How NOT to reply to a complaint letter
Rex Express, one of Australia’s largest independent regional airlines, is enduring an embarrassing PR nightmare after it responded (poorly) to a complaint letter. The treatment of the customer has gone viral, with regional business leaders seeking to boycott the airline.
Dr Charles Thorburn, a cardiologist who regularly flies with the airline to Griffith in country NSW, sent the airline a typical complaint letter regarding a string of unimpressive bungles after an aircraft went tech.
The response from the Rex was crass and insulting. The Managing Director of Rex, Lim Kim Hai, who is based in Singapore, instructed a local airline employee to reply in a manner that would make the most hard-skinned PR professional blush and run for cover.
We feel that the airline should offer Dr Thorburn an immediate apology – Mr Lim Kim Hai’s unimpressive reply not only makes a mockery his professionalism and reputation, but is in stark contrast to Rex’s value statement as outlined on its website.
What do you think? Was Rex completely out of line?
Dr Thorburn’s complaint letter to Rex:
30th May 2012
Mr Lim Kim Hai
The Managing Director
Regional Express Holdings Limited
I wish to complain about the service provided by Regional Express to Griffith in particular.
For about 20 years now I have been providing a cardiology outpatient service at Griffith Hospital on a Friday.
Over the years there has been a deterioration in the reliability of the service and the ability of REX to inform its passengers and provide reasonable alternatives for getting customers back to Sydney.
On Friday May 25, having flown down to Griffith on the morning flight, we arrived at the airport for the last afternoon flight back to Sydney.
It turned out that the plane was stuck at Narrandera. Information for this was provided by passengers who received mobile calls from customers on the flight from Narrandera.
Eventually we were informed by the ground staff at Griffith that the plane needed repairs and that engineers were being flown out from Wagga to Narrandera and in the meantime we should go on a bus to Narrandera.
Why this decision was made remains a mystery.
When we got to Narrandera the plane was still not operational but eventually it was thought to be safe, although the alternative plane was considered only fit to fly engineers and not passengers.
In any case the plane took off with the stranded Narrandera passengers and flown to Griffith.
An hour later the plane returned but was unable to land for a quarter of an hour and when it finally did so was stuck on the runway.
After another hour or so the plane was moved off the runway, further work was done on it. All this time we were provided virtually no information.
By about 10 o’clock we were told that we could be bussed back to Griffith but there was no guarantee when a plane would be available to take us back to Sydney in the morning.
We decided to get a taxi to Wagga and acatch the early morning flight from Wagga. The REX official assured us that the flights would be changed to the Wagga flight (658) and we would have no problems getting on that early morning flight.
There were about 28 people stranded in Narrandera without food; with some reluctance the REX official at Narrandera ordered us some pizzas and three were delivered to feed 28 people.
We finally arrived in Wagga by taxi ($250.00) extremely hungry at 1 o’clock in the morning and were fortunately able to get a hotel room for a few hours.
When we got to the airport at Wagga in the morning we found that our seats had not been transferred and the girl there required half an hour of trying to find out whether they had been and then spent another half an hour manually entering us for the boarding pass.
We finally arrived back in Sydney on Saturday morning.
It is my experience now over 20 years trying to provide a service to country New South Wales that the REX service has deteriorated dramatically.
Furthermore information provided and decisions made about how to compensate for malfunctioning planes is totally unsatisfactory.
I have serious doubts whether I am going to continue to fly to Griffith. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any competition flying to Griffith and I suspect that is why the service is so poor.
I would be grateful for documentation of how frequently the service to Griffith arrives on time and how often flights are significantly delayed and/or cancelled.
I would also like documentation as to whether Friday is worse than other days because my only alternative is to move my flights and clinics to another day.
My out of pocket expenses were:
Hotel room $205.00
Charles W. Thorburn
Rex’s response to the customer
Dear Mr Thorburn
My Chairman Lim Kim Hai has received your letter dated 30 May 2012 and has instructed me to respond as follows:
1. Rex is not perfect and occasionally we do have failures of equipment and service standards. We are not proud of this and we are truly sorry to have caused any inconvenience to anybody.
2. That being the case, we think we are still much better than all the airlines in Australia and most of the airlines in the world.
3. Your entitlement to compensation is governed by our conditions of carriage which you have accepted. In this case you are not entitled to anything. If, as you say, you find the conditons unsatisfactory, why did you accept them in the first place? I would be curious to know if you would reimburse any of your patients who do not get well after seeing you? If you don’t, why not?
4. We are not providing you with the statistics you are requesting for. Perhaps in the medical profession you are used to dispensing information on how long you make your patients wait or how often you misdiagnosed.
5. I am not aware of any particular pattern of cancellations/delays. If this could be foreseen in advance believe me it would not have happened.
GM Corporate Service
Many thanks to Ben Sandilands at ‘Plane Talking’ who alerted us to this story… read his article here.