If you’re looking for a step-by-step list of how not to treat your customers, look no further than the news of Air India stranding a couple hundred passengers for close to nine hours on one of its flights on October 18, while reportedly offering them little information.
Flying from Mumbai to London, the Air India flight, which was supposed to land at Heathrow Airport, was diverted to nearby Gatwick Airport—a mere 45 miles away—due to weather conditions. What was supposed to be a 90-minute delay became a much longer ordeal when aviation rules forced the crew to stop working due to shift maximums. The airline had to truck in a new crew—which proceeded to get lost in Gatwick Airport.
You’d think the airline would provide simple conveniences for passengers, such as food and water. You’d be wrong.
Since Air India’s caterers are located at Heathrow, the passengers did not even have access to food while on the plane. In fact, the staff at Gatwick even tried to come to their aid, but was rebuffed by the airline. “If Air India had allowed them off, the passengers could have come to the terminal [of Gatwick Airport]. We would have helped them with their welfare,” said a Gatwick spokesperson.
As the plane remained parked near the tarmac, and with multiple alternate transportation options available, such as buses that connect both airports and trains that go from each airport to the center of London, you’d think Air India would look into helping the passengers get home. You’d be wrong.
A spokesperson for Gatwick said to the AFP that it had been Air India’s decision to keep the passengers on board rather than arrange alternative transport to Heathrow. Needless to say, after waiting for such a significant amount of time with no movement, or even information, the passengers got restless and angry.
This incident is in stark contrast from how American Airlines handled a much bigger crisis in August 2010, when it tapped social media to keep on-flight passengers informed about a possible bomb threat on the plane.