I am sitting in the lounge at Port Elizabeth airport, waiting for the 17h50 flight to Johannesburg. It is an SAA flight. I arrived at the lounge at 14h15, and was informed that because I had bought an X class ticket, they could not move me to an earlier flight, and that I would have to go on the flight on which I was booked.
Some context:

  • I booked this flight 3 days ago, and thought that I might have an opportunity to get home earlier. But all the “full economy” tickets (usually at about R 1,700) were sold out. So, I bought a “normal economy” ticket instead (the only option available) for about R 980. Even if the more expensive option had been available I would not have bought it.
  • I am a Gold card frequent flier. More than that – I am an economy class gold card frequent flier. In other words, I have reached 50,000 miles while flying cattle class – which is a lot tougher than doing two international business class legs (and a lot more profitable to the airline as well). I fly (on average) 2 to 3 times every week. I usually go SAA because they’re finally as cheap (sometimes cheaper) than the no frills-no fuss airlines, and have better schedules. AND they have more options in case of days like today.

SAA LogoIt is now just after 16h00, and I am watching an SAA flight to Joburg take off. There are some empty seats on that flight, but here I sit in the lounge waiting for the 17h50 because no-one at SAA in this whole entire airport has the authority to override the system and get me home earlier. You can imagine how much I am loving this!!! You can imagine how my love for this airline, its company, and its employees is just growing with each passing minute!!!
Why the hell is there no-one here who can make a customer happy? Why is the best I can get sympathetic smiles from the SAA counter staff as they say, “we know, its a stupid rule!” Followed by a shrug of the shoulders and “there’s nothing we can do”. Does SAA prefer to employ automatons? Does it require its staff to have frontal lobotomies to work here? Why would any sane person choose to stick it out in such a stupid company?
This is no way to attract and retain Bright Young Things as either customers or staff.
There is probably a very good reason for not allowing the cheapest economy class tickets to be transferred. I am guessing it goes like this: If you buy an off peak ticket (say, for example, the last flight out at night) and get a really, really good price. You know that you’ll be leaving earlier during a peak time, but you buy the later, cheaper ticket and just arrive at the airport and ask them to put you on an earlier flight. So, you beat the system… OK, nice scenario. But I bought a ticket on the peak time flight, and wanted to move to an earlier one that was before the peak. I also have clearly not abused the system (if they cared to look, they have the records of the last 100 flights I have made with them – in the past year!!! – and they can check my ‘abuse rating’ – can’t they? Can they remember me). I also clearly wasn’t messing around – I was FOUR HOURS early!!!!!
But, no. Because they don’t trust their front line staff to think or use intitiative, they seriously upset a valuable and loyal customer. They get me home late to my family and my girls. I am NOT HAPPY!
Let me stop now before all the swear words I am thinking spill out onto the page. SAA, SORT YOURSELVES OUT!!! Join the real world of the connection economy, and start treating your customers like they’re valuable (in fact, do your best to amaze us), and give your staff the freedom to help you do this.

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