with this.
Getting there – the flight – Wow. Is there anybody out there who has never been impacted by a delay, a cancellation, a “we’ve run out of meals” situation, a mix up in seat selection? If there is please let me know because that would amaze me. I remember boarding a flight once in New York with my family (2 adults and 2 kids) with our seat selection clearly stated on the boarding pass only to find once on board that the row we were assigned to did not exist. We stood to one side while a harried looking flight attendant got everybody else on board while she tried to figure out where to seat us – and yes – we wanted to sit together. She had the brilliant idea of upgrading us to business class (thank you very much) until she realized we had 2 kids (5 and 12) and suddenly it appeared that we were not eligible for an upgrade.
I think we deserved business class!
I didn’t complain at the time – or afterwards. Should I have? I might have got a voucher for future travel from the airline but in the moment all I really wanted was four seats together for me and my family. So it’s all about priorities. I was living in the moment and when we eventually got four seats together I was OK.
Another time checking into a flight at an airport I pointed out that I had originally reserved a particular seat and now it had been changed for no reason that I could see. “Oh” – says the check in agent “You will have to speak to your travel agent about that – they are always doing that.”
“Um … I am my travel agent. I made the booking.” She had no answer.
Everyone has a different way of dealing with travel problems so I want to use an example of a very reasonable couple who experienced problems with their vacation and how they dealt with it.
Let’s call them Dave and Heather.
The flight – a special seat selection service had been booked and prepaid with printed documentation and tickets stating the seats. At check in they were told that these seats were not on the “manifest”. Dave and Heather pointed out that they had paid extra for this service. They were asked to produce their Visa receipt???? They realized they were not getting anywhere so offered to pay again for the seat service but were told they could not. Go figure.
At the hotel they had problems. Now it is strange but sometimes it is like a weird kind of karma. Once something starts going wrong those ripples turn into waves and those waves turn into a tsunami. It went from bad to worse. The staff were well meaning but ineffective and Heather decided not to waste her precious holiday time with negative feelings and complaints. It was therefore a bit of an eye opener when a few days later, while standing at the reception desk, she witnessed an absolute melt down with someone checking in and after raising the roof the staff quickly upgraded this person to a presidential suite.
Hmmm – Heather thought to herself. Maybe being polite and optimistic is not the way to get things done.
Isn’t that sad? Doesn’t that say something about today’s society. The Squeaky Wheel – the Threats – the loud voice.
So what should you do when things go wrong when you travel? Here are a few pointers
- Take down names. Most airline staff have a name badge. Make a note of the time. Airlines and hotels can check shifts and names.
- Contact the onsite rep – if you have booked through a tour operator there will be a local rep who will either be based at the hotel or will have a desk or contact number so you can reach them and make them aware of your concerns. The local rep keeps in touch with head office in Canada or the USA and is the one most able to quickly deal with any problems.
- Keep your travel agent up to date – a quick email just advising that you have had problems (and maybe a brief description) and that you are in contact with the local rep. Your travel agent will then be able to monitor things on our side with the tour operator in Canada or the USA.
- Write it down – a full chronological report of all and everything that went wrong is a great help. If you have your cell phone take a few pictures too.
But keep your complaints real….. not like these courtesy of Thomas Cook UK.
“The beach had too many fat people …it was gross.”
“The street signs were not in English. I don’t understand how anybody can get around.”
“The local women were too beautiful. It made me feel bad about myself.”
“No one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”