02 January 2008

alitalia sucks

flights are expensive this time of year, and so when i bought my flight home for christmas i chose the cheapest flight that avoided london, putting me on alitalia through milan and into newark. i had had a disappointing experience with alitalia a few years ago, so i was nervous about flying with them again.

i arrived in newark almost two weeks ago, and my suitcase did not. and still has not. in the first six days i spent upwards of 3 hours a day on the phone and did not speak to a single employee of alitalia. in all, my entire christmas break that was supposed to be spent having quality time with my family was mostly spent on the telephone yelling at people or trying to calm down after yelling on the phone.

the problem is that foreign airlines outsource their baggage handling to third party companies or partner airlines. therefore, the people who are charged with finding your bag have no real interest in serving you because you are not their customer. with alitalia unavailable for 6 days surrounding christmas, i took stronger measures.

i filed a complaint with my credit card company, who tried to help me but couldn't reach alitalia on the telephone. i called airports in boston, newark and milan without reaching an alitalia employee. i filed a complaint with the attorney general's office of new york state. i filed a complaint with the department of transportation's aviation consumer protection division.

i wrote a news story and sent it to news outlets in new york and massachusetts. this seemed to work. after six days, using a direct phone number given to me by the new york attorney general's office, i was able to reach a person in customer relations. on the seventh day they returned my phone call after i had forwarded correspondance from a new york city television station and my complaints to government agencies. they assured me that they were doing everything in their power to find my bag. they assured me that managers were being called. they assured me that a certain employee of newark airport was reprimanded for certain things she had said to me, including "ma'am, i work for delta" and "you are at the bottom of the pile."

i felt better. i went to new hampshire for five days and relished the lack of cell phone reception and internet to disconnect and stop angering about it constantly. today i returned to new york and i resumed my daily calling: the tv station, newark airport, customer relations. again i leave messages that are never returned; phones ring and are never answered. finally a phone was answered and they told me that a bag that might be mine will be arriving tomorrow. they told me not to get my hopes up. this is difficult.

so why am i writing about this here? a few reasons.

first, to let you know what you're getting into if you fly alitalia. maybe the flight will go perfectly. but if you have a problem, you'll be in trouble. i have traveled alot and this is by far the worst customer service i have ever experienced from an airline

secondly, i've heard of companies that for a small fee can help in situations like this. they put a GPS device on your bag, so that when the italians lose it for 14 days there is some way of finding it. i would recommend this service for anybody who is flying with a foreign airline outside of its own country.

third, if you experience a similar situation, i wanted to document the steps i took to finally get service. i spent countless hours doing research into how to be an outraged consumer, who to contact and how to get noticed. i found that the local news was the most effective means, and i used this website: complaint.tv to spread my story around.

so let's hope that the bag arriving is mine. now i have the fight ahead of me to try to get reimbursed for the necessities i purchased while my bag was lost, and another fight about my return flight to madrid. i obviously don't want to fly on alitalia and they certainly will not be allowed to touch my luggage. so we'll see. for the moment my hopes are slightly bolstered...

10 comments:

Donn said...

I, too, had a negative experience with Alitalia. I booked a Paris-to-Rome and return flights in November. At the Alitalia ticket counter in Paris (CDG), I was forced to pay 228 Euros ($342) to check two of my bags. I was not happy, as they have a miniscule weight limit of 20 Kg/per person.

On the day we returned to Paris, we arrived by cab for our 6:00 AM return flight to CDG, Alitalia switched ticket counters from Terminal B to Terminal A without informing anyone. It was fortunate that Air France was around to 'clue' me. We lost 30 minutes of time, and had to walk a half-mile with all our luggage in freezing weather to reach the right ticket counter.

We finally were able to check our bags, and because we were flying all the way to San Francisco via Paris, Alitalia did not charge us again for the "extra" baggage. When we arrived in Paris, though, our baggage was nowhere to be found. Fortunately (again), Air France had a baggage claim office nearby. I filed a claim with the helpful Air France personnel for our lost baggage.

Once home, Air France continued to help us. After several days, they located our bags, and had them delivered to our home. I tried to reach someone at Alitalia, and found the same frustrations as Jacki did. I have yet to speak to anyone form Alitalia. I faxed a claim a few days after returning to Alitalia's Customer Relations in NYC. In my letter, I demanded Alitalia to return the 228 Euros that I spent to get my baggage to Rome. No response. I have also written an email message to their Customer Relations in Italy, only to get an auto response saying, "We'll get back to you soon." That was several weeks ago, and nothing since.

I would like to know what phone number that Jacki used to get a person on the phone at Alitalia. Help!

jacki said...

donn,
huge bummer about your situation. i recommend that you don't accept anything less than a full refund from alitalia. they tried to lowball me on my reimbursement amount and when i refused they quickly agreed to the full amount.
as for the phone number, there is a customer relations employee named teresa conenna who works in the new york office. her direct line is 212-903-3570. that number is the only way i ever got through to a person directly. her boss' name is elizabeth santella, but i don't have her direct line.

good luck!
jacki

Donn said...

Thanks Jacki ... I reached a human being in Alitalia's NYC office. I was transferred to a person who is "handling" my claim. She wouldn't tell me over the phone (Alitalia's policy) as to what compensation she had determined, but said a letter would be coming soon. She said she had "closed" this file a week ago, and that it is a 100-day process. Couldn't have done this without your kind assistance. Thanks you.

gangelo said...

