And here I thought Air Canada owned the label “Worst airline ever” (see my previous blog entry). Welcome to the club KLM/Air France: "Royal Schmuck Airlines"!
My companion and I were set to travel recently from Toronto to Amsterdam, then on to Basel, Switzerland where we would begin a Rhine River cruise. As part of the package, we’d been booked on KLM which I’d not flown with before.
I should have realized something was up when I was trying to check in and get boarding passes online, but it never worked. I was always invited to “try again later”. On departure day, we arrived at the airport 3 hours before flight time and lined up “forever” to check in. When we finally got to an agent, she looked at our ticket info, punched something into the computer and then said, “Oh, you’re here a day early. You’re flight’s not until tomorrow.”
What?!? No way. The tickets we booked were for today. (Frankly, they had to be: we were flying overnight in order to get to Amsterdam, and then Basel that same day, to board the ship and take off on the cruise. If we weren’t even leaving until tomorrow, we’d never get there in time.) I explained this to the lady but she said, “Sorry, these tickets are for tomorrow’s flight at this same time.” “How could that be? I asked. “Our travel agent specifically booked these tickets with Viking (the cruise company) for today.” “Must be your travel agent who made a mistake,” the KLM lady replied nonchalantly.
“Wait right there,” I said, none too happy. I immediately called Rose, my trusted travel agent, and explained what was going on. “No way I booked tomorrow’s flight!” she said vehemently. “Let me talk to her.” I handed the phone to the KLM lady who talked for a while with Rose.
I won’t bore you with the next several hours of frustration that we experienced going back and forth between this lady, Rose, Viking, the airlines (including Rose’s insistence that they get us on another flight so we could get to Basel tomorrow… their insentience that Viking would have to do this since they had made the original booking… Rose’s attempts – finally successful – to get someone from Viking who could help… they then make a booking, we share this with the KLM lady who says, ”That flight’s already overbooked. You can’t get on it.” So, why the hell did they accept Viking’s booking!?!... so now we wait and wait and wait while Viking tries again… finally we get booked on an Air France – KLM’s sister company – flight that doesn’t leave until almost 10pm that night… oh joy, we get to spend several hours sitting around the airport, waiting).
We learned that the Air France flight went to Paris, not Amsterdam, arriving at 10:45am. But the flight to Basel did not depart until 5:50 that evening! Oh joy, more time spent sitting around Charles de Gaulle Airport (never my favorite spot to languish!). And of course, the seats I’d paid extra for (wider, more room between seats, etc.) were not available so we had to sit for the whole overnight flight squished into the middle of a row.
The only good news was that Viking would dispatch someone to the Basel airport to greet us on our arrival there at 6:55pm, help us get our luggage organized, and then whisk us to the ship before departure time of 8pm!
From this point on, the cruise was a dream: marvelous ports of call, fabulous meals, great new friends, etc. etc.
The flight back was fine, other than I had again paid extra for better seats which were booked as a window seat and the one next to it, but they “could no longer offer that” so we had to sit in the middle of a row.
Now, here’s what we learned. It was KLM that had cancelled our original flight! But they never informed us of this, nor Rose, nor Viking. Their agent lied when she failed to tell us this and then actually took it upon herself to blame our travel agent. SHAME!!
KLM, you’re right down there at the bottom of the toilet with Air Canada when it comes to caring about your customers or treating them with respect.
Oh BTW, in case you’re wondering, gentle reader: it’s now almost 12 weeks and I have still yet to be reimbursed by Air Canada for the money and points they owe me! SHAME!!
Remember that famous 1950s Cunard slogan, “Getting there is half the fun”? If only…