Monday, March 2, 2009

What did I just pay for?

My wife and I booked a vacation a few months ago. We're set to travel in about a month. We decided to support a local business and booked a trip for eight people with Maritime Travel. As everyone in the group that was traveling with us had strict travel time needs, we wanted to deal with someone face to face to ensure that we could trust the travel itinerary and rely on a local human being for assistance if something was to come up. I don't ordinarily care if the person I'm dealing with is local, but I wanted everyone else who was traveling with me to feel comfortable too.

We'll be flying on Canada's other charter airline - Air Transat. We usually fly with Air Canada when going to an all-inclusive resort, as they tend to actually organize these things pretty good (in comparison to the debauchery they call domestic travel). We arranged the flights so that everyone could arrive home at a convenient time and feel rested prior to getting back to work. Nothing sucks more than needing a vacation after a vacation. So, we'll be flying out on a direct flight on a Friday night and flying directly home on a Sunday night. Direct being the #1 influence on our decision to book an Air Transat Vacation through Maritime Travel.

Then a few days ago my wife received an email from Maritime Travel. Nothing big. They just wanted to inform us that our direct flight down south would now be a little less direct, stopping in Jamaica. The flight that we paid a premium for to go direct was now stopping at a country further south than our destination. As a result, our arrival time shifted by 3 hours so that we arrive well after midnight. Our departure time pushed out about the same so that we'll be arriving home Monday morning at about 7:00am. I'll be sleep deprived and pissed off rolling into work after my vacation.

The best part about this interaction with Maritime Travel is that they don't actually care. They didn't apologize or provide any alternative. There was no gesture of "sorry this screws things up for you, could we provide you with x for your inconvenience?". Instead the response was
"We have no control over the change in flight. Air Transat is responsible for the change and you will need to talk to them. Air Transat reserves the right to change the itenerary - it says so in the Terms and Conditions of your vacation package".

First of all -
the Terms and Conditions are in the catalog you buy these packages from. Not on a receipt. Not noticeably on any material from Maritime Travel. They were also never mentioned during the purchase. But that's understandable. I'm in advertising. Without fine print, there would be a lot of stressed out executives and under employed lawyers.

Second of all - Who gives a sh@*$ about the Terms and Condition AND the fact that Maritime Travel doesn't control the flights. If I sell spinach and the spinach sucks, I don't tell my customers that there's nothing I can do because I'm just the grocery store. I get better spinach. I stand behind the products I sell. I look for an alternative way to keep these customers coming back to my grocery store. Getting the sale is only the first step in the keeping a customer. Don't forget the rest.

Two things that need to be said:
  1. Martime Travel: You need to empower your employees to help people. Your local. Your not Expedia (who does help people - funny). If you're going to take someones money, you better be able to back up your commitment. I paid you for a specific vacation experience. You have provided a sub-par experience to-date with no will to assist me further and no suggestions for alternative solutions (let me help: room upgrade, apology, discount, call Air Transat) And I haven't even started my vacation. Make me feel that I bought a vacation through a local business and a human being for a reason.
  2. Air Transat: That's a low blow. I know you probably changed the flight because my direct flight wasn't full. But that's not my fault. I shouldn't be penalized. The only difference between you and Air Canada in my purchase decision was a direct flight. You've eliminated the only advantage you offered. It only reinforced the fact that the resorts that I'm traveling to are not yet full. What can you give me that will make me happy? I'm not sure. Your bureaucracy will probably eliminate the possibility of a discount and room change.
All eight of us traveling will be hard pressed to ever book another vacation through Air Transat. Unfortunately for Maritime Travel, the same impression is left on them. I'll stick to booking online where companies try harder, offer better value, and a more positive experience.