When a company fails to provide the service it has sold then there has to be recompense. There has to be resolution for the customer. There has to be a finality to the issue. This is a story of how Easyjet has failed miserably on all fronts.
This long post is my tale of woe so I have a record of this mess and that it may help with the resolution of this problem. I expect very few to read it but I hope that at least one employee of Easyjet does so, maybe their CEO, Dame Carolyn McCall or their Director of Communications Paul Moore.
This ripping yarn also tells of how a company makes life hard for itself with some basic communication failures, poor systems, dis-empowered staff, departmental silos and all round incompetence. Whether this is by design or by accident depends on your world view. I will be optimistic and imagine it is incompetence by accident rather than willful incompetence in the hope that people give up chasing what Easyjet owe.
Some people will read this and say why did he not take them to small claims court or use a service like resolver or write a letter to the CEO, the answer is it felt like harder / unknown work. In hindsight I should have pursued other avenues but here we are.
The weekend away
On March the 18th 2016 my good lady wife and I flew to Bilbao on our way to San Sebastian for the weekend for my pre 40th birthday treat. It was a great weekend, sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and rubbing shoulders with the stars etc. etc. a great weekend was had.
The cancelled flight
The problems came when it was time to go home. We received a notification via the Easyjet app on Sunday morning warning of delays due to the French Air Traffic Controllers Strike. I was impressed they warned us and slightly worried. We did not fly out until much later that evening, around 21.30. Upon arrival at the airport our flight was delayed around 30 mins, we had arrived quite early as we feared the worst. This soon escalated, the delay was over two hours and things were not looking good. the flight was finally cancelled at around 8pm (If memory serves me / my tweet timestamps are good).
Then it began. A garbled announcement. Confusion in the airport. Mass exodus to a service desk. There then followed a period of around three hours queuing for us and we were relatively near the front. It was never really made clear what we were actually queuing for as there was zero communication with the queue, no one walking the line, no announcements of any note. Rumours circulated, angered passengers multiplied, the desk was overwhelmed. They made a real pigs ear of the communication to the queue. We were at the half way point when it started. Further back there were families with small children. I was unaware at the time but this communication ineptitude was a portent of things to come.
We were hoping that we were queuing for over night accommodation and to be booked on the next flight back to Manchester. Downside being was that the next flight back to Manchester was not until Friday. We used the Easyjet app to look at available alternatives. There was a flight to Stansted the following evening which we booked ourselves onto.
We continued to queue for accommodation and when we finally made it to the desk we were told there were no other flights home. Nothing from nearby alternatives like Santander either until Wednesday at the earliest. Our two children were being looked after by my parents thankfully. My wife was due in work Tuesday and I had job interviews in London that day too. They put us up in a hotel in Bilbao, we got on a coach and after a short wait were ferried to the hotel. Quite a nice hotel too.
Our flight to Stansted was was around 9 the following evening. This meant we had a day in Bilbao sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and buying clean underwear.
Jump to airport arrival time and our flight already had a 30 minute delay when we arrived and a strange sense of Deja Vu swept over us as the delay climbed again and reached the two hour mark once again. Thankfully however a plane did arrive at around 11.30
We flew to Stansted, arrived around 1am, stayed in the hotel we had booked (a dour Holiday Inn express) as there was no easy / affordable way to get us to Manchester to collect the car and then get me back to London the following day. We had decided to get the train from Stansted to London, I would stay there my wife would then travel to Manchester from Euston, collect the car, pay the excess parking and drive on home to see our children. And that was the end of our journey. A bit of a pain and quite a bit of cash shelled out because of that pain. Around £350. My wife had also missed a shift at work and she could not take it as holiday so we were out of pocket too. All in it cost us around £550.
The attempt to claim expenses
After getting back home, I did not get the job I had gone to London for, I gathered up all our receipts and tried to work out how were were going to claim for it. Lots of people has said we would be due some compensation but our excitement on that front was quickly dampened as it turns out that French Air Traffic Control Strikes are extraordinary circumstances even though there have been over 40 strike days over the last seven years.
To claim for the expenses I needed to submit photos of all receipts, along with an itemised list of all expenditure. The form states that ‘We aim to review all claims within 21 days.’ which is reassuring. I had to submit it via this form which as you can tell by looking at it was designed with just this very task in mind. The ability to upload BMP files is a nice touch especially with that 10mb attachment limit.