I also have a big problem with alitalia. My girlfriend and I traveled from NYC JFK to Milan dec.23 2007. They lost one baggage. We wento to the office there in Malpensa. They said probably it will arrive the day after. Now is march 10 and the baggage is still missing. We send the claim with the list of everything inside in january to the NY office, when it was the right time to do it. Two weeks ago a friend of us went again to malpensa to ask there if they have some news. They showed her the baggage deposit there but no luck. Checking in the computer the lady of alitalia in Milan said that the file of the contents of the baggage is not Online! What??? We called immediately NY to let them know at 212-903-3575. apart the the lady there was the not kind at all, arrogant and not helpful. She said, of course we recieved it and we processed it. Yes, but why is not in the computer in Milan?? I have no idea but we did what we had to do.... thank you very much!
I would like to ask you jaki what you suggest to do. I'll try to call the number that you gave to Donn, but I would like to know who else you contacted in NY and how eventually they were able to find your bag. I'll try to submit my story online at complaintTV, but if I understood well you also contacted the NY attorney general office, did it work? The best thing are the complaintTV?? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I've come to the conclusion that this Teresa girl is the only person who works in the entire New York Alitalia office. I submitted a lost luggage claim in June of 2007, and she was the receptionist. In the YEAR since then, I've repeatedly called their customer service number, usually getting shifted around between phone trees and into overflowing voicemail boxes. I've managed to get through to a human being exactly three times in the past twelve months, and each time, it's been Teresa who has answered the phone. At first, they said that the European division was handling it, then they said that the files were lost and the handling agent had not responded properly to the complaint. I find it facinating that all paperwork was lost, considering that I traveled to their office in the Empire State Building, in person, and handed all of my paperwork over and watched as they keyed it into the system. What a disgrace.

a.r. said...

It is more than 10 months now Im tryin to get something out of Alitalia. I know for sure my two bags are gone....
Now I'm probably gonna go to small claims court to recover at least something...
Total was around 8500, not including attorney fees,etc.
You never know what kinda headache it is unless your bags are lost, and nobody gives a s@#$ about it...
From my experience I would say if you're in a similar situation,
Right away, hire an attorney let him write a letter to alitalia,
NEVER believe the Alitalia agents!!!...(don't get hopeful with them!)
Take notes of everything, and keep record of when you talked, who, outcome,etc. (will be very helpful in the court)
Alitalia....or maybe other airlines as well, play stupid and hope after some time....you'll just get over it...
I received 3 letters from Milan, over this 10 months and I think they just write my name in that template and send it..it has nothing to do with my case!
Has anyone filed a suit against Alitalia in the small claims court?
I live in AZ, and now have to eitehr hire attorney, or go to NY myself (Alitalia's office in New york, thats where the court has jurisdiction, that's where you have to go to file a claim)...
I tried sending letters to my local channels, and newspapers....but no response...
i'll check complain.tv....
Other than that...Alitalia sucks!..and never ever anyone should fly them!...its a corrupt, inefficient, and arrogant airlines..."customer service" is not in their vocabulary people...so whenevr your baggage is lost...Sue them ASAP!...
And don't believe them till you see your bags or get a settlement...
Again, Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

I have rarely used Alitalia in any of my International flights. Mainly use them from Rome to Naples and back. I also don't check any luggage in during that short trip. I normally fly USAir from Rome to Phil. During this last trip, I had to book a Nap-Rome flight with Alitalia because I had no other choice unless I wanted to take a train or drive to Rome myself. I booked my ticket online back in Mar--took my flight in early May and have yet to see the charge on my credit card. I wonder what they are doing. I really don't want to call them or else they might charge be based on a summer fare :-) It's no wonder why Air France didn't want to have anything to do with them. Unfortunately, Alitalia's market practices are corrupt just like a lot of things in Italy. That airline will only survive if the government can find a way to funnel money to it without letting the EU know. I have to say that during this last trip with them (35 min flt), they actually served breakfast on the flight and it was full to bat. Can't say we would have been given anything on any of our US domestic flights.

Anonymous said...

Thier customer service is horrible. We lost a bag. They gave us some forms and asked them to be faxed in... to a fax number that doesn't answer. Oh, the main number to call in NY doesn't pick up. DON'T FLY ALITALIA if you expect any support or customer service!!!!

desin-design said...

Thank you guys! I was just about to purchase a ticket to Rome with alitalia and having read all your comments I have definitely changed my mind on this airline.

Anonymous said...

I've bought my flight with Alitalia on their web site. And then cancelled flight before departure by calling their free number in USA. I suspect they transfer calls to Italy or somewhere else because English of operator very hard to understand and sound very low and noisy. They supposed to return airport taxes (that was almost 1/2 of price) but never did it. After reading comments here I thought to forget about this but few days ago was riding on train from SVO airport to Moscow (Russia) and found Alitalia's ad in local magazine with their phone number in Moscow. I called this number and in few minutes nice lady fixed this problem. I spoke Russian (think they speak English as well) and was very friendly. In a couple days I've got text message on my sell I gave them from Alitalia (came from France number) with discount code for booking on alitalia.com and couple days later they issued refund.
Calls to Moscow cost $0.02/min via Google Voice. So it may be better idea than call US free number with no results.