Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have heard it before. The customer is always right. And in many instances it is true. When developing a mission statement, customer centricity is critical for success of virtually every business. But what do you do when the customer is wrong? You have to deal with it by mitigating their error, fire them, or sit back and hope for the best.
Last week, I sent a group off to the United Kingdom for a Harry Potter themed tour which included a ride on the Hogwart’s Express, a final dinner in “Hogwart’s” dining room, storytelling from minor actors in the films, a personalized gift from JK Rowling, and a sneak peek of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows II at midnight on Thursday July 14th—a full 24 hours (plus time zones) ahead of the United States. The trip was fairly expensive for 10 days and certainly a one of a kind experience for the single parent families that were able to go.
So, what possesses a woman to insist on flying non-revenue standby from Los Angeles—yes she is an airline employee? We had decent bulk airfare from the east coast into Heathrow and out of Edinburgh (under $1000), but she was insistent on making her own arrangements. Fair enough.
When it came time to arrange her transfer from the airport to the hotel (we provided a train ticket from Gatwick or Heathrow and a voucher for a cab to the hotel) her air arrangements were not yet complete. Three weeks before departure, we needed to make sure all the loose ends were tied up and she still was unable to give us the information. But she did say she was definitely flying into Heathrow. We issued the transfer from Heathrow.
Two days before departure, I call to make sure all is OK and to get the flight information just in case something goes wrong. She advises me that she is flying standby from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and then standby from Philadelphia into Heathrow. I tried to pull some strings and see if I could clear a standby, but it was not happening.
So, ultimately, she was able to fly standby, but it was to New York, not Philadelphia. And of course New York had no availability to London, so she took a bus to Philadelphia to catch her standby flight from Philly to London. Well, you guessed it, the flight to London sold out and she was put on a standby list for a flight to Manchester. We offered to make the needed arrangements to get her to London, but she insisted on doing it herself.
The last I heard, she made the plane to Manchester and was planning on taking a train into London to meet the group before we departed. We tried, and about the only thing I can offer is my sincere wish for good luck.
I have notified the tour guides of the situation and given them all the contact information. It seems like it might work out, but the question remains, why would anyone do that when a $10,000 trip is at risk? Oh, and one last detail—she is traveling with a 14 year old highly functioning autistic child!