You may have seen my recent blog about how, on 4th January, I flew from Manchester to Tenerife but easyJet flew my power-chair from Manchester, to Brest (NW France), to Paris, to Gatwick, and then to Tenerife where I was reunited with it thirty six hours later. Luckily it appeared undamaged.
When the loss was discovered at the airport we had to register it at the easyJet office there. We were given paperwork which included a website (which was consistently unavailable) and a phone number which was rarely answered.
Those first thirty six hours were most traumatic and impacted negatively on my husband and me. I have constantly explained to easyJet – actually to many different people and departments in easyJet – that losing your wheelchair is not akin to losing your suitcase and needing to buy a toothbrush and some spare knickers to tide you over. They seem to be struggling with this difference.
My explanation of the absolute shock and horror of arriving in a strange country without your means of mobility, or of sitting comfortably and safely, has had no response whatsoever. Their absolute and continued failure to update me on the whereabouts of my chair in those thirty six hours, and their continued failure to engage with me or update me since has been astonishing.
Or perhaps I should say their failure to deal with me effectively has been astonishing. I have sometimes resorted to Twitter, mostly out of exasperation, and have had direct messages (DMs) from Pietro, Manuel, Iwona, Ahmed, Tulio, Liliya, Karolina, and Ruben. Only two were helpful. From their tweets I assume they only know what is outlined in the tweets – it’s only two days ago one wanted me to confirm that I had my chair back: I’ve had it for thirteen days now. Perhaps I should say that they all apologised, very nicely.
I’m developing quite an easyJet network, and today have started to ‘cc’ messages to everyone – often the same message, sent again to the latest ‘easyJet friend’. So here’s the roll-call:
1. PRM Assistance, who have been helpful but it’s not clear to me what they can actually do.
2. EasyJet Executive Support, who (to be fair) came onto the scene in the last day or two and so still have a chance to prove their effectiveness.
3. firstname.lastname@example.org – an automated system where messages and documents can be left, so nobody has to actually speak to you
4. EasyJet baggage claims department – first contact was today, so fingers crossed,
5. the Reduced Mobility Rights Group – who have helped with contacts
6. EasyJet Head of Customer Services – no direct contact from them as yet,
7. the National Manager for Accessible Services at OCS – the firm who provide assistance at many U.K. Airports: they have asked for the receipt for wheelchair hire (which has already been submitted to easyJet) and I have explained it is so much more than that.
Despite all this ‘involvement’, or maybe because of it, I am no wiser – two weeks after the incident – as to how easyJet may respond to my call for compensation.
So what does this all mean for me? I spent thirty six hours not knowing where my wheelchair was, nor whether (or even if) I would get it back. I experienced pain and discomfort, including backache due to not having the support my spine requires: I had high levels of anxiety which impacted my heart disease: I had to source, pay for and use a substitute chair, causing poor posture and safety issues due to unfamiliarity. And I needed to try to establish what had happened to my chair and why.
Needless to say, I am not looking forward to my return flight with anything other than dread. The impact of this incident has been tremendous and the beginning and end of my holiday have been ruined. In between times I am trying to engage with easyJet for a resolution, and probably spend up to sixty minutes a day on these matters. In my compensation claim I am suggesting easyJet offer me an amount for ‘distress and inconvenience’ consistent with guidance from the Financial Ombudsman Service. In two weeks they have not yet managed to engage with me on this.
And what does this mean for easyJet? In order to try to be helpful I will lay this out as clearly as I can:
- EasyJet need to better understand the needs of their disabled customers; this is true in terms of booking, of assistance, of ‘handling’, and of problem solving. There is massive room for improvement, and it should be organic and continuous.
- EasyJet’s customer relations (CRM) processes have not been fit for purpose,
- Information given when reporting the loss was inadequate,
- Communication with the customer after leaving the airport was sporadic and unhelpful,
- Information – and therefore reassurance – about the whereabouts of the chair in the thirty six hours was not given.
- It was clear that the various contacts we made in easyJet did not communicate with each other,
- Responses to this particular incident have been inadequate and have not taken account of the very clear messages given to easyJet.
- A named, key contact from the start of the process would have made a difference, as would a ‘red flag’ in the CRM system for situations which require more than the standard treatment. In fairness, this was unusual and unfortunate, but that’s why the red flag is needed.
In summary, this has been an unhappy and unsettling business, made ten times worse by a poor response. My fingers are crossed for appropriate compensation and changes to systems that mean when such unfortunate events happen they are dealt with in a much better way.