I am writing to publish my experience with this airline. I haven’t even flown with the airline, and have only experienced them through their customer service, and have discovered just what a heartless, careless, insensitive and offensive airline this is. They were the most horrific decision I have made and will regret it, but once I’m done with their miles, I will not be rededicating myself with this airline again. The worst thing that can happen to any customer, is to presume that the airline they are joining is a brilliant one because they boast their 5 star status or whatever recognition, and then discover through the customer experience, they really don’t care about customers. It is the most horrifying and nauseating experience any customer can withstand.
Essentially, my query with their customer team entailed retrospective miles claim. In December 2015, my grandfather passed away. It was an extremely difficult time, I cannot even describe it. I was very close with my grandfather – he was like my father – and have been with both him and my grandmother since 2000 looking after them since the age of 14. In 2002, my grandmother had a stroke, and the miraculous thing was that I was not even supposed to have been at her house that morning. It was the 02 World Cup and England were playing Argentina – so I wanted to stay at my parent’s house. That night, a late decision on my part led me to go to my grandmother’s house. I woke up that morning when I heard my grandmother collapsing in the bathroom. I’ll never forget that day because if I was never there, she probably wouldn’t have had 2 more years to live. Losing my grandfather though felt like the world came crashing down, that so much of the burden my grandfather had shouldered had now been forced onto me with little practicable choice or option. Since then, I have been working at a reasonable pace trying to resolve my grandfather’s estate while continuing with worklife and any hope of pursuing an ambition to get me back on my feet.
My mother and sister flew to India on 06MAR2016 through Etihad from Manchester UK and returned on 19APR2016. My mother is an Etihad Guest member, but my sister decided not to opt into their scheme because she’s a regular flyer with Qatar (because their tickets are slightly cheaper – on this occasion, we managed to find a cheaper deal with Etihad). With so many important things to do with my grandfather’s estate, I did not consider this a priority at the time.
On 08SEP2016, I wrote an email to Etihad asking that we wanted to respectfully make a retrospective claim of miles and have these kindly credited to our Guest account. I had even gone the length of apologising under the circumstances of it being probably overdue or something and because with this being a non-Western airline, I felt being British it was the only right thing to do. I also said that my sister asked if there was the possibility of her miles being added onto my mother’s account with her being a flyer with Qatar and not wanting to opt into the Guest scheme.
On 15SEP2016, Alma Shaikh responded to my request by saying that my mother’s miles from India to Manchester (19APR2016) was credited to the account and that they were unable to honour my sister’s request to have her miles credited to my mother. Alma also said that she was unable to credit the miles for their flight out of the UK (06MAR2016) because it had exceeded the 3 month time. She did not openly say that this had gone above the 3 month limit by just 2 days (not 2 months or 2 years – 2 days).
I then responded on the same day in the most polite way and appealed them to reconsider my claim, in particular to look at the circumstances as I had detailed. I then went into graphic detail of my relationships with my grandparents, how their passing had affected my health causing trauma and depression. All this had exacerbated my chances of getting the claim in within 3 months, it wasn’t something I wanted Etihad to draw sympathy on me! Reliving and explaining all this isn’t exactly easy, but I wished their airline had actually listened in the first place, then it wouldn’t have felt this hard.
Almost 2 weeks had passed, and I knew I was not getting an answer. On 01OCT2016, I sent an email to Etihad again kindly asking them to respond. 5 days later, Pankaj Kanaujiya replied. He again reiterated that my sister’s miles cannot be credited to my mother’s account because she would have to be an Etihad Guest member in the first place. However, what angered me most was through all this chasing up on my end, this advisor never once touched on the matter concerning their first flight out of Manchester to India.
In frustration and anger, I then wrote to James Hogan, CEO on 10OCT2016 early morning to make a formal complaint. I said I was unhappy about the way in which their advisors were treating me as a Guest in their company’s loyalty scheme. Their ignorance, almost inanimate-natured customer service just disturbed me. Is this the way Etihad welcomes people into their Guest? I was polite, respectful and apologetic at the same time when I made my case to the airline, and they never listened – or rather, they probably did, but quite visibly they just didn’t care. I said the airline made me go into such graphic detail about how all these events in life had turned my life upside down, and yet their customer service never listened or felt what it was like to be in my shoes. It makes you wonder, how can these airlines, be so monstrously ignorant and inhuman? I have only just witnessed what their customer service is like – what in God’s name is their flight experience like then from point A to point B? With this kind of customer service experience, assuming my future flight runs into problems, will their customer service actually help me the way they completely cut me off the way they did? It was at this point, I realised the mistake I had made choosing Etihad and know I will regret this.
