KLM Airlines – When An Upgrade Is Really A Downgrade

KLM Seat Map KLM Seat PitchFor those of us who fly frequently for work or business, there seem to be fewer and fewer perks afforded these days to frequent flyers these days. The entire experience of business travel is often a stressful and soul destroying one, fraught with long queues at the security, lost passengers, cancelled/delayed flights and very little in the way of edible food or on board perks once you get on board your flight. And with airlines these days maximising load factors with flights nearing full capacity by way of selling more Economy seats and having fewer Business Class seats, the days of a freebie upgrade have all but diminished.

So imagine the joy experienced by one KLM passenger who was told he was being upgraded on a flight from Prague to Amsterdam, only to have that jubilant feeling dashed immediately when he was told by the ground crew that although he was being bumped up to Business Class, he wasn’t allowed to avail of the creature comforts everyone else was to enjoy near the pointy end of the flight. WHAT?!

This is what happened to a passenger who wrote about his experience in a complaint to KLM. KLM’s new preferred method of dealing with customer queries, compliments and complaints is via their Facebook and Twitter social media tools. Given the very public nature of social media, it means that the airline’s dirty laundry is aired in public for all and sundry to see, and this one makes for interesting reading.

I managed to reach out to the passenger in question to find out more. It turns that on his return flight back to Amsterdam, he was told he was being “upgraded”. BUT, he was told he wouldn’t be served a business class meal and wouldn’t be getting the frequent flyer points either. To make matters worse, when he was nearing the plane, it was only then that he realised that his preferred seat – which was a window seat in the Economy Comfort section in KLM’s premium economy cabin – was substituted for an aisle seat. Not only that, but the aircraft in question has no difference in seat pitch or seat comfort between the Business Class and the Economy Comfort. So he was effectively moved from a seat he paid extra for to a seat he didn’t want and has clearly stated in his passenger profile on KLM’s frequent flyer programme that he doesn’t like.

But wait, it gets better. Because whilst he knew he wasn’t getting a Business Class meal, the cabin crew made doubly sure that both he AND his fellow passengers knew that he was “upgraded” by way on blabbing out loud to him during the cabin service that he was only entitled to an economy meal. It was at this stage, he explained, that he reached boiling point, because in his eyes, he had not been “upgraded”, despite the ground staff and cabin crew repeatedly using that phrase to him. If anything, he explained, he had received a “seat reassignment”.

When he arrived home, he wrote a complaint to KLM, expecting the airline to acknowledge the error of their ways, and offer up a remedy or token of apology, but their responses only further served to rankle him. His biggest frustration, he emailed to me, was that the airline continued to reply scripted responses feigning platitudes of insipid and insincere apologies over his experience during the flight, and never once offering anything at all to make-up for the fact that his “upgrade” wasn’t an “upgrade”, but rather a “downgrade”.

In his original opening complaint, he wrote to KLM explaining the dictionary definition of an upgrade, i.e. the definition of an upgrade is “an occurrence in which one thing is replaced by something better, newer, more valuable, etc”, and further explaining that being moved from a preferred seat, to a worse location AND not being treated the same as your fellow passengers in Business Class does not, by definition, meet the criteria of an “upgrade” and therefore should not be referred to as such. It’s hard to disagree with the man.

From their replies (see the attached conversation), however, it’s pretty self evident that the customer services people either didn’t understand his point, didn’t care about his point, or weren’t empowered/inclined to do something to make it up to him. Even when he pointed out to KLM that Business Class is not just a seat, it’s a service – a selling point that the likes of Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Emirates, Virgin and Cathay capitalise on – the airline failed to acknowledge the issue.

I know many of you will look at this and think it’s another one of these “First World Problems”. That it’s merely someone being difficult. However, there is a valid point to his argument, which is that if an airline sells the concept of a frequent flyer programme to customers, with one of those benefits being upgrades and preferential treatment for it’s most revered passengers. When they treat that loyal customer like a second class citizen, that same passenger who has helped keep that airline in business, then maybe it’s time to start thinking about flying with someone else.

The differences in customer service, quality of product offerings on-board with Asian/Middle Eastern airlines versus European Flag Carriers and US airlines has long been discussed in travel forums across the internet. Everyone knows that the Gold Standard of in-flight service and customer service on the ground is held by the likes of Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates Airlines.It’s the principle concept of good customer service in any business and in any industry, and these three lead the way. And they have proven that if you treat your customers well, they will come back time and again. But treat them with contempt and you’ve lost not just one, but perhaps hundreds of potential customers, new and old. A lesson KLM’s latest financials would suggest that they cannot afford to ignore.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, KLM will do regarding this issue. They had made noises about offering our weary traveller a “surprise” on his next flight. But it appears that doing their “utmost” meant doing nothing at all. It’s one thing to ignore and shrug off a complaint, it’s quite another to promise you’ll resolve it, and then break that same promise. My guess is that this wasn’t the first passenger KLM have done this to, and it will most likely not be the last. And scripted false apologies on Facebook are also not the way to handle such things either. But if you, like me, travel a lot for business, you might might find yourself also getting a “downgrade” soon.

