Imagine this scenario: you are a doctor – a heart surgeon – who is away on a much needed vacation overseas. You booked your flight months in advance, followed all the rules, and after 2 weeks away, as you get ready to board your flight home, you are told, “Sorry, sir, but the flight is overbooked and there are no seats available for you. Not even in business class or first class.” Now imagine you are supposed to fly home on a Monday so that you can perform open heart surgery on Tuesday on a 6 year old child who, if she doesn’t have this surgery, will die. Instead, you are stuck in a foreign country, with no way of getting home.
I am not a doctor. Obviously. But the subtext of this scenario, getting bumped from a flight, happened to me recently. And according to the concierge at the Courtyard Marriott in Amsterdam, this happens at least 15 times a day.
My wife and I booked our flight to Italy on KLM, via Amsterdam. We were excited to fly the Royal Dutch Airline, as our last experience with them, two years ago, was a breeze. Not this time, unfortunately.
The way to Italy had its minor issues, but nothing that was to set off fireworks. However, the way home made me wonder how the airline industry as a whole, and KLM specifically, can operate the way it does currently.
Our flight path was supposed to be: Naples to Rome; Rome to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to NYC…first plane at 11am, second flight at 1:30, third flight at 5:45 (all local European time). First two flights, on AlItalia, had no issues. In fact, we had a row to ourselves from Rome to Amsterdam. There was a bit of plane traffic at the Rome airport, but we landed on time at Sciphol.
We arrive at the large, international hub and proceed to go through the necessary transfer process. In Naples, we were told since we were switching airlines, we’d have to print out boarding passes in Amsterdam. Fine. No problem. However, when we got to Schiphol, there was a problem with the first three machines. Of course, not a good omen. We booked to the transfer station to have a real life human being assist us, but when we printed out our reservation, we no longer had the seats we booked. We were on standby. I had a bad feeling about this.
At the gate, we were told KLM overbooked the flight. There were no business class or first class seats to bump up to; there were no economy seats. Nothing. After traveling for two weeks, and on planes all day, my fuse was short as I could not comprehend how this happens. I felt like Seinfeld in his classic episode where he reserves a car, and I wound up quoting him to the KLM attendant, who spoke fluent English, yet apparently didn’t understand the definition of “reservation.”
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to *hold* the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
The attendant informed us that KLM overbooks most every flight because there are, typically, a small percentage of flyers that wind up missing or cancelling their flights. So instead of having empty seats, the company overbooks the flight. They don’t want to lose the $1,000+ ticket. There is some interesting math happening. But first, a side discussion of social media.
You ask, How does social media fit into this? Well, here you go: When we found out we were bumped off our flight, I did what I’ve been conditioned to do over the past several years: go to Twitter to report what’s happening (as you may or may not know, I am a habitual Twitter; yes, it’s a dirty habit, but I rather enjoy it). While I was away, I did not Tweet. I did check it sporadically, but just to keep up with the news (learned about Oslo, debt ceiling and Amy Winehouse via Twitter, as we didn’t really have any English-language stations at most of the places we stayed at – though we did watch the Women’s World Cup Final in Sinalunga on the Eurosports Network, though it had German telecasters.)
So I tweeted the following:
Which elicited this response from the KLM Twitter account:
It was a pointless tweet. Clearly, there’s nothing they can do, as I’m now stuck in Amsterdam. If the person behind the account could magically get me two seats on a plane to NYC this evening, then it’s worth tweeting that out. But, they cannot. What this shows is that many companies still have not figured out that social networks are not for pointless chatter like this. Just because you can respond to a customer’s complaint, doesn’t mean you should; especially if all you’re offering are empty platitudes.
Maybe I’m overly sensitive to this inanity as a) I just got bumped from my flight home and I’m beyond frustrated and b) I am deeply entrenched in the social networking communities.
The next two hours were spent in KLM purgatory, as a hoarse KLM attendant started the paperwork on our new flight (now scheduled for 10:50 the next morning), hotel room and accompanying voucher. Emails were sent to friends and family alerting them to our delay; all of them responded “Are you getting compensated?” Typical Americans.
