The Naughty & Nice List for Airlines

Air Baltic Flight Riga

In the last month, I’ve used more than a handful of airlines. At the top of the “nice list”, Air Baltic offered exceptional service, quality food, and friendly, personal staff. At the top of the “naughty list”, Air Berlin might have been the worst staff experience in my history of flying. Air Berlin, unless you can fly on the coal you’re getting in your stocking this year, you really need to consider your attitude and quality of service. You should take a page from Air Baltic; besides offering low airfares and comfortable planes, they know how to treat their customers right.

I recently flew from southern California to Chicago to Copenhagen to Riga, Latvia. Then from Riga to Vienna. Then from Innsbruck to Berlin to Chicago to southern California. Needless to say, I flew with a few different airlines. It wasn’t until my Riga to Vienna flight with Air Baltic that I really noticed a difference in staff and service. I was greeted with a smile from the time I received my ticket in Riga until I stepped off of the plane in Vienna. It was like extra staff were on the flight because my drinks and food came quickly, the seats were cleaned regularly, and a helpful employee was always in sight. The plane was spotless and the bathrooms were fresh. The entire experience flowed smoothly from getting on the plane on time, food service, and landing. It was the only flight that I’ve had that I actually wanted to last longer. Unfortunately, this was one of my shorter flights.

My longest flight was with Air Berlin and it was the complete opposite experience from Air Baltic. I had difficulties from the time I entered the airport until I got off the plane. The plane was dirty and theΒ staff were extremely rude and unaccommodating. I wondered if I was just tired and more edgy but I wasn’t the only one having a negative experience with Air Berlin.

When I arrived at the airport, the ticketing agent had a problem printing my ticket. I asked what was the issue but she only said, “there’s a problem printing your ticket.” (This obviously explained a lot. I don’t know how I could have any more questions.) Then, she would only speak German to the other agents so I had no idea what was happening. Not that I mind that they were speaking their language, but if she had of just told me the issue, I could have easily explained what to do. I was then sent to another counter with similar problems for 45 minutes yet no one would tell me what was going on. Finally, I asked enough questions to get it out of them. I’m a Canadian living in the US. They had a problem with the address part of my ticket. The over 1 hour wait could have been avoided if they just spoke to me in the first place. It was a simple fix.

Then, another problem verifying my ticket in Berlin was followed by even more rude employees and blaming. Finally, it was time to get on the plane. Even though I have copious amounts of air miles with them and usually have group one boarding, somehow it wasn’t added to my ticket. (It was removed along with my air miles number in the confusion at the first airport.) When I attempted to board in group one, mindlessly since that’s when I usually board, I was yelled at by one of the employees and told to wait my turn and go to the back of the line. Embarrassed, I tried to explain that I’m usually in group one and I didn’t look at my ticket. Rather than listening at all, she just raised her voice even more and said, “go move so the group one ticket holders can get on the plane.”

I stood there a little shocked.

A family of four, with two very young children, were also shamed to get out of line. They thought that they could go in group one as well because they had small children. They, too, were told to move out of the way and wait their turn. The father tried to reason with them because the kids were tired and cranky, but it was to no avail. When it was finally time for them to board, the agent said, “Go now… if you still wait to.”

We were all just standing there in shock at how poorly we were treated.

I sat in my seat and learned that they had given the lovely lady next to me the wrong ticket with someone else’s name and seat assignment. (More shocking is how they could let someone on a plane with a ticket that doesn’t match their identification.) When she tried to sit in her seat, she was yelled at as well, even though she was actually sitting in her correct seat.

I thought that would be the end of the terrible service since we were now on the plane and dealing with different staff but no such luck. The food was basically tossed at us and the garbage was never picked up… during the entire cross-Atlantic flight.

Finally, I was told in Austria that I had to check my bag and that it would be checked all the way through to Orange County. It seemed odd to me since my first stop in the US was in Chicago and that’s where I was doing customs but I assumed they knew better than me. Luckily, I asked in Chicago; it wasn’t checked all the way through. I would have left my bags in Chicago because I was given the wrong information.

