You may, or may not, have seen from some time ago my rant about the journey from Lanzarote to the peninsula on the Acciona Trasmediterránea ferry from Arrecife to Cadiz when we moved (click here if you’d like to read that article before continuing). In summary I was furious about the facilities for our dogs and we had a very uncomfortable journey ‘hiding’ in the car with them as the kennels on the boat were completely unsuitable.
UPDATE: Since this article was written Acciona Trasmediterránea have returned the Albaycin to the route and the facilities and customer service have reverted to their original shameful state. If you want to read the original article you can find it HERE. I strongly recommend that no dog lover ever transport their pets with this company. I certainly wouldn’t!
At this point you’re perhaps thinking he’s off again! Nothing could be further from the truth…
It’s one of those urban myths amongst expats that ALL businesses here pretty much don’t care about customer service, or about dealing professionally with any resulting complaints. Perhaps there’s an element of truth to that – after all, we all have our own anecdotes about the incompetent behaviour of Telefonica, Correos, or a banking incident – to suggest but a few examples!
However, after being a bit of a pain on Twitter as I felt my initial complaint had fallen on deaf ears, I was contacted by Acciona and given a refund on the cost of the dogs. It wasn’t what I wanted; I wasn’t after money; I wanted someone to listen rather than just refund me some cash to stop bugging them. I told them this at the time, as is the norm, expected them to go quiet and assume that I’d go quiet or go away.
I was wrong. My next contact with the company was via a phone call from a board level director (it would be improper to give a name or a job title here). How surprised was I to hear words to the effect of ‘I can not disagree with you. Things are not right. Can we stay in contact and I will go and take a look. We are interested in your thoughts and I value your comments and opinions’. The latter being something rarely heard in any sincerity when fielding a complaint. In this case though, I had no doubt that this was a man who did actually care about his company, its reputation and their clients.
Sure enough, my next contact was with the same person, who had been to see the Albayzin. Though not exactly seeing what we saw as the boat was in port, some of my points in the original complaint were accepted and I was told they would be improving staff training to ensure potential passengers were correctly informed about the facilities, that they would be ensuring levels of cleanliness, also that the ‘visiting times’ had been increased to five a day rather than three.
For me, this would never have been enough to take the dogs back on the boat, but I was pleased at least the company had listened and at least tried. I was at this point imagining this might be the last I’d here from them. I was reasonably happy if this was the end. It wouldn’t get me back on the boat, but it might make life at least a little more pleasant for others using the service.
Some time later I had another phone call, now this was the one that really impressed me! The boat on the Lanzarote to Cadiz route had been changed. I was told that the company had come to the realization that perhaps the boat with the worst facilities for animals was running the longest route. The Albayzin is now on a shorter route. The replacement, (Murillo), although I haven’t seen the facilities, I am told has kennels with 24 hour access; and with the kennels themselves being on deck, rather than buried deep in the car decks, is more suitable for the route.
I’ve wanted to ‘report back’ on this story, but have been putting it off for one simple reason. I wanted to see for myself. Last Tuesday I was invited down to Almeria by my contact and met with both him and a senior manager for a tour of the boat, Sorolla, which I’m assured has facilities comparable to the Murillo now on the Canary Islands route.
To summarize, the kennels are in a dedicated room. They are a reasonable size, though you may struggle with a very large dog. They’re basic of course; but from what I saw very clean, with water freely available in the room. If you’re taking a dog (or cat) do remember to take bedding, bowls, food and anything else you feel necessary to make them comfortable of course.
The important thing to me is that there is 24 hour access, and the door of the room itself opens up onto a dog walking area far larger than that which was available on the Albayzin.
Now for the big question: Has all this changed my mind? Would we travel with the dogs again?
If facilities are the same as those as I saw – yes, if I had to, I would. I really never thought I’d say that a few months ago.
- The initial response to my complaint was to extend the visiting times on the Albayzin
- Being the longest route the Albayzin has now been replaced by the Murillo between Cadiz and the Canaries
- The Murillo has 24 hour access to pets, and a much larger dog walking area than the Albayzin
- The company is in the process of updating the website. Improving information for pet owners is part of these changes
- The company has invested time in training call centre and other staff to enable them to describe the facilities available to pet owners
Are things now perfect? No, of course they aren’t – this is a large company and change takes time; and of course boats are not easy or cheap to reconfigure! But they are trying, and trying hard.
There have been some major changes in a short period, and having spent time with the people I have from the company this week (people who had taken time out to spend with me, to listen, to ask, to make notes as we talked) I am totally convinced they do care; that they are committed to improvement across the business (not just for pets) and that they valued my opinion.
Of all the complaints I have ever made (there have been a few), none have ever been dealt with so personally, so comprehensively, and so professionally. Put simply – well done Acciona Trasmediterránea!