Plane tardy: which airline will leave you stranded
Stats reveal the carriers you can count on (or not)
It was a Twitter exchange between Kulula and one of its passengers a few weeks ago that got me thinking about flight delays and how the major domestic airlines operating between SA’s three biggest cities choose to compensate their passengers when their flights don’t depart when they’re supposed to.
Suhayl Nurmahomed was less than happy about having paid premium price for a last-minute booking on a Monday-morning Kulula flight, only to be delayed.
“This is inconvenient,” he told Kulula via Twitter. “Mango offers vouchers. Truly disappointed in the service for the amount I paid.”
Kulula responded: “Sorry for the inconvenience. In the case of a delay, we will do our best to minimise the impact of disruption caused to the customer. We only compensate in the form of a voucher from three hours.”
So I sent e-mails to Kulula, its Comair sibling, British Airways, Mango and its big sister, SA Airways, and FlySafair, asking how they compensated their customers when their planes were delayed, and at what point that compensation kicked in, and how they communicated with their customers when flights were delayed.
Before I did that, I took a look at each of those airlines’ On-Time Performance statistics.
Did you know the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) publishes those statistics for Joburg’s OR Tambo, Durban’s King Shaka and Cape Town international airports on its website every month? (see sidebar)
The responses to my questions were revealing too: some airlines supplied an incredible amount of detail; others, particularly SAA, very little.
Kulula and British Airways (Comair provided the same response for both airlines): “For competitive reasons, the exact amounts of the financial compensation provided is not generally disclosed.
If we are aware of the delay in advance then all Interline and Codeshare customers are contacted proactively and advised of the delay so that alternative arrangements can be explored.
For all other customers, SMS- and e-mail-triggered notifications are distributed after 30 minutes of a delay. If they are at the airport they will be informed that they need to proceed to the ticket sales desk for alternative options.”
About its On-Time Performance stats: “Flight delays are a result of problems with scheduling of maintenance and availability of parts at SAA Technical, which maintains the aircraft of Comair’s two airline brands, kulula.com and British Airways. These problems affect all airlines serviced by SAAT.
We are actively working with our internal and external stakeholders to address the underlying causes and return our on-time performance to the international industry accepted level our customers are used to.
Our customer relations team is implementing plans to further improve communications to customers when delays occur.”
“Mango proactively offers compensation to guests who have experienced a delay of two hours or more.
Our vouchers start at R250 for a 2 – 3-hour delay;
R300 for a 3 – 4-hour delay;
R400 for a 4 – 5-hour delay and
R500 for a 5-hour-or-more delay.
In addition to this, guests at check-in counters, ticket sales offices and boarding gates are offered meal vouchers for delays over two hours.
Via SMS we tell our guests to contact us about compensation vouchers. When they do we email them a voucher – redeemable as a discount on a Mango flight.”
About its On-Time Performance stats: “We are obviously are not happy with the on-time performance figures as it’s below our own targets. We’re working tirelessly with our teams, suppliers and other stakeholders every day to improve this.”
“After an hour we issue bottled water to ensure that passengers are hydrated, and we speak to them about their journey.
If the delay is two hours or more, we offer R80 food vouchers for airport restaurants. We’re in the process of trying to get these executed electronically so that they’re quicker to dispense, but at the moment they are endorsed by our airport teams manually.
If the delay is four or more hours we offer customers the option to either wait, get a full refund, or make a change to another of our flights at absolutely no charge (no penalty and no fare differences).
These changes can be done at the airport or through our contact centre, e-mail, WhatsApp, Facebook – whatever is the customer’s choice.
We communicate with passengers at the gates and via SMS, usually every 20 minutes until we have a new confirmed time of departure, and we also use the Travel Updates section of our website. We create a log which is updated every 30 minutes even if there is no new news.”
About its On-Time Performance stats: “OTP is one of the fundamental promises that we make our clients and so we are at pains to ensure that we meet this basic expectation. Having been named the most on-time airline in the world for two consecutive seasons by international aviation data management company OAG, we are naturally quite proud of our performance, but we are also very determined to never rest on our laurels when it comes to being on time.”
South African Airways
“We offer customers assistance depending on the time of the delay. Each case is looked at on the basis of its circumstances and a decision is made on how best we can assist the customers.
Under circumstances where it is clear to us that there will be an operational disruption in the form of flight delay or cancellation, we make use of information that is available to us during booking or which is ordinarily part of customer profile, especially for frequent travellers.”