View Full Version : A family's KLM passenger offload experience

30th May 2008, 21:17
Hi there

My family had a passenger offloading problem with KLM back in April for which I am still awaiting a satisfactory explanation from their Customer Care department.
Just wondering whether anyone here could shed any light on this sort of thing – sadly I am not a high-flyer at a major company so unlike the Ladbrokes chap and BA I don’t have much leverage…

This is what happened.
Self, husband, 7 and 4-year-old sons travelling ABZ-AMS all on same booking, hand luggage only. All passengers had boarded plane and were seated. Plane was fairly full but not 100% .
Captain then announced that ground staff had made a mistake and had erroneously boarded all passengers when they should have offloaded 15 passengers (and some luggage and cargo) due to payload issues. Ground staff (non-KLM, but not sure who) then came on board with list of 15 named passengers (note no request made for volunteers first) and summarily required them to disembark. Flight and cabin crew pretty disgruntled at the situation but not as disgruntled as the named passengers!

Among the 15 surnames were two males from our family (we have a gender variant in the surname) so obviously at least one was a child. But why split a family of four like that? Captain was sympathetic and raised this with the ground staff member with The List, who promptly said that if it was a problem then all four of us should disembark. As that implied that no discretion could be shown, we decided to stick rigidly to the list and stay split (on the basis that we were only going for the weekend to see friends we hadn't seen in years and there was no sense all four of us having the weekend spoilt if two could avoid it). So husband and 4-year-old disembarked and I stayed on with 7-year-old stayed on and flew to AMS. By the way, the 4-year-old weighs 21 kg so presumably offloading him could have made no material difference to the payload.

That in itself was bad enough, but KLM compounded the situation by promising to route them via Paris on the last CDG-AMS connection but cocked up the transfer so that they ended up stuck at CDG. Rather than stay in a hotel and put up with more faffing about in the morning, in the end they shared a hire car with some equally fed-up Dutch businessmen from the same flight who were driving up, arriving at hotel at 0215.

KLM eventually (in response to my complaint) offered the appropriate statutory compensation + expenses but as yet have not responded to the questions I raised which were:
a) How could the offloading list split a family with young children?
b) Why did they not first ask for volunteers?
c) (And of course the knock-on consequences - why did they cock up the Paris transfer...)

Note – I totally understand that sometimes it is necessary to offload passengers; my complaint is that they did it in a summary manner and their list split the family.

I assume that what happened was that they thought that in the circumstances a named list was the quickest way to reduce the payload and get the plane going rather than wasting time going through any other procedure. And that once they realised a family had been divided they thought it would be more expedient to try to kick the rest of the family off rather than appear to favour us over any other passengers.
How often does this sort of thing happen? I’m intrigued as to what (if any) criteria would be used to draw up the list.

31st May 2008, 18:46
See posts [I]passim[I] but this is symptomatic of the high-handed arrogance demonstrated by airlines and other service industries. The greed is so rampant that bosses will sanction anything to make that extra buck/pound/euro

I really hate the industry now.

31st May 2008, 20:31
from my past experience working as a ramp agent, when pax need to be offloaded there are a few options we go through, depending why the offload needs to be done:
1. always ask for volunteers first
2. last 10 pax to check in = offloaded.
3. cheapest paid fare = offloaded

a few more that cant think of right now

if its a weight issue, pax are the very last to be offloaded normally. every airline is different but its normally:
1. standby/rebate staff travel pax
2. catering
3. baggage
4. then passengers.........

you are right to ask for an explantion, i would keep asking until you get one. it is not right them offloading two memebers of your family. i hope you get a reply soon from them.

1st Jun 2008, 07:59
I do sympathise with you as that is pretty awful Customer Service. Unfortunately KLM and Customer Service do not go together. I have only flown with them twice and pretty poor both times.

We were flying back from Zurich via AMS then home to ABZ. Our flight from AMS - ABZ was the last flight of the night 20.20. We arrived at Zurich at noon, to be told at check in that we couldn't check in for AMS-ABZ as there was only one seat left (we had these flights booked for 8 months!!) The girl at ZRH said there was nothing more she could do and we would have to wait until we got to AMS and go to the transfer desk. So we had a very stressful flight, not knowing if we would get back to ABZ that night.

Arriving at AMS hubby went to the transfer desk and was horrified at their attitude which was... we have overbooked you will just have to wait at the gate and see if there is a seat. He asked to speak to a supervisor and was told the same thing. Apparantly hubby was told they do this all the time!!

The long shot was, we did get back to ABZ that night but did not know until 15 mins before the flight left. What I couldn't understand was here was us trying to check in for this flight at noon, some 8 hours ealier and upon speaking to people at the gate, they had only just checked in. I really just could not understand KLM's couldn't care less attitude.

I would definitely keep on at them and ask for an explanation.
Good luck

1st Jun 2008, 08:03
I've lost count of the number of times I've flown with KLM (I've just "spent" 186000 airmiles accrued over the last 2 years) but I confirm that their attitude to customers stinks. That said, I cannot think of one airlines that does not treat its passengers like poo. I think BA are the best of a bad bunch in my experience.

1st Jun 2008, 12:25
Two points from the original, admirably restrained post.

I am still awaiting a satisfactory explanation from their Customer Care departmentI wouldn't bother waiting. If you get one it will the the first in history. Move straight to taking legal action in the Small Claims court for all monies you believe they owe you, including refunds, and damages.

I totally understand that sometimes it is necessary to offload passengersYou are much too understanding. If, having booked, checked in and boarded passengers on a short-haul sector, an airline then finds it necessary to offload 15 for "payload reasons", someone somewhere has made a stupid, incompetent, unacceptable, gross error. Whoever it was should be sacked forthwith.

If someone cares to post, from certain knowledge, why it happened we could reconsider. But I can think of almost nothing that could cause the allowable take-off weight to be reduced by 1.5 Tonnes between boarding and closing the doors. Sudden change to a short runway, maybe? Somehow I doubt it. Some problem with the landing weight, again notified to the crew between boarding and closing the doors? Unlikely.

Too much fuel on board? Maybe, but that could, should have been picked up much sooner. Captain 's last-minute decision to load 1.5 Tonnes extra? Possible, but not after boarding, surely?

The error, if it was one, was obviously captured before it was capable of causing a crash, probably by the flight crew just before the doors were closed. Had the aircraft taken off with 1500 Kgs (ie 15 passengers at normal weights) too much that, especially with another problem (engine fire at V1, say) would have created a highly dangerous situation.

KLM should be on its hands and knees begging not to have its operating permit pulled after that little beauty of a cock-up, as well as appeasing rightly disgruntled passengers with swift, friendly responses and lots of money to keep the incident under the Press radar and away from the Regulator's attention.

Was an MOR submitted? Hmmm, I doubt it. KLM employees know better.

Those who would ignore KLM's dreadful attitude to its customers, and continue to use them, should bear in mind that KLM is The Netherlands CAA's biggest "client" by far, and that civil servants tend not to rock the boat.

If the flight was operated by KLM UK the Netherlands CAA is out of the picture. But you would wait a long time for the UK CAA to take a pro-active interest in a safety-related gross error, just so long as the right procedures were documented.

1st Jun 2008, 17:16
Thanks all for your input so far.

I'm not bothered about extracting more money from them - they're currently processing the statutory compensation per offloaded passenger plus expenses. I am bothered about getting an explanation/investigation as that (in an ideal world....) might lessen the probability of similar happening again.

OK, it sounds as if getting useful info from KLM Customer Care could be harder than getting blood from a stone. So, current situation is that I have emailed and written back requesting responses to the unanswered questions from the original complaint. There is no telephone number mentioned on the website for Customer Care so I can't actually speak to them, just correspond. If I don't get a reply (or if I get another pointless fob-off reply) - who do I approach to kick them into action? UK CAA (at least then there's some record outside KLM even if nothing gets done)? Write to the top guy at KLM? Write to an appropriate part of the press?
3. cheapest paid fare = offloaded
That reminds me, I'd forgotten that I booked the flights on air miles; maybe that had something to do with it... But we definitely checked in early; did it online the day before.

Was an MOR submitted?
Apologies for my ignorance; I don't know enough about aviation procedures to understand all the ins and outs - what is a MOR?
Does it make any difference that the ground staff aren't KLM's own? Where is the division of labour? Are KLM fobbing me off because the reasons for the problem lie with a third party company (albeit contracted on their behalf) and they can't be bothered?

Sudden change to a short runway?
ABZ is known for its short runway, I believe. At the risk of demonstrating uninformed conjecture - could someone somewhere have forgotten to account for that? But surely unlikely as they fly in and out all the time?

1st Jun 2008, 18:03

I could be that the fare you paid had something to do with the selection for off-loading, but it should not. Well, the need should never arise, but if it does, a good company would probably call for volunteers to receive the denied boarding comp. There's usually several who aren't in a hurry and would like the cash.

Forgive me; MOR = Mandatory Occurrence Report. It's arguable that one should have been submitted in view of the potential hazard involved with a 1.5 Tonne overloaded situation. But I'm sure someone will say that the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, does not mandate an MOR in those circs. I was hoping that someone would respond from the handling company or indeed KLM.

An airline is totally responsible in all respects for the actions of a contractor acting on its behalf, as the handling company would have been, if they and not KLM handled the flight. They cannot be allowed to hide behind their contractor. Are they trying to fob you off with nonsense? Yes.