Per KLM’s “Assistance and Compensation in case of cancellations, delays and denied boarding” pamphlet, we were given the choice of accepting either a “Transportation Credit Voucher” of 800 Euro, or cash compensation of 600 Euro (as of this writing, the conversion is $784 US, or about 80% of the cost of the ticket). Additionally, we received “free of charge: meals and refreshments in reasonable relation to the waiting time; hotel accommodation in cases where an overnight stay or a stay in addition to that which you originally intended becomes necessary (transport included); the cost of two telephone calls, fax messages or emails.” And buried at the end of the pamphlet is this gem: “You may also contact Customer Care to send us a complaint or compliment, or to share your travel experiences.” Well, clearly there’s no need to send an email when one can write a blog post, right?
We took the cash. By this time, it was around 7pm and all I wanted to do was be on my flight to NYC. And since that wasn’t a possibility, get to the hotel and decompress. We were told that our luggage would be avaiable downstairs and we just had to go down and get it. Apparently, though, that wasn’t the case. When we hit the baggage claim area, we were told by another KLM person that if we wanted our bags, we would have to wait three to four hours for them to come down to them. We were given ‘complimentary overnight toiletry bags” and told to have a nice day. The anger started rising up again; if we were staying overnight, we would have liked our bags. You know, clean clothes and all.
To be fair, though, in hindsight, it was the better play not having our luggage, as we didn’t have to wait on any lines at the airport the next morning for our flight.
It would be another hour until we got to the Courtyard Marriott, as KLM doesn’t pay for a taxi to take you to the hotel, but for the hotel’s shuttle. Which was scheduled to arrive at 8:15. Oh, by the way, it was cold. We were wonderfully unprepared for chilly weather, as we just spent the past 2 weeks in Italy. So we had that to fume on, as well.
Cold, exhausted, frustrated and just downright sad, we approached the concierge with our KLM voucher in hand. He saw it and flashed a wary smile. He’s done this a lot. I ask how often does this happen and he responded, “More than I like.” I followed up by asking if he could give a number. “We have a standing order with KLM for 15 rooms per day. They are filled every night. We’ve gotten as much as 60 booked rooms for one day.”
So I laugh, as I do some quick mat. $159 x 15 x 365 = $870,525; this doesn’t count the $785 (600 Euro) the airline gives customers who are bumped on flights longer than 1,500km – KLM offers 300 Euro for flights less than 1,500km, nor the 25 Euro per person for meals, and other expenses like the overnight toiletry bag they give you. And this is just at one airport. I don’t have access to KLM’s (or any other airlines) financial decisions, but if they’re spending over $1 million per year on accommodating passengers who are victims of overbooking, just so they don’t lose money per flight on the statistical chance some people don’t show up for their flight, then there are economics out there that my little brain can’t fathom. If a ticket on my flight cost $1,100, KLM just spent that on me for not getting on that flight. Even worse for them, they lost a customer. Over the span of a lifetime, I probably would have flown KLM several more times – a drop in the bucket for them, for sure – but loss of revenue is still loss of revenue.
I am not a professional traveler; I fly between 2 and 3 times a year, mostly domestic, but have flown internationally the past 3 years (and hopefully will be lucky enough to continue this trend in the future). But I do understand that I, not a frequent flyer, am an airlines dream: I will incur the costs of things precisely because I don’t travel often (compared to a frequent flyer who gets all the perks). And I understand that every airline overbooks many, if not all, their flights. But I’ve never been bumped before, and it sure does leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I was talking to a buddy about this and he said, more coherently than I could, that the issue is the injustice: you pay a lot of money for a ticket, follow all the ridiculous rules of flying and after two weeks away, all you want to do is get on the plane and head home. It’s not right, he said, how the airline industry doesn’t care about its customers; in fact, it only cares about one thing: pleasing its shareholders.
Now that I’ve had a few days to simmer down, as I’m back in NYC, I can reflect on the situation with a bit clearer mind and realized that while it was a major inconvenience, I did get home safely. And $1,500 richer. And a better understanding of how airlines make their money and value their customers. Also, I do feel bad for the attendants (who, by the way do not have names. They call each other “my colleague”) as they have to deal with angry customers like me on a daily basis. So I apologize to “my colleagues” at the Schiphol KLM desks.
