The Sweet Service Award goes to Lufthansa, for its excellent service on a direct daytime flight from Cape Town to Munich in February. It started with the check-in, where the very kind assistant Alex allocated a window seat to me. He saw me while we were waiting to board, carried my hand luggage, and took me to the front of the queue. Before the boarding had officially started, he walked me to the aircraft, so that I could be the first person on board. He even tried his best to speak German to me, but I told him that I lived in Cape Town. The service on board was excellent, contrary to past experiences of Lufthansa air hostesses. There was ample legroom, wifi and a cellphone charger is offered, and the entertainment system was easy to use. Check-in was proactively done via email, and easy to do. The offer of curry chicken on a flight was the only negative. It was an excellent overall experience, and I will certainly fly Lufthansa again! 

The Sour Service Award goes to Discovery, nominated by Michael MacKenzie, who recently lost his partner. He wrote: ‘How is this for a sour service award. 10 days after Freddie died in Hospital I receive an e mail addressed to him from Dr Ryan Noach Deputy CEO Discovery Health asking him to complete a survey about his recent stay in hospital. Despite Discovery Health being informed of his death on the day it occurred’.  The insensitive email received from Discovery was the following: 

From: RyanNoach []
Sent: 10 April 2017 01:19 PM
Subject: Please complete this survey from Discovery Health about your hospital experience

Dear Mr Symonds

At Discovery Health, it’s important that the members of the medical schemes we administer receive exceptional care when seeking healthcare services. To help us ensure we stand by our profound promise of enhancing and protecting medical scheme members’ lives in everything we do, we’d like to hear about the quality of care you received during your recent hospital stay in Mediclinic Worcester.

We conduct this survey regularly and, together with other information, results from these surveys can help us identify the most important opportunities for change that will improve the experience of care and the outcomes that matter most to you and other medical scheme members.

We want to ensure we continue to focus on what is important for medical scheme members

Since November 2015, we have published these survey results on our website, at a hospital level, after removing any information that could identify you or any other patient.

This published information empowers both you as a patient in your decision making, but also providers of care with opportunities for change to improve the patient experience.

In addition, the survey provides medical scheme members the opportunity to recognise individual nurses who stood out for them as champions in the delivery of their care.

You can view survey results for any hospital on the Discovery website at:

We hope you will contribute to this important initiative by completing the survey

Our records show that you were admitted to Mediclinic Worcester in the last six weeks. For the survey, we need you to answer the questions about this recent hospital stay only. Please do not include information about another hospital stay, even if it was at the same hospital.

About completing the survey

• Your personal information will be kept confidential and we will not share this with any other party.
• Completing this survey is voluntary and will not affect your healthcare benefits in any way.
• It will take about three minutes to answer all the questions.
• You do not have to provide any health information in this survey.

Getting started

Simply click on the link below to go to the survey:

Survey link

Thank you for taking part. We appreciate your time in giving us your feedback.

Kind regards

Dr Ryan Noach
Deputy CEO
Discovery Health

Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, registration number 1997/013480/07, is an authorised financial services provider and administrator of medical schemes.

Subsidiaries of Discovery Limited are authorised financial services providers.
The information in this email is confidential and may have legal privileges. We intend it only for the use of the individual or entity we’ve addressed the communication to. If you have received this email by mistake please delete it and tell the sender. We forbid any unauthorised use, change, disclosure or sending of the contents of this email (including its attachments), whether in part or as a whole, unless consented to in writing by the sender, as it may be unlawful.
We cannot guarantee this email has no malicious coding.
We reserve the right to check, intercept and block emails or take any other action according to our email etiquette.
Discovery will not be liable for any delivery delay, loss, harm, disruption or data corruption that may arise from this email.
A full list of company directors is available on our website at: – or to get this list by email, please email’

Michael sent me a second email later in this week, sharing another email from Dr Ryan Noach at Discovery, encouraging his late partner to have a flu vaccination! 

‘To make sure you’re protected and get the full benefit of the flu vaccine, you should ideally go for a vaccination as soon as you can. Flu vaccination continues to offer benefits when given at any time during the flu season, but the ideal time for vaccination is before the season starts, as it takes the body about two weeks to develop antibodies against the flu virus. Find a pharmacy or GP near you. The Scheme will cover the cost of your flu vaccine. Find out more about vaccinating this flu season’.

POSTSCRIPT 20/4/17: Michael MacKenzie forwarded a letter of apology which he received from Dr Noach after they became aware of the insensitive communication sent to Michael: 

Dear Michael

I am writing to extend sincere condolences to you following the loss of your partner, Freddie, during this difficult time.

I am aware of the two automated emails that were sent inappropriately after his passing, and I wanted to personally write to you to apologise sincerely for any added stress this may have caused, and for the inappropriately in-compassionate nature of our communication.

These emails are automatically generated by the system and sent out at a scheduled time. This means that batches (which include multiple members) are created and the batch is then scheduled to be released at a certain date and time. At the time when the batches for both these emails were created, your partner was still active on the medical aid. I recognize that this communication process design is flawed, and consequently we are immediately re-engineering this process to avoid a recurrence for any other member.

I am truly sorry for the communication, and will take this opportunity to improve the process.

Please do not hesitate to let us know if there is any way we can further support you during this difficult time.



The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at chrisvonulmenstein [at] Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein