Air Berlin Customer Service: #failure

(Deutsche Version)

Beginning of March I was in Palma de Mallorca for a long weekend and had booked an Air Berlin flight back to Basel. As we had not had the best experience with food on board the last time I opted for the online booking of the so much advertised gourmet meal of their partner Sansibar Sylt. I chose a vegetarian curry, as Dominik and I are right now doing a period of no-meat nutrition. The order was confirmed by mail and the 9 EUR charged to my credit card, all set. 

Once on board the stewardess came to confirm the order once again and I was looking forward to a decent dinner. When it was delivered though, things started to go wrong. 

The stewardess, Ms Schmierer apologized and said the wrong meal was delivered to the aircraft, it was a meat curry. I poltitely declined and said it's ok I take the usual free cheese sandwich (which to be honest was awful). She promised to file a report and administration would reimburse the 9 EUR in the next couple of days. In the very improbable case that I should not see the reimbursement on my next credit card statement I should contact customer service at the contact details she handed me on a business card. 

The week after the flight I received the invitation to an online customer satisfaction questionnaire, which took roughly ten minutes to fill in. I participated, in the comment box mentioning the incident again and asking for reimbursement. 

I would have been really surprised if things actually would have gone smoothly, but as it was to expect 20 days later there was still no reimbursement, nor any contact after the questionnaire. I wrote an email to the address stated on the card: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., just to receive an automatic reply in German, stating that Air Berlin would not receive any complaints via email anymore, stating a link to an online form

I sighed. Ok, well, let's do that then. I meticulously inserted all flight data, including my original complaint email text:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

Ich hatte für diesen Flug online im Voraus ein vegetarisches Curry (9EUR) bestellt, das mir auch berechnet wurde. Leider war dann im Flugzeug ein Fleischcurry geliefert worden, kein vegetarisches. Die Purserin, Frau Schmierer, hat mir versichert, dass ich die 9 EUR umgehend rückerstattet bekomme, da ich die Mahlzeit entsprechend nicht verzehrt habe. Nun sind bereits mehr als zwei Wochen vergangen, ich habe keine Nachricht oder Rückerstattung bekommen.

Zudem habe ich auch bei Ihrer 10-minütigen Online-Kundenzufriedenheitsbefragung teilgenommen und den Vorfall auch dort erwähnt - ohne weiter Kenntnisnahme. Dies wird mich sicherlich nicht dazu ermutigen, nochmals Zeit in Umfrage zu investieren, wenn Kommentare die über das normale Ankreuzen hinaus gehen einfach ignoriert werden.

Ich erwarte umgehend Ihre Nachricht was die Rückerstattung angeht.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Melanie Frey

(for the non-German speakers: basically the summary of the incident)

To this I received an automatically generated email with a file number to keep until the case is resolved. Two days later another email in the inbox, with the following text:

Dear Mrs Frey,

Thank you for your correspondence dated 18/03/2014.

From your lines I gather that we upset you by not delivering the expected or accustomed service and that we disappointed you. I empathize and wish to sincerely apologize on behalf of airberlin. We of course know that you were looking forward to your flights and your journey and expected a smooth procedure from booking to in-flight service. Believe me that any unforeseen change or incident is very troublesome for us as well. It is our foremost aim to offer our passengers safe, courteous and competent transportation to their destination.

Dear Mrs Frey, at this time we would like to thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us. Your feedback is of great significance to further optimize our internal procedures and processes.

I sincerely hope that you will accept our apologies and will continue to place your confidence in us in the future. We will make every effort to be a courteous and reliable travel partner on all stages of your journey. We would be delighted to welcome you on board an airberlin group service in the near future. Kind regards

Mr Hebold Customer Relations

Air Berlin PLC & CO. Luftverkehrs KG

Saatwinkler Damm 42-43 13627

Berlin Contact:

I have to admit it is nice text blocks, probably copy-pasted from their drafts and sent by a part-time worker, maybe a student, who might be in Berlin, or Ireland, or India. Maybe Mr Hebold does not speak German, as he is not mentioning at all the reimbursement or referencing in any way to my original mail? Also, why would the respond in english, if my original email was in german and my language preference on my air berlin profile is german?

If I had expected my email reply would go through I had erred. So I again took the time-consuming way of going through the online complaint form to send my answer:

Guten Abend Herr Hebold

zusätzlich zu Ihrer Empathie und Ihrer Zusicherung dass es nicht mehr vorkommt möchte ich vor allem mein Geld zurück - dies ist in Ihrer Email nicht erwähnt (und ich spreche dies nun bereits zum 3. mal an!). Ich erwarte umgehend Information wann die Rückerstattung erfolgt.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen

Melanie Frey 


Today, two days later, nothing new except another automatically generated email of confirmation of receipt.

My summary so far:

Pre-flight communication: Good, they even sold me something.

In-flight communication: Good. Stewardess nice and apologetic. 

Post-flight communication: Complete failure

Next steps:

I will send an invoice to Air Berlin, about 9 EUR reimbursement and 60 CHF Administration Charges. 

To be continued...


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