OPINION: Southern Institute of Technology international manager Sam Mackay continues his occasional series of articles on his experiences in that role.
Dear Alan Joyce, Chief Executive, Qantas.
I know you're busy doing whatever it is one does when one earns a $5 million annual salary doing important managementy things, but hopefully you can take time out from your busy schedule of cutting staff benefits to tune in to this very important and lucid moan. It's a bit of a long rant, so I'd advise you get your PA to get you your decaf soy orange mocha frappuccino before you settle in to read. It's a good read, promise.
So I'm an awesome New Zealander. We Kiwis are all awesome, but I'm particularly awesome. That's why I like flying Air New Zealand. They're choice. Awesome in fact. Almost as awesome as me. My awesomeness is really beside the point. Air New Zealand's awesomeness is not, however, so it was no surprise that my trip with them from Invercargill to Christchurch the other day went without problems, despite the fact they somehow didn't seat me in the first row (they apparently don't know I'm a gold member!).
Anyways, things were going well until I tried to board my Qantas flight to Sydney.
"Qantas?" I hear you ask. "What right-minded Kiwi would fly Qantas?" You're quite correct; I do swing to the centre left. Besides, I didn't really have a choice; my boss' PA made me. And we all know not to mess with the boss' PA.
In any event, all the problems of my life can be traced to the fateful moment when I woke up at 3.40am (that's like crazy early, yo!) to get a Qantas flight from Christchurch to Sydney. Turns out my Qantas flight was in fact a JetStar one.
JetStar? Misleading advertising, much? Who looks good in orange anyway? And I didn't even get a meal. You certainly won't see me jumping like a half deranged amputee starfish on your advertising if I'm not served a meal.
But the thing that really got me was that the flight to Sydney ended up being delayed an hour and a half due to "fog". Fog? C'mon, you could totally see the plane! Air New Zealand departed roughly on time. Kiwis are plucky like that. Like the All Blacks. Just sayin'. How are those Wallabies going?
Anyways, the hour and a half of faffing around in Christchurch meant I was an hour and a half late into Sydney. But thankfully the awesome JetStar crew were on it. They realised that people had connections so they suggested people might want to allow us out first. Only if they felt like it, mind. Which, if you're flying JetStar, you usually do mind. So I got stuck in a big queue while everyone slowly filed out as people always do in planes but somehow slower because this was JetStar. Which didn't really matter since we had to wait for half the plane to pile into a bus to take us to the terminal in any event.
When I finally got to the terminal, I madly dashed like a dashing mad man to the gate where my connecting flight should have been waiting. But I got told I had missed my flight, so went to the transit desk to get reticketed. After waiting there for 20-plus minutes (a long time, yo!), I was then told the flight was in fact waiting for me. Cue a sprint with my bags to the gate.
Once I got there (despite the transit desk advising I was on my way), the staff member at the gate advised I'd been offloaded. So it was back to the transit desk for half an hour to try and get my tickets rebooked.
At least I had an ESTA (I didn't have to ask the transit desk crew what this meant) so my flight to Rio De Janeiro via Dallas was looking like a possibility. Not an appealing possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.
Can I just interrupt my very concise account here to advise that your transit staff were stunningly helpful and friendly. Thanks to a number of delays that morning (I'm sure solely and completely caused by Qantas/JetStar and nothing to do with the weather), they had been sloggin' their guts out for hours without a break for a cuppa or a gossip or anything!
So eventually I got my new flights sorted and Cathy even managed to score me a pass into the Qantas lounge which would have been rather nice if both toilets weren't closed for cleaning at the same time and I didn't desperately need to go potty before I consumed my first bit of caffeine for the morning (did I mention when you book with Qantas but it turns out to be JetStar you don't get coffee?).
At least once the toilets finally opened I was able to enjoy a flat white. Oh, if I wasn't paged that is. Yup, it just wasn't my morning.
Turns out the plane I was supposed to fly to Santiago hadn't even made it into the air due to an error with one of the on-board computers (reassuring). So after much faffing, including a lounge to transit desk to lounge triathlon (with bags, so that basically means I'm better than Hamish Carter (FYI a New Zealand triathlete), your lovely staff managed to get me onto the flight I was originally booked on. Yay!
