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Comair Reschedules Cape Town to Durban Flight

It was without knowing about the service they were going to dish up, that we delighted in purchasing our one-way Kulula tickets (we only required one-way tickets as we are sailing with Starlight Cruises from Durban back to Cape Town via Port Elizabeth) from Cape Town to Durban for the awesome price of R398 each (thanks to a bit of moolah we've saved up with our Kulula credit card).

BA plane at Cape Town International Airport

Kulula slaps us round a bit

We were surprised when 2 days before our flight, Kulula unilaterally decided to change our flight from MN701 to MN6315 (which leaves Cape Town almost an hour later). Lucky we didn't have any meetings or anything to attend, but we were surprised that Kulula chops and changes like this. (Their check-in staff subsequently told us that if they discover a flight only has a few people on it then they cancel the flight and place the passengers on the nearest flight - i.e. they look after their own profitability before getting their passengers to destinations on the scheduled time).

We preferred our original flight time. We had timed the original flight to coincide with our baby's sleeping time, and the new time meant that it was likely baby would be tired and grumpy before we boarded. And it had a direct monetary cost - our lift couldn't make Kulula's new time so we had to hire a taxi to the airport which cost us an extra R200 (not to mention the cost of the extra phone calls in making new arrangements). At the same time, we also phoned up the Durban B&B we were staying at - The Deck on Manning - to change the time they were picking us up at the airport (they were great about it).

As we could only get on other airline flights at far higher costs, we didn't have much choice but to go with the new flight time Kulula had given us.

Heads you lose, tails Kulula wins

Kulula charge you extra if you decide to change your flight times, but don't pay you something back if they decide to cancel their flights.

The email

Kulula didn't phone us to let us know of their change in plans, but sent the following email...

-----Original Message-----
From: Kulula.com Flights [mailto:flights@kulula.com]
Sent: 26 January 2009 12:10 PM
To: cheapflights@southafrica.to
Subject: Transfer of seats


Your kulula flight MN701 on 28Jan @ 13H50 has been cancelled, but we've put you on MN6315 @ 14H45, your ref YDMINX   apologies kulula.com

Silver lining

MN6315 is actually a BA flight (see tips for cheap flights, where it explains how it's possible to book cheap BA flights through the Kulula website), and I think BA gives the best ride out of the local South African options.

Then Kulula slaps us about some more

While catching a CPT airport shuttle , the driver mentioned to us that all airlines cancel flights from time to time, but that Kulula seemed to cancel their flights more than the other airlines. What do you know, as we check-in at Cape Town International Airport, Kulula informs us that the new flight we have been booked on has been delayed and its time changed to 1800. And the reason for the new change, they informed us, was that as a result of cancelling the previous flight they now had too many passengers for the 1445 flight, and had to get a bigger plane in. Since all the changes had been as a result of Kulula's mission to maximise their profits, we requested the Kulula check-in supervisor transfer us to the SAA flight which was leaving at the correct time. She said that if we wanted to transfer to the SAA flight then they would attempt to refund us what we had paid, and we would need to pay in the difference (which was fairly substantial - R1200 for the SAA one-way ticket to Durban). When we protested, she suggested we call their customer complaints (021-9369053 or crcoastal@comair.co.za) and stared at us balefully with a look that said "this isn't my problem, and you should be grateful that I have given you lounge access" (at this stage our baby is screaming with tiredness and grumpiness).

A Comair staff member then informed us that the 1800 flight had been changed to 1600, and that they would accommodate us in the meantime in the airport lounge. Whilst this improved the situation, we reiterated to them that the right thing for them to do would have been to go all out to place us on the SAA flight which was leaving at the correct time. The Kulula person (a different person to the supervisor to whom we had previously spoken) told us that unfortunately it was now too late to get on the SAA flight, and that he'd love to have placed us on the SAA flight. In fact, he told us, this would be the normal procedure but that there hadn't been any seats left on the SAA flight. I pointed out to him that actually there had been seats available on the SAA flight (we had gone to SAA to check) - he said he just couldn't understand why Comair had not booked us on the SAA flight. At this point they called the supervisor back, she lamely said that there was nothing she could do about the situation, as the SAA flight had already left. She then added that they only transfer to another airline if the delay in their flight is more than four hours and that she needed management's permission to transfer anyone. (The story changed a little with each person to whom we spoke.) Not that we thought it rectified the matter, but we were thankful that they at least placed us in the BA business class lounge (which I like, it's much more peaceful than the SAA lounge).