I don't know who got the sums wrong, if that's what happened, or why. Normally, with a scheduled service everything is planned and calculated in advance with adjustments (minor) being made for conditions or special circumstances on the day. A short runway shuld not come as a surprise, if it's the only one. Sudden changes from a main runway can happen, say if there's an immobile aircraft blocking the main, but that's very rare and KLM would have used it as their excuse without hesitation.

The point is that what happened to you is way outside the normal range of upset, and it almost certainly happened because someone, in KLM or its agent, screwed up royally. The flight should never have been booked with 1.5 Tonnes (or thereabouts) too much weight, let alone checked in and boarded.

My money's on a gross error with the loadsheet having booked and checked in too many people, spotted by the crew when asked to sign it, or a sudden realisation that the aircraft had 1.5 Tonnes more fuel in the tank than the dispatcher knew about, which is also a loadsheet error, really. Both count as "potentially dangerous screw-up".

Another possibility may be some very last-minute freight whose shipper has a great deal of long-haul business and clout with KLM. Possibly already delayed, with a very angry shipper? An oil company, perhaps?

Let's see if anyone pops up to enlighten us and perhaps exonerate them.

1st Jun 2008, 19:25
I was always lead to believe that an MOR must be raised whenever there is an accident or incident which has caused injury to a person or damage to an aircraft, or whenever an incident occurs which has the potential to do so.

IMO, this certainly seems like such an incident.

2nd Jun 2008, 08:37
Before this thead goes completely haywire:

Does the situation described really merit an MOR? In any case, all such reports - and those submitted in accordance with AMC 20-8 (see 2042 Annexe 1 Part M) - should be reported within 72 hours of becoming aware of the circumstances.

If the flight was operated by KLM UK the Netherlands CAA is out of the picture.
I thought KLM uk had been subsumed by KLM; all their aircraft are PH-registered.

Frankly, all talk of occurrence reports is tosh.:ugh:

2nd Jun 2008, 09:37
Why tosh?

If one appropriate person is of the opinion that an MOR is justified, they have every right to raise one.
Whether or not it is acted on, followed up or totally ignored is a total different matter.

CAP 382 CAA guidance on the MOR's gives a list of examples where MOR's could be raised. (Appendix 2).
One of these is

b) Incorrect loading of passengers, baggage or cargo, likely to have a significant effect on aircraft mass and/or balance.

2nd Jun 2008, 09:47
Whoops - after posting have just seen almost simultaneous reply above from 419 - great minds think alike... etc. etc.

Going slightly off on this MOR track (and way outside my own expertise - all I did was search the net for the document; I have no connection with aviation other than as a passenger) for what its worth as background I just looked up the CAA document about MOR reporting (CAP 382 The Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme):
and Appendix B (Occurrences Required to be Reported) has in its list
4.3 b) "Incorrect loading of passengers, baggage or cargo, likely to have a significant effect on aircraft mass and/or balance."

There's no point dwelling on whether or not they should have raised one - either they did or they didn't and the time has passed but I do see from this where some of you were coming from in previous replies.

2nd Jun 2008, 12:22
Yes, well, as I said,

It's arguable that one should have been submitted in view of the potential hazard involved with a 1.5 Tonne overloaded situation.That's not the real point, which is that the very last-minute offload of 1.5 Tonnes of self-offloading freight indicates that a gross and serious error had been made which, if not captured as it presumably was, could have had potentially fatal consequences.

IE someone screwed up big-time. I don't expect the airline willingly to admit it publicly or release details, but I would expect the airline to be very, very polite and generous to the passengers who were offloaded as a consequence of the screwup, rather than meting out the further punishment that it evidently did.

That's what is so disgraceful, and so typical of KLM. And the passengers should pursue them through the small claims court for huge amounts, just to show them that they cannot do this in the 21st century.

Payment by Air Miles, incidentally, is not cheap or "free", it nets the airline substantial sums which you have paid for, and yopu are entitled to exactly the same treatment as anyone who has paid a fare to travel.

2nd Jun 2008, 12:56
Hang on! This post started because Alex W1 had a problem with KLM; now we're in the realms of incorrectly loaded aircraft and reportable occurrences. This is ill-infomed anorak speculation IMHO (go ahead and report me!).

I have submitted and investigated MORs several times in the past. I'm well aware of the circumstances requiring a report and the applicability of CAP 382 (those of you quoting CAP 382 should read paragraphs 5.1 & 5.2 of the document).
I think KLM Ciyhopper now operates under a Netherlands AOC. If you were talking about occurrence reporting, you may want to find out what the Netherlands' Competent Authority has determined is an appropriate method of reporting (See Part M, EU-OPS and Regulation 216/2008). EASA has provision for any concerned party to raise a Form 44 and submit it direct to Koln; this form is primarily for non-EU Part 145/Subpart G organisations but does allow anyone with concerns to use it.