That afternoon, I then received a phone call from Etihad while I was in a meeting with senior management at work. I answered and I thanked him for giving me a phone call because at least I now knew that there was truly somebody on the other end of the line. It was nice to be speaking to someone from Etihad rather than reading and writing lengthy emails. Although he apologised for the problem, I explained to him that I was angry and unhappy with the airline because they kept me going round and round in circles. I explained again the stresses of my personal circumstances and how these ultimately superseded other priorities such as the miles claim. I said, had these things not have taken place, I would have had the miles credited to my mother’s account well within 3 months, and I again emphasised, they were refusing for just 2 DAYS?? I apologised to the gentleman and told him that I had just left a meeting and had to return. I asked him if he would be able to return a phone call to me at 2pm, which another advisor did.
The advisor told me that the miles for my mother’s initial journey was now credited onto the account. I then asked why it was not done so in the first place despite the fact that I had explained the situation. And the advisor had no answer. He did however say that my sister would have to register with Etihad Guest in order to have her miles shared throughout our family membership with Etihad. I stressed that she was a Qatar flyer and only flew with my mum because they got the ticket cheaper at the time. But he was not listening. So I then conceded and said, then that’s fair enough – if you say you can’t credit my sister’s miles onto my mother’s name, that’s fine. But I said the fact that the airline had compelled me to going into graphic detail about my health and how the events post my grandfather’s death had brought me down had made it extremely difficult to relive those events and times, I told him I did not feel I had to go into this length. Despite having gone through that length, the airline still didn’t see it through to the very least thinking that the member’s gone through a hard time, the member is a first time member with Etihad, so let’s credit the miles onto his account. But no, they kept dragging it and dragging it. I told the advisor I was not happy with Etihad as a member, and now feared flying with this airline because if I ever came across any problems with the airline, this first expression from Etihad would be my answer; if I screamed help, they would never answer. The advisor told me that he would make a phone call the following day to explain Etihad’s resolution on the matter and see what else they could do.
On 11OCT2016, they responded by confirming that my mother’s miles for her first flight was credited to her account. They also said that they were offering 5000 miles for the “inconvenience“ and to basically shut me up and lock the case away. If only they knew what the word “inconvenience” meant. Making someone relive their past doesn’t even come close to the word “inconvenience”. I again reiterated that I was still not happy and dissatisfied with Etihad. Did they think that 5000 miles would be it and everything can be called OK? To top it off, the advisor never called me back and I waited all day for his call, but it never came. It baffled me still – despite having explained everything in the first place (and in the politest way), why did this airline just not sort it out in the beginning there and then?
Their most recent email 16OCT2016 sounded authoritarian and almost dictatorial. They said that because of the death of my grandfather and the ensuing mental trauma I had gone through (as if to say that I was some mental asylum case), they were offering 5000 miles. They said they understood the exceptional circumstances encircling my claim for these retrospective miles (they clearly didn’t), but they said they had to ensure that all Guest members have the same chance to progress through various tiers and reap its benefits. I really didn’t know what to say, I felt almost shocked and offended that they reasoned the 5000 miles was as a sympathetic gesture for the mental trauma I had gone through for my grandfather’s death? That this was a sympathy gesture from the airline to say “sorry you lost your grandad”? Well I’m sorry but where is the gesture of apology for the number of times the airline kept dishonourably pushing me around for weeks? As if to say that I was fraudulently seeking miles to increase my chances of obtaining these “Tiers”, whatever they are. What ludicrous rubbish – if they had credited all the miles properly in the first place, what reason would I have had to escalate this to James Hogan as a complaint in the first place? If it all got settled then, would I have had any reason to pursue this claim any further? I haven’t even flown with Etihad yet, and they already they make me feel like I’m the runt of the litter. Seriously, 5000 miles to say “sorry you lost your grandad” – what on Earth?
This airline is a horror story in the writing. They don’t care about customers and they most certainly don’t care about welcoming new Guests. No matter what honest lengths you go to expressing your case to them, they will not care. Once I am done with my miles with Etihad, I will be choosing a British airline, abandoning my Etihad Guest account and Etihad AMEX once I’m done with this airline. How can an airline call itself 5* when it behaves this way with customers?
Whether you choose Etihad or not after reading this is entirely up to you. But I felt it was important to share this experience with all of you. I have heard plentiful stories of not just this kind of customer service, but the customer service you see at airports. So clearly, the problem is inherent within the airline. And with 399 complaints when I wrote this (1st in the charts), I find it unbelievable I thought this was an exceptional airline.
I will not be happy with Etihad as a customer or member going forward. I will fly with them once after my miles are all done, then I will switch to Virgin. 13 complaints vs the 399 – I have clearly missed out.