Concept of service
Air Blue is celebrating 3 years of service. The question is what kind of service? I remember how delighted I was when Air Blue first began operations. Friendly, pleasant, efficient young women attending to passengers during the check-in process and the on board flight service. After years of grumpy, not-very-pleasant-to-look-at national airline crew, we now had this refreshing change. The fact that they used technology (handhelds) for checking in passengers, was a bonus.
The level of onboard flight service was and is still very good. However, my impression of Air blue changed last week when my team and I had to fly to Lahore. We decided not to fly PIA because it has become standard for PIA flights to be 5 or 6 hours behind schedule – and we didn’t really have time to waste. Who does? The Air Blue flight was scheduled for 1 pm so we got there at 11:30 a.m., checked in and were told that the flight was going to be 15 – 20 minutes late. Then began the long wait. Passengers constantly asked when boarding would begin but no straight answer was forthcoming. Nor were any announcements made.
It was only when some passengers became “loud” – no it wasn’t me I promise you – that Air Blue finally admitted that they had cancelled the flight and passengers now had two choices – we could either be transferred onto the 7 pm Air Blue flight or we could have our tickets cancelled, and purchase a PIA ticket. They would not assist with the transfer to PIA – that was our problem.
All of us were marched to the Arrivals hall where we first collected our luggage. We then queued up outside at the Air Blue desk where we either booked ourselves on the 7 pm flight or applied for a refund. Some passengers said they didn’t want a refund, that they just wanted a transfer onto the next PIA flight. The response from the Air Blue staff was they they could not assist in transferring passengers to any other flight other than Air Blue. No lunch or refreshment was provided to those who waited (such a contrast from when a friend and I were flying out of Auckland and Qantas couldn’t accommodate us due to a glitch in our visas. They assisted us in getting onto an Air New Zealand flight, took care of us, and were so helpful that despite the long wait, we left feeling well disposed towards all the airlines involved).
My team and I live in Karachi so we rang for a car, went to have a late lunch nearby and returned to the airport around 5:30 pm to check in all over again. But there were passengers from Hyderabad and some who had come in from international destinations. They just waited at the domestic terminal until it was time to check in. Many were heard to say that they would not fly Air Blue again.
Flight delays can and do happen – sometimes it is unavoidable but shouldn’t airlines have a strategy for handling these delays? Announcements, refreshments, handling of passengers so that they feel well looked after, etc etc. Or is that not part of our airline service culture?
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