Tag Archives: airlines

KLM Makes Up, and Other Airline Experiences

I wrote 18 months ago about my disappointment with KLM’s poor handling of a bereavement situation (KLM Tries Harder… But Fails). I’m flying a lot again these days (three trips to the US this year, plus several to the UK, and now India). I still receive promotional emails from Flying Blue, the alliance which KLM Read More…

I wrote 18 months ago about my disappointment with KLM’s poor handling of a bereavement situation (KLM Tries Harder… But Fails). I’m flying a lot again these days (three trips to the US this year, plus several to the UK, and now India). I still receive promotional emails from Flying Blue, the alliance which KLM and Air France have now become, to remind me that they’re waiting to serve me, but it was hard to get over that incident. (NB: I receive nothing from British Airways, with whom I was also a top-level frequent flyer until 2001; perhaps they’ve lost track of me.)

But… I still had all this mileage sitting around with KLM (58,000+), and some flexibility (for once) in planning my upcoming trip to India. So I hopped on the KLM site to see what could be done.

The awards booking process (which gets good marks on usability) informed me that I needed 70,000 miles to go to India – but they would advance me the missing mileage. This was automatic in the system, though it was a little weird – at first it looked as if that offer was only valid if I flew on Tuesday, but when I tried again a few days later, it was offered for Wednesday (my ideal departure date) as well. So I got exactly the flight I wanted for "free" (still had to pay over €200 in "taxes and fees").

In the meantime, researching other airlines, I had learned, to my horror, that the baggage limit of 20 kg from Europe to India now seems to apply to all airlines. I know that on all my previous trips I have carried two heavy suitcases in and out of Delhi, and only one of those trips was business class. I guess this is some new trick of the airlines to squeeze more money out of their hapless passengers. The standard rate for excess baggage is €30 per kilo (!!!) – no less than Air India’s rate that I was screaming about earlier this year.

However… I’m a Platinum member on Flying Blue. Turns out that that entitles me to 20 kg extra baggage – just what I need to bring Ross her winter clothing and the food goodies she craves in boarding school.

The flight I’m booked on is actually Air France, which is a bit disappointing – I much prefer KLM’s home base of Schipol airport to Charles de Gaulle – and we will have to drive to Malpensa at an ungodly hour Wednesday. I reserve judgement on comfort and service til I get there, but remember Air France as being okay (last time I flew they still allowed smoking on board, which tells you how long ago it was).

In short, treating me well as a once and maybe future frequent flyer has won big points for Flying Blue. Let’s see how well they maintain this relationship.

Share your airline experiences – who do you like (or not), and why (or why not)?

Ryanair’s Web Usability Tax – Passengers Pay for Incompetent Web Design

This article, with a new addendum added June 26, 2007, has been moved to my new blog, Usability Bitch. You might also like: Traveling in New Zealand KLM Makes Up, and Other Airline Experiences Airline Usability Dancing Horses: The Lipizzaner Stallions

This article, with a new addendum added June 26, 2007, has been moved to my new blog, Usability Bitch.

Airline Usability

This article has moved to my new blog, Usability Bitch. You might also like: Traveling in New Zealand KLM Makes Up, and Other Airline Experiences Ryanair’s Web Usability Tax – Passengers Pay for Incompetent Web Design Dancing Horses: The Lipizzaner Stallions

This article has moved to my new blog, Usability Bitch.

Frequent Flier: The Strange Perks of Business Class

Over the years I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve ended up travelling to the US far more than I ever expected, mostly for work. The first such trip occurred soon after Incat Systems moved to California, in late 1993. I was the technical writer, so I had to meet with the engineers from time to time, Read More…

Over the years I’ve lived in Italy, I’ve ended up travelling to the US far more than I ever expected, mostly for work. The first such trip occurred soon after Incat Systems moved to California, in late 1993. I was the technical writer, so I had to meet with the engineers from time to time, and later with other sorts of colleagues. I got into the habit of flying to California four times a year, sometimes staying for extended periods and visiting other parts of the US as well.

My first day at the US office, Whitney, the new American vice-president of the company, asked me if I’d flown business class. The idea had occurred to me, but I didn’t think the big boss would want to pay for it, and had been afraid to ask. “Next time, fly business,” said Whitney. “I’ll take care of Fabrizio.” I was nervous about this, but no one complained when I booked a business class ticket for my next trip.

When I saw Whitney, he immediately asked: “Did you fly business class?”

“Yes.”

He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially: “Good. Never look back!”

And I didn’t. I continued to fly business class on long-haul flights (Europe to San Francisco is at least ten hours), which meant that I was more likely to arrive in working order than if I had spent the trip with my long legs cramped into a cattle-car seat. I racked up the frequent-flier miles, initially on KLM, which we had habitually used for family trips. One of the perks of KLM business class is a gift: a little Delft china house full of gin. I have a shelf of them (still full of gin), but we never figured out how you’d get the big palace (half a litre’s worth) that we saw on display at Schipol airport.

Sometime during all those years of flying, I responded to a piece in theInternational Herald Tribune about business class service on various airlines. I was trying to be funny, something about how on Alitalia there’s no personal video, only a single big screen, so they had to edit James Bond for the family audience – which made the film quite incomprehensible. This letter was printed in the paper. I hadn’t mentioned why I travelled, merely that I worked for Adaptec. So they quoted me as “an executive for Adaptec, a California company.” I guess they figured that anyone who flew that much had to be an exec.

Just as I was beginning the (later aborted) move to California in 2000, British Airways put fully-reclining seats into business class. I have never been able to sleep on my back, and in a partially-reclining seat it’s very difficult to lie on your side. On BA, I was able to really sleep on a plane for the first time in my life – and I needed that sleep. So I became a BA frequent flier, and made so many trips that I shot to Platinum level within six months.

The California thing went sour, and I made my final flight home to Milan in late March, 2001. I was so physically and emotionally drained that, driving my rental car to San Francisco airport, I was seriously afraid that I would have an accident. But I made it, dragged my 200 pounds of luggage to the BA check-in, and collapsed in the lounge. I was grateful to crawl onto the plane, where I wouldn’t be responsible for any person or task for at least 12 hours.

The purser came to greet me: “Ms. Straughan, we see that you’re a very frequent flier with us, and we want to make sure that you’re happy. If there’s anything at all we can do…” I was impressed with this display of customer relationship management, and didn’t tell him that this flight was probably my last, through no fault of BA’s.

I haven’t flown much since quitting Roxio, and never business class. I’ve used up the mileage I’d accumulated on various airlines (not only on myself and my family), but haven’t acquired much new mileage. BA has steadily demoted me; now I’m at plain old Blue level, so I no longer get preferential check-in (I’ll miss that) or lounge access.


Received by email:

“Hi Deirdre,

Just stumbled upon your site whilst reading about travel to India (LP thorn tree) and ended up spending half an hour browsing the various sections! It was very interesting to read your travel experiences but also the Op/Ed pages. You must put in quite some time, my compliments. The reason for sending you a message is this:

“…we never figured out how you’d get the big palace (half a liter’s worth) that we saw on display at Schipol airport.”

A friend of my parents used to be a board member of KLM (now retired). He told me once that this special bottle/house, depicting the royal palace on Amsterdam’s Dam Square, used to be presented to KLM business class passengers flying on their birthday! Of course I don’t know if this is still the case but I thought you might like the answer to your mystery.

Keep up your web site, best regards,

[name deleted for privacy]”