I guess I could have had worse service but I’m struggling to figure out how.

I hear people say regularly that all airlines are the same. Just go for the better price because it doesn’t matter with whom you fly. But that is not true.

There are some airlines that clearly value their customers and their are some airlines that clearly could care less. I’d like to think that I had a unique experience with Air Berlin but the consistency with all staff makes me highly question if that’s possible. If Santa’s list could determine who thrived in business and who failed, Air Baltic would have a monopoly on the airlines.

 

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80 thoughts on “The Naughty & Nice List for Airlines

  1. I had a dream the other night that I was stuck at EWR waiting for Air Berlin! I’m channeling your crappy airline experiences.

    As someone who is actually despite the vowel at the end of his name mostly German I can say this with some authority…few people are ruder at airports than Germans. Sorry!

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      • We did United via Lufthansa code share…much better experience than my last international on United. It was a pretty dated 767, but it still had the modern very comfortable seats with the personal screen in front of you where you could access a couple hundred movies and TV shows. A seven hour flight sails by when you’re watching mindless Jason Statham movies and Top Gear reruns. πŸ™‚

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        • Speaking of flights…there are some sneaky-cheap flights into Milan right now–for anyone thinking of Italy travel, we’re recommending landing there and training it to wherever you’re going–it’s pretty convenient to just about anywhere in Northern Italy, but avoid land transport from the airport. Take the local commuter train. It’s a bit tricky to find, but worth it to avoid a Lombardian traffic jam.

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    • I certainly don’t think people in Berlin are rude… just the people at the airline. I’d actually like to think if I flew with Air Berlin again, it would be better but it’s the only time I flew with them and it was terrible. It’s all I have to go on.

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  2. Sadly, you are not alone. I had friends that would rather take a taxi than Air Berlin. This is precisely why. It is all true folks. Decent routes, but crappy service. It’s almost like they don’t want to be in business.

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  3. My personal favorite airline that we have used this past year on our travels was Emirates. We also took a couple of air Berlin flights and one especially was horrific, rude flight attendants, sub par organization of ticketing and boarding among other things. It was rough. πŸ™‚ oh and they lost all our bags (including our stroller). Sounds like the same situation as yours almost was.

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    • I’ve never flown Emirates but I’ve heard good things. Did you have a long flight with them? Maybe I’ll look into giving them a try. Air Baltic was fantastic. Hopefully I’ll fly with them again soon.

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    • I’ve heard that before too. Did you do a long flight with them? Have you flown with them on a few occasions? I wonder what flights they have out of SNA. I’m going to look tonight.

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      • I flew London to Singapore on the double decker plane, spent 4hrs at Singapore airport then flew with them from Singapore to Christchurch, New Zealand on a normal plane. Great service, friendly, helpful staff and on time. The double decker plane was amazing – so luxurious even in economy. On a side note, Singapore airport is also amazing.

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  4. Thanks for this Lesley – I’ve shared it, as I think its important to bring up and be aware of experiences like this. The mental attitude of some of the airlines leaves me flummoxed. Easyjet – who in the air run a brilliant service, I find as soon as there is a delay, disappear from the airport lounge. Good customer service should be standard, customers need to be valued, not bullied and spoken to about issues. There will always be rude customers but customer service on the airlines do not need to be.

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    • I was hesitant to post about my experiences with them because I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt but there were too many problems to ignore it. It’s too bad that customer service is lacking. Have you had any similar experiences?

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    • Where is your favorite country to visit? What about airlines; do you have a favorite? I’d like to spend more time in Europe soon. I’m still missing a few countries that are high on my list.

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  5. I have bever had a problem with Easyjet, but then never been delayed on one of their flights, my favourite airlines would be: Royal Jordanian, BA (on a good day), Cathay Pacific, SAS, QANTAS, Virgin Atlantic bad: El Al, Turkish Airlines and Ryan Air

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    • I know Ryan Air has great prices, but I don’t know how they stay in business. They are really hated. Have you flown with them a few times? I only used them once a few years ago so I’m not a good judge myself.