I will do everything in my power to never fly KLM again (although I will still fly Delta).
I’d love to hear your horror stories on KLM – or any other airline.
I fly KLM all the time. Only since the Air France merger has service gone down hil but only on the air france parts of the company. Got stuck in Paris once due to weather. Took us 3 hours to get the hotel sorted, anohter 90 minutes to reach it (including the bus driver getting lost twice). Time we got there we had 15 minutes to scoff down the left overs of a dinner buffet..
Complaining got me 10000 miles on my klm account.
The “my colleague” is typical Dutch, no native would think twice about that.
Hi, I had a similar experience in aug ’11 with a connecting flight. I was due to fly into Amsterdam from Peru and change for a flight to London. In Peru our flight to London was changed, inexplicably for a much later flight which meant I had to become very acquainted with schipol airport and the star bucks. No complementary vouchers, no explanation. I think they over booked. Here in the EU we can start legal proceeding for delayed flights so, I ought to recover some monies. I have tried to contact them through customer services but they have denied my claim and got the timings of the flights wrong too. When I corrected them over the timing of the flights they went quiet. I will not fly with KLM or air France again.
I’m with Raj on this one. Surprised Wijnands complaints got KLMs attention, let alone a compensation. As an Elite Flying Blue member I am no stranger to the rudeness of KLM. Out of necessity and to avoid a 30 hour trip I’ve come back to them over the past 3 years. After a short stint of racking up at least silver-status travel in three months the rudeness and lack of service got too much and I felt better traveling longer but with an airline that actually gives a dang about their passengers.
SkyTeam is another farce promoted by KLM, flights are not honored, miles not awarded, frequent flier preferences (that they have in the system) not given, fast lane access denied, compensation for delays (as required by EU law) not extended… I feel sorry for those KLM employees that actually work hard every day and try to make a great product, but with too many wrong hires in place the only option seems to avoid KLM as much as possible and discourage the own network from using them.
I was supposed to travel from Birmingham to Bucharest (via Amsterdam) together with my wife and our 1-year old daughter on 6 September 2011.
The flight to Amsterdam was slightly delayed and, as we were landing in Amsterdam, one of the flight attendants announced there were “no connections” to Bucharest and we would have to go to the Transfer Desk.
I was seated, together with my wife and daughter, in the last row. Having heard that we would no catch our connection and since my daughter had just fallen asleep shortly before landing and given also that we were in last row, my wife and I decided to wait for all passengers to go out and then we made our way out of the airplane.
Since my wife was carrying my (sleeping) daughter on her arms, we decided that it would be best for her to wait close to the arrival gate, while I would go and book us on the next available flight. As I was walking towards the Transfer Desk, I heard an announcement requesting two passengers for the Bucharest flight to get to the gate. I started to run and arrived at the gate very quickly – there were about 5 minutes (brisk pace) between gates (probably 2 minutes running).
There, I explained my situation to the KLM employee behind the desk and asked whether there would be time for me to go and get my wife and daughter to embark for the flight. I explained I would be there in 5 minutes. The person I was speaking to replied that if my wife was not already on her way and would not get to the gate in 2 minutes, then we would be unable to embark, since the gate would be closing “in 2 minutes”.
I was then reassured by her that she would make all the arrangements for us to be booked on the next flight, to have a room at a hotel near the airport for the night and to be transported with the shuttle back to the airport. I took this to mean that she would do this shortly after the gate would be closing, so I waited there. As I was waiting, a passenger from Düsseldorf, who was scheduled to go to Bucharest arrived, but he was not on the passengers’ list. He was registered and given a boarding pass. After about 10 minutes of waiting, I asked the same officer whether I should go and get my wife and daughter to board the flight, but I was told that it was too late, since the gate would be “closing in 2 minutes”.
I decided to run to get my wife and daughter more than 10 minutes after my initial discussion with the aforementioned officer. At that point the passengers that I initially heard being called for boarding were not there, since another announcement had just been made. When I arrived with my wife and daughter at the gate, the gate was closed.
