Club Soda and Salt

No more stains

Mimic Men Airlines

Posted by clubsodaandsalt on February 27, 2007

So, here in the NYC area, we’re just starting to recover from the horrors of TarmacGate. For those who don’t religiously read the Post, the short version is that JetBlue had a bit of a logistical meltdown during an icestorm, which, in addition to several cancellations, also involved people sitting on the tarmac for many hours. Not the airline’s best moment. However, those folks at JetBlue are working hard to repair their image, largely by showering refunds and flight vouchers on anyone who’ll have them.

As they say, Trinis are mimic men, so of course we have to have our own version of gross airline incompetence! Apparently, Caribbean Airlines has left tens of customers stranded in Trinidad for days. Stories abound of rude agents, a lack of hotel accomodation, and, bizarrely, demands of extra money for new bookings (!!). For its part, Caribbean Airlines hasn’t done much to rebut the charges, and also hasn’t issued any sort of public apology for the mess. In fact, the situation isn’t even mentioned on their website, which I take to indicate that they don’t consider it very important.

They just don’t get it, do they? When your product is commoditized, customer service is one of the few ways that you can distinguish yourself, for better OR for worse. BWIA always went for worse, in my experience. I was only unlucky enough to have my bags lost once, but on that occassion, I had to deal with some very rude and incredibly incompetent agents, both in person and over the phone. Their flight attendants were usually aloof at best, and hostile at worst. A glance at this airline passenger forum shows that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’d hoped that by having the shake-up that created Caribbean Airlines, we’d have seen a change in attitude. Clearly, that hasn’t happened. Yes, overbooking is a necessary evil in the airline business. Maybe only a handful of passengers were really affected. Perhaps there was some exaggeration (the claims of extra fees for new bookings seems too crazy to be plausible, but you never know). But! Even with all these things in mind, the communications people at BWIA should have been front and center, apologizing, spinning, and generally doing whatever was needed to soften the blow to the airline’s reputation. Instead, we get stuff like this:

Caribbean Airlines corporate communications director Dionne Ligoure was in London yesterday when she was contacted for comment.

She said she did not have information on the passengers and would have to contact the airline’s local office for an update.

The communications director didn’t have information on the passengers? Are they kidding? But then, in a follow-up article:

The inconvenience expressed by passengers “was not directly due to any fault of Caribbean Airlines”, she said in the statement.

From bad to worse! Now they won’t even admit making mistakes!

This is why, sad to say, Caribbean Airlines should never have happened. The government should have let BWIA die, and spent its time helping some startups replace it. Instead, we have yet another state-subsidized almost-monopoly airline, run and staffed by people who believe that their jobs are a right, not a privilege, and that the customer is irrelevant. In that way, I guess the Manning administration has created an airline in its image.

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