Etihad Reaches Out To Me Regarding Flight Delay

As I explained a couple of weeks back, I had an Etihad flight from Seoul Incheon to Abu Dhabi that was delayed by 14 hours due to maintenance.

Etihad-Flight-Delay
Etihad flight delay poster

I’ve had absolutely horrible luck with delays lately. I can hardly remember the last delay I had prior to a few months ago, while in the past few months I’ve collectively had more delays than I’ve otherwise had in the rest of my life combined.

Of course nobody likes being delayed, and of course it was a total cluster (as I’d expect from an outstation with once daily service). At the same time, I’ve flown enough so that I don’t get aggravated by delays like these — they happen, there’s nothing that can be done about them, and the employees at the airport that are dealing with the delay are probably more pissed off about it than we are.

It’s amazing how safe flying is, and I would certainly rather have a 14 hour maintenance delay than have something potentially dangerous deferred.

Etihad-A340-600

At the same time, while airlines’ contracts of carriage limit their liability, I do think they should take some responsibility for maintenance delays. While maintenance delays might be outside of their direct control, ultimately passengers book a specific airline and not a specific aircraft, so the airline has some obligation to get you to your destination as close to on-time as possible.

Anyway…

Last Tuesday morning I repeatedly kept getting a call from a number without a caller ID. As a general rule I don’t answer my phone unless I recognize the number. But the fourth time I got a call from a number without a caller ID, I answered.

Much to my surprise it was someone from Etihad on the line, that wanted to talk about my delay. It wasn’t an executive or someone that introduced themselves by a specific job title, so I don’t think it was because of my blog post necessarily, but rather because they were just calling random people on the flight to gather feedback. At least that was my impression.

And the guy was actually really impressive with what he said. He asked good questions, though I answered most of them by justifying Etihad’s actions.

For example, the questions went something like this:

Etihad Representative: Was there a communication barrier with the ground staff?

Me: Yes, but I totally get why. They’re Korean Air contract employees for the most part, and I certainly don’t expect them to speak perfect English, as I certainly can’t speak any Korean.

Etihad Representative: Oh but that’s still concerning to hear that there was a communication gap.

Etihad Representative: Did the ground staff offer to book you on a comparable routing on another airline that would have gotten you in closer to schedule?

Me: No, actually. I specifically gave them a routing on Emirates that had availability in the same class of service, and they weren’t willing to rebook me on it. They said since the ticket was issued by another carrier they couldn’t take control of the ticket.

Etihad Representative: That’s alarming, they definitely should be able to take control of the ticket within 24 hours. I’ll pass that on, and am very sorry.

I appreciated that he wasn’t robotic in his approach, but rather had responses to my feedback.

At the end of the call he asked what else they could have done differently, and I explained that while it wasn’t something that was personally important to me, in the past when I’ve had such a substantial delay they’ve offered some form of compensation, at the latest upon boarding the following day. So I thought it was disappointing that there was no type of apology from corporate or anything.

He explained they would be emailing me shortly, and it sure sounded like they were planning on sending passengers some form of compensation. A week after the call they still haven’t, and it has now been more than two weeks since the flight.

Anyway, I appreciated that he reached out in what seemed like a fairly sincere way. I’ve received a lot of questions from readers about what compensation I’ve received, and I’ve always said “nothing, but that’s fine.” Oddly I’m the only person that seems to feel that way.

It’s certainly not Europe, where a four hour delay nets you 250EUR cash. 😉

When a flight is delayed 14 hours, do airlines owe passengers some sort of compensation? If so, what do you think is reasonable?

Comments

  1. If a flight is delayed 14 hours due to something within their control (i.e., not weather), then YES, you should be compensated. Especially traveling in a premium cabin.

  2. Flight out from LAS to LAX on AA on a Sunday afternoon (read: overbooked), connecting to AS at LAX for LAX-SEA. I’m an MVPG on AS, a nobody on AA. The AS number is in the reservation (this is an important detail).

    I volunteer. As I’m volunteering, the pilot comes out and mentions the seal on one of the windows in the cockpit is bad and the flight’s going to be delayed for maintenance

    I tell the GA after making a hurried phone call: “OK, can you just refund me my LAS-LAX segment to go with my VDB comp, and give me the very last flight on AS out of LAX?”

    That phone call nets me a ride to Burbank (I buy my driver a strawberry shake at the Mad Greek in Baker) and a second ride to LAX. I board my flight home (get the standby upgrade to F, even), and when I get home I look on flightstats.com, the original flight out of LAS is still delayed.

    It leaves… 19 hours late.

    I net $300 VDB comp + $44 refund on a $90 fare… and 15,000 miles get deposited to my AA account for the delay (that I didn’t actually sit through all the way, and wasn’t on the reservation).

    I felt that was fair compensation. 😉

    The other overnight stay I had in Vegas for a mechanical was $300. Also fair, took a cab to hang out with friends eating homemade Kung Pao chicken at 3 am, and took a nap instead of staying in a stupid long line for whatever rat trap hotel I’d have gotten.

  3. > so I don’t think it was because of my blog post necessarily, but rather because they were just calling random people on the flight to gather feedback. At least that was my impression.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure travel bloggers like you and Gary and Brian are all flagged in the airlines’ systems. You have too much exposure for them to not pay attention.

  4. @John
    I called SQ to make an award res, got disconnected before I could pay. They called me 10-15 times during the rest of the day. From a singapore number.

  5. A discount off a future flight would be good business practice. I believe Air Canada gives a 20% off promo code for controllable delays between 12-24 hrs. You can usually use it for two people on the same itinerary too!

