In September last year I flew to Germany and had a generally fabulous time for a few weeks. I have a Velocity Rewards card, which is the frequent flyer program of Virgin Australia, so I chose to fly with Etihad as they are a partner airline for the program.
The tickets were affordable, and the service from Etihad was brilliant. They were truly helpful accommodating my medical needs, and both the airport staff and flight crews were delightful. Even the food was edible, which isn’t something I often expect on flights.
When I returned home I noticed that my frequent flyer points from Etihad had not been credited to my Velocity account, but the two domestic sections that I flew with Virgin were there. Odd. When I rang Velocity they advised that it could take up to 12 weeks for the points to appear as I had flown with a partner airline, not Virgin themselves. Fair enough, I can appreciate a bit of back end paperwork occurs.
The 12 weeks came. The 12 weeks went. The points did not arrive. I contacted my travel agent at Flight Centre, who was surprised as my Velocity number had been provided at the time of booking. I sent her a scanned copy of my eticket and the boarding passes I still had, and she immediately forwarded this to Velocity. Velocity’s response was that it would take 12 weeks for the points to be credited to my account. Sigh. Fine. This was now December.
Another 12 weeks came. Another 12 weeks went. No surprises, given I am now blogging about this, that the points did not arrive. I contacted my travel agent with a few days to spare, asking if perhaps Velocity had replied to her and forgotten to copy me in. No such luck. My travel agent resent the information to Velocity, passing on a highly edited version of my displeasure with their service. She was also getting precious little feedback, and suggested that perhaps I would get a faster response if I called them myself.
After a few days to calm down and think of something polite to say, I called them on March 27. For those who can’t be bothered doing the maths, this was more than six months after my original flight. The customer service representative told me multiple sources where the problem had potentially arisen. My travel agent had not correctly entered my Velocity number when she booked the tickets. I should have noticed my Velocity number had not been printed on my Etihad boarding pass. He said they had contacted Etihad twice, and not received a response from them yet. I became so frustrated during this call that I asked if it would be easier to just never fly with Etihad again if I was going to be stuffed around like this. The dismayed representative told me I couldn’t refuse to fly with them again just because of this. My response: “sure I can”. He was suddenly in damage control mode, assuring me that they would have a response within 4 weeks, with lots of pleading that I not take my business elsewhere. Then I sent a complaint email to Etihad, just in case Velocity weren’t lying to me about the source of the delay.
On Monday I finally received my first communication from Velocity that wasn’t an instruction to wait 12 weeks. Truly, I love this email (ooh, here comes the sarcasm again). Sections with *** have been removed.
Dear MS GRACEY,
I’m just getting back to you about those missing Points from your Etihad Airways flights.
For the flights detailed below, Im sorry to say that we are unable to credit into your account as the mention flights cannot be found in our database.
Please email us the copy of :
1. boarding passes / ticket stubs
2. E ticket / Itinerary
Once we receive the above, we’ll confirm those details with Etihad Airways and get back to you as soon as we can.
In putting together the claiming procedure efficiently, it is best that you quote your Velocity Membership Number on the documents that you sent in.
If we can assist you further please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com or the telephone number below.
Velocity Frequent Flyer
I wasn’t happy. I sent an email to this effect. It was a lot shorter than the first few drafts I wrote, but equally scathing. I copied my travel agent on my reply as they had not included her in their email. My response from Velocity?
Thank you for your enquiry. We will respond to your message as quickly as possible, if your matter is urgent and requires a response within the next 5 days please call us on 131 875. We are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday (Sydney Time).
Velocity Frequent Flyer
This is not good customer service. Good customer service would have included some sort of mechanism after the first request to identify that it was still unresolved, triggering an internal follow up from Velocity. Someone could have picked up the phone, called Etihad, and confirmed that the request had at least been received. This is not the job of the customer; it is the responsibility of the company providing the service.
As a customer, I am now presented with an uncomfortable dilemma. I have learned a valuable lesson about checking my Velocity number is printed on the boarding pass, but beyond this I am uncertain how to prevent these problems in the future. Do I refuse to do business with my travel agent now because Velocity have said she did not correctly enter my number in the booking? Given how proactive she was about making sure she had the number before she made the booking, I am inclined to believe she was not at fault here. Do I refuse to do business with Etihad again, and choose instead a different partner airline? Or do I refuse to do business with Velocity and join a different frequent flyer program, sacrificing my current points and level with this program?
Bad customer service creates these dilemmas. At this point it is highly unlikely that I will ever do business again with all parties involved at once. A losing situation has been created, where effective procedures and communication would have averted the initial problem. These few points are my problem, but the lost future business? Well, that certainly won’t be my problem. I’ve always enjoyed flying with Singapore Airlines. I wonder if they have their own loyalty program…