My worst flying experience ever!

I wouldn’t call myself an experienced flyer, not even a frequent flyer. Since I moved to Vienna I try to go home at least once a year, preferably more, to visit my parents. That’s what I did this past Christmas, I booked the flight online like I always do and for the first time I chose a Spanish company I didn’t know: Iberia.

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They had the cheapest and quickest flight from Vienna to Lisbon, with one stop in Madrid. Other flights were cheaper, but spending 18+ hours on an airport wasn’t appealing and so I chose this flight.

The problems started while buying the ticket: a field came up asking if I wanted to book extra baggage. Emphasis on the extra. Below on the website it was written that the included baggage was the one allowed by the company. After buying my ticket I called Iberia’s Hotline and asked the lady how much baggage I was allowed to carry (since sometimes they vary in Kg). She was very cold and answered that the amount allowed was the “normal” amount. I asked her if she didn’t need my ticket number/flight number to check the kind of flight I had and she said “ok, fine, if you want me to check: which is the number?” as if she was doing me a favor. After a few moments she answered me I was allowed to check one bag up to 23kg, adding a very snappy “the normal”. As a customer, and a call center agent myself (!), I must say that I was not happy with the service one bit.

The day of the flight to Lisbon came and I went to the airport, ready for the day to be over so I could see my parents. Once I arrived at the check-in counter in Vienna’s airport, the lady informs me that my bag is charged, to which I tell inform her that I called the hotline and they told me I have check-in baggage included in the ticket. The lady apologizes and tells me that the carry-on bag is free, but the check in baggage from Vienna to Lisbon is charges, whereas the baggage from Lisbon to Vienna is included. I was appealed and asked her why the other lady told me something different and why that was not explained on the website once I made the reservation – two questions to which the check-in lady obviously didn’t have an answer. She informed me of the ways to make a complaint, gave me the bill of 30€ and, I suppose as a way to make it up to me, checked my carry-on luggage for free.

I thought to myself that this is not the professional way to treat a customer (not the check-in lady, but the whole situation) and I continued to my flight. On the flight I must say that I was even more disappointed. I am used to flying with Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines or Tap (the Portuguese airline that is not even all that good, compared to others), but I was never given such unprofessional service as in this Iberia flight. Even though I understand it really good, I cannot speak Spanish and as a customer it is not my obligation to walk the extra mile, but seeing as I speak Portuguese, I tried making myself understandable while speaking to the crew, but they weren’t having any of it. All of them refused to speak either English or German with me, I do understand that they wouldn’t speak German (even though we were leaving a German-speaking country), but I think English is a must! One of the crew ladies even told me “this is a Spanish company, we speak Spanish!” in a very arrogant way. I do not know if this was because they could hear my Portuguese accent coming through, but I found it extremely unprofessional.

The next thing I have to say is that we have to pay for everything on this company. I asked for a pillow and a blanket and they said I had to pay 5€ for each, which had never happened before! In Lufthansa they even ask you if you want a pillow if they see you leaning your head on the window. All the other companies I’ve flown with, always include drinks and something small to eat. This flight did too and once the stewardess came to my seat I asked for an orange juice. She takes a small 200ml bottle juice, opens it after shaking and pours a bit into a glass. Once she had given it to me she says “It’s 2.50€!” and stretches her hand. Now, I am not complaining because the drinks had to be paid, even though this was the first time I had to pay for a drink on a plane (and I always fly economic!), but it was the way it was done: the correct way to do it would be to inform of the price before opening the bottle. But, since I did not want to get into a fight with them, I gave her the 2.50€ and waited for us to get to Madrid to eat something.

I already had a bad opinion about the company after all of what happened in the flight and with the telephone customer care lady, but I got even more upset once I realized that the carry-on bag that the nice lady at the Vienna check-in counter had checked in for free, was broken. This is a very good quality piece of luggage, it belongs to my Dad and he used it quite a bit, since he was a frequent flyer for work reasons and it never broke or anything. But this time it had a huge gap between the lining and the outer part of the luggage, almost as if it had been cut. Obviously I am not saying that someone in the company cut it open, but I am positive that it was not damaged when I checked it in at the counter in Vienna!!! Also, which is the most heartbreaking part, they stole the little padlock my Dad gave my Mum years ago, that didn’t even need a key to open (you just needed to pull it down and it would open)!!! I realized right away when I got to Lisbon that the padlock was gone.

I tried contacting the customer care service through phone, but they told me I had to make a written complaint using the form on the website, which I did as soon as I got back to Vienna (because I wanted to give the company a second “chance”, since I could just have gotten a bad flight), but no one ever answered me. On the hotline they just told me that they were not responsible for things going missing or getting broken and that the customers need to assure that they have good luggage – which I think is a comment that someone in a hotline should never make, since it is demeaning and quite disrespectful.

If you’ve been following the blog longer, you know that I don’t enjoy writing negative articles. I though long and hard before actually publishing this article, but at the end of the day I think I might help someone by sharing my experience or maybe even get the attention of the company, so they’ll start being a little more customer-friendly.

Have you ever had an experience like this one? Let me know!

2013-11-15

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