I submitted the receipts on the 4th of April. I received a case ID & confirmation and all seemed well. I then got an email saying the receipts had not uploaded correctly. I then emailed them over again, twice. Still no confirmation of receipt. I then tried to call and contact via any means available. Clearly I did not get much joy
A pattern of communication being one way was established early. I called and chased to try and get an understanding of whether my expenses were actually received and on their systems. I was promised answers and call backs and none came. I was quite/very angry/frustrated throughout.
Then on the 25th I snapped and called Easyjet for an update. I also took to Twitter to whine because that is what we do in 2016 to make us feel better and because we are all entitled shits etc.
While I was busy whining I actually missed an email. It was a great email.
Dear Aden Davies,
Thank you for contacting easyJet.
I can confirm that I have assess your receipts for you.We will not refund for the not itemize receipts. We will be refunding you the following:
It will be refund as a cheque once you confirm that these amounts are correct.
We look forward to be hearing from you soon.
Get in! They were willing to not only cover my expenses but to pay and extra £200 to cover the pain of this last month. What nice people they are behind all those frustrating process.
I got a follow up email from another department the day after, the 26th of April….
Thank you for contacting easyJet.
I am sorry to hear about any inconveniences caused regarding the flight being cancelled.
I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP which you will receive within 14 working days, please note that the voucher is valid for 6 months.
Thank you for choosing to fly with easyJet.
Now the mention of a voucher worried me and I asked and it apparently it was nothing to worry about. In 14 days time this unpleasantness would all be over. I even apologised publicly to Easyjet.
I should not have wasted my metaphorical breath on an apology because 14 days came and went with no cheque in sight.
Then I got another email.
Dear Mr Davies,
Thank you for your response.
Some of the receipts which you have sent are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemised merchant receipts.
As per our policy we do not reimburse for car park and underwear.
Please reply with itemised copies for the credit card slips without corresponding store receipts.
We look forward to your response.
Then on May 12th
Thanks for reaching out. We´ve just checked your profile and we can confirm with you that your cheque has been issued on the 10th of May and it will take 14 days to reach your address.
What happened to the cheque that ‘I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP’ on the 26th of April? Why was a cheque issued on the 10th of May? Why was it issued if one had already been issued? What exactly does the word issued mean when issued by Easyjet customer service staff?
I received this Twitter DM on the 27th of May.
Thanks for getting in touch with us.
As I can see in my records there were no problems with your cheques.
Could you please confirm your postal address again, before I escalate your case?
Our finance department authorized 2 cheques for you, one for 165 GBP and one for 92.68 EUR.
Thanks in advance for your reply!
Enjoy your day
They had actually been posted to my old address that somehow Easyjet had on file from old bookings. Somewhere between April the 26th and May the 27th we went from my expense claim repayment going from £772.37 to £165 and 92.68 Euros. No cheques for any of those values have ever arrived at my house, I have no way of knowing if they arrived at the old house either (it has only been 4 years since I lived there). This was the first time I had been asked to confirm my address. As you can imagine I was not best pleased.
I then made the first of my empty / powerless threats.
I never followed up on it of course.
It is just born out of frustration. There is no recourse in this situation. There is no ombudsman. I had no means of escalation and felt entirely powerless. I wanted access to my file history. The company must have a log/several logs across several systems of all interactions with me. I wanted to see this picture. I wanted to understand how such a screw up could happen.
Nope. Then on the 6th of June another rubbish email.
Thank you for contacting easyJet.
I have checked your booking and 2 cheques have been issued on 04 March 2016, one with the value of 165 GBP and the second cheque to the value of 92.68 EUR. The cheque will take 21 working days to reach you and is valid for 6 months. The hotel will not be refunded as we have checked our flight time and the flight arrived at 22:00 on the 21 March 2016.
Some of the receipts which you have sent us are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemized merchant receipts. We also do not pay for purchase of personal items.
This email again mentioned these random two cheques and was just nonsense. The flight was late by around 90 minutes in the end. The fact that we had flown to Stansted 24 hours after our supposed flight to Manchester which is over 200 miles away and where our car was seems completely lost on this representative.
After more gnashing of teeth, futile messages and empty responses I finally called and spoke to someone who actually gave a damn. Leanne was her name and she was shocked at the state of my case. She actually told me she was going upstairs to speak to the team involved, the most effort anyone had put in so far. She reassured me it had been escalated and that the team it had been passed too would resolve it quickly as they were empowered to do so….
