Imagine flying business class from London to New York to open the show for the hottest ticket of the summer, the Coldplay US stadium tour. Pause that, rewind, take out the business class and imagine speeding through rush hour traffic to snag the last seat in economy, on the last possible flight to make the gig at all, paying a large fortune in the process. For one of Britain’s biggest and (best) upcoming bands, the adventure of a lifetime was almost missed, thanks to a ridiculous mess at boutique airline La Compagnie…

The Backstory

Breakout, Grammy winning UK singer “Foxes” also known as Louisa Rose Allen and her band were set to embark on the biggest tour of their lives, opening for Coldplay in US Stadiums this summer; and after scoring an enticing deal with La Compagnie, the all business class airline, which flies between New York, London and Paris, they were ready to hit the states in style, in flat beds, getting some well deserved rest and relaxation. Sounds nice. 

And Then It Went Crazy. No Notice Cancellation…

Upon arrival at London Luton Airport everything began to unravel in ways that nearly literally cost the band their slot on the tour. Once inside the terminal, with no notice or contact from La Compagnie, a member of the band’s crew spotted the departures board and saw that though the flight was scheduled for 5:45PM, the only thing showing on the board was a 7:00PM and in fact, next to it, it said CANCELLED. Catch the next flight right? Wrong. La Compagnie only operates one flight per day and the band needed to be in New York the next morning at 10AM for the official start of the tour, a flight the next day would not be acceptable and could cost them the tour in its entirety. Did La Compagnie do the right thing and just rebook them on another airline the same night and help handle the ordeal to make things right? Nope.

Here’s Why It’s REALLY BAD…

When the band arrived without any notice of the cancellation or delay, there was literally NO ONE handling customer service and NO La Compagnie counter to be found at all. The band was referred to an airline outsourcing company Swissport, who repeatedly told the group to essentially **** off until someone from La Compagnie came around. The whole time the band was waiting (with limited time), no one from La Compagnie EVER came around, they never came down. In fact, after pleading with the Swissport employee, it became clear that the La Compagnie employees were hiding, and were only willing to be reached via phone, via the Swissport employee. No direct chats. WTF! The band could not afford to wait, they needed to get back on the road in hopes of catching the last flight from Heathrow. The eventually were able to negotiate a refund over the phone, but no considerations for the last minute cancellation or their new expenses…

The Fix And The Financial MESS…

The band intelligently realized that they must get back into their vans to fight the current of London rush hour traffic to make one of the last flights of the day. That’s not bad for a solo traveler with a carry on roller, but with 11 people, their luggage for a summer on the road and 16 pieces of sensitive (and extremely heavy) musical gear that’s quite an ordeal. Thanks to the help of their travel agents Glen De Laine & Steve Dixon at Pro Travel International, who the band says saved the day, they were able to get booked on the last United Airlines flight of the day, grabbing literally the last available seat. Unfortunately that also meant paying £300 per person more for economy rather than business class, not to mention all the excess baggage fees, which were now FAR WORSE because of the cabin downgrade. According to the band’s tour manager, Bryony October, the United staff went above and beyond to swiftly process all the moving pieces, gear and passengers, getting them to the tour just on time. Well done United.

No Notice Cancellation? Really?

It’s highly improbable that they did not already know the flight was cancelled when the band arrived, especially if it was saying so on the board. Making no effort to save them the hassle or offer solutions was bad, but not putting team members out in the terminal to help sort out stranded passengers smart enough to check in early was beyond ridiculous, below any standards of any airline I’ve seen. When problems happen, as an airline you need your best people out front to make things right. What you really need is to let customers know the minute it happens, and have a solution ready to go. I know in the past La Compagnie has booked stranded customers onto British Airways flights the same day. This would have been a perfect fix. Simply offering a refund after stranding passengers, who obviously would then incur huge additional costs to make it to their destination on time is bulls*it. It’s not brand building…

The Ridiculousness Of It All + What The Band Did Right…

La Compagnie did not have another flight to offer which would’ve gotten the band to the tour on time, which literally and truly could’ve lost them the biggest tour of the summer. With that in mind they did not wait until the dust settled and someone actually came to help. Rather than wait around for an agent to appear out of thin air hours later, they knew they had to get a move on, get the refund processing and most importantly, get on any flight, securing the last available seats of the day during peak summer travel. If you must get somewhere in a certain window of time, concentrate on the big picture details and sort out the rest later. The airline will know the flight was cancelled, they’ll know they owe you compensation but all of that takes a back seat to making it to the show on time…

What do YOU think La Compagnie SHOULD do? My vote? Comp their flights home…