Why KLM sucks!

Let me tell you what can happen when flying with KLM..

On the 3rd of February at 15.15 we were going to fly from Schiphol  in Amsterdam with KLM.

There is a hard snowfall in Amsterdam and we are checking very well all displays to keep up to date about any changes about the flights. Some flights were delayed but it seemed not too bad.

All normal signals to go to gate were kept, even for our flight.

At about 14.30 the loudspeakers were calling out “we are trying to find out where our plane is”. A rather strange information 25 minutes before take-off were our thoughts. Then we hear nothing else, but we saw that the information on  the display of our gate is changed to a Frankfurt flight with departure at 17.35.

I then walk on to the staff at the gate asking what is happening and get as an answer:
“ The flight is cancelled, we apologize, but you may have a bottle of water”!

What do I do now? I am asking.

Go to transfer desk 2 was the answer.

On my way there I meet a queue of about 200 m by 3 persons, i.e. about 600-700 persons. All these people were heading a desk with 4 persons’ staff. We realized quickly that the time to reach the desk would take minimum 4-6 hours and it was now 15.30 and knowing that the only way home was a flight at 21.05 in the evening we had  to find a plan B, because if there were any places left on that flight they would definitely not be left when reaching the desk or the flight would have taken off.

We tried to connect us to KLM’s website over the telephone but the site or the web was overcharged. We tried on the advise of the KLM staff which now and then showed up at the queue, to contact KLM by phone, twitter or facebook but it did not work and as the “free” internet-time is limited to 30 minutes it was quickly used up.

My colleague Magnus then called his brother Fredrik in Sweden and he managed to book the two last seats at the 21.05 flight over internet and we paid them over phone by credit card.
At that time we did not knew what the tickets would cost, just that we had them. We got a booking number from Fredrik and could print out our new boarding passes.
With them we managed to see a KLM lady and explain the circumstances and would like to know how we should solve the problem with our luggage already checked in for the flight 15.15 to GBG. She took me to a desk with a woman who could help me.
I explained the circumstances to her and told her that we wanted our luggage transferred and that we also wanted to be sure that we did not have to pay the difference between our tickets and the ones bought by Fredrik in Sweden.
I then get a very short answer: “If that flight leaves you have used the tickets at the price you have paid and you can possibly be  repaid  for the cancelled flight”.
I tried to explain the absurdity therein but she insisted that this discussion had to be taken with KLM afterwards.

As we have waited so long we were of course hungry and it had been spoken of food coupons (which is standard in those situations) but she directed us instead to business lounge and told us to show the “old” boarding cards to go there and eat. When we arrive at the business lounge we met a  brusque man employed by KLM who says: “Here you cannot enter, it is reserved only for business class travellers “. In spite of our declaration what the woman at the desk had told us he threw us out.

We then went back to transfer desk 2 to ask why. On the way we meet a KLM-dressed woman and stop her with the following: Excuse us – could you answer a short question?

The answer from her in a sharp tone: “I have been over there for eight hours, so I  cannot stand answering your questions”. This from one of those who should help the stranded passengers, what a client focus!

We went back to transfer desk 2 to get an answer why we were directed to the business lounge, but there is a total tumult among people from different countries who had created their own queues from 8 different places and tried to get to the desk. We realized that it would not be possible and went to a restaurant and paid our meal ourselves and kept the receipt.
In this situation we had also realized that the new tickets were in Business Class at a cost of 1300 Euros.

In good time before the flight 21.05 we head off to the gate, where there are a lot of people and a display with departure 21.05. Nothing happens at the displays and time passes. At 21.05 nothing has happened. At 21.35 there is a message in the loud speakers:” We are waiting for a man in the staff who has not turned up yet, as soon as this person arrives we can let you onboard”. We are joking and say that it will be interesting to see what this person is doing as we have already seen the captain and the co pilot go onboard. Perhaps it is the man serving the coffee someone commented.
At about 21.50 a guy is coming and all waiting passengers burst out in a spontaneous  applause. Short thereafter we can go onboard. It is then 22.05.
After boarding it takes some time to get into the places and it is now 22.15.

Then for the first time we get a correct and businesslike message from a KLM employee. The captain speaks and confirms: “We will now wait for starting order to go and wait for de-icer. When this is done we have to wait for a free slot and then we will take off for Gothenburg. This will take about 40 minutes up to an hour”. This was the first time the whole day a KLM employee did what he had to do and what they are supposed to do, i.e. inform us about the situation.
At 23.30 we took off to Gothenburg.

And, the guy we waited for was the one who served the coffee. Is it not marvellous that they cannot let us go onboard before the coffee server  has arrived.

Further some interesting  information in this matter.

When waiting in the queue and chatting we realized that KLM in several matters refused to take their responsibility. A Swedish guy coming from Basel heading for Gothenburg with the same flight as we had to wait until Saturday morning, the only booking he could do as we had taken the two last seats on  the 21.05 flight. When he had rebooked to the first flight on Saturday and asked for hotel he got the answer: “We pay for the taxi to and from the hotel, but the hotel you will have to pay for yourself”. He then asked if this was reasonable and got the answer: “There are resting places at the airport, where you can sleep”.

According to existing rules the air company has to provide hotel, but obviously they are trying to run away from their responsibilities.

We also got this story told by a Swedish lady we met when we booked our luggage.

Her flight was cancelled long before ours. She then went to the queue already some hours long. After waiting all the time and being rebooked into another flight she goes to the gate and the following message appears 15 minutes before departure: “Change of gate – go to gate XX”.
About 12 to 15 minutes to go to the new gate, where they are met by an empty desk and a message on the display: “Flight cancelled.”

A lot of other incidents and stories we hear from other passengers makes it totally clear that KLM only tries to send people around to different gates and other places just to delay. For sure they knew long before that these flights were not departing. The problem was the whole time that no flights were landing due to the snow, they were redirected to among other Brussels and if there are no planes landing there cannot be any planes departing, rather simple.

We also know that on the places 1A and 1C two persons employed by AkzoNobel were rebooked and upgraded to Business Class without cost.

What are the rules then?

At a delayed or cancelled flight the passengers have the following rights:
1. They shall be informed by written of their rights.
This never happened, we were not even informed spontaneously that the flight was cancelled – we had to ask.

2. They are allowed to have service and assistance such as:

To send two messages without any costs
To be offered food and refreshments in proportion with the delay.
We got one bottle of water!

3: If alternative flights only can be offered the following day one shall be compensated for hotel and the costs to and from the hotel.

4. One is allowed to financial compensation, which can be dropped due to extra ordinary weather conditions. If this was such a case it is up to those who judge. In Amsterdam perhaps there was, but in Sweden it would have been judged as normal.

We are not asking for economical compensation, we just want to be compensated for the difference between the new tickets and the one bought in the beginning and for the food.

Goran Soderberg, SARO, Sweden

Magnus Carlund, KODE, Sweden