, your company is broken, hope your planes work better.(my apologies in advance, what follows is long-winded, but I need to vent)
As a fairly frequent flyer, I've become accustomed to the instant gratification, the fluid experience of booking tickets online. Search, quote, pay, and voila
, you're pretty much ready to board. That makes my experience tonight a bit of a hard landing.
It started easy enough: book the family tickets to Greece for this summer. Alitalia was not the cheapest, but it's part of Skyteam, the alliance where - thank you +Air France
- I have status, which comes in handy when you intend to fly with wife, baby, and dog in tow. Plenty of available flights, lots of options, wonderful, if a tiny bit pricy, but hey, summer comes but once a year. So search, click, book, click, pay, click... error. Won't take the Amex. Ok, let's try Visa. Error. Hmmm. Let's try again, both options, a couple of times. Error. Error. Error. "Alitalia.Portal.WebFrontend.LCWP.Booking.Web.Resources.Messages.PaymentMethodError"
to be precise.
Ok, that's fine, bugs happen, even to the best of them. Let's get someone on the phone to sort it out. I have a PNR (i.e. a reservation reference), shouldn't be too hard. Fun fact: I'm in Taiwan this week, but broadband works great, I have Skype and other tools, shouldn't be a problem. I get the Alitalia number for France (they have a regular number you can call from abroad), call it, and get... a recording, asking me to call a premium number, which Skype/Hangouts can't call. I guess they see my Skype call as a local call, not coming from abroad, that's funny, I never get that problem with Air France. I try again, this time with the main support center in Italy. Same deal, it thinks I am in Italy and wants me to call a premium number. In both cases, I guess Skype and Google have local gateways, which would explain why Alitalia sees my call as a local call, but this is really a case of the system trying to be too smart, and Alitalia being a little greedy, trying to extract a little extra change from you, through a premium number, at the risk of leaving you high and dry if the system gets it wrong.
So, Plan C, let's try and make a new reservation, on the main Alitalia website this time (and not the .fr I was using previously). Oh, but of course, the prices for my flights went up, by 70 euros. That's only logical: the reservation that went nowhere is still in the damn system, reducing the number of available seats. It's like I'm doing Alitalia's job, maximizing its revenue management, how wonderful. Or maybe it just sees the same reservation request coming from the same IP, and jacks up the price a bit to coax me into booking now
. And it doesn't matter, because, to make a long story short, same results, same error, still can't get that damn payment to go through, however I try to do it. I now have two full reservations, but no tickets to show for it.
Only solution left: bite the bullet, hard, use my mobile phone, and spend a fortune in roaming trying to call a number that I can't access by cheaper means, Skype and all.
So I call, get an agent, explain my problem, the bug on the website, and ask him to issue my original tickets, and take my payment information over the phone. “I don’t have a price on that reservation, let me talk to my manager”, he says. And then we get disconnected. After ten minutes of a very pricy conversation. So I try again, get someone else, start that conversation from scratch. After fifteen minutes of back and forth, the agent says she’s going to re-create the same reservation, same flights and all. Sure, why not. Problem is, the new reservation (that’s my third, in less than two hours, in case you're counting) is - you guessed it - more expensive than the previous ones. Why can’t she just cancel the previous reservations, or just issue the tickets I booked ? Well, to paraphrase “it’s because they were booked online, it would cause a problem with the system”
I will repeat that: Alitalia, in the real, carbon-based world, cannot issue its own tickets, the ones that Alitalia, the website, will let you book online
. This is worse than the right hand not being aware of what the left hand is doing, it's like the right hand has no idea that there is a left hand. This, truely, is unheard of. At least to me. At least until tonight.
This is not about the money. My original tickets were 1125 euros, the “new and improved” ones, in the same class of travel, 1201 euros. I’m even - irony alert - paying for booking fees, of course, since I had to use the call center. It’s 75 euros, a wound time will heal, no doubt. So it’s not the money. It’s the incompetence, the obfuscation, the making-things-way-harder-than-they-should-be
that galls me. Trust me, I understand how sometimes an agent, or even a company won’t be able to book that fare you saw online somewhere else. But this is a case of a company so broken it can’t tie its own shoes.
Dear Alitalia, the way I see it, you owe me the 75 euro difference in price, plus the roughly 70 euros I just spent unneededly calling you from Taiwan at 2+ euros/minute. Plus hopefully a nice capuccino when I fly through Fiumicino this august.
Oh, and +Air France
? Let’s just say the more I date other companies, the more I love you, warts and all.