Airline horror stories

03 Feb 12 07:00AM EST
Post by Brendan Mays
My partner recently had to fly from Newcastle, NSW to the Gold Coast in Queensland. It all began going wrong when a traffic accident delayed our drive to the airport. She was flying with Jetstar, which closes its check in counter 30 minutes before departure (around 2:30pm in this case).

With a minute or two to spare, and with carry-on luggage only, we went straight to the check-in counter. There was no line, but the three Jetstar employees were too busy chatting among themselves to notice us right away. By the time we were served, they told us it was too late to check in. We asked if there was a later flight and were met with a curt “5:30pm”.

Feeling somewhat shocked, we stepped away from the counter. As an afterthought, I turned back to ask where the departure display board was located but the staff were already gone, apparently heading to lunch (at least, that’s what we overheard as they walked past us on their way out). More people running late arrived after us, and we had to inform them what was happening.

Customer service at an adjacent desk told us that Jetstar staff take their break in unison, after check-in closes. They said the best way to get a replacement ticket was online, where we discovered the 5:30pm Jetstar flight was booked out anyway. Only a single $380 one-way ticket with Virgin was left, which we bought.

Considering one of the biggest complaints about Jetstar in our last airline satisfaction survey was its late-arriving flights, it’s understandable their check-in time is rigid. However, in this case Jetstar’s inattentive help desk and lack of common sense was the real problem.

Being a regional airport, we were able to watch our original flight board as we sat and waited. We saw travellers continue to board the flight up to five minutes before departure. The difference between good service and bad service became very clear at that point: it’s easy to please people when things are running smoothly, but it’s only when things starts to go wrong that good service is really put to the test.

Do you have an airline service horror story?

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