They didn’t. I never heard a thing until a crap email on the 4th of July, I thought it was independence day not incompetence day.
Dear Mr Davies,
Please accept my apologies for the situation regarding the refund that was due to you.
As it has been an error of process I have escalated it up to my Team Leader and as soon as he gets back to me which will be in the next few days I would get back to you.
Once again I am sorry that for all the inconvenience and hope that it does not deter you from future use with easyJet.
More escalation! Whoopdefuckingdoo.
I did receive a call in July, although I missed it but they left a message where I think I was promised the full amount. Nothing transpired.
I had run out of steam. Also I had to go on my honeymoon. Nothing really happened for a month or so and then all of a sudden it was August. I was rested, suntanned, fatter, skinter and ready to try again.
Then I called. it must not have gone well
A day later a Twitter rep got in touch. We exchanged some DM’s. August saw a lot of DM’s exhanged. It was a fucking shambles of a display. It started badly and went down hill from there.
This turned out to be absolute bullshit. Not only was this random figure of 534 euros plucked seemingly out of thin air but it was also the first and only time the ability to pay me back electronically was mentioned.
I was livid at this point. I called sometime in August and properly did that annoying thing of just demanding to speak to someone more senior. I got up to some mid level nobody and basically kept him captive on the phone until he made some sort of promise of resolution and put it in an email so I had it in writing. They were still banging on about the two cheques for £165 and 92 euros and that they needed to be cancelled. FFS.
Thank you for contacting easyJet.
I do sincerely apologise about all frustrations and inconveniences you have incurred.
I have sent the details to our Finance Team so that they may cancel the cheque and as soon as I receive a response, I will be able to contact you with the next steps. The reason this cheque is being cancelled is because the address was incorrect and has to now be reprocessed.
The time frame I was advised is 3 days, how ever I confirm that I advised you of 48 hours. Once they respond to me, I will be able to contact you.
Your case number is 101435698.
Thank you for your patience.
I was a bit of a twat to this man and I am sorry for that but I was completely despondent. My pitiful pleas of ‘What would you do in my situation’ ‘I have no idea what on earth else to do’ were futile at best. I then spoke to someone and demanded a breakdown of the situation. I wanted an explanation of where these random figures had come from. Basically what the hell was going on.
Thank you for contacting easyJet.
Please be advised that the receipts below was received from you to be reimbursed.
- 79 Gbp for hotel (valid)
- 14.72 Euro for meals (valid)
- 26.10 Eur for taxi (valid)
- 3 Euro x2 bus (valid)
- 40 Gbp for parking (valid)
- 26.30 Euro meals (valid)
- 14.50 Euro meals (valid)
- 81.40 Gbp train (valid)
- 2.12 Euro hotel (valid)
Please note that the following receipts is not legible:
- abello stansted express (the amount looks like it could be 38 gbp)
Please note that the following receipts is not considered valid, as we need itemized receipts in the claim for reimbursement. The following receipts are c/c copies which we cannot accept:
- 36.70 Euro- bilbao tezenis copia de recibo (personal items)
- 32 Gbp -BBVA?
- 8.50 Gbp – elavon?
Kindly note that the following receipt will not be reimbursed as we do not reimburse alcoholic beverages:
Also please note that our finance deparment has authorized to reimburse you the amount of Euro 534.27.
Having checked your booking I can confirm that a cheque was processed more than once but was declined because of the incorrect amount processed.
Also please note that when the cheque was declined the second time it was because the following receipts was already processed and authorized in the form of a cheque on 04 May ’16:
- 165 Gbp for transport and
- 94.34 Gbp for meals
Should you need any further information about your claim please contact our contact centre on 0330 365 5000.
I wish you a good day and look forward to your reply.
The figure of 534 euros has never been explained to me but this email I got again referred to the previous two cheques seems to suggest that they thought I had been paid the £165 and 92 euros and that the 535 euros would cover the rest to get close to the mythical £772.37. This was never clarified. Also refusing to buy me one beer after all this shit is just plain rude.
I also wrote a little ditty in August about Easyjet. to the tune of the old Spiderman theme tune. I think I may have been on the verge of some sort of breakdown.