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The Dutch Stereotype

Dutch StereotypesThis has been doing the rounds on the interweb, and I thought it was quite amusing, if not true for many regions/towns. Designed by a Dutchman, VictorVan, he posted it on reddit and it’s now gone viral.

Not sure if many of my Dutch friends will agree, but I know many of my expat friends living in the Netherlands will no doubt agree and even have a chuckle or two also.

Emotional Speech from NL Foreign Minister

Frans Timmermans UN Security CouncilThe Dutch Foreign Minister, Mr. Frans Timmermans, addressed the United Nations Security Council, and gave an emotional and embittered speech denouncing the treatment of the remains of the victims in the downing of flight MH17 and the political gamesmanship undertaken by the Kremlin and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, who almost a week since the disaster have still not handed the remains over to Dutch investigators for repatriation to the Netherlands and beyond.

It speaks volumes that the Minister, usually a master of understatement and diplomacy, broke with protocol and gave such an emotionally charged and moving speech to the UN. It’s fair to say that the tone of his speech mirrors that of many of my own Dutch friends and colleagues. Their anger at the images of bodies being ransacked for valuables and the crash site being trampled on, whilst their own investigators and members of the OSCE are bared from entering and can only look on, is palpable.

KLM Tweet Exemplifies Dutch Racism And Arrogance

KLM Mexico Jibe

This is the tweet that has set the twittersphere alight with anger over the Dutch win against Mexico. What was supposedly meant as a joke has turned into a PR disaster for the Dutch national airline, KLM. It’s a lesson on how social media can instantly ruin a brand with just one click.

The tweet was deleted without apology or explanation after outraged fans began retweeting it in anger. Among the offended was Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, who managed to swear twice in the space of 140 characters to criticize the airline and vow never to fly on it again.

Mexican Outrage KLM

It quickly sparked a social media storm of criticism with many saying it was racist.

“Planning your exit out of South America soon, slave traders,” said one angry Twitter user of the picture.

But it’s not funny. It’s typical Dutch arrogance masked as “humour”. Of course, many Cloggies (and yes, if they’re gonna use a sombrero, then I’m within my right to continue calling them cloggies) simply do not even recognise the racist stereotyping, as evidenced by this reply on Twitter

KLM Nadine Koppers Response

It’s offensive, politically incorrect and opportunistic. It only serves to highlight the ingrained, but hugely suppressed, racism that exists in a country that has regularly failed to publically acknowledge or apologise for its historical hand in the slave trading industry and whom, to this very day, preys on minorities in its own country every chance they get demanding that they “conform” to the Dutch way of life.

In fact, once a year they even revel in their slaver past. Take “Zwarte Piet” (Black Pete) for example. A blackened slave helper who is the “cheeky” and “mischievous” helper of the Dutch Sinterklaas – they are the Dutch equivalent of Santa’s helpers. Of course, the Dutch think it perfectly normal to have the remnants of the slave era as perfectly acceptable form of endearment for their children.

If these are the values that the Dutch and their government insist that newcomers should integrate with, and that way of life is comfortable with openly offending other races, nationalities, religions and reverting to stereotypes, then its no wonder that immigrants to the Netherlands generally prefer to retain their own people oriented values, rather than adopting those of an arrogant fool.

KLM has clearly stepped on a landmine. Will it greatly impact the airline? Probably not, and the rebuke on Twitter will probably not do anything to reverse the insularly suppressed racism that exists in the Netherlands, but at least the cat is now out of the bag. I’ve always believed that the Dutch are closet racists. This myth of a tolerant society is exactly that, a myth. Live here long enough and you’ll discover a hotbed of hatred for anyone who does not conform or follow their rules – usually manifested in a form of “Clogic”™.

As for the football? For me personally, I’m waiting for the Argentina game to see the Dutch get their just-desserts.

KLM Tweet Screengrab

New Band – Beans & Fatback

Beans&Fatback

I’m always complaining about the lack of good music acts that come from the Netherlands and who can actually PLAY an instrument as opposed to the plethora of pill-popping Dutch DJ’s who suffer from ADHD.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered this fantastic act called Beans & Fatback who have brought rhythm & blues into the new millennium kicking and screaming. Their music is fresh, full of bass and reminds me of smooth talking used-car salesman talking his way out of a whiskey fuelled bar room brawl…..you know you just want to listen to more after hearing the first song 🙂

Enjoy.

Parking Pricks

Audi Parking

I’ve harped on before about inconsiderate Dutch drivers in general and Audi drivers in particular. But the photo above has prompted me to come up with a new idea, that of the “Parking Prick Post”.

I’ve already seen many examples whilst living here, as attested below, of inconsiderate, or just plain dumb, parking and I’ve decided that rather than let it bother me, I am going to use it as fodder for my blog.

So far, most of the miscreants are SUV drivers, which would suggest that either they are completely misjudging how big their car really is, and think of it’s proportions more akin to an Abrams tank than that of a family SUV. Or they are just wankers who couldn’t be arsed to adjust their car so that other users can avail of the spaces provided.

