Why Air New Zealand is the Airline of the Year!

by kai on 25/01/2010

Air New Zealand (short Air NZ from here on) – my home turf airline – has recently been named Airline of the Year in the Air Transport World magazine awards. There are plenty of reasons why they absolutely have deserved to win this award. Plenty, really! Lance Wiggs has listed a few of those from his point of view and I couldn’t agree more (Make sure you read it, Lance’s post is really interesting from a business point of view).

It seems that they pretty much just get it. Take their online engagement on Twitter as an example: with accounts such as @flyairnz, our beloved @airpointsfairy or @korulounges they actually communicate with their customers (not to mention @grabaseat and the regional AirNZ offices in the US and the UK). At this stage I can’t think of being in constant chit-chat with another “corporate” account on Twitter besides @flyairnz. Other airlines in the region (and globally, I follow about 50 airlines on Twitter) are either totally ignoring that channel or stupidly push out corporate messages and deal airfares but not much else.

The don’t just get Twitter but also lots of other aspects of “online”. The airpoints fairy has her own little world, there’s grab-a-seat and there’s the Adobe Flex-based Air NZ Frequent Flyer portal (although I’m not totally happy with how that particular app’s being done and delivered 🙂 – if anyone from Air NZ reads this and is interested, feel free get in touch for some advice)

But seriously – even offline or outside of social media they do a great job. Recently I had an issue that after a flight from Brisbane to Wellington on a Saturday my suitcase was chewed. Chewed as in – destroyed to a level of not being usable anymore. Luckily nothing was missing from the inside. Baggage services “took care” of the issue and told me that I’d have to drop the suitcase at a local baggage repair store where it would be assessed, potentially repaired but they couldn’t really tell me how long it would take due to their workload etc.

Naturally I wasn’t happy with that – the suitcase was an obvious write-off anyway and additionally I had another trip to go on 4 days later where I wanted and needed to use it. Also – why would it be my responsibility to drop off a suitcase somewhere, I haven’t destroyed it after all. So I complained. I tried with baggage services on Monday first but they couldn’t really help me because all claims are being handled by one person in NZWN. I couldn’t reach that person the whole Monday morning and got quite frustrated over that fact (later it turned out that the guy at the baggage desk in the airport gave me the wrong phone number, doh). As I couldn’t get any progress besides “you have to bring in the suitcase” vs. “no, I’m not going to do that” I used Twitter. Luckily I had already vented my frustration about the destroyed suitcase in the first place on Saturday from next to the luggage belt and @flyairnz had reacted to that (on a Saturday, wow). On Monday I used that channel indirectly again, explaining my problem and (actually) made some suggestions for changing the overall broken luggage process after the experience I had and things started to get moving (I’m sure my status with them helped as well).

To cut that story short – by the end of Tuesday I had a new suitcase: same brand, very similar weight (after they firstly delivered me a replacement suitcase that was way too heavy for my purposes) and delivered to my doorstep – that’s exactly how it should be. Very nice turnaround to fix the issue quickly, awesome work Air NZ.

Again – the moral of the story is: they get it. They genuinely want to help if you tell them about the issue and I generally feel treated by them as a valued customer and not just cattle. And that’s even the case when you’re a non-status customer sitting in economy. Everyone makes mistakes, agreed: For instance, I regularly vent about failed “premium luggage delivery” on Twitter (it seriously always seems to hit me :-)) – but in the overall scheme of things that’s not more than an occasional minor nuisance.

Another example: Last week I was in Auckland (on a very cheap ticket, something like NZ$ 100 for the return trip). Normally those tickets are not refundable and not changeable without a hefty penalty (for a good reason). I was on the 8 pm back home and was in the lounge (after I checked in with my iPhone mPass app) when I suddenly got paged at around 6:20 pm. Having made my way to reception I got offered to be rebooked for free on the 7 pm flight as the 8 pm flight was going to be running 15 mins late and they had a few spare seats on the 7 pm flight. Again, that’s something where I’m sure FF status helps a lot, but it’s still an extremely nice gesture; thanks a lot Air NZ.

stuartm January 25, 2010 at 7:42 pm

I’m curious to hear how you think this story would have panned out had you not used Twitter? It sounds as if you were getting shafted until you resorted to Twitter. Surely AirNZ customer’s shouldn’t need to use a public forum such as Twitter to get good customer service? Don’t get me wrong, I applaud AirNZ for using Twitter and I’m generally a fan of flying with AirNZ (apart from one really bad experience), but I’m not really impressed that you only got good service only after using Twitter.

kai January 25, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Stuart, I didn’t mean to express “I just got good customer service because I used Twitter”. I guess, what I’m trying to say is – I was unhappy with the way my problem (and maybe other people’s problem) was dealt with and I used Twitter and a follow-up email to let Air NZ know that there is an issue and they pretty much turned it around right away and fixed it. And that’s what I think is really worth being mentioned. Shit happens and people make mistakes – it’s way more interesting how someone tries to help you fixing the issue.

Also note that this particular problem was not really solved via public Twitter messages but rather with DMs. It’s not that I complained publicly and Air NZ tried to avoid more damage or I threatened anyone by saying…”if you don’t fix this I’m going public” or anything. Someone at Air NZ recognized the problem and genuinely wanted to help me getting it resolved.

And re your question how the story would have panned out had I not used Twitter: I would have escalated the problem up the food chain. Would have called (in my case) the premium customer hot-line, put in a formal complaint about their approach or something. Obviously that takes potentially longer than feeding it in in from “the side”. But the interesting thing is – with Air NZ I find that this formal approach is normally not even necessary (it IS with most other airlines). Most times I dealt with CSRs on the phone for instant it’s perfectly fine. Besides being polite and nice they’re actually genuinely trying to help you and I think with having done numerous hot-line calls, I just once had a CSR that was really impossible to work with and I had to ask for the person’s supervisor.

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