June 25, 2007

Only the Start of Resolution in Chennai: After the Apology Comes the Willingness to Adopt International Standards of Business Practice

IBN News reports that Air Sahara has responded to the international scandal that it caused by attempting to roll back the rights of travelers with disabilities.

Jetlite, a division of Jet Airways and was formerly Air Sahara, on Thursday apologised to Rajiv Rajan with cerebral palsy for refusing to let him board a Delhi–bound flight in Chennai on Monday.

The airline also said it would sensitise its staff to the special needs of people with disability. "We regret the inconvenience caused to Rajiv Rajan. We will train our staff to be sensitive towards people with special needs. We apologise for the inconvenience," Jetlite said in its public apology.

Already the premise of the "solution" is faulty.

It is not "special needs" of the disabled at issue here but the universal needs of customers for quality service.

Once again, people with disabilities -- with knowledge of their dignity and a strong sense of community -- spoke the truth that all fliers experience with increasing reglarity: The customer service quality of the air travel industry has deteriorated to an intolerable degree. When we fly we are customers first.

Air Sahara made a disastrous business decision. It confused the ability to segment markets for research and marketing purposes into a decision to enforce a caste system relegating some demographics to perpetual disservice.

The problem does not lie at the level of line staff. "Sensitising" them with some incident-driven face-saving is not sufficient -- although, as the Service Employees International Union points out, it is necessary even from the line worker's perspective.

The airline's act was not an inconvenience. As numerous commentators have noted, it was an assault on dignity. It jeopardized a man's livelihood. It severely damage brand identity. It was a violation of law. It was the revelation of a business ethic that remains distorted at the highest executive levels of the airline. Until the ethical handicap is removed at the source it will continue to afflict the entire company.

The correct solution?

The training needs to be delivered first in the Air Sahara Board Room.
It needs to be a curriculum created by people with disabilities. The disability community alone can ably instruct the company on the conditions under which it will eagerly turn over its hard-earned finances to be satisfied customers. They have done so in numerous countries around the world.
And Rajiv Rajan needs to be lead trainer.

That would be an apology. That would be good business.


Posted by rollingrains at June 25, 2007 07:30 PM