Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How good is the service of domestic airlines? - Service / Tourism

How good is the service of domestic airlines?
By Junaedy Ganie

While we continue to hear some problems including some financial difficulties faced by certain domestic airlines, I would like to share a good comparison that I would take as good news.
On 6th August 2014, following a family holiday in Europe, while our children would take an evening flight back to Jakarta on the same day from one of the major cities in  Europe, my wife and I transferred to board  a morning flight to catch up with our colleagues who would be on a transit from Indonesia. We were to join them to spend another week in Europe for their well-deserved Summit Convention trip reward. Unfortunately, a few minutes after sitting comfortably in the aircraft, we were informed by the captain to alight from the aircraft due to some technical problems in the plane. It could happen to any aircraft anywhere. No complaint. It was then as we were waiting for a substitute aircraft we started to feel that something was missing. We could not get a clear answer as to how long we had to wait, let alone receiving an announcement from the airline officer even after we were already queuing in front of the gate. Many of the passengers eventually rested on the floor caused by the tiredness mainly from the uncertainty. It took almost 5 hours before we were finally asked to board the aircraft and was told that it would be a free seating flight. During the waiting, there were no drinks or meals offered to the passengers, a treatment we take for granted as standard service by any domestic airline in Indonesia.
To my surprise, as we were proceeding into the aircraft, an officer at the gate asked me, “Do you know that there is no business class in this flight?”, under such circumstances,  such a question in Indonesia would definitely raise both eye brows. I immediately responded, “How would I know. Nobody told me”. He simply added, “There is no business class in this flight”. On the plane, we were served with a piece of bread and a tiny plastic can of water. I asked the stewardess if we could get something better as it passed lunch time already and I informed her that we were not served with anything during the long wait. She sounded surprised that we were not served with anything and was sorry for not having anything better to offer. By the way, we have not heard from  our travel agent what happen to the compensation for the portion of the flight we had to fly at lower class.
          I could imagine how a 5-hour delay without proper announcement and with neither drinks nor meals being served at a domestic terminal in Indonesia could spark a small riot around the airlines’ counter. Does it mean that we have raised a higher awareness of our rights for services while Europeans or international travelers no longer expect such services? From which angle shall we look it at? I would prefer to believe it being the first instead of the latter. Would it be a reflection of an increased sense of awareness on the part of the domestic airline service providers? Or, are we Indonesians demanding too much? While delays might still haunt us in domestic air travel but to a certain extent delays could have been caused more by the crowded airports serving far beyond their designed capacity – an indication of economic growth and increasing income per capita yet carrying higher risks that would require strong political will from the authority to align the business strategy, growth potential and infrastructure development and hence reduces the problem to a minimum.
        On arrival at the destination, we learned from our children who took the evening flight to Jakarta from the same city on the day we experienced the delay that they could not claim their tax refund. Apparently due to presence of an unattended luggage at the Tax Refund area, the area would have to be immediately secured causing our children to forego the tax refund claim as they had to catch their flight back to Jakarta. Things happened and we had to appreciate that security measures should come first.
         On our flight back to Jakarta a week later, we had a smooth check in and it was a nice flight with attentive and polite crew. Unfortunately, however, on arrival at the Jakarta airport, one of our luggages did not turn up until 3 days later albeit it was categorized as a priority item.
        Lessons learned, I think the claim that our domestic flights including their regional and international routes have surfaced above some of the more well-known airlines in terms of services does prove the weight of the improved domestic airlines’ services. I think the World’s Best Cabin Crew awarded to Garuda Indonesia by Skytrax, having been awarded a number of other awards from the same institution, is indeed the reflection of the reputation of services Garuda deserves not to mention on board immigration check in some routes and the priority baggage counter services.  
Jakarta, 7 October 2014

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