First experience of KLM during disruption

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  • scott1nthesky
    Participant

    I’m certain there must already by a thread on the current ATC situation in the UK but when I log in to the forum, it randomly shows me posts with no updates for years! I can’t seem to find a way for the filter to work, so apologies if I’m duplicating anything.

    Travelling yesterday, 28/8, WAW – AMS – NCL in J with KLM. The first sector was delayed when some pax offloaded themselves having learned their connections from AMS to LHR and LCY were canx. They had checked bags and so we waited to offload them. I was surprised the crew (both cabin crew and pilots) claimed to know nothing about the situation in the UK, or that KLM had cancelled most of their UK flying schedule for the rest of the day.

    My AMS – NCL connection was canx, as expected. What wasn’t expected was KLM’s vacuum of help. On arrival I found the automatic transfer machines, dotted around gate areas, were simply telling me there were no alternative flight options and to speak to staff. The transfer desks (T3 I believe) were closed, with signs posted noting “due to the disruption we are unable to staff these desks.” Quite odd – surely the most important time to have desks staffed is during disruption.

    I had a checked bag, tagged through to NCL. The KLM app showed the bag as being delivered on belt 12 in AMS, which I thought was a good preemptive action by the airline since they hadn’t rebooked me as of yet. However, this was an anomaly since no transfer bags arrived for canx onward connections. A sole member of KLM staff in the baggage hall was telling everyone that no bags in transfer would be returned, even if our flights were canx and we were not rebooked yet.

    The information given was to book our own hotels and seek reimbursement later. The letter values reimbursement at:

    EUR25 per meal per person
    EUR50 per journey to/from the airport
    “reasonable” day cost of hotel – I can’t find any guidance on what they consider reasonable.

    Every text and e-mail update from the airline was to communicate with them using WhatsApp or Messenger. Doing so was challenging. On my way to the hotel, they messaged me to note instead of AMS – NCL on 28/08, I was now being routed AMS – EDI on 30/08. The message said I could refuse this and choose from a selection of options myself. This didn’t work and I had to text with an agent. They said there were no other options and that sending me to EDI was “the only solution.” When I pointed out they were selling commercial J availability on NCL flights on 30/08 they simply said these weren’t options. I noted AMS – MME would make more sense since that’s only a 35 minute drive home for me but they wouldn’t move from the EDI option. Finally, the app shows a downgrade to Y. I asked about this with the WhatsApp team and they told me I haven’t been downgraded but a J seat won’t become available until airport checkin?…despite them also telling me I’d accepted and checked in online (I hadn’t – I deliberately didn’t do this in case it signalled an acceptance of the new flight).

    I understand the ATC failure wasn’t the responsibility of each carrier. But some degree of competence and customer care must, at some point, come into play. In the interest of being positive, I met a couple in the hotel bar last night in similar circumstances with KLM. They were due to fly AMS – NWI last night (28/08) and instead had been routed AMS – LBA on Friday! They had checked bags and KLM was refusing to release them. They had cancelled the new flight and taken a refund – to which KLM had said their bags were now effectively lost and to submit a missing bag report online. Small mercies indeed.

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    FDOS
    Participant

    scottinthesky

    EUR25 per meal per person
    EUR50 per journey to/from the airport
    “reasonable” day cost of hotel – I can’t find any guidance on what they consider reasonable.

    These are KLMs inventions, there are no guidelines in EC261. Yes, if you choose a 500€ per night hotel, when there are 300€ hotels available, they might push back, but on the other hand the legislation makes the airline responsible for providing hotel etc., so if they pass that on to the pax, I’m not sure how a Court would respond to that.

    Good luck and don’t forget to read EC261/2004, I won’t link directly as it sometimes takes BT a while to moderate, but if you Google it, you will find it easily and it’s not too big a read.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    AndrewinHK
    Participant

    Scottinthesky it must be very troublesome for you and I hope you make it home swiftly. I do though have some sympathy for KLM here, given the volume of traffic they handle into the UK, the ATC issue must have caused them massive issues. I would suspect the J class availability at check-in, is because they need to maximize the passengers they can carry to reduce the delays and disruption for all customers, in times of disruption it makes little sense for KLM to have empty middle seats to satisfy the smaller % of passengers flying J. On the customer care side, the airline will pay for your hotel, transfers, and food, I know they are duty-bound to do so, but this is why you want to always fly with a European carrier or be within Europe whenever a disruption occurs, as the protection levels are unparalleled. I can only imagine the computing power it takes to reschedule everyone, and systems may show availability, but I would trust what the customer service agents are saying, and feat in itself that you actually managed to communicate with someone.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    scott1nthesky
    Participant

    Thank you Andrew and FDOS for the info and insight, much appreciated.