August came and went with more pointless exchanges, into September where things got progressively worse my temper included. I think I had been quite polite up until this point considering the incompetence on display. A call around the 23rd of September after being told to wait a few more days, and then ten more days and never ever getting anything back but always having to chase and I had again reached a point of fury.
I don’t even remember what the screw up was. My DM’s or email reveal nothing either.
If you are not familiar with the work of Ian then you should be. He was good enough to provide me with some top notch swearing.
It was the high point in this clusterfuck.
Strangely though it was a less abusive term that got me told off. This bizarre DM exchange happened around this time.
I am sorry for calling the service rep an idiot. Apparently my case had also been closed. Nope. Me sticking the boot in on Stefani over her DM incompetence was uncalled for but felt good at the time, I mean I can’t even spell not correctly. Sorry Stefani.
More emails followed saying cheques for 534 euros had been ‘issued’. Even though I said I did not accept that amount. The cheques never arrived anyway because issued means something other than ‘supply someone with something’ in the land of Easyjet.
Then I think I rang up again. I spoke to someone who informed me the amount had become £534, this was around about the time that the currencies were pretty much on par. At this point I would have accepted 534 guineas…or gummi bears. I was done. They issued yet another cheque and told me to wait 14 days.
Have a guess what happened folks?
…I snapped yet again. No way I was settling for £534. Pay me the £772.37 promised way back on the 26th of April. I am in for the long haul now. Fuck you, pay me.
More angry calls, DM’s, public tweets etc. Only this time it worked…kind of…
Thank you very much for your patience through this entire matter.
I confirm I have processed a cheque of 772.32 GBP to the new postal address you have provided me with. This will 14-21 working days to be delivered to you.
We hope the inconvenience caused does not affect your choice to fly with us in future.
and a follow up DM
Yes sorted! My credit card could be paid!
I was happy.
And rightly so because I have still not received that cheque. Over 30 working days after it was promised.
I have never received so much as a tracking number for the posting of this or any of the other cheques.
I have only once been offered a means of electronic payment in the year of 2016.
On the 30th of November I received this message
An email was sent to another team! Escalation in action five days after I was promised a call. The team will contact me soon. I believe soon maybe an acronym rather than an actual word. Sometime Or Other, Never. Once I again I am trapped. I refuse to call to have someone else go ‘Wow there is a lot if entries here, can you just go on hold for 20 minutes while I try and digest this shitstorm and then formulate the least efficient method to get back to you (circa 10-30 days) and give you another empty promise containing the words ‘soon’ ‘as possible’ ‘shortly’ ‘urgently’ and other weasel words that are not an actual date and time because you know…
Heaven forfend I should be given wrong expectations.
And this is where we are on the 30th of November 2016. 255 days after I flew back into Stansted on the 21st of March 2016. 250 days since I first submitted my receipts. 218 days since the 26th of April when I was informed a cheque for £772.37 was issued (apparently to the wrong address) that never arrived. 44 days since the 17th of October when I was told a cheque for that amount had been issued and sent to the correct address and would arrive within 30 days.
Here are a few other numbers
26 – emails exchanged
117 – Direct Messages exchanged on twitter. You can see them all here (I have edited address details etc. you can still feel my exasperation though)
5,100 – Words in those Direct Messages
153 – Public tweets, to from and about @easyjet. You can see them all here.
6,200 – Words in those public tweets
nn – Countless phone calls. Unfortunately I do not know how many as frustratingly I don’t have itemised billing with EE. I can clearly remember 4 calls that were all over an hour. I would guess I have called somewhere between 10-20 times.
3 – number of calls back I have had back from Easyjet if memory serves. 4 if you include the one where they left a message.
0 – Number of letters from Easyjet. Absolutely nothing on paper which strikes me as odd.
16 – the number of different case numbers I have had (that I know of)
31 – Number of times the word escalate or escalated was used in emails and DMs and tweets. I think it actually just means passed to another department.
742 – estimated amounts I have sworn during this farce.
5 – Hours spent writing this post, which adds another 3,000 words to the total.
4,000 – words in this post
15,000 – roughly the amount of words used so far. As way of context Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is only 14,710 words long. Someone call Alanis Morisette.
0 – pounds paid of my expense claim from Easyjet as of the 30th of November 2016.