Cue then a guided walk to the gate by the lovely Cathy, some very clear instructions by one of the ground crew, and a personalised van drive by two cool Qantas guys across the tarmac and direct to the plane. FYI I'm more than happy to get this kind of treatment in the future; I felt well important walking onto a plane load of passengers who were clearly just waiting around for me to join them.
The best part was that I wasn't even threatened with having to give out the lollies to passengers, as Air New Zealand did when I managed to not hear multiple boarding announcements and was almost kicked off a flight to Washington DC but instead delayed it by half an hour.
At least we arrived into Santiago late but still in time to catch my connection to Rio. Right? Well, right, but it turns out LAN is just a bit s.... Apparently booking a seat doesn't mean booking a seat. So when I turned up to get my boarding pass they said because they're so incompetent they've overbooked basically every flight and therefore I can't fly and have to stay overnight. (No fault of yours, Alan - we all know LAN has a bit of a rep - but how ‘bout you choose those you get into bed with a bit better next time?)
The best part, though, was having to wait three hours to get through the various queues at Santiago Airport. Not to mention half an hour just to advise where my bag should be sent to (it was still in Sydney at this point).
At least I was helped by another stunning member of your team to get through immigration and the other queues (I didn't catch her name sorry as I had watched at least six movies plus a few Modern Familys on the flight over and had about as much mental capacity as a character on The Castle).
The next high point was the next day when the flight I was booked on turned out not to have any seats left and I was bumped, again, to a later flight. That was also mega fun.
At least I missed just one day of meetings in Rio and my bag was speeding its way to me, right? Well, yes and no. Turns out the half an hour I spent advising my hotel address was not 30 minutes well spent.
So when my bag didn't turn up that day or the day after, it turns out that it was sent to a random hotel in Santiago before being returned to your/LAN's baggage team in Santiago, where it just sat.
Apparently when you spend half an hour giving correct address details for your bag to be delivered, you should totally expect it to be sent to the completely wrong hotel in the completely wrong city in the completely wrong country and then intuitively know that you were supposed to call the baggage services team to confirm with them the address you correctly gave them initially. Nice.
At least my bag is supposed to be arriving tomorrow night, exactly a day after I need it. No matter that I'm out of fresh clothes, have no marketing materials for my meetings tomorrow, am absent my moisturiser (seriously, you can't emulate George Clooney in Up In The Air if you don't moisturise) and don't have access to hair gel. And did I mention that the air conditioning in my hotel room doesn't work? At this point in time, that's also your fault, so shame on you for also ruining that part of my life.
So that brings us to this point in time; me sitting in a “luxury” hotel in Rio de Janeiro consoling myself with a beer (see, you've driven me to drink) with only a cockroach to keep me company. Seriously, a cockroach. Anyway, at this point I should be sipping bubbles and impressing others with my ever increasing witty repartee instead of downloading 85.3MB documents to print out at sparrow's fart tomorrow at the exorbitantly priced business centre. And you know business centres charge almost as much as you do (don't worry, there's no need to diversify; I said almost). So now that I have to do far more work than I was intending to do, I just hope you're really happy with yourself.
So where does that leave us? Here are my conclusions:
a) JetStar: Seriously?
b) Qantas staff are awesome, even the bossy Australian ones. They're what keeps your airline going. Give them all pay rises. And cake! But mostly pay rises.
c) LAN: She may be single but shouldn't you have asked around before you put a ring on her?
d) I just really want my bag back.
I hope that's given you food for thought. And if not, just smugly consider the fact that in the time it's taken you to read this, you will have earned more than what I do in, like, months. Probably years. But I understand; it's hard work being a CEO of such a well-functioning airline.
Yours not very sincerely but still hoping you'll upgrade me to business on the way home particularly since when I claim I'll never fly you ever again I don't really mean it because I don't have that much clout at work and Air New Zealand doesn't fly nearly enough places because we're only 4 point something million people and half of us go to the Gold Coast to star in super bad TV programmes funded by the New Zealand government because no-one else is going to pay to produce that rubbish and besides I prefer lying flat when I don't have to pay for it.
UPDATE: Sam was reunited with his luggage 3 days late. He returned to Invercargill in economy class.
At time of print, Alan Joyce was possibly ensconced in a decaf soy orange mocha frappuccino and hasn't replied.
No airline staff were harmed in the making of this column.
Sam Mackay is Southern Institute of Technology's International Manager. This occasional column features his personal perspectives of the countries he visits as part of that role.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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