2nd Jun 2008, 13:58
It was clearly stated that the pax and baggage were offoladed due to payload issues, and IMO, this might have had the potential to cause a problem.
If there were 15 pax, baggage and cargo removed, someone must have made an error somewhere, which is why an MOR was mentioned.

Captain then announced that ground staff had made a mistake and had erroneously boarded all passengers when they should have offloaded 15 passengers (and some luggage and cargo) due to payload issues.

2nd Jun 2008, 14:29
It was clearly stated that the pax and baggage were offoladed due to payload issues, and IMO, this might have had the potential to cause a problem.
If there were 15 pax, baggage and cargo removed, someone must have made an error somewhere, which is why an MOR was mentioned.

If this was the - very hypothetical - case, what occurrence is there to report? If the pax were offloaded the situation was remedied!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:ugh::ugh::ugh::ugh::ugh::ugh ::ugh::ugh::ugh::mad::mad::mad::mad::mad::mad::mad::mad:

2nd Jun 2008, 15:01
Bus429, it may have been remedied from the f/c pov, but NOT from AlexW1's (the SLF) pov! Alex wants to know what made KLM draw up the list the way they did.

I know f/c simply refer to passengers as SLF for a reason (and sometimes it's the worst reason of the lot), but in this case, that SLF has a brain and is demanding to know WTH her family was split up, and how to get KLM to explain why they did what they did.

Alex, for the record, I totally understand your situation, and I'd be doing the same as you - raising hell to get (even if it is grim) satisfaction for your query. I hope you manage.


2nd Jun 2008, 15:02
If this was the - very hypothetical - case, what occurrence is there to report? If the pax were offloaded the situation was remedied!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It makes no difference if the situation was remedied or not, and it was far from hypothetical. It was a fact (stated by the captain) that the aircraft was partially unloaded due to loading issues.

An MOR can be raised for an occurance which did or which could have lead to an unsafe condition

5.4.3 A report should also be submitted on any occurrence which involves, for example, a defective condition or unsatisfactory behaviour or procedure which did not immediately endanger the aircraft but which, if allowed to continue uncorrected, or if repeated in different, but likely, circumstances, would create a hazard.

I raised an MOR last year for an incident in which a passenger on a helicopter was found to have 4 disposable cigarette lighters in a jacket he was carrying. These were found before he boarded, but only because he dropped one when walking to the aircraft.
(These were very cheaply made very brittle lighters which can explode if dropped on a hard surface).

Should I have ignored the fact that this wasn't stopped by the baggage and security checks, and not raised an MOR due to the situation being remedied before the aircraft departed?

2nd Jun 2008, 15:09
CAP 382 refers to UK CAA AOCs. Is KLM Cityhopper a UK AOC? :ugh:

2nd Jun 2008, 15:13
No, but ANY safety related issue can be reported to the CAA, who will, if necessary, take it up with the relevant aviation authority.

2nd Jun 2008, 15:35
Back to the crux of the matter

OK, I now know far more about MORs than I will ever need to!

But away from the hypothetical and back to the practical matter in hand; any more suggestions for how to get the answers I need?
I'm not interested in money, just in getting some factual answers.

I've done one more thing - I found out that it is SAS Ground Services who handle KLM at ABZ, and their managing director has a contact email, so I've emailed him to say I've got nothing sensible out of KLM six weeks down the line and so can SGS explain.
Then I guess my only other routes are the ATUC bit of the CAA and/or the Dutch CAA (which has a handy downloadable complaints form on its website).
I've also discovered (via the very useful saynoto0870 website) some telephone numbers for KLM customer services but it doesn't sound as if I'll get any easy answers by speaking direct to Customer Care - could use it to keep on at them though.

I think that's about all I can do.

Thanks for all the interest.

2nd Jun 2008, 15:56
So, Bus429, I take it that if you leave the gate in, let's say your nice A320, and then get a call from ATC to say that the fuel company has just realised that they loaded AVGAS, you would not raise an MOR on the grounds that the error was captured before it killed you, and therefore didn't matter.

In other words you seem to follow a policy that you only raise an MOR after the accident, and if there's no accident because an error was picked up in time there's no need for an MOR.


To me, all the boxes for submitting an MOR were ticked. The facts are very simple; after an aircraft had completed boarding, someone twigged that it was 1.5 Tonnes or so overweight. The error must have been made earlier in the process. It's the fact that an error was made (or are you disputing that there was an error?) with a potentially serious adverse effect on the airworthiness of the aircraft, if undiscovered, that would have made me raise an MOR.

