Tuesday, November 10

LowCost Airlines-You get what you pay for

Today is a day that will certainly go down in history.
It’s a day that marks those first cracks in a seemingly 46km long barrier between those allowed to practice free choice, and those who would refuse their brethren these basic freedoms. While it is never as great as the first time the wall was breached, it is still a day to be remembered for generations to come.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall? No.

The day I actually achieved the nearly impossible feat – obtaining a reimbursement of sorts by an Italian Customer “Service” department. It’s not the first time it has occurred-in my nearly 18 years here, there’s been one – but who’s counting? - one – other time.
It’s a momentous occasion which deserves great pronouncements, so as one of my occasional Public Service Announcements, I will share with you the details behind this very exciting episode of history in the making:

6pm - I went to LastMinute.com to purchase a ticket to the USA (after 2 years’ absence, I am totally – totally excited about this (in the American sense of the word, not the Italian)-- although I’m sure a few readers will ask ‘why don’t you stay there, too?’.

CONFIRM BUTTON – Agreed – Credit Card – the Works.
373 euro ttl. to Newark, and I can taste that Thanksgiving Turkey & sweet potatoes already!
Don’t hit the back button or anything else or you’ll be charged…
Penalties in case of changes from this point forward.
You get my drift.

9am next day / We get an email stating that the carrier (and not LastMinute.com) has changed the price of the ticket by 50 euro. Naturally, it did not specify whether that price was going down (doubtful) or up (most likely). I smelled a skunk.
When you hit AGREE WITH TERMS, isn’t that a sales contract?
When they advertise a price and the deal is done, doesn’t that make it FINAL?
And, at this point, an astute friend pointed out that if I continue along this path, I was headed straight for another straniera di merda kind of response.

Nonetheless, pursue I did.
Noon/While on hold for Customer Service, I was offered an online survey by LastMinute.com to rate my most recent transaction. Aren’t they going to be sorry they asked. I gave them my online survey version of the riot act, commenting further that: “This is Highway Robbery, fraudulent at best, and these kind of wild price increases post-purchase is tantamount to criminal conduct.”

The very pleasant woman on the phone said, in short, “Suck it up”, or rather, she did what Italians do best, denied all responsibility: “First, it’s a price increase but it has nothing to do with us, and, it wasn’t a binding agreement since we’ve yet to charge your card…So, do you or do you not approve the expense?” In other words, Suck it up.
I decided not to press my case with her, and withheld a response until I went online to see if I could beat the now increased price elsewhere.

4pm / I couldn’t beat even the price rise, so back I went, armed with the pen (or keypad), mightier than the sword. I emailed the Customer Service rep who originally sent me the mail, telling her to go ahead and charge me, but, I still found this practice totally unfair, and, while I understood it was not due to LastMinute.com, for me, after two whole years of not traveling home, waking up to a 50 euro side swipe was just an unpleasant way to start my day.
For good measure I cc:d a couple of Consumer Associations who deal in travel ripoffs, adding that I’d pursue a full reimbursement when I had more time.

I actually got a response! And, a nice one, at that!! She wrote back saying she fully understood my dilemma, and, after talking with her supervisor, LastMinute.com would charge me only 20 euro and they would pay the rest.
I thanked her profusely for her time and effort, as while I still was upset over the 50 euro surcharge, I was immensely grateful. And, did I mention, I am a nasty little blogger about disservices in Italy?

Next morning, another mail:

Lastminute.com will be paying for the entire 50 euro surcharge that the carrier threw on them.
In my book, the Customer Service People at Lastminute.com (Italia) are close to reaching goddess status.

Now, I don’t know, exactly, which of the above maneuvers got them to practice 'The Customer is Always Right' adage. Regardless, what would have been my last transaction ever with LastMinute.com, may not have us parting ways so bitterly. I recommend trying all of the above. But, I still wonder, do airlines have the right to just up fees like that? A gas surcharge? What? I know in Europe, travelers are much more protected by these drive-bys that the U.S. carriers get away with. Nonetheless, in a global recession, you’d think they wouldn’t try to pull a fast one – at the last minute.


Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

Was this just this week? Would you believe we, too, had issues with LM.com this week? It is much too long to go into here, but suffice it to say, the first time it was my fault for entering our names incorrectly (Moore, Cherrye) instead of (Cherrye Moore.)

After oh, 24 hours or so they called us, told us about this and canceled our tickets.

Two days later we booked new tickets and after 36 hours of NOT receiving confirmation etickets or being charged we Live Chatted with them and they took care of it.

They must have been having an off week but I'm glad to hear it worked out well for you in the end!

And yes ... this did get long. Oops! :)

Irreverent Italy said...

It was this week - there must have mbeen some new missive passed down from above...
But, did you get the same price?

Anonymous said...

Dio c'è! there is a God.

tide turning in italy? or just a fluke.

Anonymous said...

Good job!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Customer service is catching on! Brava for sticking to your guns, and that little promise to mention it in your blog.

J.Doe said...

That's a good price for a ticket too.