Friday, April 30, 2010

National Express and the volcano

I sent the following complaint to National Express a few weeks ago -- when that whole business with Eyjafjallajökull started.

I called your switchboard around 1530 yesterday regarding the coach trip my wife and I were supposed to take later that day (at 1830) to Heathrow. I wanted to know whether there was anything I was supposed to do prior to the bus leaving if I wanted to get a refund, as we'd just found out that our Saturday a.m. flight was cancelled due to the ongoing volanic ash problem.

Your staff member -- I don't remember his name -- told me that I was not eligible for a refund, even though we'd paid extra for a refundable ticket, because it was less than 72 hours prior to the departure of the coach.

I find this to be completely unacceptable, as we had no way of knowing the status of our flight 72 hours prior to the coach leaving, and therefore whether we'd need a refund. And I think you'll agree that this situation in particular is so extraordinary that no customer should be expected to anticipate it.

My wife and I have been frequent National Express customers since moving to England last year, but this incident has seriously shaken our confidence in your company. With the added cost of a hotel, we've decided that it may in fact be cheaper for us to simply hire a car service on the day of our flight, as opposed to using National Express the night before, to avoid this sort of situation in the future.

I believe we are entitled to a full refund, and ask that you acknowledge this complaint in short order.


John Jarvis
I received a letter from them in the mail yesterday stating that they "cannot accept liability for customers who were unable to travel. Therefore [they] cannot offer a refund." I wasn't asking them to accept liability; I just wanted them to ease up on the 72-hour notice bit this one time, in what can only be characterized as extraordinary circumstances. As my wife said, there really isn't much point in paying extra for a refundable ticket, assuming we decide to travel with them again.