Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sun 11 March - Passenger Apartheid

Thalys, the high speed train operator, running (unreliable, in my experience) services between France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, has caused a bit of a stink with their latest announcement on ticket price increases.

On a selfish note, the cheapest return ticket between Mons and Paris has gone up from €38 to €50. This after they made the one a day train to Paris depart Mons even earlier: from 8.25 to 7.38.

But, the thing that's got people up in arms is the news that the company plans to separate passengers who have bought its cheapest tickets from those who have paid for their premium ones.

Marc Tarabella, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, labelled this move something akin to a European caste system. Strong words, perhaps a touch over the top. Certainly, snobbish more than anything else.

According to Thalys, by "regrouping" passengers into different categories, they are doing a favour to their business customers who prefer to share space amongst a similar clientele (so they claim), left alone to get on with their work, without the distractions of cheapskates for company.

Not the best PR it has to be said, but then again, I've been less than mad with their service every time I've used it. Lousy customer service, six month waits for a reply in applying for compensation for delayed journeys. Compensation never materialised.

And an amateurish, unuser friendly website, which demands that you enter your full name and email address (twice) before it gives you the proposed cost of a journey you're looking for.

Latest punctuality figures: 87.8% of journeys less than 15 minutes late over the past 12 months. Not great.

It's the less than 15 minutes late bit that gets me. I wonder what percentage it'd drop to if we're actually talking about, erm, leaving 'on time?'

How to lose customers and alienate future ones.