On customer service and why Qantas is my preferred airline

by Lee Hopkins on June 23, 2009 · 4 comments

in customer service

Three incidents recently confirmed my decision to stick with Qantas as my airline of choice around the world, despite Virgin Blue having more comfortable seats*.

200x221px-2007_Qantas_Logo

 

Tricia Langdren and the Business Class Toilet Shuffle

Firstly, on a recent flight I was travelling in Business Class and the Customer Service Manager on the flight, Tricia Langdren, shortly after takeoff announced over the PA that the toilet at the front of the plane was for Business Class passengers only; should passengers travelling in Economy class wish to use a toilet theirs were located at the rear of the plane. Why was this so important to me?

 

Snobbishness?

Alas, no. Because of a medical condition I suffer from I occasionally have a need to avail myself of a toilet with short notice, particularly when flying. There’s nothing more frustrating and potentially embarrassing as being stuck in a queue waiting for a free toilet, which is just one of the many reasons I pay Business Class fare whenever possible.

Now that curtains can no longer be drawn across aisles for reasons of safety and security, it was really heartening to hear Tricia’s announcement over the PA; I have since heard her words used by other flight staff on other flights, so others must be seeing the value in her original idea.

I’m not sure why Qantas cannot incorporate a retracting belt across the aisle, like those you find in the queue at check-in, but without the curtain Tricia’s announcement is wonderful.

 

James Langanke and the Sydney Airport Kerfuffle

Next, I recently returned from the USA and got caught up in the madness that is Sydney Airport under reconstruction. I’m not sure whether there were also late-arriving planes along with ours, but the queues to get through Customs and Immigration were bad enough, but then when you had hordes of folks trying to wedge themselves into a tiny security area for transit passengers you knew there were going to be delays and missed connections.

Indeed, the Qantas ground staff were walking up and down the queues advising weary and frustrated travellers that they were more than likely going to miss their flight, but to see the Service Desk staff after they had cleared Domestic Security and the staff would attempt to get them on the next available flight.

Naturellement, I missed my 8.30am flight to Adelaide. The best that could be done for me was a 14.30 flight – the interim flights were already fully-booked.

So imagine my frustration when I finally got on the plane and then told by the Captain that everyone had to disembark because of a fault; a new plane was coming and would be ready to board in about 30-45 minutes.

I already had spent eight hours in transit and transit lounges to get to my Qantas flight from LAX to SYD; after a 15-hour flight with very little sleep (courtesy of a screaming infant and also a similarly nearby young female child who reminded me of the little girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – you know the one who had to have everything and stamped her feet until she got it?) my stoic, stiff-upper-lip, zen-like calm was wearing off and the Grumpy Old Man so beloved of my stepchildren and followers of Allan Jenkins & I started to rear his ugly head.

Being turfed off my 2.30pm flight home and forced to wait another 45 minutes before I could expect to get airborne again was too much for a man with too little sleep and I carried on like a pork chop at the counter, demanding to be upgraded for the massive inconveniences I had suffered.

Thankfully for me, James Langanke was the Customer Service Supervisor on duty and with calmness and aplomb that made me realise what a complete goober I was, he checked every flight available, including for upcoming trips I had scheduled and was unable to offer anything by way of compensation. But at least he tried!

It turned out that every flight I was scheduled to take was already fully booked. Which raised an interesting question for me when I had recovered my senses later that day – if the airline industry is facing such dramatic loss of passenger numbers, how come every single Qantas flight I took both out to the USA and again back, and on another internal trip shortly after, was absolutely packed to the gunnels, no spare seat to be found? But that question only found its way to the front of my brain later… back to James and the delayed Sydney-Adelaide flight.

James was a superb example of grace under pressure (I wasn’t the only perturbed customer – many fellow stranded travellers were trying to get to other SA country regions and were scared of missing their connections in Adelaide). I was by far the most ‘Angry of Mayfair’ customer, but he was waylaid by many of us who were frustrated, tired after a series of long flights and long waits in other airport lounges, and he made us all feel ‘listened to’ and ‘understood’. Superb customer service skills, in my book! Even though he couldn’t solve my problem nor offer any alternative, he took the time to make me feel special and a valued customer.

Thanks, James!

Finally, there comes yet more superb customer service, this time from Debbie.

 

Debbie Richards and the Personal Journal De-commissioned Plane Scuffle

One of the activities I was looking forward to on my flight from SYD-ADL was adding to a personal journal I keep; handwritten in lovely Noodler’s ink with one of my many beloved fountain pens purchased from Pendamonium, I was looking forward to a good whinge about the screaming infant (see above) that kept me (and many others) from getting much sleep.

On boarding the 2.30pm flight, I popped my A5 leather-bound journal into my seat pocket and looked forward to taking off.

Of course, it was only minutes later that we were all asked to leave the
plane; I left the plane, and left my journal behind, eventually boarding a new plane some forty-five minutes later.

As tired as I was (and there were TWO screaming infants on this later, equally jam-packed flight! [see the passionate comments to an earlier post about why I believe that it is parental cruelty to inflict flying on the under-fives) I failed to notice that I had left my journal behind. It was only a few days later, when I had finished my mad whirlwind of flights that I realised I had misplaced it.

So imagine my delight when it appeared in my post box, courtesy of Customer Service Manager Debbie Richards.

She wrote a very kind note, hoping that I was relieved to have my journal back with me as she knew how special such items are. She didn’t know my name, but just sent it to the address I’d written at the front of the journal.

I thought about sending her a monetary reward – and I may still do – but I figured that a public recognition of her kindness was also in order.

I only hope that Qantas management are forced to read this public declaration of Debbie’s, James’ and Tricia’s outstanding customer service.

To Debbie Richards, James Langanke and Tricia Langdren: thank you from the bottom of my heart.


* yes, even the new Qantas A380 seat is uncomfortable for tall-ish buggers like me – heavens knows what really tall folk like Trevor Cook would make of them.

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  • grumpyas

    I really cannot stand this gushing rubbish. I've just got off a business flight from Adelaide landing in Sydney to discover that for the second time in less than a year, a very expensive case has been destroyed by ground staff. Not the fault of Qantas? Of course it is. I give them my case for safe keeping and in good faith. They pay a fortune to airports for services, they should a.) ensure a better service for their customers b.) have a damage reporting line that is not constantly engaged (doesn't that alone tell them something – not rocket science is it?) c.) not put all the emphasis on the customer (remember that word) to take and return damaged baggage to repair centres. Come and get it, return it fixed or replaced with a huge appology and then make sure it doesn't happen again.

    Please feel free to delete this comment since you're clearly a member of Qantas' PR department.

  • http://www.LeeHopkins.net/ Lee Hopkins

    G'day Grumpyas

    Sorry, mate, but I'm not in any way affiliated with Qantas. I just was impressed by their service and did something about it. If you search on this blog for 'qantas' you will see that trying to get this post into the hands of Qantas folks who could congratulate Debbie Richards, James Langanke and Tricia Langdren was a complete and utter nightmare.

    But Virgin fare no better, in my estimation (pun intended). I know that at least one member of their corporate comms team reads this blog; you would have thought they would have leapt at the chance to turn me into an evangelist for them. Not a whisper have I heard, despite the many opportunities I've presented to them.

    If you're that unhappy (which you seemingly are) why not write a song about it; it seemed to work for one bloke.

    Oh, but then you'd actually have to give your name, rather than hide behind your 'grumpyas' moniker, wouldn't you? And having to show who you are to the world is scary, isn't it? Better to indulge in personal abuse and hide behind mummy's skirts.

    Maybe the Toyota Country Border Protection ads had you in mind.

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