Another Example of why Service in Latin America is an afterthought…

Last week, at the end of my three country tour, I went through a nightmare with Taca Airlines, that no one should have to endure. Granted, it was not 10 hours stuck on a tarmac, but it was almost as bad, especially considering the fact that San Pedro Sula’s international airport has almost no airconditioning, and that it is one of the hottest cities in the region… Below is a letter I sent to a couple of people whom I know, one who is an executive at Taca. (Keep in mind that this email was sent on Friday Morning, AFTER the disaster.

Here are the details of what happened last night here in San Pedro Sula. I was scheduled to fly out last night on the regular flight (Flight 221 to El Salvador with a connection to Flight 7623, due to leave at 4:50. By 5pm the plane had not even arrived. No proactive status was provided for passengers, and those of us who asked, were given several stories.

· The plane is late, it will arrive in 15 minutes

· It will arrive in 30 minutes

· It will not arrive, but another plane is being sent from El Salvador

After the plane had not arrived in two hours, many people went to the desk to ask what was going on. At no time while I was at the gate, was a proactive approach taken. By 7pm, the word had spread and most of the passengers were aware that the flight had been canceled. Those of us who asked, were sent downstairs to the main checkin counter to see what arrangements could be made. NOTHING was proactive. Old people (Several Grandmothers), and young children some as young as 6 or 7 years old, were forced to stand in line for HOURS, while only TWO agents worked the check-in counter.

Since there is a festival here in San Pedro Sula, no hotel rooms were available. Thanks to the help of Grupo Karims and Alexis Ramirez, I was able to locate one room for myself. But was then told that the cancelation was due to weather, despite the arrival of other Taca and other carrier flights, and that Taca would not pay for my Hotel. I demanded to see a supervisor and informed her (Helga), that the situation was unacceptable and that she needed to take ownership of mine and other passenger issues. Since I was the squeaky wheel, I got help, (A voucher), an rescheduled flight for today. Many people, including a major executive for Pepsi Latin America, were left standing in line for many hours, with no reasonable possibility of an alternate flight last night, OR a Hotel. MANY of the passengers were exhausted, hungry and without water or any drink for hours, including myself. God only knows how many customers Taca lost last night. I cut up my Distancia card and will make every attempt to fly Copa from now on my many business trips in the region. I have already visited Managua and Guatemala City earlier this week via Taca, and experienced other delays with the ON TIME GAURANTEE airline.

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On Wednesday, my flight from Managua to El Salvador was over 40 minutes late, and I had to LITERALLY RUN when I got to El Salvador to make my connection to the SPS Flight, despite my bad knees, because they were announcing final boarding…. My gate was 8 gates away.

I am tired, angry and not looking forward to my flight tonight. My knees hurt and I am not looking forward to being treated like a vaca and cramped up for another two flights. But I am one of the lucky ones. At least my contacts and ability to plead my case resulted in me having a bed last night. Over 50 Taca passengers were probably not so lucky. It would seem that a company the size of Taca would at least have the decency and human compassion to see that grandmothers and small children, for that matter ALL of their passengers, would have something to drink and a sandwich!

I intend to write a full accounting of this experience on my website, which is visited by over 2000 people a day, and is one of the most popular websites in the world, and the number two rated Blog in Latin America! I will also be talking to the editor of La Republica in Costa Rica. I am often interviewed for the paper and have a relationship with its owners. I do not intend to rest until this issue is addressed fully by Taca, and an accounting is made of how they handled this case. It was PURE CHAOS!

Of course Taca itself has not even bothered to respond, and friends in Honduras tell me that it is unlikely that anyone will be held accountable for this disaster in Honduras. Unfortunately, I am in a situation where Taca is often the only game in town when it comes to regional travel, so I am stuck with it.

UPDATE: Taca sent me an email offering me 500 miles for them failing to meet their “on time guarantee. ” I guess they missed the rest of the email huh?

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