But wait! A call from out of the blue/orange
At 10.21am on the 30th of November I received a call from Easyjet, from someone empowered to resolve my case. They said that the figure they had in their records was for £534. I laughed. She did not take that kindly. I have been requested to provide details of the messages where I was promised £772 (even though they have access but don’t want to go through all the other messages) and to provide my account details to help speed the resolution of this matter (a glimmer of a cheque free future). Annoying my phone decided to reboot itself mid call. To their credit Easyjet called straight back
I have taken the decision to publish this story anyway even if it jeopardises that process as I have invested so many hours in its writing and in its wider creation.
UPDATE: I FINALLY GOT PAID!!!!
How could Easyjet fix this? Assuming they want to that is…
Pay me £772.37 obviously. Beyond that though this issue is not really about me (although I have just written 3,000 all about my pain). I suspect there are hundreds in similar situations from both the strike in March but just through general flight cancellations and delays.
I could write another few thousand words on this bit alone. I am also available for consultancy, my day rate is £772.37. I will freely share three key themes though.
After things had started to go wrong in May this should have been truly escalated and consolidated into a single case, given to a specific team, assigned a single global reference number. that would have given me a sense that my case was important, that it has been escalated and that there was an owner of it. A named individual would have been even better. This is an unlikely scenario but 8 months in and all this effort on my part and cost on your part and maybe you should give it a try.
The other side of ownership is allowing staff to actually take ownership of problems. The UKs most recommended bank, first direct, (I should mention used to work for them briefly) are the most loved mainly because of their telephone service. What underpins this is the ownership taken on calls by the first person who answers to have that call resolved satisfactorily, even if it is passed to another department. There were a few notable people I spoke with at Easyjet who were genuinely shocked by the hassle I had been through and I believe they really wanted to help but everything was against them. Departmental and operational silos and awful IT systems.
Both the computerised versions and the operational versions. Throughout these annoying interactions I could see the seams of the organisation. I heard phrases like ‘only the email team can see emails’ or ‘all we can do through Social Media is ask for updates’ which just show up the silos for what they are.
Onto the IT systems. Spend some money on a messaging system. Allow a customer to talk to you through that channel. Make it responsive, make it good. Allow people to see a full thread of the conversation over time.
Better yet get your shit together. Why more companies don’t make a record of contact history available to a customer is a mystery. Show the customer what you did and when. Call times, emails sent, tweets, live chat conversations, receipts submitted, people spoken to or at least some sort of number that identifies them. Give a high level overview of what happened / is happening, Make it transparent so that people can see progress. Notifications like this can avoid people calling back in. We know that human to human conversation is expensive.
I was, and will continue to, attack you on all fronts. Communicate via any and all means just to try and get an answer. You should either drive me to the most efficient channel for me or better yet be able to tie those threads together. Look at systems like the ones provided by the likes of Lithium. I know customer service costs money but I am sure shit customer service costs more. You just need to think about it from a different perspective rather than the lowest common denominator one you seem to have today.
I must also give special mention to your expenses claim form. For Gods sake please spend a few grand on a decent service designer and a developer or two and build a better form.
Also what the hell is this screen? It is part of the booking details screen.
It feels like it has some glimmer of useful information i.e. the payments seem to match some of those promised. Fix this to cater for these kinds of situations. Show what has been ‘issued’ or approved for payment. Then show details of say posting said payment. It is not rocket science.
A special mention to your phone line. It takes over 90 seconds before you are presented with an option. I found that choosing cancel a flight (a fee incurring service) got me through to a person the quickest by far. Also stop using Human by The Killers as your hold music. Your service has very little human about it, I did want to kill though after being subjected to it.
And stop sending cheques….well start sending them but you know what I mean, it is 2016. Many forms of electronic payments are available.
Give a fuck
the amount of empathy shown by the vast majority of staff I have interacted with has been sparse to say the least and in the main cut and pasted. My grumpiness may not have helped but you drove me to this (mostly). The lack of caring about people started in the queue at Bilbao airport and has not ended since. I imagine you have a lot of these claims and many disgruntled customers because airlines are tricky businesses to run. Flying machines all over the globe is not easy. Customer service in comparison though is. If you give a fuck about it.
Ultimately this situation could have been avoided if enough people at Easyjet gave a fuck. I could have avoided a lot of sress and hassle. As it is though my stress and hassle is not over as I have still not been paid. I still have to chase empty promises, vague weasel words brought about by a lack of owenrship, shitty systems and the fact that you clearly don’t give a fuck about me or I imagine the hundreds of others in similar situations as mine right now.