Luckily the holes in the cheese did not line up on that occasion, and that was the first hole of several. But the MOR exists to remove the holes.

Edit: Yes I know, some say it's it's possible that a jet would run on AVGAS, for a while at least; it's just an illustration, OK? I couldn't think of another example to use!

2nd Jun 2008, 16:22
I have nothing to do with KLM or SAS handling.

ABZ on the fixed wing runway has one end which has problems with high ground which limits the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). If ATC switches the end in use and you have already loaded fuel it totally cocks up your cunning plan. Depending on the wind strength you can ask for the other end for departure but due to inbound traffic you might have to wait 1.5 hours to allow this.

I wouldn't say it's outside the bounds of possibility for there to be a 1.5 ton difference between the 2 ends. Operationally they couldn't wait for the other end because instead of pissing off 15 pax they would delay the rest of the days pax.

Now the despatcher on the ground who was the bringer of ill will.

Unfortunatly ABZ handling (not just SAS) has some talent limited individuals who by hook, crook and TUPE nobody seems to be able to get rid of. You think you have escaped them and next week they turn up with a new uniform. There is some pretty good ones don't get me wrong. But there are 2-3 twisted witches who know the system inside out who have a serious problem with not only pax but also flight deck crew as well. And god help you if you have a female Captain or FO onboard the claws are out.

I suspect a combination of runway change and one of the witches caused the problem. KLM customer complaints proberly don't have a clue what really went on. I have read a complaint that one of these witches submitted against a Captain who I sitting next to through the discussion. The only thing that was factually correct was the flight number.

And it wouldn't be reason to raise a MOR because the plane was never dispatched outside limits. If the Captain had already signed the approved loadsheet it may then well be a case to MOR it. But if either the crew or the load controller spotted the mistake the system has been proved to be functioning correctly.

2nd Jun 2008, 16:45
Mad_jock - thanks v. much for the local info.

instead of pissing off 15 pax they would delay the rest of the days pax

Ironically - we left at least an hour late anyway by the time the offloading and associated paperwork had been sorted out. Later in the flight they reeled off umpteen announcements for passengers going to all sorts of ultimate destinations who weren't going to make their connections. So there was a knock-on effect for far more than the unlucky first 15 (who, I think, were all only going to AMS - perhaps another reason for their selection?).

It was a youngish lad who came on with the list - seemed like the sort who wouldn't be in a position to show much initiative. He had a policeman at the top of the steps to back him up against the vociferous Dutch frequent flyers on the offload list who were very pissed off up front even before I had made my way up there to raise my concern.

2nd Jun 2008, 16:50
CAPOT et al - I give up! Have you read CAP 382 and its allusions to UK CAA AOCs? Have you read Part M Subpart B or AMC 20-8?

2nd Jun 2008, 17:12
Thats typical to be honest. Send the poor young loon to sort the problem out which he proberly had nothing to do with it to start with.

You can be assured that the crew wouldn't have been happy either and will have moaned big style when they got home.

But what I have posted is purely speculation. There are a few other possible reasons but to start mentioning them starts pointing the finger at various parties and doesn't really help the discussion about your lack of responce to your complaint.

I don't think you will ever get a satisfactory explanation about what the cockup was. To be honest I would be suprised if the crew knows the full story.

2nd Jun 2008, 18:01
CAPOT et al - I give up! Have you read CAP 382 and its allusions to UK CAA AOCs? Have you read Part M Subpart B or AMC 20-8?Can't speak for al, but yes, yes, they live in my office library, and no not for a while and the dreadful EASA site won't disgorge it.

Why do some ppruners always assume that they are the only people on the planet who can read and understand?

Incidentally, to my mind it's very arguable that CAP 382 supports the contention that this incident could/should have been MOR'ed IF it was a case of gross error. The CAA then decide whether to follow up. Part M Subpart B has the broad framework within which CAP 382 operates. Perhaps AMC 20-8 contradicts CAP 382 and no doubt Bus 429, who knows it so well will provide chapter and verse if it does.

With respect to Mad_jock; dispatch within or outside company limits (for a delay report?) has nothing to do with whether or not an MOR is needed.

It would be merely repetitious to repeat that capturing an error may save lives but does not mean that the error need not be investigated or even MOR'ed.

I'll buy the last-minute runway-end change as a possible cause, if someone confirms that this makes a 1.5 Tonne difference. Could a wind change be that unexpected and that dramatic? Perhaps, in ABZ; I don't know.

But it's no excuse for how it was handled.

2nd Jun 2008, 18:45


No need to be nasty, by the way. I merely think some may have misconstrued CAP 382, its applicability and whether this customer complaint has been blown out of all proportion by a few making outrageous speculation.

