As someone who travels constantly, I have numerous interactions with airlines, hotels, tour providers, and everything in between. I witness the superlative and the truly, incredibly awful. I will be highlighting interactions with the latter. I spend countless hours of my time and thousands of dollars righting these wrongs.
Mystic Blue – Entertainment Cruises
Wow, I thought, this would be pretty cool. $89 to head out to Lake Michigan on a Mystic Blue boat cruise to see the fabled Air Water show in Chicago.
The Air Water Show is an event attended by a million plus and includes the US Navy Blue Angels and the US AirForce Thunderbirds. And what’s this? A 15% discount code. These tickets are really reasonable. It is going to be a fantastic day out on the lake on the Mystic Blue.
I clicked on the buy ticket button … whoops, the ticket just changed prices to $99.99. Must be a mistake.
The Chat Room
Oh, there is a chat function, I will be able to clear this up in a couple of minutes.
Jessica the rep appears and for the next 20 minutes I engage in an inane conversation that goes in circles with her having difficultly grasping basic concepts. My head pulses in frustration.
I explain to Jessica how I attempted to purchase the ticket advertised on the website for $89 and then the price magically changed to $99. I send her the URL to show her the pricing. She explains that the pricing has changed. I explain to her that the Mystic Blue website is not a newspaper that gets printed once a week. If the prices have changed, the website can be updated immediately.
She offers to provide a 10% code, and then I explain the website is already offering a 15% code, so I would need a 25% code to come out equal. She responds that you cannot combine codes and she cannot provide me a 25% code.
I ask her to honor the price on the website. I explain to her that this is very deceptive. Honor the price being displayed, pretty straight forward. Keep the client happy, move on to the next sale.
She responds that I am incorrect to think that this is fraudulent. I respond I am not thinking, but this is a simple fact. The website states the ticket is $89, so charge the customer $89. Not $99. Seems pretty deceptive to me.
The Phone Call
I decided at this point to call them directly, and I end up speaking with Jazmine. And now things become even more surreal. I read the pricing and the discount code information directly from her website to her over the phone. No matter what I read to her, she informs me that it is not true or correct. I keep on emphasizing this information is coming directly from the Mystic Blue website.
A recreation of the conversation.
“There is a code for 15% off for Air Water cruises.”
“That is incorrect, that is for one of our different boats, not Mystic Blue.”
“Jazmine, I am reading the small print, it says specifically, this discount code is for Mystic Blue, the ship I want to go on.”
“Oh, but the discount code is only valid for cruises for the 16th through 18th. The cruise you want to go on is on the 19th”.
“Jazmine, it says specifically the discount code is valid for cruises on 16th through the 19th.
I then emailed her all of the screen shots of what I was looking at, but to no avail. She simply stated “alternative facts” and refused to honor the prices on their website. Out of frustration, I asked for a supervisor
Things did not get any better with the supervisor at Mystic via email. Their general response was, do not believe what you see on our website, and we can change prices at any time (and not update them). We can place discount codes on our website for cruises that do not exist. And then we can simply create an entirely new pricing structure that we do not display.
Another surreal conversation via email:
What the supervisor was sharing with me, the discount code was only available for early morning cruises from Thursday through Saturday. As you can clearly see with the screenprint, the discount code was available for Sunday (August 19) as well.
Next, he tried to inform me that the cruise was only available for early morning cruises. Well, Mystic only offered one cruise on Sunday, hence that is the early morning cruise. There is no earlier cruise.
He offered me the same discount of 10% which I refused asking them to honor the original ticket price plus the discount code. This was refused. And I refused to buy a ticket for the cruise. There was no way I could feel comfortable patronizing a company like this. There was to be no AirWater show for me, well, at least with Mystic.
The following Monday, I contacted the corporate office, looking to speak to someone from their PR department. I ended up speaking with Jim Evans in their sales department. Jim was professional and seemed to immediately grasp the challenge. I explained my issue with him over the phone, he researched it, and followed up with an email and an apology.
