Is This Appropriate Compensation For A 14 Hour Delay?

As some of you may recall, I had a 14+ hour delay on Etihad Airways between Seoul Incheon and Abu Dhabi last month. The delay was announced at check-in, and chaos followed. That being said, I get that big delays happen. It’s certainly not the ground staff’s fault, so I’d never take it out on them. It’s a crappy situation for everyone.

Etihad-Flight-Delay
Etihad flight delay poster

Nobody likes a 14 hour delay, and to some degree it’s inevitable. Safety is always the top priority, though at the same time as passengers we book a specific airline and not a specific aircraft (at least usually), so I do think the airline has some obligation to make things right for passengers that are severely inconvenienced when flying with them. It’s a cost of doing business.

Beyond the actual delay, there were a couple of things entirely within Etihad’s control that ticked me off:

  • There was a flight around the same time on Emirates which I should have been rebooked on, but they told me they couldn’t since the ticket was on a different airline’s ticket stock (an agent confirmed after the fact that per their policy they should have rebooked me)
  • Someone reached out to me after the flight to get “feedback” on the delay, and explained that I’d receive an email/letter from Etihad soon with an “apology” — that never happened

So I decided to write customer relations a note to express my frustration not just by the delay, but by the way it was handled. Mainly I just wanted to see how they’d respond after the abysmal customer service response I received from them the last time around.

Here’s their response:

Dear Mr Schlappig,

Thank you for writing to us.

I regret that your flight from Seoul was disrupted.

Whilst I can assure you we do everything we can to maintain good performance, sometimes, unforeseen circumstances prevent us from operating our flights on schedule. We would never compromise the safety of our Guests or crew irrespective of any consequential disruption or service difficulty.

I do appreciate that your experience on this occasion was not as you, or indeed we would have liked. Disruptions are indeed unpleasant and I am sorry that you were caught up in this situation and that your travel plans were inevitably affected.

It is never our intention to leave our Guests feeling unhappy with the services provided.  As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to offer you 10,000 Etihad Guest miles. These miles can be utilised towards future Etihad flights, upgrade and/or any of the thousands of rewards available on the Etihad Guest Reward Shop. If they have not already joined the Etihad Guest programme, they can enroll at www.etihad.com and then let us know their membership number by writing to us at feedback@etihad.ae

You can also choose to convert the miles to points or virtual credit with PointsPay which can be used anywhere that accepts VISA card, both online and in stores; over 30 million different options.  This is available exclusively to Etihad Guests and can be accessed via the website at http://www.etihadairways.com/sites/Etihad/global/en/guestrecognition/visitor/Pages/pointspay-pay-with-etihadguestmiles.aspx

Your support is appreciated, and I sincerely hope that you can put this experience to one side and that you will continue to travel with Etihad Airways in the future

First of all, it would be lovely if they could at least copy and paste a single form letter. “If they have not already joined the Etihad Guest programme.” Perhaps they’re mixing up their internal instructions with the form letters they copy and paste?

But 10,000 miles for a delay that got me to my final destination over 14 hours late as a first class passenger, without even acknowledging the mistake they made which was entirely within their control (not rebooking me on another carrier)?

Interestingly 10,000 miles is the same “gesture of goodwill” I was offered (though didn’t accept) after Etihad ran out of food on my Abu Dhabi to New York flight in first class for the second flight in a row.

On the other hand, 10,000 miles might just be the most practical gesture of goodwill they could give. I’m trying to look at it from their perspective, and I think I figured it out. As the email points out, I can redeem those 10,000 miles through the Reward Shop. 10,000 miles is more than enough for a $50 Morton’s gift card, which might not be a bad catering supplement for my next Etihad flight. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Mortons-Gift-Card

Anyway, give me a crappy form letter response or give me a crappy “gesture of goodwill” if you must, but both?!

What do you think? Is 10,000 miles a fair “gesture of goodwill” for a 14 hour delay, along with the stuff they screwed up along the way?

Comments

  1. No. This is not an appropriate comp. But count yourself lucky. I got the same number of miles from AA a couple of years ago when they stranded me at LAX with wife and two kids in tow for nearly 24 hours after a 2x mechanical and stuck me with a night of hotel at our final destination that I never used, a daytime hotel rate at LAX and vouchers I could barely use.

    Ever since then, I have been booking flexible hotel rates and if I have anything happen, I just make the best of it. The airlines just don’t care.

  2. That´s what I like about EU regulations. Where Ethiad a EU carrier you would get 600 Euros plus accomodation, meals, etc. $50 for a 14 hour delay just sucks.

