Hawaian airlines is one of the best airline in the US if you look at safety record, on time arrival, lost bagages etc… (note that they haven’t been operating for that long) Your plane doesn’t go down. Your arrive on time. And if your luggages are lost, they find them for you and give it back to you fairly quickly. This is actually quite an achievement, and needless to say that the safety record is by far the most important one.
But in today consumer world, those “achievements” are taken for granted. Right or wrong, that’s the perception. When I buy a plane ticket, I expect my plane not to crash, i expect my plane to arrive roughly on time, and if my luggages are lost, i expect them to be found and delivered back to me.
Like in many other industries, all those services that were once seen as an advantage are today a commodity. The real advantage now is your relationship with your customer and how you serve them outside the obvious stuff (looks how pissed off you are if you don’t have a video feed and wifi in your plane these days). Companies now offer haircuts in the lunge, spa services, video rooms, etc… They want to make travel a pleasant experience.
When your name is Hawaian airlines, and your mission is to fly people to paradise, you’re in an amazing situation. Imagine, all your customers when they buy your service are happy. They’re looking forward to it. You’re flying them to P-A-R-A-D-I-S-E. It’s not like going to the dentist. All your customers start their journey with your service with a happy face.
We had a happy face when we bought our tickets to fly to Honolulu with my wife and my 1 year old boy, Alfred. We were really looking forward to it. Our flight was scheduled for thursday at 9:30am. On tuesday, Alfred started to get sick. We went to see the doctor, explained we had to take a flight, and he gave us some pills that could prevent him from vomiting, at least when in the plane.
On wednesday night, he was still sick. The three of us are at home, packing. Then, at around 8pm my wife starts to get really sick. By 10pm, she’s in bed, shivering with fever. I continue packing, hoping that she will get better by morning. At 11pm, it’s my turn. Coming out of nowhere, I can’t stop vomiting. During the full night, every 45 minutes, I had to get up and go to the bathroom, with huge amount of pains all over my body. The last time I woke up is 5am, with our alarm set at 6 to drive directly to the airport.
This is where I start wondering if we’re going to be able to make it. Three of us sick in a plane for 5h 30 min, that’s not a good thing. Neither for us, but neither for the passenger next to us. Btw, latter on, we were told by doctors that we all had the rotavirus.
At 5:30am, we decide we just can’t make it. We don’t have the strength to do it, and we don’t think it’s reasonable to jump on a plane in that physical state.
We call Hawaiian Airlines. They had a choice: make it easier for us to deal with that situation, and make it very difficult. They decided the latter. Because of course, you know that people canceling their Hawaii trip last minute is usually without a good reason. So in the name of making a few hundreds bucks, after you explain your situation to them, they tell you:
– you pay us $200 per passenger on top of the fare you’ve already paid (which was around $800 for all of us).
– we give you $390 in credit towards the fare of the next ticket that we’ll have to buy
So basically, you pay us $400. You have to buy another ticket full price. And we give you back $390. If you need a translation, this means: FUCK YOU! We’re going to screw you dear customer.
You have a family in distress, and you’re trying to make money from them? The answer expected if you want me as a customer for life was very simple: don’t worry, we give you the fare paid as credit towards another flight you buy on our airline in the next year. By the way, is there anything we can do to help you right now?
The only reason why Hawaiian airlines doesn’t do this is because they don’t care. When we had to cancel our hotel (Westin Moana Surfrider), it took me one phone call and a very nice lady at the end of the line to make a very pleasant experience. I hanged up phone feeling better, and committed to visit that hotel.
I’ll definitely pick a different airline though! And I will fly Hawaiian Airlines!
Update 1: we talked to them more, and have filed a proper complain. We filled a bunch of forms, and they said they will reply to us within 30 days (yes, you read that right, 30 days), to tell us what the next steps are. At this point, it is not guaranteed that they will do anything to help us.
Update 2: i’ve also emailed Avi A Mannis, VP Marketing and Louis D Saint-Cyr, VP Customer Service.
Update 3: they actually did come back to us very quickly and fix most of our problems.