His email stated, “In this situation, the base price on the Sunday Mystic Blue Air & Water Show Cruise increased from $89.90 to $99.90, and the 15% off promotion was removed from this cruise. However, the web landing page which described the cruise still showed the $89.90 price and the 15% promotion valid for Sunday. As you correctly pointed out, we should’ve honored the price and promotion shown on that web page. We take responsibility for this mistake and I apologize that it happened.”
I wish Jim was responsible for training the staff or answered the phone himself. I could have saved myself 90 minutes of frustration.
The Take Away
Whether or not the prices had been changed or not, what happened to honoring the prices being displayed to your potential customer? The staff at Mystic Blue is either very challenged or simply not empowered to competently address a customer’s questions and concerns. Mystic Blue tied up their agents’ time for over 90 minutes, it would have been much more cost effective to simply discount my ticket by 25%. And of course, they would have had a much happier customer. Also, this is a humongous company (Entertainment Cruises) with over 40 boats in different locations. This $50 is a tiny, minuscule rounding error.
Sometimes as a blogger/content creator, we are offered “free” services and products by brands hoping for positive coverage. Jim offered me a complimentary cruise which I refused. I felt it would be difficult to offer a transparent overview of my interactions with Mystic Blue while accepting this gift.
Despite the flydubai flight being in the middle of the night, the 3:30 am flight from Dubai to Asmara, Eritrea should have been straight forward. The flight is only about three hours and we arrived early Monday morning. After immigration processed our visas, we (I was part of a group of seven people, joining others for a tour) made our way to the baggage carousel. This is where the fun begins. Flydubai neglected to put our bags on the plane. No bags and no notice. It was shared that flydubai was dealing with an extended backlog of luggage. In other words, our luggage was not on the plane, but the passengers from the previous flight’s luggage had been placed in the hold instead of ours.
A lone woman checked off your name for those whose luggage had been left behind. No other staff from flydubai was present. No help, no assistance, no compensation, no solutions, and no answers. I made my way to the Departure Terminal and I found two hapless and dimwitted flydubai staff members sitting at their desk.
I questioned why they were sitting at their desk instead of assisting scores of frustrated and confused passengers looking for their bags. They shrugged their shoulders. I asked why the staff in Dubai had not apprised us that our luggage would not be placed on the plane. If I knew that I would have been able to compensate by cramming a toothbrush, a t-shirt, and boxers into my carryon. They shrugged their shoulders. I asked for a letter detailing my left luggage. One of the staff handed me a form letter, no details, no dates, no luggage claim number. In other words, absolutely no help in filing an insurance claim. I then requested an actual letter with relevant details. This was a challenge for them, but after a ten minute struggle they produced a half filled-out form.
I then asked when my luggage would be delivered. Thursday, was the answer. Four days without luggage. The flydubai is obviously not a daily flight. And, obviously, flydubai was not making any special considerations for their slighted customers. No thought of flying a larger plane, or heaven forbid, an extra plane to bring our luggage. I then asked for some compensation to buy some toiletries and sundries. My request was refused. I sprinted out of the terminal to meet my group so we could head to our hotel.
A whole lot smellier, my group of seven returned to the airport on Thursday. Flydubai had honored us by delivering our luggage to the Asmara airport. Two new frustrations. Our entire group had to change our week’s itinerary. We were not even supposed to be in Asmara on Thursday, but had to change our entire eight day agenda to retrieve our luggage. Why is that? Flydubai refused to deliver our luggage. It was our problem, not theirs. And, even better, we were responsible to pay for the taxis. It was our problem, not theirs.
The group jammed into the same flydubai office. The same two dimwitted staff members sat at their desk. We explained our need for letters documenting the situation with the missed luggage. They looked totally befuddled. One of the staff begins to type an email to corporate in Dubai asking for advice. The group turned ugly. What had they been doing for the past 96 hours? No answers. After 30 minutes, one of the staff members was able to produce a letter for the group.
