Things Can Go Wrong, It's how It's Handled that Makes the Difference

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  • LuganoPirate

    On my recent flight to JNB with Swiss, LX288 dp. 2245, Mrs. LP left Lugano at noon for Milan to get her flight to Zurich, and I planned to take the 1434 train to Zurich to arrive within an hour and a half of each other. As she left I had a call from Swiss Senator service and my first thought was, oh oh, flight’s cancelled. Well it wasn’t, but they had changed the equipment from the 340 to the 330, and as this type had no crew accommodation they would use the whole cabin and downgrade me to Business. Very apologetically, profusely sorry, he offered me three alternatives. Fly next day, re-route with Emirates via Dubai or accept the downgrade and receive compensation for the downgrade.

    I accepted the downgrade but on condition I could still use the F lounge and receive the F privileges, to which he answered immediately, “of course Mr. LP, without question”. Apart from the refund I was doubly happy as I had intended to let Mrs.LP have my seat in F (luckily I told this to our son before the call, so he could verify it to Mrs. LP and get me a few brownie points) as she takes advantage of the champagne, food etc, while I eat nothing and only drink water! I mentioned my wife was with me but in 10F and he said he’d put us both in the small Senator cabin behind First Class and would make sure the lounge knew of our arrival, and to let her in to wait for me.

    Everything worked perfectly, F check-in in Zurich, up the stairs to a private security area and then directly into the lounge where Mrs. LP was waiting for me with G&T in hand. Much needed after a very hot train ride on the awful Swiss train that starts in Milan. It was 36C outside and the policy of the SBB is to cool down just 5c below ambient. Ridiculous!! No sooner was I welcomed I was handed an envelope with the cash card and we both proceeded to enjoy the brand new lounge in terminal A, before being taken by car to the First class Terminal in E. Fantastic service.

    On board I was personally greeted by the Maitre de Cabine, who again apologised profusely, escorted me to my seat, helped me with my hand luggage while telling me this was the first time in her 13 year career that something like this has happened. I told her it was not the first time the 340 had been swapped for the 330 but I’d always had my seat, though when it had happened I had seen the two seats on the left by the window had big curtains for the replacement pilots as it’s a 10.5 hour flight. She kept coming to me to make sure all was OK and even offered me the chocolates from the Sprungli box for F pax, and to the others from the Lindt box as offered to Business 😉

    An amusing tale, I needed the bathroom at about 2 am, and didn’t know where it was, as I’ve never actually flown Business on that plane before. The FA on duty seemed annoyed as if I should know where it was, but before she could tell me my lovely Maitre de Cabine curtly informed her that I was a First Class passenger, downgraded, and therefore would not know where the bathroom was!! She held the door open for me (I thought for a moment she was going to come in with me 😉 😉) and telling the FA that if I sounded my call button when seated she was to attend to me immediately. A bit embarrassing in a way but secretly I loved it!

    Things can go wrong, but it’s how it’s dealt with that makes the big difference and so I bear no grudge or animosity to Swiss at all, it fact it was handled most professionally, with courtesy and like clockwork. All kudos to Swiss.


    Indeed LP, and I’d like to think regardless of tier level or class of travel that Swiss would respond with what can be done rather than want can’t.
    When businesses let humans respond to other humans in a manner that recognizes human emotion and fragilities you generally find those companies top the scale of repeat business. Simply because they don’t allow themselves to be managed by process and logic.

    4 users thanked author for this post.


    Always nice to read a good story. I have never flown Swiss long distance but will definitely be something to keep in mind.

    I must say few years ago, I had issues with redemption bookings (for upgrades) with Cathay using points that were expiring soon, the Marco Polo and reservation agents combined were great in handling the situation which further won my loyalty with the airline.

    Unlike BA, when things goes wrong their first reaction would always be that its customer’s fault. I was left stranded in Beijing Airport (on my birthday no less) due to their reservation department messing up my booking change (change fee paid weeks ahead with email confirmation from BA) but was told my flight was 2 days before. They wouldn’t let me on the half empty flight until UK office is open which would have been at least 3 hours into the flight. Subsequently it took me a month through extremely slow email responses (no human willing to speak directly) to prove their mistake to which I got no apologies and a simple note along the lines of “we cannot provide compensation as we have fulfilled our obligation of re-booking passenger back to London on the next flight” (the flight was 24 hours later).

    Sadly this is not a common practice amongst so-called major airlines.


    Cathay does a good job in these situations, too. My HKG-SIN in J had a 3 hour delay and “since they know my time is important” wanted to send me on SQ earlier but only 777 middle seat available. I thanked them for being so considerate, but I am not good in any seat other than aisle, so said I was quite happy to wait as I had no pressing engagement at the other end. After a little while I found myself in F on the SQ flight. No fuss – just trying to keep a passenger happy. Being understanding and reasonable about the situation never hurts either….

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    I to have had excellent service from CX on the few occasions a problem has arisen hence the reason I have been flying with them since 1989!!. When I have experienced problems with other suppliers across many industries the front facing staff, I feel, really want to help but are restrained by a bureaucratic management , know where to be seen or heard or the “computer says no”. It was I think Ritz Carlton who were one of the first to empower their staff to resolve a problem and they could spend up to US$200 if needed. It speaks volumes about the culture of a company. Are you listening Snr Cruz?

    4 users thanked author for this post.
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