A few years ago — just before Xmas Eve — I was travelling from the United States back to Australia for Xmas with Air New Zealand. I ran into a few hiccups along the way and decided to pen this open letter to Air New Zealand management team while I sat on a cold hard airport floor waiting for my flight to depart which had been delayed many hours. It was written with definite sarcasm in mind at the time.
To Air New Zealands credit — they responded with a well humoured note and sent over a Xmas hamper to apologize. I’ve remained a customer since and thought I would share the original letter.
If you are travelling, enjoy the Xmas holiday flying season. It’s never dull.
Subject: Thanks for the free air. And not much else.
Hi Air NZ,
I thought I would write a letter to you — just to tell you the “experience” that you have created for your “Koru” members while waiting for a 6 hour delayed flight at SFO.
I have flown your airline from Melbourne, Australia to San Francisco a few times across the last year from my homeland of Australia, through your beautiful country, to a valley laced in silicon — Silicon Valley in California, USA.
Upon arriving to the Airport at San Francisco and discovering that the flight was 6 hours delayed — which was very disappointing since no one seemed to offer any assistance in figuring out how I would make my connecting flight out of Auckland tomorrow other than to say “call this number” to ensure I would be home with my family for Xmas. “Not very Saint Nick like” — was my thinking at this festive time of year.
As a brief aside, Xmas is a special time of year. A lot of people like to be with their families — spreading the holiday cheer, enjoying a few beers and generally feeling the merriness of xmas. Indeed the premium I paid for my flight — primarily because your internal pricing algorithms ensure that prices are maximized during high demand periods like this — meant that I was paying a premium for this experience. Alas, however, there is no Xmas cheer in this story — and nor is there a premium experience.
I was given a “$20 Food Voucher” to “shop around at the restaurants” (surely some better branding here could be undertaken — why not call it a “Air New Zealand Food Experience Voucher” — something much better than a crumpled piece of paper with $20 printed on it that makes it look like a World War II food stamp. You guys can easily — at least — make me feel special for something that is completely your fault.
Either way, I thought I would give my food stamp to a passing person who looked like they needed it much more than I did — and its Xmas right ?— so I should be sharing the love. Further, since I have a “Koru” membership — I felt safe and secure that I would have lounge access until my flight given the considerable 6 hour delay.
Yeah, another huge fail thinking that. Off I trotted through the security gates, with its a huge queue and prostate probing virtual screening process, to reach the lounge you have “rented” from Singapore Airlines — only to discover that you only provide service there until 7pm. “But what am I to do after 7pm?” — I wondered — perhaps thinking, “Surely Air New Zealand has thought aboutthis same thing considering they have just delayed me 6 hours in SFO and another 5 hours in Auckland — for a total of 11 additional hours to get to Melbourne, Australia”
Again, alas no — you didn’t think of this. Instead, at 7pm — all I received was a “We’re closed. Go to the United Lounge” with a snap of the rented lounge doors. So at 7pm — off I merrily trot to arrive at the United Lounge where I am ultimately told “Terribly sorry about that butunless you are a Gold Member at our lounge — you sir, are not welcome”. So after many international flights this year between Australia and the US, a paid membership to the Koru lounge — you won’t even look after me after a flight delay that is completely your fault ? Simple answer — nope.
So now I type this email, as a paying Koru club member, whose flight has been delayed 6 hours in SFO, whose connecting flight has been missed completely, who has an additional 6 hour delay in Auckland after spending 1hr on the line to rebook a flight and who now arrives home at 6pm on Xmas Eve (fingers crossed). I mean all I wanted was a bit of wifi, a few dry biscuits, a cushioned seat and an body odor free environment — and instead — all I get is tethering from my mobile, a bunch of free air and a cold tile imprint on my ass.
It is me — or it just seems that there is just no Xmas miracle in this story. I fly with you to support your airline and because you fly to SF directly and it's great to get between my family in Australia and Silicon Valley. Your planes aren’t new, most are 10 years old to SF — I have to reset my video screen at least 1x every trip because it freezes and I also have to descrub the channel controller to use it — and Qantas clearly beats you in every way until you upgrade your fleet — but I’ll stick with you because your Safety Videos are cool, your staff are lovely and I like that you align yourselves with Virgin.
Indeed, and perhaps now to my dismay, I am also returning on a flight with you on 8 January or so. Who knows how that will go — perhaps I should cancel that flight and rebook with Qantas to LA and then LA to SF. I will be flying this route a bit again next year — and this experience has certainly questioned my allegiance to you and the “value” of a Koru membership.
I love NZ and I don’t really want anything from writing this email. You are the responsible for the experience you create and no one else. Indeed, if there is any Xmas miracle to come from this little story — I hope its that you create a better experience for customers in the future when flights are delayed than the one you created here tonight. It has made you the Xmas Grinch (and no one likes a grinch).
Have a great Xmas and New Year.