2nd Jun 2008, 19:06
With respect to Mad_jock; dispatch within or outside company limits (for a delay report?) has nothing to do with whether or not an MOR is needed.

No not for a delay report. For a load sheet error.

But to be honest the technical ins and outs of when to submit a MOR is a wee bit outside the scope of Alex looking for a reason for getting thier weekend mucked about.

Edited to add they can sometimes update the TAF as many times as the METAR in ABZ. ABZ and INV must hold the world record for number of Mayday's worked in one day when the Haar rolls in unforcast and drops the RVR down to <300m and all the heli's have to divert.

Ray D'Avecta
2nd Jun 2008, 19:09
@ AlexW1, hello, I am a pilot from KLM, and I fly on the Europe Fleet, so I am familiar with Aberdeen and SAS Ground services there.

I am sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience.

Was your flight on a Boeing 737 or a Fokker 100? Or alternatively, do you have the date and flight number to PM to me and I will find out the aircraft type.

The reason I need to know this, is so I can contact the relevant fleet operations office to find out any more background info on the incident.

I will leave the discussion on MOR, CAP, EASA etc to the experts ;), but if you only have time to read 2 posts, I suggest you only concentrate on the 2 by mad_jock. He recognises the operational factors that we often encounter at ABZ.

Only those directly involved know the reason for the potential overweight situation, but it could be anything from technical reasons such as runway change, aircraft deficiency, excess fuel uplift, etc, or simple human error such as a breakdown in communication between the SAS operations office and their check in staff, or a mis-reading of the so called Regulated Take Off Weight that the crew would have calculated. The potential reasons are numerous, but the end result is the same....the aircraft weight needs to be reduced to within whatever the pre-defined limits were, and that is what affected you.

It is company procedure in KLM, to file a "Trip Report", with an allocated delay code, back in Amsterdam, to report occurences such as this. As crew, we report unusual occurences that cause us to deviate from schedule (particularly as there were transiting pax with missed connections on board. The crew would not have been at all happy with the situation, and would have generated a trip report in order to force an investigation of why the situation arose in the first place. (Every single trip report is investigated, and a personal reply sent to the Captain and Crew). From the aircraft type and flight number that you send me, I will be able to pass on your complaint to the office that would have received and investigated the trip report.

The reason for you not having received a speedy reply is that the investigation is very often bogged down in bureaucracy, red tape and liaison with other departments and third parties. I have personally had experience of up to 3 months waiting for a reply to a trip report, but the Company is making a concerted effort to speed things up. As an example, in your case, the customer service dept would need to contact about 3 or 4 other internal depts within KLM to get to the ABZ handling agents who would ultimately have to provide the explanation. The written explanation from SAS would then pass back up the chain before you would get an official response from KLM. Concurrently with all this, the fleet flight operations dept would be carrying out their own 'trip report' based investigation.

There is a very clear and defined split between crew responsibilities and ground handling reponsibilities at KLM. All passenger handling matters are the direct responsibility of the ground handling agent until the aircraft doors are closed. So whatever the reason for needing to offload 15 pax, the crew would have no say in who was to be offloaded. The handling agent offloads the required number of pax in accordance with a priority that has been previously specified by KLM. The use of discretion is not forbidden, and arguably, could have been applied in your case.

My own personal suggestion to you, is that you may receive a quicker response by contacting SAS Ground Handling directly in writting, and copying the letter to KLM (Once you give me the flight details I will email you a contact name and address to send the letter to). I will also try and find out the factual reason for the situation occuring in the first place and let you know.

2nd Jun 2008, 21:39
Thank you very much for your kind offer of assistance. Much appreciated. I will PM you the flight details.
I understand that the answers are likely to come from the ground agents but obviously I had to direct the initial complaint to KLM. However, as I posted earlier, I have now contacted the ground agents direct so will wait and see whether anything comes of that.

Ray D'Avecta
4th Jun 2008, 21:00
Thanks. I got your PM, and will forward the details on to the office, and PM you back once I have something definitive

19th Jun 2008, 20:46
I originally posted here in frustration because KLM had taken weeks to respond to my initial complaint. Although they’d offered the statutory compensation and expenses they had just sent a cut-and-paste email more appropriate to a standard overbooking situation (it even included the line: “In very infrequent situations when there are not enough volunteers, we will determine as carefully as is possible who will retain their seats” which was a bit rich in the circumstances and which, needless to say, was useful to quote back at them!) and did not acknowledge any of my questions or imply that any useful action would be taken to prevent such occurrences in the future.

I had also attempted to contact SGS but had never had a reply.
I continued to politely but firmly press KLM and SGS. KLM Customer Care then sent a much more conciliatory reply, offering to pay a token ex gratia sum (an original request of mine on top of the statutory compensation but which had previously been ignored). Tone very apologetic but still inconclusive re explanation, and although I was not after further financial recompense I wanted them to acknowledge that they had actually addressed the problems so that procedures could be tightened.