We went then to the Transfer Desk. The person I spoke to suggested that perhaps the initial announcement that there were no connections to Bucharest had been made because it would have been impossible for the luggage to be taken in such a short time to the next flight. Of course, he acknowledged that we should have had the option of choosing to fly and get our luggage later, rather than being told there were no connections.
Yet, on the next day, our luggage did not arrive with our flight. Moreover, we received one piece of luggage on 8 September and the second one on 9 September.
Unfortunately, there is more: at the Transfer Desk in Amsterdam I asked about the possibility of making a complaint and I was advised to use the KLM website. I was told I can place the complaint on the same evening and ask for a refund. I tried to do this on that evening, but the KLM ecomplaint system was not working. To register my complaint, I completed a refund form and I also sent the complaint by email to KLM Reservations, mentioning that the ecomplaint system was not working and requesting them to forward my complaint to Customer Care.
On the evening of 19 September, in Bucharest, when I tried to do the online check-in for the return (the return flight being scheduled on 20 September), I noticed that my ticket was not on the system. I phoned KLM the next day in the morning (to: +44(0)8712310000) to double-check everything was fine only to be told that my ticket had been cancelled, since my request for refund was processed, approved and the transfer was executed between 8 and 19 September! I was told that a request for a refund made before the return flight automatically cancels my tickets. Yet, nobody mentioned about this when I was advised to make a complaint and request a refund at the Transfer Desk, nor was this mentioned on the KLM website. On my return to the UK I noticed that an email was sent to me about the refund on 12 September, but there was no mention of the cancellation of my ticket in that email either.
The person I spoke to on the phone on the morning of the 19th (I was calling from Bucharest to the UK number above) advised me that there was nothing they could do and I should go to the Airport to try to sort out the problem there, since she had made a note to my records, so the KLM employees at the Otopeni Airport would be aware of the situation. To cut a long story short, I should say that at the Otopeni Airport nobody was aware of my situation and nobody could help – I had to buy a new ticket to be able to travel with my family on that day. I was under a lot of stress, since my wife had back problems and could not travel on her own with our daughter (who was quite big for her age) and also because I had important meetings on 21 September and I needed to get in the UK on 20 September.
Unfortunately, there is more: in Amsterdam, before boarding on the flight to Birmingham, we asked one of the KLM employees from the gate desk whether we had time to change our daughter’s nappy; we were told we had plenty of time – a few minutes later, however, another KLM employee from the same desk came to the toilet tell us that we needed to board “immediately”, that “there is no time for baby dippers”. When I mentioned that we had just asked for permission to do this and that we had just been told that there was plenty of time, we were told that that was wrong – no apology, no word to explain how KLM employees one minute tell us something and the next minute something else.
Finally, just before boarding, I had to fold the baby’s pushchair to hand it over to be taken to the luggage compartment; the KLM employee who had to take it to the airplane told me that I had to empty the small bag attached to the pushchair (there were only a few items there). She told me that it was too heavy for her to carry. I explained that it was difficult for me on the spot to carry the things in the bag (mostly baby food), that on the way from Bucharest to Amsterdam we were not asked to do this and that it should be made clear from the beginning that this was what we had to do in order to be able to prepare ourselves properly. Not only was there no apology or polite request, but the next KLM employee we encountered, who had initially rushed us out of the baby changing room, went with us on the plane and started to complain (in Dutch!) to the flight attendant. Fortunately I know German, so I could understand some of the things said and these were inaccurate (no mention for instance about the heaviness of the small pushchair bag and emphasis was put on security!).
I sent a complaint to the KLM shortly after 20 September and have corresponded with them since then. My request was to have the flight from Bucharest to Amsterdam refunded (the one I had to purchase on 20 September), which I was told by the KLM representative in Bucharest would be done for me, and to be compensated for the disruption to the flight on 6 September. I also requested that the phone conversation on 20 September be refunded.
The responses I received denied any responsibility and most recently I was told I exhausted all avenues for complaint with the airline. KLM does not deny providing the wrong information – they only claim it was my decision to place a refund on their website and, hence, that I am not entitled to a refund. Concerning the missed connection, they claim that it was standard procedure to be given the wrong information – which I am sure cannot be the case.
