Most of us go to the customer service desk, make a call, pull up TripAdvisor, Yelp or even Facebook to vent our anger about yet another terrible experience on an airline. And then there’s Arthur Hicks, the man whose comical open letter to the Caribbean airline LIAT has become an Internet sensation thanks to a tweet from Virgin boss Richard Branson.
It was 2009 when Branson himself received what was dubbed the world’s best airline complaint letter. Passenger Oli Beale, who flew Virgin from Mumbai, India, to Heathrow, London, said, “I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation.” Beale included a picture with the caption: “Look at this Richard. Just look at it.”
He continued: “I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the dessert?”
Now, Branson is having the last laugh. He tweeted a link to Hicks' experience, published in the British Virgin Islands Beacon, saying, “How to write a complaint letter – read this hilarious note from a frustrated airline passenger.”
In his cheeky open letter, Hicks described his roundabout way of traveling aboard “The Caribbean Airline,” LIAT, which serves 21 destinations, often on circuitous island-hopping routes. “Most other airlines I have traveled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry,” Hicks wrote. “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!”
Hicks went on to describe his delight in “sampling the security scanners at each airport,” saying he felt as though he’d “been hugged by most of the Caribbean.” He ended the tongue-in-cheek note by telling LIAT to keep his bag. “I never liked it anyway.”
Those commenting on the original BVI Beacon post joked that LIAT stands for “Luggage In Any Terminal” and “Leaving Island Any Time.” In reality, the Antigua-based carrier operates under the name Leeward Islands Air Transport.
Branson said on his blog that he was “tickled” to see another brilliant note to a different airline, which happens to have a partnership with Virgin Atlantic. “It is important to take customer feedback on board in order to improve -- and also to be able to laugh at yourself,” he advised. “Making customer service key to your company will keep your employees motivated and your customers happy. This in turn ensures enduring loyalty, business success and a better experience for everyone.”
LIAT has yet to publicly comment on the letter. Given its reputation, however, one might expect a response on “Island Time.”
Full Text of Arthur Hicks’ Open Letter To 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.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...