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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No Fortitude For Longitude, Part 9

| Right | April 18, 2017

(I work in a call centre for an airline making flight bookings to customers. Time difference between Helsinki (GMT+2) and New York (GMT-5) is seven hours.)

Me: “[Airline]. How can I help you?”

Customer: “I want to book return flights from Helsinki to New York. I need go there for a meeting and then come back quickly to another meeting in Helsinki.”

Me: “Sure. When is your meeting you need to attend in New York?”

Customer: “It’s day after tomorrow at 17:00.”

Me: “Okay, that’s really quite a quick departure. Our flights to New York depart at 14:10 and they arrive in New York at 15:55 the same day. I would suggest that you leave tomorrow since you probably won’t get through passport control in an hour to make it to your meeting. Then you would also have at least some time to get used to the time difference.”

Customer: “No, that won’t do, I have a meeting tomorrow here that I need to attend. The meeting is at the airport in New York so I can fly day after tomorrow.”

Me: “Okay, if you’re sure, I’ll book you the flight the day after tomorrow. When would you like to return?”

Customer: “I have meeting the next morning at 9.00 in Helsinki, so I need to get back from there right away.”

Me: “Oh, that is a problem. Our direct flight back to Helsinki leaves at 17:45, but you won’t make it since your meeting starts at 17:00 and that’s the time you would already need to be back at the gate for boarding. Even with that direct flight you would be back in Helsinki the next morning at 8:50 so you would not make it to a meeting starting at 9:00.”

Customer: “What do you mean?”

Me: “If you wish to be in Helsinki the next day at 9:00 you would need to leave latest with our 17:45 direct flight to Helsinki and even then you would be late cause the flight arrives in Helsinki at 8:50 and it takes some time for you to go through the passport control and customs.”

Customer: “What are you talking about? How can it take so long to get back?”

Me: “Miss, the flight time for our direct flight from New York to Helsinki is 8 hours and 5 minutes.”

Customer: “Then what the f*** are you talking about the arrival time? If the plane leaves New York at 17:45, it should be in Helsinki somewhere around 2:00 in the morning? I would have plenty of time to get to my meeting!”

Me: “Miss, please note that these times are always on local time of the city stated 17:45 departure time is local time in New York and 8:50 arrival time is local time in Helsinki and there is a seven-hour time difference in between.”

Customer: “What the f*** are you talking about? If the flight leaves Helsinki at 14:10 and arrives in New York at 15:55, and then you’re telling me the return flight is from 17:45 to 8:50 the next morning? Check your facts, little miss. The flight from here to New York takes about two hours and the return flight fifteen hours?”

Me: “The flight time to New York is 8 hours 45 minutes and the flight time back to Helsinki is 8 hours and 5 minutes, but you need to consider also the time difference. When the flight leaves from Helsinki at 14:10, local time in New York is only 7:10 in the morning, so the plane arrives in New York 8 hours and 45 minutes later at 15:55…”

Customer: “So what you’re basically saying is that it takes for the flight almost 8 times longer to come back from New York than to fly to New York. Look, you little girl, I’ve been flying so much these flights that I know how this works. You’re incompetent. I want to talk to someone more experienced who knows how to make my booking. Transfer me to your supervisor!”

Me: “Certainly, miss.”

(I took a call to my supervisor, explained the situation, and transferred her through. She ended up yelling to my supervisor that our whole company was incompetent and that she was going to make her bookings through another airline that was more professional.)

No Fortitude For Longitude, Part 8
No Fortitude For Longitude, Part 7
No Fortitude For Longitude, Part 6

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Your Scam Tactics Need An Upgrade

, | Right | February 25, 2017

(I work at the counter to check in passengers and I get stupid people all the time but this one takes the cake.)

Me: “Welcome to [Airline]. How can I help?”

Passenger: “Yes, I like to check in to [Destination] and also I’d like to do an upgrade, I have a doctor’s note that says I have to fly in first or business class.”

(I smile and laugh a little because I thought he was joking around but I see how serious he is and doesn’t find my laughing amusing.)

Passenger: “I don’t know what’s so funny; I have doctor’s note, so be more professional and do your job.”

Me: *after hearing that I put on a serious face and then reply* “Okay, sir, I have an upgrade available for $389. How would you like to purchase that?”