It seems to me we can say about most of the actions we do that they are in a sense our own responsibility (unless we qare physically constrained to do them), but this is not the relevant sense for the situation here. If we act by following the advice of an authority, then that authority should take some responsibility for what they say/do. I cannot suddenly stop trusting what a flight attendant tells me and start thinking whether I should decide as advised or act otherwise.
I mention that I have been travelling with various air companies (including KLM) at least twice per year since 1996 and I have never had such a bad experience. I also mention that I requested KLM to send me their complaint procedures several times – I still have not received it, although my request is acknowledged; all I am told is that the procedure had been followed from the moment of my first complaint.
If I will be able to avoid it, I will never fly KLM again.
KLM is the worse airline ever. I will NEVER fly with them Again. I was in a motorbike accident in Romania. My friend was in the hospital. I tried to have KLM help me change my return flight for 2 days, and they won’t. NOT even for a fee. They wanted me to buy a new ticket. Customer service was rude. “Ismail Gamcal” the customer representative would not even try to help me. He said, there is nothing he can do. He did not even attempt a resolution.They made me spend 4 hours calling various KLM offices. At the end they said, you need to buy a new ticket. I have flown many airlines. Never was I ever treated like this. NEVER. F*** YOU KLM. Never flying with you again.
It’s pretty standard for airlines to not change your ticket once it’s purchased (unless you pay extra for a flexi ticket) – so I don’t think that they were being unreasonable here.
It’s also not very nice of you to add the call centre agent’s name as a detail to your post here. He was only doing his job and working by company policy I’m sure.
I am sorry to hear about your accident though.
I agree. A few years ago I was flying from Amsterdam to London City and was waiting for my flight to start boarding at a combined gate where they use buses. After half an hour, I thought it was odd that they haven’t started boarding yet, and walked up to the desk attendant. “Oh! Are you Mr X? We boarded the flight 15 minutes ago and have been trying to page you”. I was literally sitting in the same waiting area, and would have heard my name being announced. “However I am sorry Sir, you have missed the flight and we are offloading your bags. Our colleagues upstairs will help you rebook on another flight”.
Somewhat dismayed, I made my way to a KLM desk to see what could be done. The blonde lady behind the counter found my booking in the computer and said “Your ticket is a discount ticket, we cannot rebook you, sorry”. Simple as that. She even shrugged when I asked if there really is nothing she could do. “Perhaps you could look at Easyjet?”
I ended up getting back to London the next morning with Eurostar and vowed never to travel with KLM again. I find staff at other airlines such as BA generally try to do their utmost to help, whereas the staff at KLM express a very Dutch concept of customer service (Google for the horror stories, they make the French look good).
all airlines overbooked their flights and will do it if law doesn’t not forbid that…KLM is not the only one to do it!! I did’nt have bad experiences yet with airlines because I tried to prepare my flight long time ago…and I have to experience that one day,I will stay calm and send a complaint to the airline when I go back home..that’s my way of life..Rgds
Pre booked flights cancellations, even when ur a gold member including klm yearly business contracts, even when u explain u have to be on the flight as family circumstances require, getting lousy excuses and communication, than a computer compensation for 10.000 miles ? If we don’t have to book Klm for me as a person, or the company we will not do. Really…..try Lufthansa or Emirates, price and quality wise its of a better level, and no arrogant behaviour at all.
Just dropped my mate off at Birmingham airport on a KLM flight to Amsterdam and they have no seat for her they,ve overbooked. Her brother in law has Cancer thats why she,s going out there. This is absolutely disgusting how they can give flights away or overbook. Something should be done about this… Will never fly KLM again
hi josh, i just have bad experience with KLM too, i fly with KLM every year to europe since 2007 and also their frequent flyer member. usually their flight before midnight, this time after midnight. could be i am not carefully see the time, i missed my flight. However, KLM has computer problem, so the night before my flight they sent me internet checking call, but it was not working anymore, it said the checking not yet opened and will be open 30 hrs before the flight, even they sent me 3 hrs before flight.The email date 31.12.1969. Seems to me KLM using sourcing for ground staff that not friendly and wont help and just asked me for buying new ticket even not all mistake, also all their computer dept sourcing. I got refund after 3 weeks waiting while my return ticket still one week away from the date they gave me the refund. I only received 1% from my ticket cost as travel interruption. Well if they recognised their computer problem that caused my entire trip to europe cancelled, and my flights and train within europe cancelled due to their computer means they should responsible for this. It seems KLm has lots problem, as this my 2nd problem and the fatal one and seems they not really professional i already asked my membership cancelled and i wont fly with them again.