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      • We have booked trips with them four times, on two occasions they changed our flights at very short notice to great inconvenience on one and cancellation for the other (although we did get our money back). Also their website was full of hidden charges which you had to deselect and they charged Β£5 per person, per leg of journey for paying by card, when there was no other way to pay so for our group of four that added an extra Β£40 to the fare. Last time I looked there was also an charge added to rhe fare for check in which is hardly an optional extra. Often by the time you have been the through the online process your total cost won’t be anything like the advertised fare you thought you were going to get. EasyJet’s pricing structure is far mopre transparent and I’d much rather fly with them anyday.

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  6. You hit it on the head. A few of the U.S. airlines, and some of the Western European airlines – for me, the worst is Air France – seem to think the passengers exist for the benefit of their employees, and don’t know the meaning of customer service.

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  7. That’s so horrible Leslie. I hate flying and will never do it again, but that is because it’s my choice. If/when I traveled it was by bus. They take the roads less traveled, and you see the heart of the country — or that was the case when I was able to travel.

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  8. Pingback: The Naughty & Nice List for Airlines | Bloopers

  9. Too bad you can’t travel with a hidden camera to record your experiences! Like a camera in your hat or a brooch. It would probably be the only way the airline would agree to change – if a video of their deplorable service made it onto YouTube! Sorry for your bad trip, but thanks for sharing. It’s kind of a public service so flyers know which airlines to avoid.

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  10. This sucks. The airline industry in the US should be regulated again. I suppose these airlines think they have a captive audience, hence they have license to be rude, arrogant and more. In other countries, not much you could say or do except avoid them all together.

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  11. I know I’ve flown with Air Berlin. I think it was flying back from Vienna to Spain, we had a layover somewhere in the Balearic Islands. I don’t remember it being bad but then I was always flying budget airlines in Europe and I was just so excited to be flying back to Madrid, maybe I just put up with the bad customer experience.

    The worst airline in Europe though is easily RyanAir, one I had to put up with a lot just because it was the cheapest airline, despite all the hidden fees they try to throw at you. If you haven’t had to fly with them, don’t (it’s basically the Spirit Airlines of Europe). There is even a website devoted to hating the airline–“I hate Ryan Air–the World’s Most Hated AIrline: http://www.ihateryanair.org/.

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  12. If it makes you feel better, your post will make many people laugh and bring us joy. Air Berlin sounds awful. If they aren’t nice to a frequent flier like you, how would they treat regular folk?

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  13. Leslie, we actually had a very good experience with Air Berlin when we flew from Copenhagen to Berlin last year. But we booked our tickets with SAS which was the airline we used for transport to Denmark. That may have made a difference as we bypassed Air Berlin’s customer service entirely. The flight itself wasn’t bad at all but we also recognize the fact it was a short-haul one.

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    • I’m actually glad to hear something positive about them. I’m hoping it was an isolated situation. If I try them again and things are better, I’ll be sure to post about it. What is your favorite airline? Do you have one that stands out for you?

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  14. I’m sorry about your bad experience! My best experience was with Cathay Pacific. I wasn’t feeling well when I got on the plane in Hong Kong and they say me right in front of the mid-plane toilets, and left the seat next to me empty! Who does that these days?!

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  15. Customer service in Germany is terrible. I bought a sim card that didn’t work, and not only did the guy in the shop say it wasn’t his job to make it work, he refused to give me my money back. I was so angry! Doesn’t surprise me Air Berlin were so nasty. They seem to think they’re doing you a favour dealing with you.

