Friday, November 02, 2007

Not So Easy - Jet

It's Friday and I reserve the right to have a moan. There is a tenuous finance link if you can wade through this post but the post is more of a cathartic exercise to expel the poison brewing in recent experiences.

Air travel is the theme for today's rant. No, I am not going to go on about the security issues at airports. Like many readers here, I suspect, I go into a 'travel trance' in order to block out the aggravation at airports these days, so much so I often cannot remember the journey at all.. No my rant today is not about increased security it is about decreased service and the subject is Easyjet in Gatwick.

Before Stelios and his band of merry men reach for the 'lawyer phone' I have this to say. I love Easyjet, the in-flight staff are great, it is easy cost affective and, being based in Geneva, I can get in and out of London in a day no problem.

First a positive. Last week I was booked on the early flight out of Geneva to London Gatwick. The plane was delayed for 3 hours, with only going for the day this could have been a disaster. The staff at Geneva, however, we fantastic, they had me back through security (i was at the gate) back into the airport, switched to a flight going to Luton and I arrived in the City only 2 hours late... 5 Gold stars for Easyjet Geneva.

Yesterday however, I got to London fine, no problems,.. coming back was a different story. I was booked on the late flight, finished business early and headed for the airport. Easyjet offer a free service to switch you to an early flight if they have room, which is a great touch. Previously I have just rocked up at check in, explained the situation and been switched no problem. No such luck yesterday.

I turned up at 2.15 qued for 30 minutes with only six people in front of me only to be told that check-in doesn't handle switches. I went to the ticket desk and joined another que. Short for time I asked an Easyjet 'helper' if he could, indeed, 'help' me. Having explained the situation he said he would be 'back in a minute', this at Easjet Gatwick is obviously code for 'I can't help out and you will not see me again' because he disappeared never to resurface.

By the time I got to the desk I had this bizarre conversation.

"Hi, I am booked on the late Geneva flight and would like to switch to the early one please" I said, optimistically.

"OK, but you don't have much time to check in" I was told. "and if you miss check -in you will have to pay £35 to be booked back on the 8 O'clock flight... if we have room" she added.

"Can't you just get one of your 'helpers' to walk me to the front of a que... I have no bags" I pleaded.

"That's not their job" came the reply.

"Oh.. what do they do then?" I asked

"Not that" was the informative answer.

"OK, I'll take my chances on the switch then" I said, thinking I would be able to quickly run the 50 yards to check in and politely que jump.

"Sorry you don't have enough time now, I can't help you, sorry... next please" She ended..

Just like that I was discarded like something on the bottom of her shoe. Of course facing hours walking around Gatwick, I was livid, but what could I do?

I was left contemplating the inefficiencies in the Gatwick system compared to Geneva, which runs like clockwork. Is it because I am used to everything working in Switzerland or is it the general laziness and poor service that is prevalent in the UK these days?

As I twiddled my thumbs and seethed, I counted 12 people with fluorescent yellow t-shirts with 'Here to Help' optimistically emblazoned on them. I counted 3 Easyjet helpers wandering around, 14 check in desks and two ticket desk staff, all incapable of switching a flight and booking me in when the two desks are only 50 yards apart. In Geneva, this would have been a routine request executed with courtesy and efficiency.

I can only conclude that the Easyjet management at Gatwick are, frankly, incompetent.

I make a point of writing to companies about good service, when it is received (and I have had many oppotunities to do so about Easyjet) I do this because I appreciate good service but I also believe it qualifies me to complain when the service is sub standard.

I have written to Easyjet explaining my frustrations and expect that I will get:

a) A standard... "Sorry for your troubles, we manage a zillion passengers... 000000.1% complaints.. we will try better... blah blah" standard computer answer, or

b) "How dare you criticize our staff... you are banned" letter, or

c) Nothing, or

d) "We have looked into it, sorry a cock up... fixed the problem... thanks for pointing it out... her e is a free sandwich voucher"...

All but the last would be a standard respnse from a company over extended and creaking under the weight of its success and time, perhaps, for a short trade. The last would be a refreshingly honest satisfactory, grown up response... we shall see.

All I know is that if I was a senior guy at Easyjet, Gatwick would be on my hit list for improvement. It was, quite simply, the laziest most inefficient service I have had at any airport, ever. And I used to live in the Caribbean where good airport service is about as prevalent as unicorn droppings.

Before Gatwick Easyjet people re-route my next trip to Baghdad, I am not having a go at you. In my time wandering around the airport I saw a lot of Easyjet staff working harder than I would ever care to do, taking on individual problems with the best smile they could muster but with a lack of confidence as to what exactly they should do. This kind of lack of systems which lead to my disastrous day can only be blamed on the management of Easyjet Gatwick.

My advice, for what it is worth, would be to send the managers of Gatwick to Geneva airport for a couple of weeks. The service there is seamless... electronic check-in, informed staff, systems for when things go wrong known, and practiced by the staff in a friendly, courteous professional manner, which can only come from good leadership.

I doubt, however, that anyone really gives a monkey's which is the sign, to me, that the rot will set in sooner or later in the rest of the company.

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