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 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.
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.
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?