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  16. I was a satisfied customer of Virgin, until recently. Though I ought to say at the start that my problem isn’t with the people on the planes.
    The problem began when I was trying to book a flight to the US in December of 2012. There were several issues which seemed impossible to resolve and eventually I wrote to the CEO. (Yes, I bypassed Customer Service. If I’m not happy I want to make damn sure the people at the top are aware of it.) I received a swift response, had a long phone conversation with the man in charge of CS, and we got the bugs sorted out. Then, unrequested, he guaranteed me a free return flight next time I traveled within Australia.
    Move forward to November 2013. I contacted CS man, said hello remember me? Remember that freebie you promised? About a week later a got a reply from the department’s #2. It would all be taken care of. Two weeks later and I was still waiting for proof that it was being taken care of. I couldn’t believe I was getting this runaround! They were supposedly making amends for a previous problem and THIS was how they did it?
    I got nasty. A very sarcastic post on Virgin’s Facebook page, emailed a screencap to the CEO.
    Two days later I had my flights organised.
    As I say, I cannot flight Virgin’s flight crews. I’ve flown with them nearly every time I’ve gone by plane inside Australia, and my one international journey with them was good too. But the desk pilots really need to lift their game.

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  17. I’m so sorry for your bad experience. My favorite air line is Cathay Pacific. I have only good to say about them. I’ve had two very bad experiences, One was when we landed in San Francisco after flying from Hong Kong. It was the worst. But that wasn’t the air line, it was air port! I never want to fly into San Francisco again.
    I’m so glad you’re home safely. πŸ™‚

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  18. So very sorry to hear about the awful treatment you received when traveling with Air Berlin. Believe me when I tell you that you get what you pay for and that includes everything from the gate agents, food, service on the plane, pllot experience, plane safety checks, maintenance records! A few bucks or even $100s is worth the price! I could tell some stories of my own since my husband is a commercial airline pilot with a major airline. I will spare you the details. You did not deserve to be treated in such a unprofessional manner and I would be thinking about what you value most when buying a ticket to travel. Speak with your wallet and by all means write letters to a company when you receive poor service. You reach a huge audience with this blog, I would let Air Berlin’s president know of your displeasure and ability to sway public opinion. You may just make a difference! I wish you happy travels in the future!!

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  19. How rude! They shouldn’t be in business.

    Well, it wasn’t at the airport or anything, but I experienced a similar kind of rudeness when I was waiting in line. I won’t explain anymore why it happened ’cause that will take a whole lot of explaining, but the thing was, the rude man taking care that the lines were followed accused me of cutting in and treated me like a child in front of every one by pointing at the end of the line the way you would send a kid to a corner. I asked why because I had been in line for quite sometime and I even told newcomers to go to the end of the line. He gave me a face and did the same and said aloud so every one could hear “I never make mistakes.” Now they say don’t lower yourself to other people’s level, but I felt unfairly humiliated and sometimes, you just have to fight for yourself. He didn’t even let me explain properly and I felt that if he felt it was his right to make me look bad, it was my right to people know I was not in the wrong and if I was, it was not intentional . I got so mad I raised my voice as well and said, “You never make mistakes??? Wow, you’re so perfect!!!” I know I should have kept my cool, and I really didn’t have any choice but to go to the end of the line as he said, but I was tired, anxious, and mad at the way he always treated people there (because i had been regularly witnessing him do that, humiliate and argue with CUSTOMERS).

    Well, just sharing. Sorry for the long comment. Your post just reminded me about this particularly irritating incident.

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  20. I wish I had more experiences with European air travel. This American misses her second city, Krakow, Poland!!!

    I have birthfamily in Bogota, Colombia – last time I flew there I took Spirit, thinking I got a great price on my ticket. I knew I’d have to pay for my baggage, but I think paying for carry-ons was a shock. Turns out, the overall flight wasn’t that much cheaper than other carriers. AND the service was terrible. They checked our carry-ons at the gate for liquids. They didn’t even offer free water on the flight. And I thought the attendants were rude. For my May trip this year, I’ve done a little more research and managed to avoid Spirit and its sneaky fees. And rude people. What a bummer.

