“...delays, horrible customer service, unsafe aircrafts and disrespect towards elderly passengers” are just some of the more polite observations of Açorean airline SATA’s customers, many of whom would dearly love to fly with another carrier – but there isn’t one.
The incident in August on board a SATA flight from Toronto to Ponta Delgada that had to turn back after being in the air for 10 minutes due to a 'mechanical problem' caused safety concerns.
SATA said there was 'smoke in the cabin' but later denied there had been an emergency despite emergency services standing by as it landed.
After several hours with zero information the 192 passengers eventually were informed us that the flight was cancelled.
One passenger was told by SATA to contact customer services for a refund for her flight, car rental and associated costs but says she is still waiting for a response three weeks later, adding that SATA gave everyone no information after landing.
The flight kept being delayed until, three days later, the flight took off.
Tales of delays, overbooking, old aircraft, zero information for customers and the poor treatment of elderly travellers has been too much for those dependent on this state-owned relic and, faced with getting precisely nowhere through official channels, have started an official petition at least to get the company to respond and start to address its many shortcomings.
Lina Chaves Faldetta posted on Facebook “I'm from Santa Maria and we don't go back more often because I can't stand flying with SATA. They are the worst. Flew with my mom last year who uses a walker and a wheel chair. They broke her wheel chair and left her walker back in Boston so she was without it for a few days. She went again this year and again they left her walker in Boston. They need to get some competition flying to the islands.”
Other less polite Facebook postings on SATA page have developed a mysterious habit of disappearing and in January this year the management of the heavily indebted regional airline decided to reduce its fleet and cabin crew to ‘increase efficiency’ and to reduce some of the €179 million debt the airline carried at the end of 2014.
As part of a restructure, 23 long-haul cabin crew were to be fired as part of a new strategic plan 2015-2020.
The plan clearly is not working and the SATA board that admitted the company was in crisis seems to have forgotten the one element in the economic mix that is the most important, the customer.
So much so that a group of disappointed, marginalised, duped and angry SATA flyers decided to do something about it and to register their official view that the airline has better get its act together or their goodwill, already stretched to breaking point, would be forever gone.
Feel free to add your name to this official petition which asks for some action by SATA, owned at the end of the day by the Portuguese public and run largely by a deaf and uncaring board of management.
Well in excess of a thousand signatories to date already represent a powerful financial lobby as without long haul customers from Canada and the US, SATA will soon be dead in the water unless it adddresses reliability and communication problems, massive subsidy or no massive subsidy.