  3. Virgin Atlantic gave me 10,000 miles last year just for their IFE not working for half of a 12-hour flight. That was in Y as well…

  4. That’s pretty pathetic, but not all that surprising given your past interactions with EY customer service. I got a $500 voucher 7 years ago when my CO flight in BusinessFirst from CDG-IAH was delayed for 5 hours due to crew issues (I think there were sandstorms in Houston the day before or something so the inbound crew timed out). They had a customer service rep go through the lounge and on the plane to hand everyone in BF vouchers before we left. This was also on a $450 EWR-CDG-PHX-EWR ticket that I had upgraded with miles (back when you could do that for like 15k miles plus $150 or something reasonable) so I ended up getting the entire flight almost free for the low cost of sitting in an (admittedly terrible) Air France lounge for 5 hours. 10,000 miles for a 14 hour delay in F (even on a reward ticket) seems a bit stingy in my opinion.

  5. Ugh, I know I’ll be flamed for saying this.

    You were on an award ticket, and Etihad took this into consideration. I know that there is a school of thought that says regardless of how you arrived in your CoS, you are there, so you deserve to be treated equally. I think that is TRUE onboard, you should be treated like any other FC/Premium passenger.

    However, you paid Etihad significantly less for your flight than a revenue pax. In starting with less marbles, there are less marbles for Etihad to give back in the event of a shortcoming such as this. I don’t think it’s realistic or fair to expect 30-40k miles as compensation on an award ticket that costs only marginally more than that.

    Under those specific circumstances, I think 10,000 miles is probably sufficient comp. had you paid money for the flight, receiving approximately 1/6 of your paid fare back would seem pretty generous IMHO.

  6. You are an important first class person and not even taking time to write a personal letter, rather than a form letter is an insult by them of you.

    Such low compensation is seen as taking your business for granted and their responsibility as minimal.

    Repeated public shaming on a blog has not worked either.

    You should sue them.

  7. Lucky, what compensation would you have expected from EY? Cash? 50k miles and a limited edition rubber duck? An autographed CD by Taylor Swift?

  8. @ R B — I didn’t have a number in mind, but I’d say at an absolute minimum 30K+ miles wouldn’t be insulting, while 50K miles would be more “reasonable.”

  9. FWIW I was flying J on AA from SFO-JFK on the redeye. I had bought a Y/B ticket (forget which; it was last minute) and upgraded with 5k miles. The seat did not properly recline into “bed” position, which was pretty annoying on the redeye, and I got 10k miles for that, which I thought was quite generous, considering I only paid 5k miles to begin with. (In other words, the bed could only be “worth” 5k since otherwise I’d be sitting in Y.)

    I wonder if “10k miles” is the standard offer for any sort of complaint.

  10. I think Seth generally has a point, and if it were just a 14-hour delay plus a lame or nonexistent apology I would agree, BUT, the failure to rebook you on the Emirates flight is serious enough that compensation approaching a full refund is appropriate. Not rebooking you is a money grab from which they shouldn’t profit.

  11. I agree 10K is dopey, and I am not on their side, but it is a giant business problem for them. Everyone has their own definition of reasonable. And that’s hard to manage.

    I gave up an Economy seat this week in an oversold situation on DL. I took a flight an hour later, confirmed upgrade, for an $800 voucher. (On a ticket that cost $400.) I was sort of dumbfounded the voucher was that much, but the other person who took the deal was whining that it should have been $1000.

    No one is ever satisfied!

  12. Dear Mr. Ben

    We’re sorry to have bestowed on you only 10,000 miles for the delay in your flight. We have used our relationship with fellow airlines and other vendors to produce an apology package that has been uniquely tailored to your taste. It includes the following:

    1. Hello Kitty merchandise
    2. Personalized LH “lucky” duck
    3. Rimowa amenity kit
    4. Bottle of Krug
    5. Virgin Clubhouse day pass
    6. Gift certificate for Mezze by Mail
    7. Six fresh pretzel rolls
    8. Multi pack bubble tea
    9. One Direction concert tickets
    10. Upgrade of First Apartment to The Residence

    We trust that you’ll find this satisfactory and we look forward to serving you again soon.

    Etihad Airlines

  13. How many AA (?) miles did your ticket cost and how many legs was it split between? I think this does matter re: compensation.

