People, Planning and Performance
So the cabin crew lady forgets, or omits, to bring you the juice you have asked for two times, even with your fellow passengers being aware of this. This is on Silk Air between Penang and Singapore on the scheduled 1215pm flight on 28 February 2015. Aw, is this only a minor thing?
However, on a later connecting flight, its parent airline, Singapore, consistently provides quality customer engagement, whether for business class or economy class passengers, on the flight sector between Singapore and Sydney. The cabin crew members on the upper deck of the Airbus 380 exude greater training, better personality, show initiative and reach out beyond their mere job role on this overnight flight of SQ221, arriving at Sydney Airport around 735am on Sunday 1 March 2015. The on-board in-flight entertainment facility was out of action for a while mid-flight, but I reckon no one passenger was bothered much. This is because the overall flying experience with SQ on this flight was good, primarily because its attending staff knew how to respond in micro situations as well when interacting with passengers. And technically Singapore has always been ahead of its competitors in technology - on that flight we could send text messages from our smart phones and for a fee, have access to the internet. Most important of all, the pilots handled the rather disturbing turbulences pretty well for short periods over certain portions of sea and land.
What makes the difference, in the level and nuance of service between two airlines, echoes the varying levels of focused business management, not only at the operational level, but also reflects the implementation of effective strategic values transformed to staff behaviour. Every one would have experienced the ineptitude of airline staff who seriously believe they are more important than passengers, mainly because of the me me me emphasis when they grew up and in how they are trained for their job. I have seen Silk Air ground crew at Penang Airport asking couples with infants to line up with the rest of the queue - hello? At the same time, they did not know how to optimally handle those irritating passenger types who on arrival at the gate lounge, walk up to the counter demanding they get to board first, when the aircraft is not even ready and has to be cleaned.
Ground staff representing airlines are the first point of impression for their customers, as these are the very first people customers see and interact with, whether upon checking in or when waiting to board. I witnessed such a ground staff member shouting to passengers because a boarding area in Sydney International Airport does not provide simple microphone facilities for the boarding gate for an Airbus 380 flight. Whether such staff individuals are from an outsourced contract arrangement or full employees for the airline is not relevant. Airline management must negotiate better with the management of whatever airport in the world to understand better what a passenger goes through in utilising services for which they have prepaid.
Why does Changi Airport in Singapore open the gates to A5 in Terminal Three so late these days? Is it cost saving or for a more rational reason? When passenger numbers build up for the hand luggage security check, the risk of stress, over crowding and rushing late passengers increases dramatically.
A flight from Penang to Singapore is officially and technically by all counts a trip between two separate countries. I cannot for several years and even now fathom why the Silk Air ground crew checking in passengers at Penang Airport cannot open their counters at the very latest two hours before flight time. Are they subconsciously treating such flights as more of within domestic counter opening times?
I am thankful for safety and security aspects promoted and practised on airline travel. However, personal, corporate and community attitudes can vary in making the passenger experience a rather varied spectrum. For example, when one is used to punctuality, it can be unnerving to watch laid back attitudes cause issues which logically impact negatively on the passenger experience. Passenger numbers have escalated, revenues have risen and yet service is getting patchy in the new age of airline travel, whether with budget airlines or not. Reasons for delays in and hiccups to commercial airline travel due to weather risks are most acceptable; those relating to human service gaps, bureaucracy and lack of professional behaviour are not. You may only want to fly with one specific airline, but practical code-sharing these days can really mean you actually fly with other airlines on certain sectors of your ticket, even if you want to avoid such a specific other airline.
Positive attributes for example are shown in carefully selecting the path on how an aircraft takes off or lands. Subject to the permission of the related local airport authorities, it is appreciated when the pilot of your commercial aircraft flies over close to a rather uninhabited isle that you have always wondered about and now get to view. Thai Airways allow you to view the camera panorama from the pilot's cockpit. Some considerate pilots mention on the PA system when the plane is flying over significant landmarks. Fun aircraft pre-takeoff videos for passengers are a welcome feature of Air New Zealand flights. Helpful ground crew provided for arriving transit passengers from long haul flights are a privileged experience, not a standard any more. A smiling steward who speaks clear English even if it is not his mother tongue on Emirates is not to be taken for granted. The varied backgrounds of Cathay Pacific crew resonates well with their multi demographic passenger profile.
Helpful security check officers are desired instead of those treating passengers in a condescending manner. I have heard accounts by passengers, at Sydney International Airport, who have had their hand luggage taken by other unauthorised passengers or go missing, whilst such items are supposedly under security scrutiny on the first entry security check machines and conveyor belt. What is more critical is how such passengers were treated when they realised that their hand luggage had gone missing. I have not heard such negative accounts from people who go on domestic flights within Australia.