In Spain, many parking spaces are without the useful white lines, and so quite often you see large spaces which, if combined, could easily fit another two or three cars in the same row. But the Spaniards are to be forgiven, because there’s nothing marked on the road to point out their flawed parking. In Holland, the land that is more bureaucratic and hell bent on following rules than their German cousins across the border, it boggles my mind to think that they simply can’t be arsed and choose to park willy-nilly however they damn well please.

One would think that given the ability of the Dutch to milk everyone for exorbitant charges, to come up with fines and fees for all sorts of reasons and their ability to fleece customers left, right and centre of their hard earned cash, that they’d have already employed hundreds of parking attendants whose sole purpose in life was to slap a big fine on such thoughtless, selfish and boorish drivers. After all with “clogic™” (Cloggy Logic) being a deciding factor here, it is clearly a great little earner and a way for car park owners to compensate for the revenue they’ve missed due to the number of parking spaces no longer made available.

So starting today, I am going to photograph and publish every car user I come across who simply didn’t bother to think about how inconsiderate and asocial his/her parking affects their fellow drivers. And in the process my rising blood pressure should hopefully drop by a couple of millimetres.

I must also add that this behavioural phenomenon is not uniquely Dutch, as I’ve witnessed equal measures of contempt for fellow drivers in other cities across the world during my travels. So I will be only too happy to include tossers from this blue/green marble of ours into the “Parking Prick” posts wherever they were spotted.

I would also like to extend an invitation to my readers and invite you to send me your photo’s so I can upload and share them also. You can send me a message via the blog and I’ll send you the details on how you can submit your photo’s.

Happy motoring.

Dutch Parking

Not sure if this person’s guide-dog was at the vet’s, or if they were just being ultra careful to prevent damage to their car from other parked vehicles.

This idiot thought it would OK to park in front of a "Clearway" area marked by the Fire Brigade so they can use the canal water below in the event of a fire.

This idiot thought it would OK to park in front of a “Clearway” area marked by the Fire Brigade so they can use the canal water below in the event of a fire.

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Although this Alfa Romeo is small, the owner clearly believe’s it’s much wider that it really is as they decided that one parking space was not enough. And the piller is not an excuse as it’s clearly not that much of an impediment.

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Another SUV driver, this time a BMW X5, who has decided that the parking spaces are simply not large enough.

NS – No Service – Winter Lessons

NS No Service

An Open Letter to the Management of NS

Dear Directors of NS,

I am both a taxpayer and a customer, and as both, I have become increasingly annoyed, agitated and aggrieved with the poor level of service one has come to expect from NS.

When things are “normal” and weather does not seem to be a factor in running a rail network, there is still never a single week that I do not suffer from a delay or cancellation in some way, shape or form. It is, sadly, something I have come to expect as part of the value added services you are providing me. Maybe it is the Dutch way of forcing its citizens to try and lose some weight from the excessive sandwiches they eat on your trains when commuting each morning, that by regular cancellations or delays you force us to walk or cycle home once in a while, because we cannot be arsed to wait a second longer on the cold, wet damp platforms of your stations.

But then you added an extra feature to your trains…more seats….in exchange for removing toilets on your trains. I know who to thank the next time I am on a train, which is stuck in the middle of the tracks, not moving (presumably because a wayward leaf blew onto the track necessitating a complete halt to the rail network while engineers plucked said leaf out of harms way) and I have that wonderful feeling of my bladder about to explode. I will be happy and content in the knowledge that I cannot do anything about it until we get to the station, because someone in their infinite wisdom thought it a good idea to remove the toilets from every carriage on your new rolling stock!

I guess I should feel good now that you’ve added more seats. It certainly justifies the exorbitant prices you charge, and continue to increase year after year. In fact, so clever are your boffins in accounting and legal, that you’ve found ways to circumvent the law to facilitate the increase of ticket prices twice a year, which clearly contradicts the agreement you made with the Dutch government when you became a semi-state company.

I especially feel like I am getting value for money now that the winter snows and frost have arrived. The fact that you were ever so considerate about my ability to get into work, or visit friends, during this savage winter weather by reducing the number of trains on the network was genius. The fact that your German neighbours, or countries like Russia, Ukraine and Finland have never felt the need to have to implement similar changes to their timetables matters not a jot to you, because you’ve really only got my needs in mind. It is so considerate, thank you.

But you know, I think it’s high time you perhaps stopped buying trains that cease to work when there’s a touch of frost or the occasional leaf on the line, like the new high-speed FYRA trains. Afterall, the Russian’s and Ukrainians have been managing quite well for quite some time without any hiccups. Oh, and changing those “defrosters” at the points which run on a gas burner with a pilot light that’s snuffed out with a heavy snowfall is about a decade too late. Ze Germans changed those same problematic gas ones with electric heaters already back in the late 1990’s!

I’ve included a video (please see above) which demonstrates how the New Zealanders (related to you Cloggies, no?) are able to get around by train in the snow. Perhaps, along with your over-paid salaries, you guys might be able to cobble together a budget for a fun-in-the-sun fact finding mission to New Zealand to find out more. Don’t worry…..I’ll cover the costs of the trip with my higher fares later this year.

Thanks again,

IrishmanAbroad