Passenger: “Don’t you understand that I have a doctor’s note?”

Me: *still with a serious face* “Well, sir, is your insurance going to cover this upgrade?”

Passenger: *with a confused face* “No, my, insurance doesn’t cover that.”

Me: “Well then, sir, you are going to have to do it like the rest of the country and pay out of your pocket.”

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The Landing Went Down The Toilet

| Right | December 12, 2016

(I am a cabin crew member in economy class, preparing for landing. We are all set and waiting for the captain to announce our landing position, when suddenly an elderly passenger, in the last row, gets up to use the lavatory.)

Me: “I am so sorry, sir, we will be landing soon. The lavatory can no longer be used at this moment.”

Passenger: “I need to use the toilet now!” *shoves his way past me and into the lavatory*

(I have to inform the crew in charge about the situation so that the captain will not make the landing. After the passenger comes out from the lavatory and quietly goes back to his seat, the captain proceeds to make a safe landing. When the aircraft is on ground and passengers are getting up to exit the aircraft, the same passenger comes up to my face.)

Passenger: “You are very rude! No one had ever done that to me. Do you know I have the contact to your company’s president? I have his number right here on my mobile!”

Me: “Sir, it was for your own safety. And if you like to report me to the president, please go ahead. This is my name.”

Passenger: “What if I peed right here in the aircraft?”

Me: “Sir, it was for your safety. You could have gone before we were ready for landing or after landing.”

Passenger: “Kamu orang China bodoh!” *speaking in Bahasa Indonesia, translation: “You stupid China people.”*

Me: “Saya bukan orang China. Saya orang Indonesia. Ini untuk keselamatan bapak.” *me replying to him in Bahasa Indonesia, translation: “I am not from China. I am from Indonesia. I am doing so for your safety, sir”*

(Stumped at my reply, he quickly tried to exit the aircraft while at the same time yelling in Bahasa Indonesia: “Rude, stupid people!”)

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You’re An A**-Hole In Every Language

| Right | December 8, 2016

(I work in a complaints department for an airline based in the UK. We fly to hundreds of airports all over the world. This call comes through from an Italian gentleman who is irate from the beginning.)

Me: “Good morning, [Airline]. How can I help?”

Customer: “I’ve been on hold for twenty f****** minutes! I just need to know why my refund hasn’t gone through!”

Me: “I’m sorry you were kept waiting, sir. We’ve been very busy today. Let me check if the refund has been processed yet. Do you know the amount and what it was for?”

Customer: “You’re not sorry at all; you’re just paid to say that! You English are all the same, thinking you can be polite and it will let you get away with treating your customers terribly!”

Me: *starting to get annoyed after a long morning being shouted at* “I’m sorry you feel that way, sir. I’m trying to help you. Could you tell me what the refund you’re due is for?”

Customer: *grumbling* “I didn’t get the seat I paid for on my flight to Hong Kong last week! You promised it would be in my account by now and it’s not! I had to sit at the back of first class near the business-class people!”

Me: “Okay, let me see what happened.”

(I look through the transaction history for this flight. The total amount he spent on the flight was upwards of £8,000 and the total amount he would be due for a refund is £20. I scroll down and see that the amount was refunded to his credit card three days ago.)

Me: “Sir, I see on my system here that the £20 was refunded to your card ending **** on Thursday.”

Customer: “Are you calling me stupid? Don’t lie to me, you English b****! You’re all the same! I want my money back in the next hour! I’m never flying with you again! Your pilots can’t fly and they should learn to speak Italian!”

Me: “Are you suggesting out pilots learn the language of every country we fly to?”

Customer: “Of course! It’s common courtesy, something you English don’t seem to understand!”

Me: “Sir, we fly to hundreds of airports across the world. Instead of learning to speak languages from across the world, our pilots are making sure our passengers are safe on comfortable on every flight. However, regardless of whether you fly with us again or not, I can assure you that the money you were owed has been returned to you.”

Customer: “Bull-s***! You don’t have nearly the same high standards as [Competitor European Airline] have!”

Me: *impatient now* “You’re telling me that all pilots at [Competitor European Airline] can speak Italian, English, Hungarian, Japanese, Finnish, Spanish, Mandarin, Icelandic, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian—”

Customer: *click*

(I got a warning for that call, but I didn’t care.)

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