Viking - Putting Dollars Before Safety?
The events in Egypt over the past days started as concerning and has escalated to dangerous. I have clients who are scheduled to be on a February 5 river cruise in Egypt. Viking's response has been of great concern...and something I think everyone should be aware of.
On Friday, January 28th as I was watching CNN and seeing the demonstrations (and where they were) I called Viking due to my clients concerns over the events and their need to know what their options were. After being given the standard, "We are in contact with our ground operators in Egypt and they advise us that all of the areas are safe" I pushed the matter and asked for a supervisor. I received more of the same.
I asked, "When are you going to consider the safety of your passengers? When are you going to consider sources other than the Egyptian operators that are looking to protect their business?" Only then did Viking even acknowledge that safety was an issue.
Yesterday, January 29th with dozens dead, protests expanding, the Pyramids at Giza closed and the Egyptian Museum already damaged by looters (and now, hopefully, the damage kept to 2 mummies and some minor artifacts) Viking continued to insist that the February 5th cruise was still a "go". (Meanwhile the US was already organizing flights to get US tourists out of Egypt.)
Only after I really pressed was I offered the option of my clients selecting another Viking cruise, whether or not in Egypt, without a cancellation charge and only liable for any increase in price (or a refund if it was less). While it is an option - and possibly one that works for some - it still keeps the funds with Viking...rather than refunded to the clients.
When it is clear that there is no way things will be safe by February 5th....and it isn't known if flights will even be arriving into Cairo...doesn't Viking have the obligation to given its clients the ability to mitigate their losses as quickly as possible? Yes, trip cancellation insurance is an avenue for some, but not all, but is that the right solution here where it is not a matter of someone just being nervous, but the collapse of order and safety exists.
It leaves me wondering. How about you?
RE: Viking- Putting Dollars Before Safety
As fellow members of the travel community we admire the way in which you take care of your customers. We believe that putting customers first, especially when it comes to their safety, is something that you and Viking have in common.
The safety of our guests is our top priority and when the unrest in Egypt began, our focus turned to those Viking passengers who were in the country. Viking chartered a plane on February 1 to get all remaining 91 guests out of Cairo. They flew to Frankfurt, where Viking provided hotel accommodations and helped to arrange flights for their return home. I can assure you that everyone at Viking River Cruises rejoiced when all guests arrived home safely.
As you likely now know, on January 31 we canceled all Egypt departures through February 28, 2011. Passengers are able to rebook their cruise without penalty or choose to receive a full refund. We understand your frustration in not getting the answer you expected in the timeframe that you wanted. Please accept our apologies, clearly the wrong impression was created and we could have been more accommodating. In the future we will try to incorporate the feedback you provided, but for now we hope you understand the immediate need was to get our passengers home.
Please feel free to contact us directly with any other questions, concerns or comments at TellUs@vikingrivercruises.com. We appreciate your feedback and hope that you will continue to trust Viking with your customers’ travels.
Viking River Cruises
Obviously the first priority was for you to get the clients in Egypt out; no question about it.
What concerned me was the pitch (I have to call it that) that Viking was relying on your ground operators and, in fact, had just had a group arrive in Cairo that day, etc., etc.
While these sort of incidents are rare, it is important to place safety first and to provide people with information in a timely fashion. Honestly, if I had not been such an advocate for my clients I am sure they would have flown from their home (most certainly not the US) and had a world of visa issues (as their transit visas would have been invalidated) and a huge unrecoverable expense. (In other words, I told them to forget the cruise as their safety came first and that I would later deal with the financial issues.)
It sounds like lessons have been learned and I thank you for explaining the situation for all to see. (Now, if you had sent personal a letter to my clients...;))
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