As governments begin to point fingers, Middle East (and for that matter all other) airlines have a lot to answer for their lack of communications following the eruption of an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland.
While you have to sympathise with them for the unprecendented lack of revenue and an increase in costs with stranded customers, this would have been an opportunity for strengthening loyalties and building stronger bonds. Crises, in my opinion, are opportunities to prove the mettle of a business.
What the airlines did was to adopt a ‘head in the sands’ strategy that effectively annoyed and angered whatever few loyal customers were left. The airlines came across as (at worst) greedy and (at the least) callous. What’s interesting is that there are clear guidelines and rights of passengers but neither the airlines nor the passengers seem to have grasped the finer points – communicating would have eased the situation. That’s two-way communications.
One of the key themes of all the complaints has been that there was no information available from the airlines, either on the phone or on the website. Probably the worst thing to do in a crises is not answer questions and leave it to the imagination of the passenger or the reporter to make up his/her own truth with sparsely gleaned information. What would have been better was to immediately ensure the latest information was shared and updated on their websites, recorded messages on their voicemails, inform travel agents so that they are able to handle changed bookings. Ensure that there is information with the staff so that the common refrain is not “sorry we don’t know”.
The second (and most recent) complaint is charging a premium to rebook a flight for stranded passengers. Granted that the airlines are trying to recoup losses but do you have to punish the already stranded, unhappy customer and increase his burden? Wouldn’t it be in their (airline) own (long term) best interest to ensure that the passenger gets to his destination as soon as possible and with as little incovenience as possible?
What a waste when the right communication would have strengthened their position and possibly minimised losses.