Henry Ford once said: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”. I would also add that to anticipate and provide what people want is the best in customer care!! People who care about their clients would be familiar with these principles. Unfortunately, for the aviation industry, the current climate is rather unpleasant. In regard to services, passenger experience and value, a decline is evident everywhere. A new pattern of propensity has appeared in aviation that is strangulating the industry’s revival. As many other professionals maintain, I believe too that the deterioration we’ve witnessed in the aviation industry is very alarming.  

Within a very short time, a new tendency has spread like disease among airlines, airports and the entire air-transport field. It consists of extensive disruptions, turmoil and mayhem. The most noticeable of symptoms are cancellations, delays, snaking queues, passenger grief; lost baggage, vanished tickets, manpower shortages, missed flights and the disappearance of customer services. I wonder, if this is the ‘new norm’ many commentators spoke about in recent times? 

An insult to passengers’ intelligence

Best way for aviation stakeholders to achieve their objectives, maximize profitability and accomplish success, is to provide high quality passenger experiences. Not just ‘fancy’ rhetoric and marketing ‘blah-blah’ but, true and actual quality of service. Yet, what we’ve seen happening is the shocking collapse of customer care! Remarkably, having failed to deliver, we now see companies, executives and various other industry leaders; pitching a series of lame excuses and poor justifications for their own deficiency. This is nothing more than an insult to passengers’ intelligence.

One could argue that I should not tar everyone with the same brush. A fair comment, I agree. For example, many respectable companies and organizations genuinely have struggled to recover from recent upsetting global events. As they came out at the other end weak and brittle they were unable to react to the new order. As result, they chastised unfairly their own customers by ditching quality. On the other side, a number of firms were adequately prepared before air travel restarted. These companies ensured their customers will continue to receive good quality of service.

Therefore, those who were unprepared or likely have underestimated the circumstances surrounding aviation, they seem to have been caught in the storm. This includes the majority of airports, airlines, regulators and support services. Little did they know or understood how overwhelmed they’d be once operations restart.  

Questions about competence

Nonetheless, my criticism is targeted mostly to those who inexcusably have caused passengers stress, grief and anguish. Those who not a long time ago rushed to dismiss employees in abundance without considering later repercussions. Those who received ‘extremely generous’ handouts from governments, yet they failed to manage properly their own affairs. Likewise, I question the (in)competence of so many industry professionals. An immense number of strategists and leaders who lacked the ability to fulfil their roles and to provide direction when needed.

More than a year ago, I predicted the current unfolding scenario. I do not pretend to have been prophetic. However, anyone who believed that air travel will recover quickly they were unrealistic. Considering how the industry had been carved and sliced since 2020, every true professional ought to recognize the truth about the situation. Aviation thrives only when a number of essential elements (e.g., training, experience, skills, knowledge etc.) operate fully in their entirety.  Having diced operations severely [in the name of the pandemic] and with most of these parts having disappeared; a return to normality was impossible to say the least.

For airport operators the challenge is big

From an airport point of view, what passengers want is a smooth journey. The optimum experience for anyone who travels through an airport is to have minimum checks, no stress, no delays, enjoyable shopping, good facilities etc. As relevant research studies indicate, passengers who complete their journeys smoothly are more likely to also promote favourably the airport. This suggests that in the current climate, airports must carefully reassess every aspect of the passenger journey. So, looking at the current situation and not forgetting the existing problems, one can easily understand that for airport operators the challenge is big. What is happening at this moment could have a dreadful impact on airports hence, the situation is critical.  

If we are to fix the industry, airports now must concentrate on how to create an ideal travel environment for passengers. Our solutions must include a mixture of unique, traditional, contemporary and modern solutions and ideas. From artificial intelligence to technology and from land transfers to baggage handling, airports must examine each part very thoroughly.

Personally, I feel that we should start looking how to enhance passenger experience within the segments before and after airport. This can be done easily by collaboration with business partners and other entities. I fully understand that airports alone cannot change neither travel routines nor the dynamics of the air-transport sphere. Yet, they can set the platform that sets quality standards and expectations for all others to follow.

Author: Nikolas Koukos

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