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I am writ­ing to ex­press ut­ter dis­ap­point­ment in my ex­pe­ri­ence with Swiss In­ter­na­tional Air Lines. The cus­tomer ser­vice team’s first in­stinct seems to be to deny re­spon­si­bil­ity, rather than to serve the cus­tomer.

I trav­elled from Sin­ga­pore to Free­town (Sierra Leone) on Swiss Air with three other com­pan­ions. Our flight de­parted Sin­ga­pore on May 3, ar­riv­ing in Zurich at 6.10am on May 4.

As we were tran­sit­ing through Zurich to Brus­sels, a com­pan­ion of mine was de­nied en­trance to the flight be­cause she lacked a Schen­gen visa that pre­vented her from pro­ceed­ing on to Bel­gium.

We split ways, with two mem­bers go­ing ahead while I stayed be­hind to help my friend and prevent her be­ing de­ported. Af­ter three hours of ne­go­ti­a­tion, Swiss Air of­fered new tick­ets that would take three ad­di­tional days to get to Free­town, via a two-night stop in Jo­han­nes­burg – for which they re­fused to pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion. With no mone­tary re­sources to hand, and no ac­cess to wifi, I was pres­sured into ac­cept­ing any way out.

With the mat­ter “re­solved”, my friend was re­leased from the se­cu­rity area and I was fi­nally able to con­nect to wifi. I got in touch with an­other friend in Sin­ga­pore who helped us book en­tirely new tick­ets to get to Free­town just 12 hours later than orig­i­nally in­tended.

The or­deal was fur­ther ex­tended by the air­line’s bungling the han­dling of our lug­gage, which we were only able to re­trieve four days later, plus Swiss Air’s con­sis­tently slug­gish re­sponse to emails and in­con­sis­tent replies via mul­ti­ple phone calls.

While I fully ac­knowl­edge that there was fault on our part by fail­ing to en­sure my friend had valid doc­u­men­ta­tion, Swiss Air was ex­tremely neg­li­gent of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion An­nex 9 Sec­tion 3.4, states it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of air­lines to:

Clause 3.34 1: “Ex­am­ine pas­sen­gers and en­sure that they have the cor­rect doc­u­men­ta­tion (pass­port/travel doc­u­ment and visa where re­quired) and to deny board­ing to im­prop­erly doc­u­mented pas­sen­gers”;

Clause 5.4: “En­sure re­turn con­veyance of per­sons who are re­fused ad­mis­sion, within a pre­scribed time frame and to ad­vise the au­thor­i­ties of the travel ar­range­ments”, and;

Clause 5.9: “To pay the costs of re­turn­ing an in­ad­mis­si­ble per­son that may in­clude ac­com­mo­da­tion, trans­port, costs of es­corts in­clud­ing travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs, fees to ob­tain travel doc­u­ments and visas for the pas­sen­ger and es­corts, meals, wages paid to es­corts, ex­penses in­curred for in­ter­preters and med­i­cal and other per­son­nel who may be in­volved in the re­moval.”

In­stead, Swiss Air has been en­tirely un­co­op­er­a­tive. It has re­fused to of­fer any sort of re­fund for any seg­ment of the flight and ad­di­tion­ally voided my re­turn be­cause I had not ful­filled the en­tire seg­ment of the flight.

I am ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed with my ex­pe­ri­ence with Swiss Air. They have proven them­selves to be com­pletely dis­in­ter­ested in their cus­tomers, and I hope that this time they will at least be will­ing to clar­ify their com­mit­ment to de­cent cus­tomer ser­vice.

Jensen Chi­ang, Sin­ga­pore

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