    I made it (almost) home in one piece yesterday. I don’t envy KLM’s position at all but a couple of issues seem unnecessarily complicated:

    1) When I landed at AMS on Monday and knew my onward flight was cancelled, they refused to release my checked bag. I could see it had arrived on their app but despite not knowing when I’d leave AMS, or even if this would be with KL, they had a blanket policy of keeping bags. My main concern was that during disruption bags tend not to follow pax. When I arrived yesterday at EDI, of course my bag was not there. This was despite ground staff at AMS telling me all bags from the ATC disruption were being automatically routed with the ticketed pax on new flights. I didn’t believe them for a second and now I’m at the whim of Swissport, the EDI handling agent, to find it. I’m surprised an airline has the right to refuse to release personal property on request.

    2) When KL did offer a reroute, they wanted to route me AMS – EDI, not AMS – NCL. I said I’d rather wait for the next seat on an NCL flight. I also noted two flights AMS – NCL had commercial availability on the same date as my reroute. KL refused the request and said I could either take the reroute or not travel. When I arrived at AMS on Wednesday morning, I spoke with the gate staff. They noted my downgrade and moved me into J as per my ticket – they said there were no other pax in J on that flight but where pax could prove they’d been downgraded, they were moving them back into the J cabin. Two others came forward in my situation (oddly also pax who had wanted to get to NCL not EDI) and were moved back into their original cabin. In a config of 16 J seats, there were 3 of us. After boarding, a family of 3 asked the crew if they could pay to upgrade. The crew said yes and charged them by credit card using an iPad. This caused some tension when a few pax in Y realised what was happening and it turns out they’d also been downgraded but hadn’t spoken to ground staff like me and so were seated in Y. The crew said they couldn’t upgrade them without payment and they should’ve spoken to the gate team.

    3) The issue of rerouting. I know airlines oversell seats and so seeing commercial availability on their public website isn’t an indication seats exist in reality. I took the opportunity to ask the gate team about this before boarding EDI and told them KL had refused my request for my original destination but it looked like seats were on sale. They looked at the loads for me and sure enough: the afternoon flight had 2 available in J and 8 in Y. The evening flight had 6 in J and 13 in Y. Neither had any standbys listed. The ground staff said they couldn’t move me but a number of pax on the EDI flight were from NCL and had asked to be moved, they weren’t sure why KL was declining such requests. What could be the reason they didn’t want us on the original routing? It would’ve been an extra few hours in AMS but not another hotel night.


    FDOS
    Participant

    scott1nthesky

    What a parlaver!

    KLM are also responsible for your costs from EDI to NCL or a point near there (e.g. your home).

    Did they offer you a rail ticket or similar? If not, stick in in your actual costs.

    Also, if you had to purchase clothes or other essentials whilst away, they have to cover those, too, under the Montreal Convention.

    My advice would be don’t mess about, claim everything you are entitled to. The airline has not (IMO) behaved entirely well in this instance and not claiming rewards their behaviour.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    scott1nthesky
    Participant

    FDOS

    Such a faff! They refused up-front travel costs EDI – NCL and said to make my own way and claim “reasonable” costs back.

    I’ll definitely be claiming everything back including clothes and toiletries, meals, hotels, etc. The costs will go up depending on how long they take to find my bag…I go on holiday on Tuesday and wanted most of what was in the bag to take with me. I hope their claims team is more streamlined than their ops departments!


    FDOS
    Participant

    scott1nthesky

    They are obliged to re-route you under comparable transport conditions and given you were in J, I hope you travelled first class, if you took the train!


    scott1nthesky
    Participant

    FDOS

    I did take the train but wasn’t thinking about comparable conditions and bought an economy ticket – I’ll remember this for future reference!

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