01 April 2009

LCC & Customer Service - Mutually Exclusive Terms

As is the case with countless others around the world, I recently engaged in an Internet expedition, travelling through various & sundry websites, seeking the best deal for a return flight from Melbourne to Perth. Up until recently in Australia, you had three choices. You could go with QANTAS and received full service, try it's low cost offshoot, Jetstar, or it's low cost competitor, Virgin Blue.

I say until recently because now we can also choose the ultra budget Tiger Airways. To cut a long story short, the "low" fare isn't so low once you add in charges for bags & seat allocation, and then airport taxes & charges, plus GST.

Despite this frustration, we manage to survive the four hour transit squashed into the smallest, most uncomfortable seats I've ever experienced - the type that would had to have been specially engineered to afford such lack of comfort. A great time in Perth is had, taking in the atmosphere of the Red Bull Air Races....until....approaching the airport for the trip home, the phone rings. It's Tiger Airways "Customer Service" people telling me that my return flight has been cancelled due to a defective aircraft. You're booked on the same flight tomorrow, I'm informed, followed by the line going dead.

After taking a few seconds to process this information, I call back and request further information. I'm promptly told that NO, you can't go on the next flight, NO you can't have a refund, NO we couldn't care less that you have no accomodation for the night (oh, and NO, we won't provide you any either), NO this, NO that, but take the flight we offered you or go away and don't bother us. Abrupt, rude, and utterly maddening. I inform this person that I'll speak to her at the airport in 10 minutes time.

Arriving at the check-in counter, I find that the person I spoke to does not work for Tiger Airways, but for a contractor, and doesn't know anything more, and won't be offering any further help. She finally suggests that I call their "customer service centre" for help. This is negated by a fellow passenger who says he just tried that, but the call centre closed at 7pm Melbourne time! She even had the gall to challenge my knowledge of airline practices, which at least afforded me the small pleasure of outlining my pilot ratings, assuring her that my knowledge was probably a little better than hers.

Pathetic. We eventually made it back to Melbourne 24 hours late, no apologies from Tiger Airways, no good will, nothing. And to think this two-bit operation is partially funded by Singapore Airlines, one of the wealthiest airlines on the planet!

After reading and listening to dozens of similar stories just like this regarding Tiger Airways, and other airlines of it's ilk, I'm convinced that these operators embody everything that's negative about the airline industry these days. Poor service and poorer attitude. To date, Tiger Airways have never returned my complaint call.

Welcome to the era of the LCC, Australia. Use them at your own risk!

1 comment:

  1. There's a reason they're so damned cheap - they'll nickle & dime you every time. As to service, as you've discovered, they're the southern world's Ryan Air equivalent.

    I'm happy to pay a bit extra and go with VB any time. Jetstar is a no no and Tiger is something nice to watch from a distance. QF is only if there's no one better (eg: SYD to Buenos Aires, etc) or I need to ensure I don't lose my FFP's (although they're devaluing all the time :(

    Welcome to the modern bus lines... :)


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