It’s not allowed…

…but actually we expected you to guess that because we don’t actually state it anywhere until it’s too late. (My thoughts on SAA’s attitude towards their customers.)

On Wednesday night (31 August), Janita sat down to book our tickets home for Christmas. She opened the SAA website in two tabs in the browser (Chrome), one for my ticket and one for hers. Once happy that all the details were correct, she proceeded to book my ticket. However, the ticket we actually received had her flight details and my name.

This prompted a frantic phone call to SAA customer service, because their number is listed on the bottom of the ticket as being the contact point in case of queries. The phone call was made to a Johannesburg land line from Germany using Skype. Unfortunately the line was terrible and it took three attempts to actually get a good enough connection to proceed with the complaint. Janita spent almost an hour on the phone,  speaking to two different people and eventually the supervisor who agreed to contact the refunds department and get back to me the next day at 13:00. Needless to say, by 15:00 on Thursday I was still waiting and I asked Janita to try again. She failed to contact the supervisor, who was supposedly busy with another call. She was however assured that he was working on our case and would get back to us before the end of the business day. Guess what? Nothing! I wasn’t really surprised but after waiting until 13:00 on Friday, Janita called again. The supervisor was still unavailable but once again she was assured that he would get back to us.

Now let me be clear here: I’m talking about an incorrectly booked ticket to the value of almost 1000 € caused by a browser error that as far as I can tell is unique to SAA. SAA is the only airline website I have come across that cannot handle tabbed browsing.

I arrived home at about 15:00 on Friday and decided to call back myself. New information this time: the supervisor in question wasn’t even there. He had the day off! I started again at square one and made another attempt to get the ticket cancelled and somehow eventually ended up speaking to someone whom I imagine was another supervisor. He asked me if I’d taken a screenshot of the error. I explained to him, in rising tones because I was starting to lose control, that this would have been possible if I had been asked to do it on Wednesday when I called one minute after the error occurred! I received little sympathy from him. He only kept saying that the error needs to be proved and that otherwise I would have to pay for the refund. I explained that after speaking to four different people over the almost two days, this was the first time the requirement for a screenshot had been mentioned and that I was not going to pay SAA any part of the refund because they are incapable of dealing with the situation properly. He then said that I must call customer care ( a completely different department) because he couldn’t do any more to help me.

Next phone call… SAA customer care (not the same as customer service), and back to square one. The guy who answered the phone was completely unhelpful saying that I would have to pay for the refund and if I didn’t then I wouldn’t get it. He also said that I had to speak to the WebHelp department and gave me their phone number. However, his most fantastic line was this “opening multiple tabs in a browser is not allowed“. I was stunned. Not allowed by whom? Every modern browser not only allows it but actively supports it! Nowhere on the SAA website does it state the multi-tabbed browsing is “not allowed“. I was so flabbergasted at this statement that I even opened several tabs with the SAA site in them just to double check that I wasn’t on a different planet. Well I wasn’t but clearly SAA is. I managed to speak to his supervisor as well who was equally unhelpful saying that he didn’t have the right tools to help me. On further enquiry these tools turned out to be web tools that would allow them to identify the error. So guess what… yes that’s right – another phone call and back to square one.

I attempted to call the given number for WebHelp at least 10 times before finally giving up.

At this point I was flummoxed, there appeared to be no way out. I still had no idea whether the original supervisor at customer service had or had not done what he promised to. You have to love South Africa – that’s why I moved to Germany!

I decided to try another tactic and call the local German branch of SAA in Frankfurt. What a pleasure to speak to someone who could understand me. The extremely helpful staff not only understood my problem but were able to help me immediately, providing names and contact details for individuals whose job related to my problem and who could actually do something for me. In Germany I spoke directly to people who helped me fix my problem within days (I had to wait over the weekend, but that was all). They changed the return date on my ticket at no charge and even booked Janita’s ticket as well. I am extremely grateful for their help.

I have not heard anything back from the South Africans. However, a quick check using the ticket reference numbers shows that at least they haven’t undone what the Germans fixed.

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