Should Speak Plane-ly

| Working | April 18, 2017

(My husband is flying from the US to Germany. I will be picking him up at Frankfurt Airport when he comes in. Before he boards his plane he texts me that they are boarding 20 minutes late. When I get up the next morning and check the website the plane is expected over four hours (!) late. I am wondering how 20 minutes turned into four hours so I decide to call the airline to see if I can get more information and verify that this is correct.)

Airline: *automated message* “Thank you for calling [Airline]. All our representatives are currently busy helping other callers. If you want to switch to an English speaking representative to cut down your waiting time please press 1.”

(I have lived in the US, so my English is fine, and I press 1.)

Agent: *with an Indian accent* “Hello, this is [Agent] with [Airline]. How may I help you?”

Me: “My husband is on [Flight] from Houston to Frankfurt. He texted me last night. They left Houston 20 minutes late, but now the website says that the flight is expected to arrive four hours late. Can you confirm this for me? Do you happen to know why this is?”

Woman: “So, you calling about [Flight]?”

Me: “Correct.”

Woman: “I see here in my system that it left Houston yesterday at [Time].”

Me: *thinking* “Yes, I know. I just told you this. This isn’t new information.” *actually saying* “Yes.”

Woman: “It will arrive in Frankfurt today at [Time].”

Me: “Yes, I know. This is the scheduled arrival. So, you are saying it WILL arrive at this time? What about the delay listed on the website?”

Woman: “Yes, it is scheduled for [Time].”

(At this point it is painfully clear that basically she hasn’t understood one word of what I said about why I am calling. I consider asking to be transferred to someone who could understand me but I don’t feel like arguing.)

Me: *one last effort* “Yes, I know this is the SCHEDULED arrival. But do you have any information about the EXPECTED arrival?”

Woman: “I don’t have any information about that. You could check the company website…”

Me: “Okay, thank you.”

(I remained neutral and just hung up, figuring it would probably be just as effective to simply call the same number again. This time I waited for a German speaking representative who was local and was able to answer my questions. Am I a bigot for thinking if you work in an English speaking call center you should actually speak enough English to understand why customers are calling?)

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