Quality of Service to Air Travellers in Aviation Industry

Unfortunately, in most minds, consciously or sub-consciously, the class-based system prevalent in India since ages has given rise to a lower esteem value to the act of service to others

Issue: BizAvIndia 3/2021By Air Vice Marshal S.S. Chauhan (Retd) Illustration(s): By SP’s Team
Good attention during course of flight & a helpful attitude with a view to make the air-traveller feel homely & comfortable is vital for a service provider

Recently, an airlines rating agency has rated the top 20 airlines of the world, based on their concept statement which reads as follows:

“To be named in the top twenty, airlines must achieve a seven-star safety rating and demonstrate leadership in innovation for passenger comfort”.

The list of top-20 airlines, as given, is as follows:

Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates, Cathay Pacific. Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, EVA Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, ANA, Finnair, Japan Airlines , KLM, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Australia, Delta Airlines, & Etihad Airways.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not very surprisingly, one does not find even a single Indian airline figuring in this top 20 list!

The reasons may not be far to see. It may be primarily related to the under-performed practice of service to the client, which in this case is primarily the air-traveller. Why this may be so? As an anonymous source has most aptly pointed out -

“The difference lies in not just meeting but exceeding customer’s expectations”.

What then forms a good material for providing true service to a client & make this difference? Some thought leaders & seasoned professionals in the customer service industry have put forward the following traits considered as an essential pre-requisite in personnel engaged in the service sector:

  • Customer Empathy/Compassion.
  • Communication Skills.
  • Patience.
  • Enthusiasm.
  • Stress Management.
  • Flexibility.
  • Charisma.
  • Professional Knowledge.

According to another (somewhat of a sweeping!) thought, a person who:

  • Is good at heart.
  • Does not hesitate to sweep floors.
  • Has no inhibitions in cleaning toilets.
  • Has an in-built desire to serve others.
  • Has extraordinary patience.
  • Takes to requisite training like fish to water”.
  • Is a suitable material to go into the Service Industry.
The act of Service to others may still be looked down upon condescendingly

Unfortunately, in most minds, consciously or sub-consciously, the class-based system prevalent in India since ages has given rise to a lower esteem value to the act of service to others & as such, by & large, it falls short of expectations of service provided by the service providers to the clients. The act of Service to others may, in a number of cases, be still looked down upon condescendingly. Also, there is no sure-shot filter to screen some family-spoiled brats getting into the service lane through faulty selection procedures.

Business Aviation is just a small shadow of the larger scheduled airlines’ operations. In scheduled airlines, with large client numbers in one flight, the service is mass- numbers based. In Business Aviation, however, with very few heads per trip to take care of, the service score is more intimate & hence it’s quality even more discernible. A genuine, non-pretentious welcome on arrival, good attention during course of flight & a helpful attitude during departure of air passengers (all this not as a routine duty or a favour but with a view to make the air-traveller feel homely & comfortable) is vital for a service provider with a difference. However, this trait, as a long time observation, is somehow seen as deficient in some aspects. This deficiency pertains to not only the ‘Pilot to Passenger’ interaction, more so in Business Aviation Operations, but also to ‘Technician to Aircraft’ or ‘Groundhandlers to Passengers & Aircraft (including its crew)’ care. This is intentionally put as generally as above, as any more specific statements may result in “raising of the storm” in self-defence by various categories of service providers, consisting of the operational, maintenance & other airport-based lobbies, forgetting that these are deeprooted issues that need an honest introspection & self-assessment before trying to remonstrate! The proof of pudding lies in the eating. No Indian Aviation Company figures in the top-20 list in which ‘passenger comfort’ happens to be one of the two main criteria. And to say that the rating agency may be biased one way or the other would, perhaps, be just akin to making a political statement in any country’s favour not listed in the top 20, rather than truly introspecting & demonstrating a will to resolve the core issues.

Isn’t there, to a smaller or greater extent, an inherent attitudinal deficiency in the Indian Service Sector? How many of us will disagree that the service attitude of the product company changes for the worse almost immediately after a product in question is successfully sold to a client, be it a holiday package, a refrigerator, a television, a water RO system, or be it an airline ticket?

In all fairness, one must also admit that some of the customers/clients (includes air travellers) are admittedly, not holy cows! However, give & take a few positive or negative traits that are inherent to each nationality, the scene internationally in this respect is no different & may be even at par. Rowdies, expecting a slice of the moon & the sky, are universally distributed. That, however, should not affect the classical concept of service & hospitality that the bulk of customers, including the air travellers in our case, expect & ought to be given by the assigned part of the service industry.

There is no magic wand to alter the basic, in-built traits of a grown-up individual’s character, presently laced with somewhat deep-rooted convictions & attitudes, nurtured & cemented during an individual’s growth period in his/her formative years.

Rigorous, repetitive training in fundamental concepts of true service of raw recruits taken into a ‘National Service Force’ may provide a solution, as the service sector in India, not only in aviation but in all other service-based applications, suffers from a similar malaise and therefore needs to be overhauled to enable provision of a better service experience to the clients in every sector of application, including aviation. This would be an arduous & long-drawn exercise, similar to preparing for the Olympics, where medals are so difficult to get, unless the fundamentals of training & preparation for the event are drastically overhauled. May be, as a result, one may not only garner more Olympic medals, but may also find an Indian Aviation Company listed in the top 20 a few years hence, if not earlier!