09 August 2010

Deaf, Dumb and Blind., Airlines and Passengers

I hope that Robert Cole will allow me to steal his idea for a Blog post and then elaborate on it.

On his Rock Cheetah Blog he did a nice piece on his experience with several airlines.

I am an unabashed airline geek, - in truth a kerosene junky. But I like to work in the breadth of the Travel Industry. There is nothing like it on the planet. But it never ceases to amaze me at the ineptitude of the airlines and sadly also their passengers. Which came first - the chicken or the egg. Dumb airlines or Dumb passengers?

Let's start with the Dumb Airlines... What I like about the European rules on customer behaviour - is that they are unambiguous. Pretty clear and straightforward. You either comply or you can't fly. Simple enough. Generally the performance of the airlines in Europe since the enactment in 2004 has improved from the prior behaviour. Most people in Europe have forgotten the awful summer of 2000 and 2001 when delays and strikes crippled travel across the continent. I agree with Robert - that things could go a lot better. But we all know that there is a clear set if issues that are theoretical that people debate ad nauseam.

Things like the above image - represents about 45 mins of trying to get the Delta website to behave. Yes this included me restarting my browser, clearing cookies and even restarting my PC. This is of course insulting. You know the engine is down - why not tell me rather than pissing me off and letting me get to the end and then see the failure. Grrrr

The latest edition of ATW has gone into a bit of Government bashing. Perry Flint made some pretty good points in his editorial. And I concur that there needs to be some measure of rationality applied to the debate.

For many years the ubiquitous "Weather Delay" or delays caused by the "late arrival of the inbound aircraft..." are the all too familiar refrain over the PA system. In my travels around Europe and the USA over the past few years I hear it less in Europe now than in the USA. its just the same problem - but finding someone to blame is always the answer. Airline just try to get more creative about their excuses. What I do like is when the pilot comes on and tells you the whole story. Somehow it is more reassuring coming from the Pilot - and the airlines do this rather than having their gate agents give the information WHEN the passenger could do something about it.

So let me talk about dumb passengers. And yes there are one heck of a lot of them.

I have this strong feeling that there should be an aptitude test before people are allowed in airports. This should cover, well the basics...

1. Can you tell your left from your right?
2. Can you hear?
3. Can you walk in a straight line with your bag and not block the aisles?

But there is one class of player who deserves to be singled out and shown for being fly in the ointment.

That entity is the airport management.

Last week I had a tight connection between many gates in MSP. I managed (with 9 mins to spare) to catch an electric cart near my arrival gate and persuaded him to drive me to the remote gate. With all due deference to the poor guy driving - I doubt he could have passed the regular driving test. Couple with the fact that the airports have done away with any form of horn or ding dong bell and the real culprit - the tight avenues now blocked with shops and merchandise for the airport to raise money for the city coffers. But the real kicker was when started shouting for people to move out of the way - the poor driver (sic) said I could not do that or he would lose his job. When asked why - he told me that in the main shopping areas he was not allowed to do that and could get some form of demerit for doing it or allowing one of his passengers to do it.

In truth we need a degree of understanding on all sides. We need the passengers to be better prepared. We need the airline (AND their contractors/surrogates) to be more truthful about what is really happening. And we need the airport authorities to do their part also. The air transport system is very complex and there are a number of moving parts. But before we throw all the rocks at the airlines - lets not forget the bad airport managers and the dumb passengers. Oh yes - and don't forget the regulatory bodies. It takes those guys to really mess up.

Let he that is without sin cast the first stone....


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