Fortune News | May 08,2021
Mar 18 , 2023
By Abdulbaki Gudu
Despite the challenges of modern air travel, the airline industry continues to promote it as a luxury experience, with friendly salespeople, professional ground crews, and smiling flight attendants who offer champagne and fold your coat neatly. However, the reality is quite different, with air travel being more akin to public transportation, complete with the hassle of security checks.
As a frequent traveller, I understand the struggles and uncertainties. From the long security check process to the unprofessional airline employees and the possibility of delayed flights and lost luggage, the experience can be pretty daunting.
I was returning home to Ethiopia from San Francisco on Qatar Airways. I was excited to experience the final stretch of spring in my country, but my journey was not without its challenges.
As I arrived at San Francisco International Airport, I was greeted by Qatar Airways staff preparing my boarding pass. While some staff members were friendly, others were strict about the weight limit for luggage, which meant that I had to pay extra fees for exceeding the limit. However, despite the additional charges, there was no guarantee that my five pieces of luggage would not be lost or damaged during the flight.
After completing the check-in procedure, I waited for my flight in the boarding area. Unfortunately, there was a delay for over an hour, which made me anxious about missing my connecting flight to Addis Abeba. We boarded the plane, but the that meant arriving much later than the scheduled time.
As I stepped off the plane, I was hit by the scent of eucalyptus trees, which reminded me of my childhood memories of spring in Ethiopia. However, my happiness was short-lived as I discovered my luggage was delayed. A Qatar Airways representative informed me that I must fill out claim forms. I received a call a few days later, asking me to pick up my luggage. I went to the ICAS office to collect my bags only to discover that one of them had sustained significant damage and many items were missing.
I immediately reported the damage to the Qatar Airways representative, who came to verify my claim with two other people. She weighed the luggage and took a picture of the bag to show the difference in weight. Despite being on the premises, she informed me that she could not file a claim because the bags were no longer in her custody. She advised me to investigate my bags before leaving the ICAS office, but no such policy was communicated.
To make matters worse, Qatar Airways denied me the right to file a claim for my damaged luggage without providing any justification. I pleaded my case to the ICAS office staff and the Qatar Airways head office, but to no avail. I attempted to get a responsible party to explain how to retrieve my missing items. Still, none of the airline representatives or ICAS would accept responsibility or deny the claim in writing. I was directed to write an email to the Qatar Airways head office in Doha, but they told me to claim from another airline, which was not involved in the case.
My experience highlights a growing issue in the airline industry: the lack of accountability and responsibility for passenger luggage. To be sure, airlines face many challenges in today's world. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the industry, and they have had to adapt quickly to changing regulations and restrictions. Many airlines have laid off staff and reduced services, making the travel experience even more challenging.
Airlines need to invest more in customer service and satisfaction. This means hiring more staff, providing better training, and offering more amenities to travellers. They need to recognize that air travel is not just about getting from one destination to another destination; it is also about the journey and the experience.
Airlines need to be more transparent about their policies and procedures. Travellers should know what to expect when booking a flight and be informed of any changes or delays as soon as possible. This includes information about baggage policies, compensation for delays, and procedures for filing claims. They need to take responsibility for their mistakes. When luggage is lost or delayed, airlines should work quickly to resolve the issue and compensate travellers for any losses.
Airlines should provide clear information about the situation when flights are delayed or cancelled and offer compensation when appropriate. Only then can air travel be a "luxury" experience again.
Passengers should not endure the stress and frustration of lost and damaged luggage, delays, and unprofessional staff when flying. Airlines are responsible for providing their customers with a safe, comfortable, and reliable travel experience, and it is time for the industry to step up and address these issues. The motto "Going Places Together" should mean more than just getting passengers to their destination. It should mean working with passengers to ensure a positive and stress-free travel experience.
PUBLISHED ON Mar 18,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1194]
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