In the meantime, the flydubai manager entered the office. Not to apologize or provide solutions, but to act like a bully of a banana republic. We demanded he pay for our taxis back to the hotel. He adamantly refused. Three of us pulled out phones to video his dismissive attitude. He turned on us. A small-minded man. “This is illegal! You cannot take photos in the airport. I will get you arrested!” Flydubai’s service summed up in a single statement. Our fault, your problem. Don’t like how we treat you, we will threaten to arrest you. We left empty handed. After an hour we managed to make it back to our hotel after paying the taxi mafia $40 for a 15 minute ride.
After ten days of emailing, flydubai offered me a $150 voucher for a future flight.
In short, flydubai is incredibly dismissive and simply contemptuous. Their errors are our problems. No solutions to the problems they created.
According to Skytrax, flydubai earns a 5 out of 10. In other words, an “F”. I guess we were not the only ones with a poor experience. Tourism fails.
This one really irked me. It was a short morning flight on Tarom (the Romanian carrier), up and down. Chisinau to Bucharest. I arrived in Bucharest, and watched the baggage carousel gently spin. After 30 minutes, I was the only soul, gazing at the baggage-less carousel. I made my way to the Tarom’s lost luggage department. I handed my baggage slip to the dark haired woman.
“Oh, your bag was left in Chisinau,” she stated.
“There was no room on the plane so they left it,” she sterilely explained.
“If Tarom knew my luggage was left behind, why did Tarom make me wait for 30 minutes at the carousel? Would it not have been a little bit more courteous to have a representative with a sign informing me to head to the lost baggage department?”
She shrugged. No answer. A typical airline attitude. They simply don’t care.
I was then informed by the Tarom representative that my bag would be delivered on the next flight.
“Oh, great, so you will deliver my bag to my hotel this evening?”
“No, we only deliver once a day, so it will come tomorrow,” she informed me.
“That is unacceptable, I would like you to deliver it today. I really could use my clothes for this evening.”
“No. You can come back to the airport to get it later today yourself.”
So, again, a typical airline response. Their fault is my problem. Their solution was for me to spend two hours and 50 Euros taking a taxi to retrieve my bag that they decided not to put on the airplane. They refused to make an extra delivery to help their customer. They had no issue or concern that I should wait 30 minutes at the carousel for a piece of luggage they knew they did not send.
Tarom Airlines. Another tourism fail.
China Eastern Airlines
Hello sir…OK, you are flying from Chicago to Bangkok on our airline today?
“Yes.” I asked.
“How long is your lay over in Shanghai?”
“Do you work at China Eastern Airlines?” I asked, my eyebrows scrunched up.
“Of course,” the attendant answered, standing underneath a China Eastern Airlines sign.
I was a little confused. How did the check-in agent not know how long my layover was when I transferred airplanes in Shanghai. This was not a real confidence booster.
The agent then informed me that I needed to retrieve my checked luggage in Shanghai and recheck even though I was flying on the same airline to Bangkok. Again, I was confused. The agent affirmed this was correct, but the lack of trust was the basis of our relationship.
After an average uneventful flight I arrived in Shanghai 14 hours later. I gathered my luggage and made my way to the transfer counter. The transfer desk agent furiously typed on his computer. After 20 minutes he informed me my flight did not exist. Twenty-five minutes later, the agent placed me on a different flight.
Again, how does China Eastern Airlines not know that my flight was canceled? This should not come as a surprise to the staff, and heaven forbid they send me an email updating me, or even the agent informing me when I checked in for my flight in Chicago. Scary.
I sent a tweet informing me of my disappointment with their service. They responded back. And then I never heard from them again.
Here is some of our communications on Direct Messaging on Twitter. Well, some of my communications with no response from China Eastern Airways.
Not sure why they feel so comfortable in not responding to their customers, or why they feel so comfortable in providing poor service.
China Eastern Airlines. Another tourism fail