  14. @Lucky

    The only time I have wanted compensation is when travel issues end up costing me money due to a situation that could have been handled better. I’m more interested in a personalised service, mainly because I take the time to try and give positive feed back when I get great service (Like when a QF flight attendant who servied my in F saw I was flying Premium Economy on a HK flight she started slipping me some of the bubbles from F for the flight… not that i specifically mentioned that in the feedback 😛 )

    So I would be more annoyed at the impersonal letter rather than the lack of compensation. I actually don’t think there is any formal policy on monetary compensation in Australia for overbooked or delayed flights. I think from memory they say that they will just get you there as soon as possible or next flight and which may or may not include hotels. Though I might be wrong on that. It is always a novelty in the US when they just start handing out vouchers and people get annoyed and I’m standing there thinking, where is my free lunch coming from… AHHH Ruby’s Diner.. come at me Americana!

  15. I think the real issue and “crime” committed is the mishandled incompetence of not re-booking you on Emirates, when they should have according to policy, and especially when you pro-actively attempted to have them do so at the time. To me, this is grounds for some level of refund (whether money back or miles back into your account). The fact that they never officially addressed that is bad customer relations. I’d probably be ticked off enough to avoid Etihad for a while.

  16. They gave me 5k points for having to spend an extra 10 minutes at check-in while they did something to my SYD-LHR ticket (it was blocked for some unexplained security reason). Plus I was in business, not first – although it was a cash ticket.

    So yes, I think you’ve been a bit shafted. I’d have expected something at least double what you received at an absolute minimum.

  17. seems kind of chinzu, I was delayed just over 2 hours on a short hop lax/san on AA, they sent me an apology email and a 5K mile credit.

  18. Received 30,000 miles as 1k for full one day delay, including sitting on plane for about four hours with endless promises of we should know something soon, before disembarking. Airline was United, flying first class FROM IAD to Tokyo. Fortunately, our hotel in Tokyo allowed us to cancel.

  19. What a joke. United gave everyone on a 747 $50 or several thousand miles due to sporadic issues for some passengers’ IFE system.

  20. On the one hand I do think 10K miles is a bit of a pittance regardless of class of service for such a long delay but I also think it’s hard to see why the airline should feel compelled to offer significant cash compensation… The ticket was only 45K as you state, so significant compensation would knock out the entire cost of the ticket. They also ensured your accommodations at the hotel were covered.

    Now, if you were on a revenue ticket, or a frequent flyer (and revenue earning) for Etihad, or had a hotel charge / missed another flight / were otherwise caused additional financial burden, I would totally agree a more significant compensation would be warranted but none of these applied to for them, it probably appears as a situation that wouldn’t be escalated and thus wasn’t worth making an exception to issue money.

    I remember back in the day I used to be able to consistently get $250 vouchers (2-3 times a year) from United for delays or cancellations when I had a good reason for complaining (missed meetings, had to rebook on other carriers, etc.) and typically the inconenience was minor as I could rebook through work on new flights at no cost to me but recently even UA has significantly cut back on cash compensation (or vouchers to be more specific) and instead assures me they’ll “bring up my feedback to senior management at their monthly customer service review”…

  21. If a $50 gift card buys 14 hours of your time, you are working too cheap. This tells me that Etihad is trying to be the United Airlines of the Middle East. I’d be mad at a 10,000 mile offer after that.

  22. I think it is terrible. I would think an amount in the $600-$1000 range would be more appropriate. I wish the EU standard was world wide.

    As well, I still don’t understand why they couldn’t put you on another carrier’s flight.

    Could you do a post on traveler right’s when their is a flight delay? I don’t think most people know that you can ask to be put on a competitors flight, or what the process is? As well as what rights you might have from your credit cards like Amex, and how you go about making a claim. Is there a time restriction, do you have to phone to get permission first etc. etc. I personally never make a claim as I am afraid that it will be denied, so I don’t go and purchase toiletries or change of clothes or book a hotel room I just tough it out.

  23. This is truly ridiculous and I mean both things, the 10k compensation offer & the lack if a personal letter if apology.

    I also think that regardless of HOW you got that FC seat, you’re supposed to enjoy their top product in an specific timeline that did NOT happen. So yes a 50K comp for your trouble is much more reasonable.

    And as far as what @peter proposed as compensation in that cool letter, wouldn’t it be nice!

  24. Seems to me that if the EU requirements were in effect then there would not have been a problem with rebooking you to another airline.Really makes them appear like a second rate operation.

  25. I had a similar overnight Thai delay at BKK when fliying F to FCO (which they handled terribly). They did not proactively offer anything, and after I wrote a couple emails, reluctantly offered 5k miles.

