Saturday, 24 April 2010

Malta Moment

About 10 years ago, we were on holiday in Malta. One day, we booked and paid for a boat trip the following day to Malta's satellite island of Gozo. The next day, however, it was blowing a hooligan and, quite reasonably, the trip was cancelled. Could we have our money back then, please, we asked the chap at the harbour-side booth we'd paid the previous day. No, he replied. Why not? I'm just the agent, he says, you have to go and ask the shipping company ...

Hah! I was about to launch into a discourse about the legal niceties of the personal liability of agents for undisclosed principals and expound the latin maxim swarthicus como argentum nono decimis possessorum ergo devolvendo prontissimo obligatum est but decided this was a conversation to be had with the organ grinder rather than the monkey. So we stamped off to the office of the shipping company a few blocks away in high dudgeon rehearsing a speech involving such unanswerable logic as "How DARE you refuse to repay us! This country depends on tourism yet you treat your customers with UTTER contempt! I demand to see the Managing Director NOW or my next stop will be the British High Commission! We gave you the George Cross and look how you reward us!" The blackguards! The scoundrels! The, the, the - FOREIGNERS! No respect! No decency!

Instead, we get to the office and what happens? The chap behind the counter goes "You must be Mr King - thank God you're here ..." At this point, he's opening his wallet and pulling out notes "... I've kept the office open over lunch so as to be here to repay everybody. Here's you're money and I'm SO sorry we couldn't sail today - I do hope it hasn't spoiled your holiday ..."

We were like that - "Oh right. Thanks. No problem." And we got outside on to the pavement and looked at each and thought "Hang on! Let's wind that back. That wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to have an argument ..."

Hence why the syndrome whereby, when you're geared up for an argument with someone over a relatively trivial matter and that person caves in without a fight and you feel quite disappointed at having been denied the fight is known in the Duncan-King household as a "Malta Moment".

All of which is by way of a very long introduction to the fact that we had a Malta Moment today, the current adversary being British Airways.

Regular readers will recall from posts passim the disappointments we suffered at the hands of the World's Favourite Airline on the way back from London to Lisbon in January. First they cancelled our flight meaning we had to stay in a hotel in London overnight and then lost our luggage on the flight the next day meaning our kecks were getting a bit crispy during a subsequent layover in a range of Portuguese destinations none of which included Flores due to the weather disrupting flights to and and among the islands for a number of days thereafter.

Whilst not exactly in the same league as having to be rescued from Santander by a Royal Navy frigate (I would have paid extra for that) due to the volcanic ash cloud, it did leave us out of pocket to the tune of £60 for travel between Heathrow and the hotel and €23.71 for what BA called "first needs" (i.e. kecks) purchased in Modelo in Ponta Delgada.

On the 14th of January, I duly intimated the claim enclosing the receipts as above. Now, you'll be relieved to know I'm going to spare you the details of the tortuous correspondence with BA. Suffice to say that nearly 3 months later we still hadn't been paid and the reply to a registered post letter to BA HQ was to ask us to submit the receipts to an office in Bremen, Germany. But I sent you the receipts 3 months ago!!!, I retorted, and if I do not receive an undertaking to reimburse me within 7 days, I shall have no option but ...

As Neville Chamberlain, famously put it on 3rd September 1939: "I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war ..."

For a week or so, it was a phoney war with BA because the volcano had erupted and I thought I would be statesmanlike and let that disperse before I took the fight to the office of embattled BA Chief Executive, Willie Walsh.

But I used the time well, honing the text of my letter to perfection in my head. I also amused myself with mental pictures of WW emerging ashen-faced from yet another gruelling session with the striking cabin staff unions and his PA standing with her notepad saying "The CEO of Iberia's been on the phone several times - he's not happy about the pension fund deficit. We've had another e-mail from Eurocontrol - they're not opening the airspace yet. And you've got a recorded delivery letter from a Mr King ..."

But as the fog of volcanic ash cleared, I could put it off no longer. Having wound myself up to a peak of pompous self-righteousness, I had resolved upon the phrasing "I realise you are a busy man, Mr Walsh, and you must excuse me for trespassing upon your time but British Airways does not have its troubles to seek ..." I also wanted to get in "I seek not a free voucher, merely an apology and the knowledge that you have copied my letter to the Head of Customer Relations with an instruction that lessons be learned ..."

So as I sat down this afternoon to deliver myself of this matchless prose, Carol said "You better check the online banking first in case they've actually paid ..." Which I did.

Oh ...



Kathie said...

Are you still UK citizens? If so, then what say you turn this poser over to the Brown, Cameron and Clegg campaigns, to see which one provides you the best constituent service (they could milk it for some good publicity, no)? Ótima sorte!

Marisa said...

The best company is Singapure Airlines followed by Qatay. Singapure airlines were already a case study in my college times (marketing) and they're still on top. I was in doubt if you really wanted the money or a fight...