John Dunlop’s daughter, Francine, was supposed to fly from Copenhagen to Washington with her four children, including six-month old twins, last Friday. All by herself.
Talk about an impossible trip.
But then KLM made it even more impossible when it denied her boarding four times.
“A tough but doable trip has turned into a nightmare,” says Dunlop, a foreign service officer stationed in Iraq.
“When she first arrived at the airport on the 12th, coming from southern Sweden where she lives, she was told that a paper ticket was required for the lap child and that since she didn’t have that, she couldn’t board the plane to Washington,” he explains. “No one had ever told us that there was a paper ticket required. In fact, when I called Delta, [KLM’s codeshare partner] they said that it had been sent to my billing address, where it hadn’t yet even arrived.”
Delta had mailed the tickets to Dunlop’s address in Iraq. Oops.
Dunlop managed to retrieve the ticket, found a hotel for Francine and the family, and rebooked his daughter to fly on the 17th. But the nightmare had just started.
“Come the 17th, my daughter arrived at the airport,” he says. “She was informed that the car seat that she had didn’t meet IATA regulations and she couldn’t use it on the plane. She was refused boarding for a second time.”
Another night in Copenhagen with four children and a trip to the department store to buy a new car seat.
Third time’s a charm? No.
“Upon her arrival at the airport on the 18th, she was refused a third time because at the gate, they decided that the car seat wasn’t OK,” says Dunlop. “In tears, sitting on the floor of the airport surrounded by crying kids and with no one to help her, I managed to rebook her through KLM to an Air France flight which then rejected her because apparently they don’t take two babies with only one adult. How do mothers of twins ever fly?”
Dunlop was exasperated by the time he contacted our advocacy team. He’d spent more than $1,000 in hotels, transportation and tickets. His daughter, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, was emotionally drained.
I asked to see the paper trail of correspondence between Dunlop and KLM, and was unhappy by what it showed. KLM’s representatives suggested it had done Francine a big favor by rebooking her instead of marking her as a “no-show” on the flight, after her car seat and ticket trouble.
I personally contacted KLM on Francine’s behalf just a few hours before she was expected to try boarding a flight to the States for the fifth time.
“I’m not sure what you did, but Delta and KLM have both started being very, very nice to me,” he reports.
Well, mostly I sent KLM a transcript of the Facebook live chat with Dunlop, which shows several teachable moments for its customer service department.
“Francine got onto a plane this afternoon out of Copenhagen with her kids and appears to be getting VIP service all the way through to Dulles,” he says. “I got a call from the president of Delta’s secretary this evening offering to pay for the hotel and to refund the price of the tickets and giving $1,500 in gift certificates.”
I love a happy ending. I wish we could have helped sooner.