Tuesday, 6 January 2009

in Madrid, thanks to Iberia Airlines strike....

As I'm somewhat new to blogging this way (the CMS at my original website, johnhammink.com, has been broken for more than a year, and I'm too lazy to fix it), I'm simply not in the habit of reporting the circumstances of my life, travels, and travails from one day to the next. Indeed, as someone who works professionally as a writer (essentially), I'm not even accostomed to posting unedited thoughts in forums like these. Nonetheless, I have always been pretty committed about reporting crappy services and situations, as well as celebrating the good ones, so, as they say, there's no better time than the present.

I'm supposed to be in Santiago, Chile right now, giving a panel discussion http://www.mite.usm.cl/index.php?id=96 for the local media, and later teaching a master's degree module on consumer product realisation. Instead I'm in a cafe in Madrid. After flying in a very dirty plane, which was more than four hours delayed from my origin, I missed my LAN Chile (a very good airline) connection.

When we arrived in Madrid airport at 12.30 a.m. there was no information point, or person at the exit gate to redirect us to the place we were supposed to get our transfers. Instead, we were forced to go out of the country, through passport control, then back into the country (through passport control) which resulted in two stamps I really didn't want in my already nearly full passport. When we finally (on our own, no help from airport staff) finally figured out where we were supposed to go, we stood in that line for more than three hours, while they issues our transfers)!

Being diabetic, I went out to ask someone (one of the iberia clerks had wandered off to talk to his buddies) where I could find food so that I wouldn't go into shock. I was then told to go stand back in line and wait for my ticket (it turned out that there was a cafe downstairs). When I finally got to the desk, and insisted on a connection through LAN Chile, rather than Iberia, it took all of 2 minutes.

Iberia finally put us in a hotel, which although it was three stars, was inflexible about meal times.

So Madrid is nice (was nicer back before the EU), but I'd really rather not be here right now.

A couple of lessons I've learned.

When travelling with a plane full of South Americans, don't do the nice Scandinavian thing and expect other waiting travellers to exercise the same forbearance and respect for lines as you have (As I already knew, but my Scandinavian friends did not realize - South Americans have none - after an asshole-to-elbows scramble, we were last in line, while our tickets were the easiest to process).

Madrid airport is a mess. Don't fly there. And although Iberia respected our passenger's rights (they have to, don't they?) they go on strike several times a year, so somethings not right there.

In Europe, Consumer's rights and integrity are clearly absolutely LAST priority, if in practice they are even considered at all, light years behind those rights of public officials, followed by trade unions.

Why do other developing countries' services (LAN Airlines, Chile; Thai Airways) perform so much better in terms of customer treatment, and those services from nations where standard of living is supposed to be the best (SAS, Denmark; KLM, Netherlands, to name a few) offer, by far, the worst customer service?

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