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Airlines all over Europe are proclaiming how zealous they have been in looking after their passengers over the past days. Yet well do we all know that many European airlines have behaved in a quite despicable manner towards their customers.

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Airlines all over Europe are proclaiming how zealous they have been in looking after their passengers over the past days. Yet well do we all know that many European airlines have behaved in a quite despicable manner towards their customers.

Air Berlin today offers a revealing case study on how not to treat passengers. While some airlines have upped the number of personnel in their call centres, Air Berlin has simply stopped answering phone calls altogether. A message calmly announces that flights are pretty well back on schedule and that passengers should travel to the airport as normal.

The reality is that 14 of the airline’s 23 departures from Berlin Tegel this afternoon are definitely cancelled. Assisting a neighbour booked on the 5.25 pm flight for Copenhagen, we looked at Air Berlin’s website for her. Sure enough the afternoon flight to Copenhagen is cancelled. Air Berlin kindly offer an alternative, suggesting that if passengers make their own way to Vienna, they could be accommodated on a 5.50 pm flight to Copenhagen operated by Fly NIKI.

Now we may be simple souls, but quite how would-be travellers could ever possibly reach Vienna in time for that flight is quite beyond us. It is a ten hour train journey from Berlin to Vienna. Our neighbour opted instead to travel from Berlin by direct train to Copenhagen – it is an easy seven hour journey.

Air Berlin has buttoned down the hatches and declines to speak with its customers. “Let’s pretend all is normal” is a curious corporate communication policy and an utterly reprehensible approach to customer care. To offer an alternative flight from Vienna to travellers wanting to fly from Berlin is the very height of cynicism. And, of course, there is not a word on the company’s website about refunds for passengers who continue to be so sorely inconvenienced by Air Berlin.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(hidden europe)

This article was published in hidden europe notes.

About The Authors: hidden europe

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

Comments (6)| write a comment

  1. Magnus
    22 April 2010

    I wanted to travel on the Air Berlin flight from Berlin to Helsinki this afternoon. That was shown as running on their website, but when I reached Berlin Tegel airport it was actually cancelled. So I'd say that your suggestion of 14 out of 23 afternoon departures running as scheduled is actually an overestimate. You are being too generous to Air Berlin. Other flights shown as operating may yet be cancelled. And some look to be very late. I think a late afternoon flight to Frankfurt was listed at Tegel as being over an hour late.

  2. Charlotte Ann Fleming
    22 April 2010

    If you want real cynicism, look no further than Ryanair, who are openly and brazenly breaking EU law by refusing any compensation to their stranded passengers. Every time I've travelled with Ryanair I've said "Never again"; this time it's definite.

  3. hidden europe
    22 April 2010

    Well, Charlotte, we are rarely ones to come out and say a single positive word about Ryanair. But in fairness, they have changed their position today and now say that they will abide in full by the provisions of the EU 261 regulations. This means that passengers left stranded by Ryanair can claim back reasonable hotel and other costs.

    In this respect, travellers with British and Irish airlines may fare rather better than those with some of the less reputable continental carriers.

  4. John Young
    23 April 2010

    I was one of the ones stuck in Spain last week and had to get an overnight coach back (Trains were fully booked). I was with Ryanair and as always say never again. The one point I would support them on is the scale of the compensation. How can you pay a few pounds for a ticket and then expect the airline to pay for all your costs if their is a problem not of their making. Isn't that what insurance is for? Same issue with airlines going bust - We should all have insurance to cover.

  5. Mary Smith
    23 April 2010

    Easyjet have been forced to give expenses too. We were in southern Spain and got the train to Madrid, and then one of the the free coaches to Calais. The Spanish train was much more comfortable and had much better facilities than the free coach and, come to that, the train travel in England. But trains everywhere in Europe are much more expensive that flying cheapies, which is why they are so popular compared with trains, at least in UK.

  6. Andy Bates
    29 April 2010

    Just a little alternative view on Air Berlin.
    Myself and a colleague were stuck in New York on business and as an alternative to our delayed flight back to Manchester UK we booked on Air Berlin to Dusseldorf. While we never took the flight as it was also cancelled I spoke to customer service twice and only had a small queue on the phone. My request for a refund was dealt with efficiently and easily. I realise I was not stranded with them but the service I received was spot on.

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