Friday, December 14, 2007

Where is Maharaja (Air India) going???

"Air India is delighted in being invited to join Star Alliance" said V.Thulsidas,CMD-Air India. But, the passengers are not that delighted Mr.Thulsi. The reasons are obviously the deviation from the basics of Customer service.

“Air India is delighted in being invited to join Star Alliance. This invitation comes in the wake of Air India’s merger with India’s leading domestic carrier Indian Airlines, thus making Air India the prime player in the Indian subcontinent. In addition, the recently announced fleet expansion of over 100 aircraft will help Air India serve the travelling public better in terms of global reach and services. In being selected as a future Star Alliance member, Air India will add value to passengers patronising member airlines of the alliance”, said Vasudevan Thulasidas, Chairman and Managing Director, Air India on 13th December 2007.

There has been a huge uproar by the passengers about the services of Air India in the last quarter such as technical snags, shortage of pilots, over bookings, rude behavior of Air India staff, frequent disruptions in the schedule, etc. And as the winter entered, the problems have become huge for all the airways. It isn't that the services of any airline except Air India have been delayed or disrupted. It is about caring the customers or informing the customers about the delays and the right timings.

Other Airlines take care of the passengers in case of any delay in the schedule or if the flight is rescheduled. They are informed in advance about any delays, disruptions and about the possible time of take off. In case of Air India, it is the other way round. The disruptions do happen but the information doesn't flow. When such things happen or when situations run out of hand the staff of other airlines atleast show their faces to the customers and are ready to give an explanation. But in Air India all of a sudden people at the Air India counters/Kiosks vanish. No Airline authority could be reached for exact answer. The basic principle says, "If something wrong happens on your side show your face to the customer and explain why it went wrong or atleast inform that it went wrong and you will deliver it within certain time." But this is missing. This has been the situation with Air India flights at New Delhi Airport, Mumbai Airport thrice in the last one month. Out of three times, twice it's with the International Flights.

Air India somedays back, has started off it's first Nonstop flight between Mumbai and Newyork which flew almost empty while the first Nonstop flight between the same route by Jet Airways was totally occupied. The reasons: high price compared to competitors as well as the image of the brands state owned Air India Vs private carrier Jet Airways. This forced them reduce the price of tickets but still the case is almost the same.

It has ordered for 68 aircraft in December 2005 and got the first one delivered in July 2007 and the whole fleet can be expected not before 2012. And now it goes for a STAR Alliance membership. This reminds me of a case study of the great Dakota Bank that we did in the last term for Consumer Behavior subject.

The Great Dakota bank has faced similar situation. It's customers had some problems with the services the bank provides with respect to the other banks. Hence the customers started moving towards other banks, and the growth in the number of new customers is stagnated. The Marketing head conducts a research(survey) and finds out what are the services that the people would like, which are the areas where the bank lacks, etc. But at the end, she goes out with offers of discount on minimum balance, other gifts, special offers, marketing campaign etc worth US $ 2 million for a period of 6 months. The number of new customers grow to a satisfactory level and at the end of 6 months the offers, discounts come to a close and the same old story continues from the 7th month.

What went wrong? They know where they need to improve, what do customers require and should be provided basically but still they went with other routes to attract customers. That made the numbers jump for 6 months and go down for the next months. And after that year they improved their services but didnot have the budget to go with the offers now and went into losses due to lack of customers.

The same thing applies for Air India too. It has problems on the ground. Before clearing the problems of customer service, fleet management, pilots it is going for attractive measures. This would indeed attract customers towards Air India flights but due to its ageing fleet, other problems the next thing that happens would be the same old story of sudden break downs, disruptions, and now the huge number of new customers would get the first impression of it's services.

and many more links... I hope the blog will be filled with links if i continue

"First impression is the best impression and the same impression can spoil the game." So, 60 year old Mr. Thulsidas....."Where are you taking Air India along with you?"