I had a terrible flight experience when leaving Madrid back to Berlin last night. Of course, the whole trip was amazing and I don’t want to discount that experience, but thought I’d share my letter to this airline’s customer service to tell the story accurately. I am leaving out the name of the budget airline I used to give them a chance to make things right. But if they don’t try to fix it, I will gladly update the post!
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing you to report an intolerable incident that occurred at Madrid Barajas airport with an Airline ‘X’ employee prior to boarding my flight from Madrid to Berlin yesterday evening, at about 19:45 on Monday, March 19, 2012. You may have already heard about the incident from the kind flight crew who were appalled at the occurrence and filed a separate, formal complaint on my behalf after hearing about the treatment I received from said employee.
I arrived at Gate Number XX in MAD Terminal 1 at 19:30 to board flight number XXX1234, (1 hour prior to the flight’s departure,) with a regulation size carry-on trolley and proceeded to board the flight. The woman at check in asked me to measure the size of the bag to verify it would fit within the constraints of the overhead space, (which I already knew it would as it was the same bag I had taken on the flight a few days earlier from Berlin to Madrid.) I complied with her request and proceeded to remove a few small items from the bag to carry with me to my seat on the plane which I would use during the flight, and placed some of these items in my pockets and held onto my book and wallet in my hands. The bag fit within the measurement device, but the woman at check in became unexpectedly angry with me for removing items and insisted that all items were required to remain in the bag and that I was not allowed to carry these items with me on board separately. I explained to her that I wished to keep the items at my seat (and would remove them from the bag as soon as I reached the door of the plane,) at which point she then refused to acknowledge that my bag fit within the constraints of the overhead locker space.
The woman told me that I was required to pay a 50 EUR fee to check the carry-on trolley I had with me. I told her there was no reason to pay this fee as I had already shown her that the bag fit within the constraints of the overhead locker. She explained that I had then wasted 30 minutes of her time and was not complying with her earlier request (to leave my wallet and book in the small suitcase.) I asked her to please acknowledge the bag fit within the overhead space, and she refused. I then asked the Airline ‘X’ female employee standing next to her to acknowledge that the bag fit within the measurement device, to which she replied that the first woman was her superior and that whatever she said was what she was required to follow.
She insisted that I was required to pay the fee (to check in my carry-on bag even though it was sufficiently small to fit ON the plane,) and I began to plead with her that I did not have the 50 EUR to check the bag and insisted that it would fit on the plane. She then said indignantly that she could not believe I was traveling without having any money on me. It is absolutely none of her business how much money one of her passengers has, and I could not believe her audacity to say such a rude and terrible thing to a paying customer! Her behavior continued to worsen as time passed and she threatened me by saying that the flight was leaving in 2 minutes and I would not be able to board the plane with my bag! At this point I began to cry because I was frustrated, afraid I would miss my flight, and was being forced to pay a 50 EUR fee discriminatorily. I would also like to note that this entire exchange occurred in Spanish and that the employee never once even attempted to speak to me in English, which is my mother tongue.
Without further consultation or resolution, the woman then got on her scooter and left the gate, leaving the second, inferior employee to handle the situation alone. The second employee told me the flight was about to leave the gate and ordered me to pay the baggage fee she was instructed to collect by her superior, claiming this was the “regulation of the airline”. I was left with no choice but to hand her my American Express credit card to be charged 50 Euros against my will. When I requested the name of the employee who had been abusive to me, she refused to provide me with her name! Imagine being treated like garbage by an employee of an airline that you have PAID to fly with and then being told that there was no way to file a formal complaint about this employee! I again asked for her name or a contact person with whom I could speak and was again refused.
When I entered the plane, I was the last one on board and I was visibly upset and frustrated. The flight crew saw that I was crying from how I had just been treated, (they had been informed of the incident from within the plane,) and asked if I was okay and to explain what had happened. When I explained the story and the appalling behavior of the woman at the counter, they were horrified! At this point they asked me to help describe the event in detail so that they could submit a formal complaint of the incident because it was the worst treatment of an airline passenger that they had heard of to date. I was also informed at this time that other passengers had been asked to check their bags instead of carrying them on board to avoid over-stuffing the lockers, but not a single other passenger had been required to pay the 50 EUR fee. They also noted that there was still plenty of space available in the overhead lockers.
In the 20 or so years that I have been flying, I have never had such a terrible and traumatic airport experience. Airline ‘X’ has been known to be an airline that is accessible to both business and leisure travelers, and one should never expect to be treated like complete trash, especially when they are paying money for the service. I cannot even imagine such an awful incident occurring with a business man, or any other professional who is using the airline. It is unthinkable. And it is especially unthinkable when you realize that we belong to such a global community in which one person’s voice can be carried quite a long way. I am truly shocked at what occurred with your airline yesterday and what a horrible taste it has left in my mouth about how your business is run!
Furthermore, I have been wrongly charged a 50 EUR fee for which I would like to be compensated. I will not tolerate such atrocious treatment and request your immediate attention to this incident. I kindly request a reply on your behalf so that I am not required to take further action.
Airline ‘X’ Passenger