Monday, May 13, 2013

It's not fare !

For those who know me well, my diary planning is done (anally) well in advance. This gives me some benefits, but also (frustratingly) limits my flexibility. I am trying to change. I am trying to allow for some more spontaneity in my life, but but its very nature, spontaneity can't be planned for ... and sometimes there is a price to pay!

My travel planning is done at my desk with my calendar open on month view on a large screen. I have different coloured categories to highlight different countries I visit, and this makes it visually easy to see which territories I have covered (and have not covered) recently, so I just add additional blocks where I see gaps and just make sure I keep to my commitment of sufficient time at home.

The downside of this became apparent last week just before I was due to fly to London. I was booked on the first Emirates flight in the morning to London. It's a good flight. You suffer the pain of waking up at 5am, but this gets you practically a full day in London as a result ... and 7 to 8 hours on an A380 is no hardship, and allows for sufficient opportunity to relax and recharge before arrival.

Emirates has a plethora of flights that leave between 9-10am each day, and most of my trips allow me to depart during that window. The biggest single advantage of that being that I can take my daughter to school and then carry on to the airport. 45 valuable and cherished minutes in the morning which we thoroughly enjoy together.

Last week, however, I said good bye to the kids at bedtime to be ready for my 5.30am departure to the airport in the morning ... only to wake up at 2am with the sudden realisation that it was a bank holiday in the UK! I had a full diary planned in London for the week, bu this day of arrival had been reserved in my diary to visit the passport office ... something that would now be futile.

But now my brain was awake, so my body was quick to follow. As long as I was alert at this time, I could be productive and catch up on some pending tasks, and then catch up on the pending sleep abord the plane.

I called Emirates to ask if they could move me to their flight that left 2 hours later. The one that would allow me to get to the airport via my daughters school. Being a newly recognised "Platinum" member (and probably also because it was 2.30am), I was dealt with quickly and promptly.

I was told there was availability on the flight I wanted and my ticket was transferrable and the correct fare class to move to the new flight ... but there would be a GBP200 flight change fee!

Now I understand commercial logic, and Emirates is a business and I don't begrudge them setting these "fare conditions". It is their right (as it is for any airline) and they are running an growing very successfully, but I would have thought they cold look to build in some allowances that might allow for a human "soft" touch.

In this case, it's the middle of the night and they have 2 planes leaving (one in 6 hours and one in 8 hours) and both have seats available on them ... I wouldn't have thought that it would hurt them to allow a move (for a Platinum premium class traveller) without a penalty.

I do understand they are a large airline carrying tens of millions of passengers a year and they can't legislate in a manual somewhere on how to deal with possible exceptions, but I would have simply thought they could empower some front line staff to use their initiative. It happens in some exceptional companies (Four Seasons hotel and Zappos to name just 2 examples) and makes a massive impact on customers and their resultant loyalty.

At the end of this, I come out frustrated, but remembering for myself to keep preaching to all in my business and especially the front line staff;  business is not about (or should not be about) systems and processes and following guidelines set forth in a manual .  It should solely be about delighting the customer ... and from that the rest will follow.