We once again phoned The Deck on Manning Bed and Breakfast in Durban to let them know that Comair had changed the flight time again (and hats off to them for again rescheduling their day around our flight).

And then they (incorrectly) thought they'd got the seating wrong

Now our baby had been very visible while we checked-in, but for some reason the check-in lad placed us in the emergency exit row anyway...when we got to the lounge they explained they couldn't seat us where they had, as babies cannot sit in the emergency exit row....they then changed our seating from row 15 to row 20....BUT once we boarded we discovered that row 15 is not in fact at the emergency exit...and that in a half-empty plane, they had placed us (husband + wife + 23 month old baby) next to an absolute mountain of a gentleman, who was overflowing from his aisle seat into half of the middle seat. Happily the gentleman next to us offered to move (their was tons of other space), but we did think it would be nice if Comair was more considerate towards those with infants.

And then the flight is delayed

And the final nail in the coffin was that our flight which had first been cancelled, then recancelled and rescheduled to 1600, was delayed...we eventually took off from Cape Town International at 1640 (we phoned up the very understanding Deck on Manning Bed and Breakfast yet again). The pilot explained that due to a "technical reason" the plane had to be changed.

a Kulula plane

Only economy class

This is the first BA flight that I've been on that didn't have a business class (they call it premium class) section - all economy class, like the low cost carriers (except that they serve food for free).

Kulula Moolah

We had accummulated R402 worth of Kulula Moolah, and used it to reduce the cost of our flight (at the same time as booking we earned R20 of Kulula Moolah for being a jetsetter).

Jetsetters Profile Owner: Mr A NONYM

Statement issue date: 23 Dec 2008

Registration date: 19 May 2008

Includes transactions up to: 22 Dec 2008

Balance: R20.00 kulula moolah

Date

Booking
reference

Description

Moolah
earned (Cr)

Moolah
burned (Dr)

Moolah
balance

-

-

Opening balance

 

 

 

 

207.00

22 Dec 2008

-

Credit reward

195.00

 

402.00

22 Dec 2008

ABN

kulula moolah Burn

 

402.00

0.00

22 Dec 2008

ABN

Flight reward

20.00

 

20.00

Closing balance 23 Dec 2008

R215.00

R402.00

R20.00

R398 for each ticket

Excluding the R20 we paid to project green (to ease our carbon-burning conscience), we paid a total of R1198, or R599 each. If you subtract the R402 we paid in Kulula Moolah, the tickets came to R398 each.

kulula.com   flight fare  CPT  to  DUR -  Wed, 28 Jan 2009

R957.90

Total

R957.90

Vat at 14%

R134.10

Description of non-taxable items

 

 

Airport Taxes - Cape Town

R106.00

Good Deed -  Project Green donation

R20.00

Grand total

R1218.00

Revision to 1time vs Kulula tally

Regular readers know that we run a comparison of Kulula and 1time. In terms of courtesy we had the two airlines tied, but in light of the last couple of days experience we are changing that to put 1time ahead. We are also introducing a "flight cancellations" category in which we have 1time adead of Kulula.

We wrote to Comair

As suggested by Comair's ground manager, we wrote an email to their customer relations department. I love BA and like Kulula to the extent that I've even got a Kulula credit card...however their cancellations procedures are an absolute diasaster, and far too heavily weighted towards maintaing their profits rather than sticking to their simple commitment of delivering passengers to their destinations on time.

Our email to Comair

Here's our email to Comair - we'll publish their reply when they reply:

----- Original Message -----

Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 8:50 PM

Subject: Our viewpoint of Comair is shifting

Hi

We are big Comair fans.  We run a travel website and have flown Kulula a number of times and have written about our many happy experiences, We even have a Kulula credit card which is used as a primary card.  However, over the last 2 days our opinions have started to shift.  We are starting to get the feeling that Comair places undue weight on their profitability to shareholders, at the expense of meeting their commitments to getting their passengers to their destinations at scheduled times. 

We'd appreciate it if you'd take the time to read the write-up of this flight and let us know what you think.  You can view the write-up at:

http://www.southafrica.to/transport/Airlines/Kulula-flights/2009/20090128-CapeTown-Durban.php5

Warm regards,

Category : Kulula Airlines



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