Complaints On Land, Sea and Air.
Christopher Elliott has made a career out of being a travel ombudsman. He writes a column for USA Today covering issues that crop up in the travel industry and he’s assembled a volunteer staff of people on his web site to investigate complaints and, in some cases, try to negotiate solutions.
The way things are going, Elliott and his people will never run out of material. The same specific issues keep cropping up and, while I haven’t actually kept a count, the same companies and industries also seem to keep showing up again and again.
The airline industry is at the top of the list when it comes to complaints which almost always have to do with refusing refunds when people have to cancel flights. Granted, in some cases the travelers are making unrealistic demands, but not always. It does seem that the airlines often try to weasel out of making refunds.
Rental car companies also trigger a lot of complaints and it’s almost always the same one: renters being billed for dents or scratches they claim didn’t happen while they were in possession of the vehicle. The company named most frequently by far: Enterprise.
The cruise industry generates a lot of complaints too. They have the same reluctance to make refunds or compensation if things don’t go as advertised. And when things go wrong during a cruise, it can all turn into a nightmare very quickly. Furthermore, the bigger the ship, the bigger the nightmare.
The latest cruise nightmare occurred just a few days ago aboard the Royal Caribbean line’s Harmony of the Seas on its 4-night maiden voyage from Southampton to Rotterdam and Cherbourg. Mind you, this ship is huge—the biggest in the world, in fact—a crew of 2,000 and accommodating as many as 6,000 passengers in 2700 staterooms on 16 decks. The screw up was huge, too. Photos taken by passengers leave no doubt that the ship was not ready to sail, with toilets not connected and many shops and restaurants not open.
And how do things look for all those thousands of unhappy passengers? Not so good. Royal Caribbean has put out a statement saying there was some inconvenience, but there were no safety violations. So far, that’s it.
I hope Christopher Elliott’s volunteers are braced for a bunch of emails.