So last week I ventured further with a multi-pronged approach, emailing some senior KLM staff direct and copying SGS. I also wrote to the airport manager at ABZ asking for assistance in directing my questions to the ground staff. Although I haven’t received replies from any of those individuals, this week, whether coincidentally or not, I received a much more detailed reply from KLM Customer Care. They have admitted that this was a truly unacceptable situation, apologized profusely, confirmed that my points have been taken up with the ground staff concerned, and in conclusion state that “lessons have been learned and the situation that your family found themselves in has been investigated at a very high level within KLM Ground Services, Flight Deck Services and SGS and immediate corrective action has taken place.” They have also, unprompted, offered a substantial sum in travel vouchers.

Now, I don’t have full and final answers to every question, which would have been a useful bonus, but I believe that because I persistently repeated my questions over the last three months Customer Care did eventually delve further than they might have and that the outcome indicates that KLM realise that they were very much in the wrong and have taken some action. Maybe enough to prevent a future occurrence, maybe not, who knows, but I can’t reasonably expect more from Customer Care so unless SGS suddenly deign to contact me with full details after all, I guess this complaint has run its course.

Thank you for your interest and support, particularly Ray D’Avecta.

20th Jun 2008, 21:17
Alex, I am so glad that you've managed to get at least some satisfaction. I am just sorry that it took so long for you to even get a measure of satisfaction.


21st Jun 2008, 12:16
I wouldn't want to be a rain cloud, but since I do customer service all day long running a B&B, really I don't see any further progress than that somebody in KLM has written a proper letter at long last rather than cut/paste.

I could guess that somebody has taken 12 minutes rather than 3 minutes to write a letter to you, and put in the phrases that are obviously going to close the case rather than send it round the cycle again. The people working these letters probably have a target of 50/day or somesuch. I woulnd't be at all surprised that the letter writer hasn't done any of the stuff mentioned in the letter.

I can sense your frustration though, because if this happened in the company you work for, then you would drive through all the systemic learning exercises and make sure the lessons are truly learnt and adopted as SOP for the next 50,000 passengers. But faced with a wall of outsourced little bits, none of whom bother to pay attention, what can you do?

A key skill in the 21st century is to learn to get over these things quickly. For an example try calling your bank or phone company, and see how much courteous personalised attention you're going to get! None! if you want TLC go see your local greengrocer or video shop. Anything else, it ain't going to happen. A sad reflection of our times.

In fact this is why I like going to Africa or Israel for my holidays as sunny places seem to be populated by real people that care and can hold a conversation and laugh!


21st Jun 2008, 14:04
Alex - well done on your persistence. A most fascinating thread!

Its still a shame though that you haven't got to the bottom of why you were offloaded. Perhaps the very helpful Ray can come up with an answer to that one.

Keep us posted!

21st Jun 2008, 17:37
Having chosen to give KLM the benefit of the doubt (although, groundbum, as my brother was once national customer services manager for a travel company I do have an inkling of how the other side works so I understand your thinking - but to be fair, further detail in the letter implied that they have done more than just rephrase some standard response) and decided that that was that, I was amazed and rather chuffed last night to receive a personal phone call at home from ABZ airport management to tell me they'd passed my questions to SGS as requested, followed by an email from SGS at ABZ, assuring me that they will get back to me and answer my queries in full. They apologised for the unacceptable delay - it turns out the guy listed as the SGS UK manager on their website has retired which is apparently why my emails had gone unanswered.
So my direct letter to airport management at ABZ asking them to pass the questions straight to SGS locally appears to have hit the spot. It will be interesting to see what they have to say for themselves rather than have it filtered through multiple layers of bureaucracy back to KLM.

Ray D'Avecta
21st Jun 2008, 18:43
@ angels,

Its still a shame though that you haven't got to the bottom of why you were offloaded. Perhaps the very helpful Ray can come up with an answer to that one

very easy answer to that one, angels....the aircraft was overweight! :}

"Why was it overweight?"......dont know, but I dont see that it matters at all in relation to the subsequent events that Alex was complaining about.

23rd Jun 2008, 09:58
Ray - Thanks very much mate. Must confess I hadn't seen that the plane definitely was overweight. Humble apologies!

27th Jun 2008, 20:46
I have just received a very apologetic and comprehensive email from SGS at ABZ (who had been unaware that I had approached SGS UK direct until they were alerted last week) which covers all my questions in detail. I very much appreciated this.

