Best Airline Complaint Letter Ever Gets the Worst Response Ever

A complaint letter written to Caribbean airline LIAT went viral a couple of weeks ago when it was publicized by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin.

I didn’t write about it at the time because it wasn’t that funny, even if it was being touted as the greatest complaint letter ever.

Sadly, the story goes from mildly amusing to just plain said.

Here’s the letter, then I will explain.

Dear LIAT,

May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean.

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

Branson repeats the old line that LIAT stands for ‘Languishing in Airport Terminals’.

LIAT responds like any airline who cares not a whit for customer service would — by focusing on being called out by Richard Branson rather than on its operations and service.

It released a video that it hoped would go viral. Only….

Worst attempt at a viral video ever. It gets the message completely wrong. The production values are so bad it’s tough to make out the ‘challenge’. And most of all, it underscores what is fundamentally wrong not just with LIAT but with the entire Caribbean — peddling the idea that awful service and dilapidated facilities are just the price of being in beautiful surroundings.

The video is so bad it doesn’t make me want to just avoid LIAT (and in full disclosure they’ve been perfectly fine when I’ve flown them), it reminds me why I don’t even want to go to the islands they serve.

If you ran LIAT, how would you have handled?

(HT: Roger Williams)

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Back in the early 80s we called LIAT= leave island any time because chances are equal that the plane would leave before departure time as it would late.

  2. I flew LIAT once, and it was fine.

    I love visiting the Caribbean, but I always remember it is a whole other world down there. People are poor, friendly, welcoming and generally don’t care about how I value my time.

    If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you are best to book the non-stop from Miami on AA.

  3. Bored after 20 seconds…couldn’t bear to watch the whole thing…

    @ Mike Stuben — If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you are best off not booking with AA!

  4. Years ago when I lived in STT, LIAT indeed stood for Leave Island If At All or Leave Island Any Time. We all understood that LIAT might feel like flying when we showed up…or maybe not…really it was anyone’s guess. Why would they pretend any other way?

  5. I honestly didn’t think the video is all that bad. If it’s viral, they won’t know about the underlying compaint, and I bet it leads to a thousand more tickets.

  6. @Artist – “Awful broad strokes” are what Gary and the intellectuals at Fox & Friends consider to be accurate assessments of entire groups or nations of people (or just dirty immigrants in their parlance). It’s sad to see at times this blog devolving into something more suited for A Cranky Old Man’s ‘View from the Right Wing’.

    Can’t wait for the next banal injection of political, racial, cultural frivolity. Tea Party on my friends…

  7. As one of the flight attendants for Bahamas Air once told me…”If you have time to spare, then fly Bahamas Air”

  8. This could have been handled much differently, and better. LIAT has many issues, spanning the entire period of its existence; most of those issues begin with Management and Administration. The pilots and airline staff are hard-working and conscientious people but LIAT management has never been able to get it right, too many personalities at the top all wanting to get their own way and their own policies in place.
    We need LIAT so I guess we should make sure we have time to spare when we fly LIAT, the Caribbean Airline.

  9. I’m going to comment before reading the others so I don’t know if I’m chiming in or taking a different view.

    I thought there was some good self-deprecatory humor in that video – portraying the “We’re the little guys” and “We don’t claim always to be perfect” vibe. Having amateur production values fits right in with that. As a public response, it isn’t bad. It beats a bunch of legalese and platitudes.

    I’ve traveled LIAT too and spent my fair share of time in departure lounges (even 30 minutes of the CNN entertainment fluff channel or whatever they call it is hard to take), but have not had any worse problems with LIAT than with plenty of other airlines.

  10. @ Walter “Can’t wait for the next banal injection of political, racial, cultural frivolity”

    LOL You being the only one to inject biased political talking points into this discussion. Then slamming Gary for supposedly doing what only you did.

    Especially loved the oh so self-righteous far left delusion that merely mentioning the word “Fox” somehow says something profound. If you were to check the demographics of the Fox News audience, and even the Fox cable network employees, you would be surprised to find nearly as many Democrats as Republicans in each group. One reason why FNN was happy to add uber-liberal Juan Williams to their lineup after PBS purged him. FNN must be appealing to a fairly diverse group of viewers, since FNN routinely has more viewers than all other cable news networks combined.

    And yes, if you read the Trip Advisor ratings for virtually any island resort in the Caribbean, no matter how expensive, you will be hard pressed to find even one that could qualify as “aspirational” on any aspect other than scenic view. “seriously in need of renovation”, “service disinterested to the point of being rude”, and “way overpriced” being the most frequent comments.

    As for mis-characterizing Gary’s views with the “dirty immigrants” false quote… Slander much?

  11. Totally a broad brush, there are a handful of exception properties to be sure!

    Two things.

    (1) I think I came across a bit less than clearly, I was arguing not that everything in the Caribbean is awful but that the video portrayed the entire Caribbean as beautiful so don’t worry about services and facilities (the crux of the complaints).

    It seems that some folks are misinterpreting what I was trying to say here, that’s totally on me, re-reading I can see how it came across that way. I was articulating what I thought the message of the video, not what I thought the facts were.

    That said, the generalization while not true in 100% of cases is more true than not, I think.

    What in the world my criticism of a LIAT video response to their customer service issues has to do with Fox News or politics I admit is lost on me.

  12. This response is in poor taste. The tone is wrong and the video was poorly done. Makes me wonder who were the decision-makers behind the video. The persons responsible should be sacked.

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