2011 from europe, i ever had delayed flight due to the broken plane, so they changed plane, unfortunatelly the process of passenger selection kinda messy and very unprofessional, and no compensation at all. I joined the flight but no my luggage. it joined malaysia airline the next day. i didnt ask compensation even minor damage on my luggage as i think no big deal. but this time, because it makes me lost money alot, due to their computer system i will search help, as i think my right already neglected, considering i already pay ticket, and hope KLM gives their good service as return, in fact they didnt.
We booked and paid for flights from Johannesburg to Amsterdam 3 months in advance. We got to the airport 3 hours before takeoff, only to be told we were on standby because the flight was full. A mild protest got us on the flight, but seated apart.
My wife had to be at a conference in Barcelona and I had advance bookings to the UK, all of which would have had to be cancelled if we couldn’t get on the flight. No airline has ever dared do this to us before and KLM won’t get a second chance. We have informed the travel agent who booked us on this flight and he has taken note
I’m under correction, but I believe that South African consumer laws outlaw this behaviour and KLM’s disclaimer for non-provision of service would have brought the wrath of the law down on them; I would have made it my mission in life to ensure that happened.
I just looked it up, and I quote from the Johannesburg Saturday Star newspaper:
“The CPA sets out specific rules governing the overbooking and over-selling of goods or services.
Where a supplier is unable to supply the goods or services promised, the supplier must have the intention to supply the same or similar goods or services to the affected consumer.
If a supplier accepts a reservation, or makes a commitment to supply certain goods or services and then fails to supply the necessary goods or services, or similar goods or services of the same quality, the supplier is obliged to:
l Refund to the consumer the amount paid in respect of that commitment or reservation, together with interest at the prescribed rate (presently 15.5 percent per annum) from the date on which the amount was paid until the date of reimbursement.
l Compensate the consumer for costs directly incidental to the supplier’s breach of the contract. “
I too will never fly KLM again, There has been a problem with the website not allowing me to enter my debit card details so I call the customer service centre to ask for advice/help. I was told that the website is simple to use and if I need help from the staff member to book via telephone then I will pay a booking fee for doing it over the phone, when I asked if I could speak to a supervisor in order to complain I was spoken to in a way that no customer should ever have to experience. The lady advised me that by asking to speak with a manager I was offending her, and that I was also accusing her of being a liar by wanting clarification from someone else. I called back the next morning hoping to speak with someone a little less rude but when I explained the situation I was told “if choose to book tickets at midnight rather than a sensible time then you will have problems, these problems are because at midnight the banks aren’t open” What kind of an excuse is that…I have booked the first leg of my journey through another dutch airline without any problems at midnight. I was eventually offered 4000 flying blue points which I kindly declined as well as booking through an alternative airline. Since having this problem I have spoken with many people who have all had their own poor experiences with KLM. The majority of the complaints are rude, unsympathetic staff, why aren’t the company doing anything about this. I would NOT recommend this airline !
I fly with KLM regularly as I live in Holland and I never had any problems. On one of my flights to Switzerland a lady was told a flight was overbooked and she was in tears. The flight attendant then made sure to find another passenger to give their seat away(me), which I thought was really nice. I have heard many complaints about KLM though, maybe I’m just lucky.
The ‘my colleague’ thing is just a Dutch habit. In Holland it wouldn’t be professional to refer to your colleagues by their names in front of a customer.
This very thing is happening to me right now………..