    A flight from Bogota to Cartagena, however, was a totally different story! We flew the Chilean airline, LAN, and it was awesome!!! The attendants were lovely. We were offered drinks. We got a box from Juan Valdez full of nuts and a pastry and something else I can’t remember but was impressed by! We watched funny blooper shows on the screens. The only bad part of the flight was getting off at the end! …and being hit by Cartagena’s incredible humidity! Definitely fly LAN in South American if you can!!

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  21. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the different airlines. I agree, it does make a difference who you fly with. It is great to have someone who travels a lot share there experiences with these airlines. The rest of us benefit from your review! Have a blessed day!

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  22. Bottom of the heap for me must Lufthansa who lost my son’s bags at Heathrow over Christmas and passed us over to their carriers, who went out of business during the time we were making enquiries. Every day for ten days they told us the bag would arrive ‘tomorrow’. They didn’t produce it until my son eventually went to Heathrow and challenged the baggage handlers at the airport.

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  23. I have been flying for years and have had good and bad experiences. I mostly fly United, Lufthansa, American and British. Most of the problems go away when you can fly business class.

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  24. I’ve flown Air Berlin only twice but the experience wasn’t so bad. Both were short 2-hour trips. The best ones I’ve flown with are the middle-eastern owned airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar. Perfect for long flights as you can start watching as soon as you board the plane and keep watching until you land. Food is almost always fantastic and they also serve snacks of potato chips and ice cream. Heaven! πŸ˜€

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  25. I have always flied overseas with Emirates and I have had amazing experience each time. They are really good at customer service. Hence, I tend not to experiment too much with airlines, especially when you are talking about 15-20 hours journeys from India to US.

    Echoing your experience with Air Baltic, I have had super amazing experience with Spirit Airlines. Even though it’s an ultra low cost airline, the staff has been amazingly friendly and, including pilots, tries to make air travel fun for their customers. Back in India, in case you happen to travel here, try Jet Airways and Indigo. Indigo is the best budget airlines with amazing customer service, cabin crew, aircraft quality and cleanliness. They are actually the only profitable airline in India – courtesy the customers who trust the airline for their air travels.

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  26. we flew Air Berlin recently (Vienna to Berlin and back) and I could not shake a certain feeling of… cheap (in spite of the ticket price which was not cheap at all!). on a more positive note: Turkish Airlines (from the food to the price to the personnel), Tarom (Romanian airline, hot home-style breakfast – well, yeah, I fly a lot and for me food matters, as I am always on the run :D; however, they have crappy coffee, but I’ll just skip it πŸ˜€ ). I used to absolutely love Austrian Airlines, but their service tends to go below zero currently. on Tuesday one of their flight attendants spilled coffee on my shirt, oh, the joy! (and made me remember how the BA flight attendands did the same, even bigger joy, white shirt, I was flying to London to go directly from the airport to a business meeting – I don’t even want to remember how rude they were, not even apologizing for their clumsiness). this coffee lesson tells me never to book an isle seat again, pffffffffffff πŸ˜€

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  27. Crikey! I have flown BA to Canada, and that was fine, and Easyjet to Ireland from England. The security is a nightmare as I have an insulin pump, continuous glucose meter attached to my body that can’t go through x ray, and loads of stuff like glucose to bring me round from a hypo (liquids!!!!!) and needles and batteries etc, PLUS an assistance dog… we spend about an hour being frisked and searched and every little thing gone though and I feel so exhausted after it’s almost not worth doing. Everyone is very nice but it is very hard.

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  28. Sucks man.. I really feel the pain. I also travel a lot and I have tried so many different airlines, and for me, SAS was by far the most awful one. Once, the front door of the plane was broken and we had to enter through the back end, underneath the aircraft.. besides that, the staff was rude and apparently you have to pay for tea or coffee.

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  29. Good for you for shaming bad service, completely inexcusable whatever the business or circumstances. Seems to a growing trend with airlines in the modern era. Last time I flew long haul was with KLM and they were pretty good. Off to Australia later this year with Singapore and I hear they are pretty good

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