  26. Years back flying Continental to Bali, my flight there was delayed 32 hours in Guam and flight home delayed 72 hours leaving Bali. Total trip delay of 4+ DAYS due to mechanical difficulties on the same exact aircraft both directions. Because we were flying on miles we were specifically denied re-routing on another carrier and watched all the other passengers board Quantas flights while we were shuttled to a hotel. Compensation? Not one mile!

    I’ve never experienced any delay or aircraft issue that came close to offering me 10,000 miles. 5000 miles for an AA flight catching fire 2.5 hours over the ocean on a route to Maui and turning back for an emergency landing and evacuation, with a total of 13 hours in delays, was the best I’ve been offered. Guess I need to rethink what I thought was fair compensation cause I’d probably have been happy given what I’ve been offered in past experiences.

  27. Seth is right. And no, Etiahd has no obligation to book you on Emirates. Period. Would be nice, but no obligation whatsoever. I love how when this first happened you applauded yourself for not being one of those idiot pax that complain and scream at the time of the event (to which i applauded you on your article at that time) and then you turn around and state they handled the situation poorly, imply that you were poorly compensated…….and right away compare it to a value you can flip for some other freebie? Maybe you can turn it to a Morton’s GC – although $50 won’t get you a meal, you can complain about the food and probably parlay it into bigger rewards. It’s ok to seek compensation, but don’t sell yourself as the Good Citizen of World Travel in one post and then turn around a few weeks later to state what a horrific handling of the situation took place.

  28. I think the EU regulation sets the bar what fair compensation is – $600 for a delay of this order. The fact that other countries don’t have similar regulations doesn’t mean that it is a reasonable expectation for customers of a truly global business…
    I disagree with the notion that you shouldn’t get fair compensation because you were on a mileage ticket – the airlines established that currency and have it on their books like cash, so whether you pay in USD, Pesos or miles shouldn’t matter. The only exception I’d make is that airlines should be allowed to issue the compensation in the same way the ticket was purchased – cash, credit card refund or points refund…

  29. I *LOVE* this blog because it teaches me which airlines to choose and which one to avoid. I’ve never flown EY, and after reading this I definitely won’t.

    BTW, I had my first QR experience recently (I booked them after reading about your experiences) and, even though I was only in business class, I was blown away by the service. Pretty incredible — thanks Lucky for opening me up to an airline that was not top-of-mind to me.

  30. I’d be more peeved about the lame-o reply than the lack of more compensation. Since the reply was unsatisfactory and made no indication the problems you experienced would be remedied in the future, let alone that they were comprehended, no, the compensation offered is not adequate.

  31. 10k/50.00 $ is ridiculous, I got a restaurant voucher for 250.00 € from Swiss last year for a really bad service onboard in First Class. And LuvTG is wrong. If Etihad’s policy is to rebook you, they are of course obliged to book you on Emirates, especially if you ask them proactively.

    As you got an unsatisfying answer from customer service, write dircetly to the Etihad CEO, telling him, you don’t seek compensation, but as a (valued) First Class customer you are very unhappy with them due to problrms on you last flights (stating the food problems and the handling of the delay). This might at last help for future flights with Etihad.

    I think, though their First Class looks very nice, with your experience, I will avoid them, too

  32. @John Tarik

    While Etihad have clearly got it badly wrong on this one, in my experience (if clearly not Ben’s) they have always been absolutely excellent – both the product offered and the service onboard. I wouldn’t give up on them until you’ve given them a try.

  33. I bitched to their call center and managed to get away with 25k miles from Etihad for a 10 hours delay on Abu Dhabi – Sydney in Business Class.
    Not too shabby I guess – but I still find ridiculous the way they operate.

  34. With this all being said, I found myself in the shoes of AAExPlat and chasgood. So this is a question for Lucky still. My flight was delayed 4/20/15 (PHL-CLT-RSW 5:30pm-11:56pm US Airways) from mechanical problems 1st (tire damaged/flat and then the jack broke which caused about a 2.5-3 hr delay which added another hour or so delay. Then the weather in CLT did its part in CLT (major downpour) during the time of the jack breaking. All of this caused me to miss my CLT flight (10:10pm). I was put up in a hotel about 11:30pm w/ a morning flight of 7:34am which was for only about 5 hrs.
    I have 3 emails explaining “aircraft maintenance.” It was the pilot who mentioned the type of maintenance. So Lucky – where do I go from here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *