Hall of Shame: SwissAir -The Service Sucks!!

Ever since I moved to Switzerland some 16 months ago, I have chosen to fly SwissAir rather than BA. Why? Because I found the travelling experience to be better with SwissAir. However, now – today – I am so so minded to switch to any airline as long as it is not SwissAir. Why?

My Experience With BA: Excellent, Could Not Ask For More/Better/Different

It started back in March-19. I had booked two flights – for my son, and my daughter -with BA, from London to Zurich, for April. BA cancelled each of these flights – both of which departed on different days – and notified me via email. Further, BA informed me that I would automatically be refunded the cost of those tickets. BA was true to its word as in a few days of the cancellation notification email I received a confirmation – via email – of the refund. This left me impressed with the professionalism and integrity (moral) of the people running the airline as well as the operational integrity of the IT systems and associated business processes.

My Experience With SwissAir: Wow How Incompetent & Inconsiderate!

As soon as BA notified me that the flights were cancelled, I made the flight bookings with SwissAir. And, I was relieved and delighted as I was so looking forward to my two children coming over for Easter. All SwissAir did to delight me was to allow me to book (and pay) easily/quickly via their mobile app.

Since then my experience with SwissAir is one that can best be described – politely – as poor. Or as the Brit in me says “Piss Poor!” Allow me to set out my Moments of Despair:

1-Flight Cancelled But No Automatic Refund Nor Can I Get Through to Customer Services

Early April, days before my children were due to fly, SwissAir cancelled the flights: those of my children, and my scheduled flight to the UK at the end of April. As I made the bookings, I was notified. Unlike BA there was no automatic refund of the costs of those flights. No, to get a refund it was necessary to go online and fill in a form. Why?

To make it harder for customers to get refunds. Further, it simply was not possible to speak to a member of the Customer Services team. And we were told not to call Customer Services team. What the fork!? I let this be and gave SwissAir the benefit of the doubt given the covid-19 circumstances. Yet, I did notice their lack of moral integrity with regards to issuing refunds. In my way of seeing things: BA had acted decently, and SwissAir indecently.

2-Rebooking By Calling Customer Services, Cannot Be Done Online


Mid-July I rebook my son’s cancelled flight – as I am allowed to do this free of charge – due to the change in terms of conditions set out by SwissAir to deal with covid-19 impact. The thing is that I cannot do this online. Not great as I have been used to doing it all via the SwissAir app on my mobile.

So I ring Customer Services. Thankfully someone helpful answers my call within a few minutes. So far so good. Getting the flight rebooked turns out to be painless. Except for one thing. I am told that the new tickets will be issued and the transaction will be confirmed by email.

I wait for a few days, no email arrives. So concern is present. Which in turn drives me to call Customer Services. I get through and am told “Your ticket has not yet been issued. You are in the queue and your ticket will be issued shortly. Once the ticket is issued you will get an email confirmation.” That does not happen. And, I do not chase as I notice that the booking (including booking reference) appears on my SwissAir mobile app.

Notice that this is a fail for me, the customer, and for the airline. By not keeping the promise, by not keeping me up to date with status, SwissAir made work for me and for itself. I had to call, they had to take the call. I wonder how many customers did that which I had found myself forced to do?

3-Time to Check-In And Get A Boarding Pass For Flight to Zurich

It’s now just less than twenty four hours before the flight is scheduled to depart from London. Son goes to the SwissAir mobile app to do the check-in. Not allowed. Instead instructed to go talk to the SwissAir folks once arrive at London Heathrow. Which means that my son has to arrive earlier (and thus a longer journey) at Heathrow to get this issue dealt with. This is not forking great as my son – due to anxiety – finds travelling stressful. Imagine what my son is dealing with right now.

What does he find at the ticket desk in Heathrow? A queue. And when he finally gets to the ticketing desk, he finds that SwissAir have failed to issue a ticket for his flight!

Get this SwissAir had 2 weeks to issue the ticket. And failed to do so. Then, there, some running around to get the ticket issued so that my son could get a boarding card. And when he did get one, he got one of the shitty seats – as these were the only ones left.

How is it that SwissAir takes the booking, takes my money, and yet does not issue a ticket for the flight? Surely, issuing a ticket is basic, fundamental, business process for an airline, any airline! So, from an CX perspective, this is a huge fail. And, being charitable, I think “OK, it might just be a one-off glitch”

4-Yesterday, Time to Check-In And Get Boarding Card For Flight to London

Guess what happens! Yes, you have guessed it: we go to the SwissAir app to do the online check-in as the flight departs in just less than 24 hours. And we face the same issue: not allowed, told to go see the SwissAir folks at Zurich Airport.

I call Customer Services, I wait only a couple of minutes and get through to an agent. I set out the issue that I am facing. She checks. Sure enough, SwissAir have failed to issue a ticket for the return leg of the trip! How forking incompetent. And inconsiderate with regards to the impact on the Customer!

Can she get the ticket issued there and then? No! The best she can do is to put a high priority urgent request to the ticketing team. And, she tells me that the ticket should be issued in 2 hours so I should attempt online check-in after 2 hours.

Did SwissAir keep that promise? Fork no! It’s around 8pm yesterday and I am on the line with another agent in Customer Services. She tells me that ticket is still not issued. That it is in the queue. And there is nothing she can do about it. That the matter will have to be dealt with the ticket desk at Zurich airport tomorrow.

In Conclusion: The Management Team at SwissAir Should Be Sacked Immediately

I am clear that issuing a ticket -correctly and on time – is both an essential and a basic business process. It should happen automatically, and should work flawlessly. It should not be the job of the Customer to chase SwissAir to issue tickets.

Failure, twice, to get this right shows that a hygiene factor in the Customer Experience is broken. And, it shows that SwissAir doesn’t give a fork about the impact on the Customer and his/her experience of dealing with SwissAir. That is grounds enough for me, if I were in a position to do so, to fire the SwissAir management team – starting with the CEO. Given that I am not in a position to do that, I will do the next best thing: book future flights with alternative carriers like BA.

Hall Of Shame: Bitdefender

What Does It Take To Be Given A Position In The Hall Of Shame?

What does it take to be given a position in my Hall Of Shame?  It takes more than averageness, indifference and/or mediocrity.  For those that show up this way, for me, I have created the Hall Of Mediocrity.  And I shall be inducting CapitalOne into the Hall of Mediocrity in a follow up post.

To be accorded a place in my Hall Of Shame, you have to show up as a ‘taker’: one focussed on furthering one’s interest at the expense of the customer without any consideration for ethics or just plain decency.  It occurs to me that a great exemplar of this way of showing up and travelling in the world is Bitdefender, the antivirus firm.

What has Bitdefender done to earn it’s place on the Hall of Shame?

On 20th February I got the latest email informing that my antivirus subscription was due for renewal. Noticing that the renewal date was in the next 10 days, I logged onto my account (via the website) in order to cancel the renewal of the two subscriptions.  Whilst I could see the details of both of my subscriptions, I was not able to cancel the renewal. Why not?  Clearly, to stop me (and other customers) from cancelling renewals easily thus ensuring that some subscriptions would be renewed automatically as some customers would not go to the trouble of calling Customer Services.

Looking around the Internet I managed to find the telephone number and called Bitdefender’s Customer Services team. I provided the details that allowed the call-centre agent (let’s call him Mathus) to log into my account and see my subscriptions. Then I told him about the renewal emails, my failed attempt to cancel renewal online, and asked him to cancel the renewals.  Mathus went into sales mode. I responded by saying that I was not interested in renewing and asked him to cancel the renewals.

Mathus asked me to hold on whilst he cancelled the renewals.  I kept hanging on for at least ten minutes (I was counting them) despite being tempted to hang up. Why? I got that this was a deliberate ploy: keeping customers hanging up long enough and some of them will hang up thus limiting the number of renewals that get cancelled.

When Mathus came back on the line and apologised for taking so long I called him on it. Like a naughty boy who is proud of what he is doing and gets caught cheating, Mathus laughed immediately.  Noticing some humanity present, I asked Mathus to do the decent thing, stop running me around, and just cancel the renewals.

Mathus told me that only the Sales team had the authorisation to cancel the automated renewals. So I asked to be put through to the Sales team. Mathus told me that he couldn’t do that and that he would raise a ticket to ensure that the Sales team would cancel the automated renewals. I asked Mathus to create the ticket there and then. He told me he had done it, so I asked him to email me the ticket number, when I got that email I hung up the phone.

What I wish to convey her is this: if I had been dealing with Amazon, I would have logged on to my account and cancelled my order within 1 to 3 minutes.  With Bitdefender I had spent at least 20 minutes only to get an email with a ticket number.  And that only because I had persisted and insisted.  Was this the end of the story? No.

On the 24th February I got an email from Bitdefender’s Support Team informing that I had an open ticket with them, that they had not heard back from me for a while, and that I should contact them in order for them to resolve my issue.

On the 25th February, I emailed the Bitdefender Support Team with the following message: “Please confirm that you have cancelled the automated renewal of the annual subscription. That is what I rang you about and asked you to do. The agent told me that could not do it as he did not have the rights. He told me that only Sales could do it. And he told me that he would set up a ticket to ensure that the cancellation took place.”

What happened?  Did the folks at Bitdefender cancel my automated renewal?

A few days later I got an email from Bitdefender informing me that my antivirus subscriptions had been renewed.

This automated email was followed, the next day, by an email from Mathus informing me that the automated renewals had been cancelled.

When I got my credit card statement I noticed that I had been billed two sums of £43.96 – double the amount if I had been allowed to cancel the automated renewals and buy the same product, online, from Bitdefender or another antivirus vendor.

 Summing Up

If Bitdefender had played fair and offered to renew the subscription at the market rate of £24 I would have renewed. And as such Bitdefender would have earned £48 (2 x £24) at zero marginal cost.

If Bitdefender had played fair and made it easy for me to cancel the automated renewal of the subscription via my account on the net, they would have not incurred any costs.

Clearly Bitdefender has some kind of CRM system in place. And yet this system has not forged a closer relationship between myself and Bitdefender.  That is the limit of all systems. A tool is merely a tool.  The effect that any tool has in the world is who uses it, how it is used, and most importantly why it is used.

What was once a sound business practice from a rational actor/value maximisation perspective is no longer such a sound practice. The transparency enabled by the internet and social media allows customers like me to point out ‘takers’ as ‘takers’ and thus enable those who do not wish to be taken, to stay well clear of ‘takers’. So unless you have a killer (must have) product and/or deep pockets, it is time to wake up and act decently towards all stakeholders – especially customers.

By acting purely in their selfish interests with no consideration for decency or ethics, Bitdefender have earned themselves this post.  In dealing with CapitalOne (credit card company that I use) I found myself writing this of Bitdefender:

“I am clear that Bitdefender is dishonest, manipulative, organisation intent on doing everything possible to stop it’s customers from exercising their right to cancel the renewal of subscription.”