Post-Covid staffing problems have become the stock response in the travel industry to the logistical nightmare of international travel. The tourism industry, dormant for two years, is struggling to wake up.
It is a worldwide problem. The UK has been especially badly hit with easyJet and British Airways canceling hundreds of flights during the platinum jubilee holiday over the past week. Israel has its own problems, with disgruntled El Al pilots causing many flight cancelations, while Ben Gurion airport director Shmuel Zakai estimates that 1,000 more workers are still needed to meet summer demand.
My own trip to Britain last month reflected the nightmare of traveling in the post-Covid era. Service has reached disastrously and unreliably low levels.
I booked an easyJet package for the family that included a car rental from the carrier’s strategic partner Europcar. On arrival at London Luton, one of our suitcases did not arrive.
It got worse. When we reached the Europcar car hire office at 8pm, it was already closed. When questioned, staff in the adjoining car hire offices of Enterprise, Alamo and National said that it was routine for Europcar staff to go home early, leaving customers stranded. This was later further confirmed by Gordon of easyJet resolution support who wrote to me, "We will demand a full explanation from Europcar for their handling of the situation. as many other customers were also denied their services."
So five of us were marooned in Luton, including my one-year old grandson, needing to get to Tonbridge in Kent. With the assistance of the other car hire firms, who had no car to rent to us, we found a taxi for £175. The following day the manager of the Europcar branch in Tonbridge, which is in the process of closing down, was very sympathetic and even phoned up the manager of the Luton branch to express his dismay on our behalf and reprimand him, before providing us with a car.
The suitcase never reached us while we were in England. It was apparently sent to Luton six days later, the day before we flew back to Israel, and returned to Ben Gurion airport, damaged, the day after we returned to Israel. When I asked easyJet for a refund on the €83 I had paid for the airline to put the suitcase in its hold, Kirtika from Resolution Support told me, "As for your request for a refund of the luggage, I am afraid we would not be able to honour your request as you had availed the services."
According to SITA, 3.5 suitcases per 1,000 worldwide were not delivered on time in 2020, and 4.35 suitcases per 1,000 in 2021. The figure will likely be even higher in 2022.
When I suggested that as the car hire had been booked and paid for through easyJet, and therefore the airline was responsible for my taxi fare and something for the emotional distress, Kirtika was also not having any of it. "I would like to inform you that Europcar is a tie-up with us," she wrote, "Due to which we do not deal with their queries. Hence, you would have to contact them regarding your contract with them."
Nor were Europcar themselves interested in making any sort of financial amends. John Clarence Tating of Europcar UK Customer Service was also sympathetic. "Europcar prides itself on providing excellent service throughout our Customers rental experience. I am therefore sorry that on this occasion, the service did not reach yours or our expectations. This has been raised internally, so it can be addressed with those concerned."
But in the next paragraph, somewhat contradicting his assertion that the level of service was amiss, he completely sidestepped the question of financial reimbursement. "Despite the fact the booking did not have a flight number, our colleague waited till 19:45. Where our closing hours are between 08:00 till 18:00 and only if there is a flight number we wait so we can track the flight, we still honoured this booking and still waited 15 minutes past the booking time."
Strange that the booking had no flight number, even though it was booked through easyJet. Tating had previously asked me for the taxi receipt, which I duly sent. In subsequent emails the matter was ignored, although Europcar did offer me a 15% discount on my next booking. But who knows if the office would be open, if I took up the offer.
easyJet has yet to respond to the claim for the damaged suitcase and the clothing that had to be brought for the stay in England.
The easyJet spokesperson has yet to respond to this article. The Europcar spokesperson has yet to respond to this article.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 6, 2022.
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