I started legal proceedings against them and only then did they pay up. If they had just advised me of the change to my flight, the ensuing delay and provided lounge access, i would not have sought compensation. They really need up their game with regards to customer services and there is little point on having a profile on twitter/facebook until they attend to that aspect of their business.
Hi Raj, I’m having similar problems with KLM & would like to know how you started legal proceedings against them, I’ve sent you a short pm through FB if you wish to reply privately (it will probably appear in ‘other messages’).
Thanks for your help & best regards.
I just returned from a trip to Nice, France. My husband and I booked tickets directly from the KLM website. We flew from Toronto, Canada to Nice, France and had a stopover in New York City, USA, each way. Let me be clear that we did not book a flight to New York and then a flight to Nice, we booked one ticket from Toronto to Nice (and back), with a stopover in New York. We had tons of issues on the way home, including both delays and flight cancellations, We did finally make it to New York. We missed 2 re-booked connection flights from New York to Toronto due to KLM delays. The third re-booked connection was cancelled by KLM. (I should note that the delays/cancellations were due to weather and while frustrating, I’m not complaining about that as I totally respect that the safety of the crew and passengers is more important than staying with the schedule.) We were already getting home 2 days later than scheduled and could not miss any more work so, we opted not to re-schedule our cancelled flight and decided to rent a car and drive home from New York. Once back home I applied to KLM for a refund for the flight that they cancelled. Their response was that they would refund me for the flight BUT the administration fee that they would charge for this refund exceeded the refund and therefore my refund was $0. This is apparently their policy (and yes, I’m sure that it was in the fine print) but it’s totally unorthodox. Why should I have to pay them to refund me for a service that they did not provide? I should note that it was Delta who operated all the flights. When I called Delta they said I had to contact KLM for any refunds since I had booked using klm.com. So, the lesson that I’ve learned from this experience is that for all future travels I will do my best to avoid Delta/KLM/Air France. I’m currently planning my next trip to Europe and I can guarantee that I won’t be using Delta/KLM/Air France.
I traveled on januray 8th 2015 from Mexico City to Zagreb with KLM flight 0688 departing at 19:10 gate 34 ( (although ticket said 33).
Situation was: I arrived to my seat and intented to put my handbagage on the cabinet on top when realised there was no space for it at all or around my place. It was the normal size bag allowed of 12 kg. So immediate thought: „Ask a flight attendant for help“. I went to look for one, asked her help and she send me to ask in the back (whatever that meant). Found another flight attendant in the back, this time male. Explained my situation and said I was sent there. He said:“By who?“ I explained that by his colleague in front, he called her through radio and then asked where was my place while saying something like „there is no place in the back bla bla bla“ basically showing discomfort. I said „I was just sent there, I don’t know“. Finally, we arrived to my place, I show him. He starts to move bags in the cabinet on top of my seat to make place for my bag. All of this, with bad attitude like if he was annoyed to do that. I ignore. I thought he would help me to put my bag but he didn’t, he pointed at the free space with his arms like „there you go“ and annoyed face. I was like „ok, he won’t help. Ok no problem, you assumed worng. I will put it. He made place for me “ I carried my bag up and realised I was too weak to put it in place. I could not hold it high enough. Why? Picture this: I am 1.65 aprox. I am 27 years old and weight 47 kilos. Plane is full already, people are already on their seats. Below there is a family with a little girl maybe 6 years old. Cabinet is too far, I cannot lift and stretch my arms enough to put the bag on place with people seating all around. I would probably hit someone. Next to me a rude 2 meter male flight attendant, pointing the place with annoyed face. Anyways, I tried and couldn’t. I put it down and tell him, I cannot do it alone, could you help me? His answer was something like: „It is not my job to put your bag in place. If you cannot carry it by yourself you should not have taken it in first place.“ I got so surprised he almost left me mute. I told him something like „how you mean, you cannot help me?“ He said: „it is policy from the airline and I will hurt my back. I am not supposed to help you put your bag. If you cannot carry it by yourself, you shouldn’t have taken it…ask a passanger“. I was in complete desbelief. It was first time I heard something like that in my life. I didn’t know how to react but thought fast and tried to remain cool. I thought „ok. First time I hear this but maybe is true. Maybe company protects them and their health. Sounds reasonable. After all, they do this all the time and could get injured helping? But, he can help me anyways right?