Sunday, June 13, 2010

Have an awful Vueling!

I am tired to repeat that training and development are absolutely essential for any self-respecting company. "Self-respecting" is an important observation, because Vueling is not (I will not even bother myself making a url-link).

I'll explain what I am talking about. I spent this weekend in Barcelona. Totally cool city, awesome by all measures, teaming with sizzlingly hot people, who don't really care for anything other than sun, good food and their gorgeous bodies. Those bodies are scattered around the beaches and if you walk long enough you can get more than you have bargained for.

I have deviated from the topic however. As ill luck would have it, Vueling was my company of choice to airbear me from rainy Madrid to sunny Barcelona. I damn the day I opened my laptop to book those tickets. Ag, I was ecstatic to see Erika again, whom I have not seen for seven years since back way when going to bed sober was considered mauvais ton. The thought that she would be leaving Spain for London (how dreadful is that!!! but there are reasons of course) the following Saturday and I hate travelling to countries that require me to apply for their visas kept me from sending everyone including the kind and sympathetic coffee lady to hell and taking the metro back to my apartment. Sentiments aside, I was determined like a bull at a corrida to get my ass to Barcelona that very night one way or the other.

The problems began as per the script: announced delay 20 minutes, delay in real life figures 50 minutes (nearly like Spanish banks and their liability figures!), but I would have been willing to swallow that painlessly - what else can you expect from a budget airline. Still, budget should not necessarily mean cheap!!! They announce that there is an IT problem in the plane (wtf?) and they will take some time trying to fix it (we are already sitting in the plane, me trying to prop my head against my neighbor's shoulder hoping for a quick one. a nap, i mean). The next thing I hear from the loudspeakers (they need to teach their British pilots to speak proper Spanish, by the way) is that we are going back to the terminal and everyone needs to disembark. 

What happened after that I already tried to drown in immense amounts of alcohol while in Barcelona - virtually impossible. Poor passengers (not because they fly budget airlines, but because they were dismal and dismayed by the treatment from Vueling) were ping-ponged from one gate to another for the next two hours. People jumping the queues were pathetic. The image of an old man with a large grey mustache (and evidently rheumatism) trying to crawl under the dividing line, failing and kowtowing back into attacking crowd is permanently chiseled in my memory now. An alternative title for the blog was "Ever Felt Like Cattle?" Yeah, somewhere close. Everything ended with playing bingo - the company representatives shouting boarding pass numbers of the lucky ones who would make it to the following flight and the crowd cheering for the lucky ones as if they had just won an apartment in Alicante.

Back to staff training. I would have not been so pissed off if I were treated as a valued customer rather than a liability they have the misfortune to deal with. When I asked for a copy of the Passenger Rights leaflet after two hours of waiting, I was directed to the Vueling office, but I was strongly advised against it, as there might be an announcement and I would miss it. No need to say that my question whether someone from the staff could bring some was merely ignored. Repetition did not help... Staring at a crowd of angry passengers was a much more chore than picking up the phone and calling the office upstairs. Normally, I am an extraordinarily patient person, but when faced with rudeness, I start being difficult. So I asked for the meal vouchers. The delay was more than two hours so that was our legitimate right. Guess what I got in response: they could give us the vouchers but we should not go to the stores as there would be announcements and we might miss the plane. That was over the top - please let me decide what to do with the voucher and where to wait for the announcement, but you must do what you are required by law. From then on, the customers were merely ignored.

The moral is not that I was slightly tipped off, but that from now on I will try to avoid flying with Vueling as much as I can and whenever I speak to my friends I would advise against the company as hard as I can. Yes, when it comes to customer service, it is not the CEO and clever marketers who are making the sales and the image of the company, but the frontline, and the frontline in their case is extremely weak.

Still, our life is more than that. Seeing Erika again and all the parties/lunches/dinners we went to are so much more than a minor nuisance of a Spanish airline. I went back to my US pictures, which are 7-8 years old now - gosh, such good memories! I have picked a couple:

Ah yes, the sushi party. Can't recall what was the best part - making those, eating or sleeping after. Someone was freaking out. Sorry, can't help it - I have distinguished sleeping habits.

Erika, Takahiro (whose ID I normally used to get into over 21 bars & clubs) and me. Yeah, I can fake the Japanese accent quite convincingly - sulplice!!!

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