The salient points are in the following extract from the email:

"Please find below the story of events which emphasises where mistakes were made:

As per statistical passenger reservation procedure, KL1446 18 April 2008 was overbooked
To avoid any involuntary denied boarding situation, SGS staff, at check-in, ascertained if any passengers would volunteer to be re-routed.
Also at check-in, a notice was displayed asking if any passenger would volunteer to be re-routed.
There were no volunteers.
As it was, the reservation statistics were correct and some passengers failed to appear for KL1446 therefore we did not have a 'denied boarding' issue at this stage
There is a crew change over for the KL1445/6 and on the 18 April 2008, the cockpit crew arrived at the international gate approximately one hour prior to departure. This is normal procedure.
When the crew arrive, SGS staff provide the crew with their flight plan, current weather conditions, weather charts and any notifications for the Captain. This was duly done.
From these figures, the Captain then advises SGS staff of all fuel figures, the estimated maximum weight of the aircraft with all load on board (minus the take off fuel figure) and the maximum permitted weight of the aircraft at brake release for take-off (this is known as the MTOW maximum take-off weight' ) At times, this take off weight needs to be adjusted depending on certain conditions, e.g. weather conditions, runway length, etc. The take-off weight advised by the Captain was 56860kgs.
At 1555 hours, the Captain then notified SGS staff that he was having to reduce the take-off weight down to 54400 kgs some 2460 kgs less. The reason for this was, on the initial flight plan, the wind speed was nil at zero knots however the weather conditions had changed to a tail wind of 5 knots.
The Captain and his Central Load Control department then decide what load has to come off. The cargo was immediately identified as an offload. SGS staff were then told fifteen passengers would also have to come off (an estimate weight for each passenger is 83 kgs).
At this point, all the passengers were in the International Walkway waiting to board KL1446 and wrongly, we proceeded to embark the passengers, which only escalated the problem further down the line to on board the aircraft.
SGS staff should have followed KLM procedure for offloading passengers. Passengers should be offloaded in the following order: First, ascertain if there are any volunteers to come off the flight, if not, passengers travelling direct to the destination (and in this case, Amsterdam) should be offloaded. Given that we had no volunteers identified at the check-in, it was wrongly assumed there would be no volunteers willing to come off the aircraft and we therefore failed to make this announcement on board the aircraft.
The next step was to identify passengers travelling direct to AMS only and that is what we did, however, on recognising two of the passengers were part of a family of four travelling ( and two children were within that group of four ) we should have allowed your family to stay together and asked for others to come off instead.
Fifteen passengers were offloaded. SAS Ground Services ticket desk staff then searched the reservation system for alternative flights. Unless the passengers travelled on the Air France flight to Paris (which was currently boarding) and then onwards to Amsterdam, there was no other flights which would get them to Amsterdam not only that evening, but on the following day also. At the time of searching for alternative flights, the Paris-Amsterdam flight was showing the availability as 'wide open'.
All passengers who were offloaded were then advised the Paris flight was their only option however there was no time to issue onward travel documentation (i.e. ticket re-issue) and no time to issue any denied boarding compensation. This would have to be done retrospectively.
All passengers agreed. The captain of the Air France flight agreed to delay his departure until all the rerouted passengers were onboard.
SAS Ground Services ticket office staff were then notified of all the rerouted passengers names and staff were asked to make the necessary onward bookings from Paris - Amsterdam. Reservation bookings were updated and telexes were also sent to various departments in Air France and KLM at Paris and Amsterdam advising them of the situation.
It then came to light, after the event, that not all passengers had been rebooked from Paris to Amsterdam (only 8 passengers had successfully been rebooked) as the availability had then become limited (reservations also being made by others), however on the day and at the time of the incident, this had been highlighted to staff in Paris by SGS ticket desk staff and staff there should have been fully aware of the situation. I can only assume they were not in receipt of our telexes. In future, an acknowledgement will be requested by SGS staff.I completely accept your family should have remained onboard flight KL1446 and should not have been split up. Please accept our sincere apologies. As per above, SGS mistakes have been identified and I can assure you we have taken corrective action to ensure this does not happen again."

My only comment on this is that, as we had checked in on-line and bypassed check-in, we were never aware that there had been any request for volunteers at an earlier stage (albeit at that point they were planning for a normal overbooking scenario).

And finally, although this trip didn’t work out well, reading the detail gave me some insight into the detailed behind-the-scenes operations that are normally transparent to me as a passenger and which I take for granted unless something goes wrong.

I am now happy to draw a line under the whole episode.

Mark in CA
28th Jun 2008, 03:04
At 1555 hours, the Captain then notified SGS staff that he was having to reduce the take-off weight down to 54400 kgs some 2460 kgs less. The reason for this was, on the initial flight plan, the wind speed was nil at zero knots however the weather conditions had changed to a tail wind of 5 knots.
And all of this because of an unexpected little breeze blowing in the wrong direction.