  6. Good grief people, keep your opinions to yourself unless you have facts to back them up. Yes, some airlines might have bloggers flagged, but having had a career in marketing and meeting many social teams, I highly doubt it. Lay off calling anyone naive unless you can back it up. You wouldn’t say it someone’s face so why post it as a comment.

  7. Ben – don’t mean to start a fight on your blog, but as a regular writer I also have to put up with the crap. And perhaps given the bottle of wine I am sat with, I am in the mood to call out some trolls 🙂

  8. “in the past few months I’ve collectively had more details than I’ve otherwise had in the rest of my life combined. Think you meant ‘delays’.

  9. @Lucky (and also @Dax):

    I hope you didn’t misread my tone in an hostile manner. That was not my intention. I am merely point out that you are a very high profile blogger with the exposure and the airline pay attention to you. No more, no less. Not here to troll.

    With that said, regarding your comment anbout Ethiad:

    1. They did respond with that seems to be a personal response, as in they pointed out the issue with food and pre-clearance that you brought up. I only said they responded, not adressed. Clearly as you pointed out, they acknowledged that you think they were a problm, but they didn’t work to resolve it.

    I bring this up as a contrast to United’s habit about sending out boiler point emails that reads like “Your comments regarding (SPECIFIC EVENT) will be used for coaching and training our employees. To encourage you to fly with us again and as a tangible means of acknowledging your disappointment, enclosed if (SPECIFIC ITEM).” Clearly, someone at Ethiad realized there is a complaint, which bring me to #2.

    2. I’ve never flown on a gulf carrier, but from everything I read, from your blog and others, they seem to have a completely differnt culture. Correct me if I’m wrong, but their attitude to customer service seems to be very superficial. They are more about the image and less about the substance. Qatar’s CEO’s various public comments reinforces that culture. They want the glitz and glamour to be the best, but in the end they don’t have quite the substance to back it up. At least that’s the feeling I get from reading all the reviews.

    Anyways I hope my original comment didn’t come across as hostile, if I did I apologize. I still think that yes, they reached out to you on the phone because you are an influencial blogger. Who knows, maybe you publishing their response email made them realize they need to reach out to you. Anyways, this is obviously just my opinion. Just didn’t feel random when one of the person they choose to call is a well known blogger. Ultimatesly, you’re the one on the phone with them. If your gut tells you they are just calling random passengers, so be it.

  10. I’m so glad they demonstrated great customer service by contacting the blogger railing against them. I am sure that is exactly what they did with every other pax on the plane, and I’m sure whatever compensation they end up giving you because you pretty much beg them for it at the end is exactly what every other passenger who was delayed with you will get. The pen is mightier than the sword.

  11. @Dax. You are absolutely the authority because you have “had a career in marketing and meeting many social teams.” I’ve never met a social team, and a career in marketing is certainly above reproach when it comes to making comments on a travel blog. Please continue to stick up for bloggers…they are unable of doing so themselves…they haven’t had a career in marketing and likely have not met a social team.

  12. @Dax

    I work in customer service everyday. My company tracks everything. Every call in, every complaint, and every single time. Constant complainers have very long files. Celebrities and other “high-profile” individuals are very well notated. Most companies are very detail oriented in this way. Legal requires it.

  13. Remember, if someone says something you don’t like or agree with…just call them a troll and hope they shut up. Nobody likes a troll!

    In all seriousness, while there are legitimate trolls who do post on here…not everyone who expresses an opinion is one. Some people do make genuine points on here, even if they are contrary to yours. Calling them a troll neither dismisses or mitigates what they say. And Lucky is old and mature enough to defend himself as well.

    As for the issue of whether airline companies track people like Lucky or not…maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But someone who does get mentioned on internet articles and appears on lists of influential and important bloggers/travel bloggers/people on the internet does probably get a second glance from airline companies.

  14. It’s funny. My experience in marketing is the opposite of Dax’s. I work in advertising. I’ve worked with two airlines, and one airline/bank credit card account. All of those accounts did have social marketing teams who followed elites and bloggers – as much as they could.

    I just don’t think it really matters. Ben has a lot of good experiences and a lot of experiences that would make me crazy if they happened to me in F on a paid or award ticket. Sometimes he might get stuff because of his blogger status. Sometimes not.

    I’ve been elite with a few different airlines for the past 10 years – just like many of us here. Sometimes I get excellent service. (Every now and then shockingly excellent service.) And sometimes, even as an elite, I get service that makes me wonder why the airline didn’t just have someone raise their middle finger a few inches from my face.

    None of that matters. Ben reports on his experiences as they happen, how they happen. We can all choose to handle that however we want.

    How’s the cold, Ben?

  15. Earlier in the year I had a delay of 23 hours on Etihad from SGN > AUH, Whilst I was put up in a half decent hotel (non chain) I missed a day out of my 4 day schedule in Abu Dhabi/Dubai. After contacting Etihad and after about 6 weeks of persistence I was provided with 70k Etihad miles, deposited into my Etihad Guest account. So certainly persistence pays off if you’re trying to get compensation. They initially wanted to palm me off with far fewer miles.

    Also following on from your comment about European compensation. I have another success story, last month I had a flight on Air France from LHR > CDG > BKK which was delayed by 7 hours. And whilst it took about 4 weeks on Friday had a bank transfer from Air France for €600…!

    All in all, my opinion is persist and you’ll get back some form of compensation from a half decent airline, which Etihad certainly are.

  16. Thanks for your follow up on this. I had a slightly more than 14 hour delay flying J on Qatar trying to get back to the U.S. from India. We were on the plane for two hours, then holed up on the jet bridge for another two hours (they wouldn’t let us off), and then another two outside the airport before we were rebooked, and shipped off to the hotel. I know if it was in Europe a cash compensation would be required, but what’s an appropriate sum to request in this situation?

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