“ So I told him, but I cannot by myself, please help me. Finally, he helped me complaining ALL the time. I could not take it anyomre. Seriously??? He was rude since the begininnig and continued to be rude whole time!!! I can understand everything, that it is a policy, that he can injure his back, that is not in his job description especifically (although I believe being a flight attendant is pretty obvious by the term, that you are suppossed to assit/help passangers or I would like to believe that) but do you have to be rude all the time? Could he maybe had said something like: „Sorry Mrs. We are not suppossed to carry your bag, it is policy from the company to protect us. This might sound weird to you but (explain). Maybe you could ask another passanger to help you or I will help you this time but exceptionally. Keep it in mind for your next flight.“Or whatever he wanted to say, just POLITELY! Is it that hard to be polite? Can two complete strangers be normally polite to each other? Specially if you work in a company that is offering a service, who wants to be treated bad and pay for it! How can someone on earth see a thin little person trying to put her bag up, arms shaking, asking for help and not help??? How??? Not your job? Ok. Maybe there is still kindness in this world. Courteousity, empathy, common sense??? Anything?? Seems like no. I could not take it anymore and asked him to talk with his supervisor, I asked him to call him/her to my place. He ignored and said she was on the back and that plane was about to leave. I asked him like 5 times to call her to my place and he kept pointing and telling me she was on the back. I did not want to leave my things alone so I saw another flight attendant, an older woman. Explained her what just happened and asked her for the supervisor. Nightmare was not over. She told to me something like „It is not his job to carry your bags, he can injure his back“. I was surprised, I thought she would understand, I didn’t ask for her judgement, I explained her the situation fast so she called the supervisor, which she didn’t. I was shocked: I told her something like „Really? OMG I will never travel in this airline again“ and I meant it, I could not believe them and she answered „Well, that is just fine.“ And kept going! I have no words. I could not believe my ears. I do not expect any special treatment, just a decent normal one. Flight attendants deal all the time with people, with all types of people, either they want it or not. That is how the job is. I would give the same advice to those flight attendants, if you cannot handle the job and don’t like people, maybe you should reconsider your job. After some time, another attendant comes to my place asking my name. She said she was the supervisor and that I called for her. She was very polite, listened to my story. Said she understood everything, that she would speak to him. Said they would try to make it up for me the rest of the flight. When she came I was speeachless, I told her first I had nothing to say, that both her colleagues had been very clear, that I got it. What I got: I will never travel again in this airline. I completely disagree with the way they choose to treat passangers. Don’t like the policy at all, could understand it but don’t like it. But if they hire people like this two attendants who are completely unempathic to other human beings and who care so little about their clients, why would I travel with them at all? What makes them different from other airlines? I’d rather pay more but be treated with some empathy. I told the supervisor I can understand that maybe dutch are very practical and direct but that does not mean being mean to no one. The way you speak, the tone of your voice, the face, the attitude make the difference. It does not matter which nationality you are or which policies there are.If you want to help someone, you will. As simple as that. Thanks God not everyone in the world sticks to their „job description“ if not what a wonderful place would it be. Everything was wrong here and I will not just let it go. Just beacuse it was not ok and it was not fair. With the attitude the flight attendants showed to me I can almost guarantee KLM does not care at all about my experience, after all I’m just another passanger and they have plenty of them! BUT, I DO CARE. So, in case you did not know, you are entitled to a 12kg baggage in cabins BUT (what they do not tell you) only if you are able to put it by yourself in the cabinet. Something you might like to consider next time you buy a ticket. Nothing ROYAL about them by the way.
Rocio, so sorry to hear about your experience. Both KLM and Air France are amongst the worst airlines in Europe so it’s hardly surprising. One does occasionally get bad service on British Airways too, but it is never as consistent as on those two. The Dutch can be such nice people, but it seems unionised socialism has run these airline into the ground. It also doesn’t help that flight attendants now believe they are on-board for “our safety” rather than to service drinks and help the passengers! In any case, it’s sad that none of your co-passengers stood up to help you out.