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Old Jun 13, 2015, 4:30 AM
fool_me_once fool_me_once is offline
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 1

I had a horrible experience with Alitalia in early May. I could not believe it was really happening!

I was flying Marseille to Toronto via Rome on Alitalia. It was my first time flying with them. Its also my last! It started when I tried to do the online check-in. The Alitalia online system would not recognize my ticket or PNA number. The Expedia for TD agent tried calling Alitalia and was told my reservation was fine but I would need to go to the check-in counter at the airport. That chewed up a good three hours on the phone out of my trip. Strike One.

I was sure to get to the airport at least 3 hrs in advance but barely made the flight. First after waiting a good 45 mins in the checkin line the check-in agent denied me boarding because of my CPAP machine. After frustrating all the folks behind me in line, without ever looking at the machine she decided I was trying to bring an oxygen tank on board. Her mind was made up and when I tried show her the machine or get her name she covered her name tag and rapidly turned her head away. She didn't speak english so we did this in French with the help of my friends. Thank goodness they decided walk me to the gate when dropping me off. That check-in was the most humiliating and stressful experience I ever had at any airline and I needed to get out of the line as the folks behind me were getting pretty frustrated with the hold up.

If I still wanted to fly home that day I was now to line up at another another counter were a nice lady there after about 15 mins on the phone and said the the check-in agent said I had an oxygen tank. I showed her and it was one of the most popular CPAP (ResMed S9) machines out there and I had never had a problem flying with it. The security folks always recognized it. I could not believe the attitude of that check-in agent. She was a pretty brunette in her early 30's but boy what a mean spirited lady.

So back into the check-in line I went. but I made sure to get another check-in agent. He rolled his eyes about the other agent especially when he saw her hide her name tag and shake her head so rapidly away to hide her face when I again asked for her name. Then she stormed off to the gate saying something to the effect "I am doing my job and I'll see you at the gate very soon". She was obviously not pleased that she was over ruled and my CPAP machine was cleared for boarding. Not sure what her issue was that day or why she would not let me see her name tag. I had never experienced that lack of professionalism by a gate agent ever. It was just not necessary!

Now this fellow is trying to check me in and he says my reservation IS NOT CONFIRMED. So he is on the phone for a good 45 mins typing and trying things on his computer. Its now getting close to the departure time and I'm exhausted from the 2.5 hours of stress and humiliation. Finally he says I'm ok to go to the gate. By then I was sweating and my heart was pounding. I said all would be forgiven if he upgraded me to first class for the 9hr crossing from Rome to Toronto. He said the first class was booked solid but to check with the gate agent in Rome.

Not knowing how long it would take to get to the plane I ran like hell as it was less then 15 mins of departure time. I made it as they were about 20 mins behind schedule but by the time I was on the plane I was a mess. It took a good 4 hours before I could settle down. I still could not believe the bad treatment and how poorly trained that gate agent was. Kind of scary really when you think how important processes and training are for an airline.

In Rome I explained what happened to the gate agent and she said first class was fully booked.

The inside of the plane seemed old. It was old TV screens in the ceiling and my tray table mechanism was broken. The staff were ok but they didn't seem as cheerfull. Everything was all business and smiles were rare but that of it part was ok. I did stroll up to first class and there were at least two unused seats. The blankets and pillows where still in their plastic bags on the seats. Strike two!

When I got home I emailed a detailed account of this horrible experience to their customer relations dept. After a few days I got a phone call from a lady with a horrible attitude and poor english on a poor phone line. She kept saying she could not hear hear me. It was a low grade connection with a lot of delay but I could always hear her. She called me back twice but the connection seemed the same so it was totally unproductive. She said there was no record of my reservation problem just the CPAP issue but she said her investigation showed it was only a small delay (I was fabricating it all. Luckily I took a video). I tried several times to fill her in on the entire 3 hours of stress and how insane their process was but she kept saying she could not hear me. I heard her fine so I think she was using this as a tactic. How a company could claim to serve Canadians with such a poor phone connection and attitude was unbelievable.

She said because I was allowed to to board the schedule flight (no matter how bad the experience was or how hard I had to fight past their obstacles) that they kept up their part of the bargain. She even said "we're glad she did that, she was doing her job". I tried to explain I have gone through all types of security screening and it was always well managed and reassuring and I never had a problem with it but how this was handled at the check-in line was insane. The agent never looked at the CPAP and why did the security screening folks not have an issue with it. I kept trying to tell her she did not have all the facts but she kept saying she could not hear me. She just rudely said she could not hear me and was going to send me an email and hung up. The inmates were running the asylum that day!

The email offered me a 75 Euro credit but only if I booked on Alitalia and paid them directly. No travel agent or air miles. Basically an impossible scenario. They refused to consider any information I had about what really happened at the gate and just wanted me to go away. I refused to accept that and asked them to take this to the next level and listen to the phone call. They said no way. I asked them to show my complaint to the presidents office so they can get the proper info about how their front line people operate and they just stopped replying. All they wanted to hear was that I was allowed to board the flight I booked. Nothing else mattered. STRIKE 3!!!

I can't believe how bad Alitalia treated me and how broken their processes are and poorly trained they were that day! I was telling a few friends and neighbors and they all said "never fly Alitalia". So I'm now just finding out they had all been burned. In fact I could not find anyone who didn't have a bad experience story about Alitalia. Its hard to imagine they are still in business!

We entrust our lives to an airline and from what I am experiencing trying to get Alitalia to evaluate all of what happened that day, I cant ever imagine risking my safety by flying Alitalia again. Who knows how deep these problems are across the organization! I can't rest now until this is properly addressed. They should not be allowed to operate in and out of Toronto with such poor functioning in english, such poor phone lines to Canada and such flawed processes by civilized standards. It was far worse than 3rd world!

Until they address what happened properly and rationally I have no choice to go out of my way to share my perception of the risks of flying Alitalia. I still shake my head in disbelief. I can't rest until this gets to the president's office Alitalia! If need be I'll post the videos of the experience they said never happened and a picture of the agent that refused to identify herself and covered up her name tag.

Never again Alitalia! Worst Airline experience I've ever had and I've flown hundreds of thousands of air miles over the years. Flyer beware!

Please Mr. Gabriele del Torchio CEO of Alitalia Airlines, hear what your customers are going through and have your office contact me. Its not the Italian hospitality I grew up with in Torontos Little Italy!
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