A word of warning for women who travel with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – especially those who are expecting a baby.
>>Please share this story on social media and tag @KLM Royal Dutch Airlines<<
Don't forget to read the whole article for updates!
I would never normally post something like this, especially on Ladies Learn English, but I need to get the word out there so other women can be aware before booking a flight with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines - plus, this is excellent reading practice for intermediate/advanced English learners. Please read to the end, I'll be leaving any updates there.
I feel like it's important to say that I have always been a huge KLM fan. I always try to book with them, and always thought they were an airline that cared for their customers and offered high-quality, professional service...
This is my story.
In early April 2018, I booked a flight to visit home (Canada), as I try to do once a year. I’m a Canadian expat, splitting my time between Italy and Canada.
After I had already booked my flight, my husband and I found out that we’re expecting our first child! Unfortunately, I’ve had a complicated pregnancy and am at a high risk for miscarriage. Knowing this risk, I contacted the airline I usually travel with, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, to ask if there are options in case I need to delay my flight for medical reasons. The initial response was hopeful and even started out with “We regret to read about the difficult circumstances you are facing” then continued with the remainder of a standard response, asking for my passenger information, ticket number, etc. and finished with a request for an official medical certificate (in English) verifying that I’m unable to travel on the planned date.
I’m being very closely monitored by my OB/GYN, so a few days later during my appointment, I asked my doctor for her opinion as to whether I should fly overseas at the end of July 2018, as planned. She recommended absolutely no air travel and provided me with a medical certificate stating that I would be unable to travel and clearly outlined the reason.
After that appointment, I sent KLM all of the information they requested, including the certification from my doctor. I asked for a ticket refund because I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel. I stated that I’d be able to rebook with them once I have the baby and it’s safe for both of us to fly. I thanked them for their consideration and signed off.
The next day I opened the messaging app and got this response. “We have consulted your ticket conditions and can inform you that your ticket is non-refundable in case of cancellation. Also, your ticket is changeable against a fee of EUR150.00 plus a possible fare difference/non-changeable. Can you let us know how you wish to proceed?” I was shocked at the cold response!
I reiterated to them that the fact I can’t travel is totally out of my control and that there is no reasonable way for me to know when, during the next several months, I’ll be able to fly. I asked that my precarious condition be brought to the attention of a manager/supervisor for further review. I don't think it ever was. At this point, I was feeling quite disappointed and frankly, astounded, by the lack of empathy and concern shown to me by KLM and asked, “Am I to fly (against my doctor’s orders) and risk miscarriage aboard a KLM flight!?!?” I was understandably angry and let them know that if they didn't rectify the situation, they'd be losing a long time, frequent customer.
I received another blanket response. “We do understand you, Alannah, however, we regret to inform you that if you wish to refund your ticket, your ticket conditions will be applied." They did however, offer to waive my €150 change fee. Although this was a small success, it still didn't leave me overly-satisfied.
I had to let the situation stand for a couple of days, as I was quite upset and needed to calm my emotions. Extra stress isn’t good for an already stressed pregnancy.
I thought – maybe they’re concerned I won’t rebook with them and that they’ll lose the $2500 I paid for the ticket, so I reached out again, asking for a travel voucher. I felt this would be a good compromise. This way, they’ll keep their money and I’ve got a future flight without the pressure of having to immediately choose a date. Utterly unbelievable, KLM’s answer was a definite NO.
I had already paid $350.03 for extras, such as seat selection, having a changeable ticket and an extra piece of luggage for the return portion, so naturally I’m feeling dumbfounded that, even given my high-risk pregnancy situation and compelling verification from my doctor, they offered no leeway whatsoever and would now reinstate the 150 EUROS to change my date - after previously offering to waive my 150 euro change fee!!!
Just wanting this situation to come to a conclusion, and trying to work within the parameters given by KLM, I asked the rep when would be the latest date that I can rebook for. He/She said April 3, 2019 – which is one year from the date I purchased the ticket. I understand that under normal circumstances, that’s more than enough time to rebook. But, this isn’t a normal circumstance. I’m experiencing a verifiable high-risk pregnancy and my baby is due in January. Now I have to predict the outcome of my pregnancy and birth of my child. Even having to think these things through has been understandably taxing and is causing me uncalled for emotional distress. It also means my newborn child will be less than 3 months old at the time of KLM’s travel deadline and I cannot possibly know whether either of us will be able to travel; whether our health and/or immune systems will be compromised. I also recognize there can be risks for babies to fly long-haul before 4 months of age.
I can’t afford to just forfeit my ticket; I’m unable to travel under my circumstances, and I can’t predict whether either I or my new baby will be able to travel safely, if at all, during the rebooking timeframe specified by KLM. What am I to do!?
I hope some light can be brought to my situation and the public can be made aware
Please help me! Share this story on social media and tag @KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Women need to know what they may be facing if they're faced with a complicated pregnancy and are unable to fly.
Thank you for your time.
UPDATE: I decided to go ahead today, make the date changes and be done with this extra stress - and figured I'll sort out this whole mess at a later date, so as to not lose my flight all together. I chose to depart on the latest date they offered, April 3, 2019 - only to receive a message that the whole trip has to be concluded by that date. Why didn't they make that clear in previous correspondence!
After making my new date requests (in low season versus my current high season ticket) KLM has just advised me that it will cost almost $800 to change my already $2500 (economy) ticket! This is an outrage!
UPDATE #2 During all of the back and forth with KLM, once I realized there as no reasoning with them, I reached out to the SkyTeam Alliance's complaint department, via a web-form. I heard back from a customer care specialist at Delta Airlines (another member of the SkyTeam alliance) about a month after contacting them. I was offered (and of course, accepted) a FULL REFUND. Persistence pays off, folks. If you know in your heart that something isn't right, don't give up!
They simply asked for further contact details about my doctor and the next day, they advised me that I was entitled to a full refund, back onto my credit card. I received the refund within a week.
P H E W !!! I love a happy ending.
And P.S. The most important update: The baby is growing perfectly and doing very well!!!
About Your English Coach
Alannah is a CELTA (University of Cambridge) qualified English language teacher from Canada who lives in Italy with her wonderful husband. She's been teaching English since 2006 and has taught many different nationalities in both Canada and Italy.