In the title of this post, I am mimicking the title of the infamous business book ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround’ by Louis Grestner. The author was the chairman of the board and CEO of the well known international giant IBM from 1993 up to 2002. In this book, he is telling the story of reviving ‘the elephant’ that was going through a near death experience.
Anyway, I won’t be talking about IBM. I already changed the title to camels, right! And by that I mean our big, boring, weak, slow and dull company; ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce the camels of the show, Saudi Airlines!!
[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Airplanes&iid=171647″ src=”0168/f13544a3-f988-4cf8-8d9c-43fa5bcc69c9.jpg?adImageId=8485395&imageId=171647″ width=”234″ height=”124″ /]Don’t you just love Saudi Airlines. They give you all the reasons to love hating them! I bet my last can of soda (it is getting expensive and I am starting a healthy program any way!) that you are bored to death of Saudi Airlines stories. But you better bear with me; I have another story for you; a story about how a company does not respect its customers. Whilst most companies work hard to make you fall in love with them; Saudi Airlines work harder to earn your hatred! And if you are wondering why I chose this particular post title! Wait till the end …
For my trip to China last month; I made the mistake of using Saudi Airlines. Internationally, I used Cathay Pacific; from Riyadh to Hong Kong, but I made the mistake from Jeddah to Riyadh. On my way back from China, Jeddah flood had already taken place and the robustness of the Saudi Airline’s IT network had already been exposed. I am trying to suppress the engineer in me from taking over this post and describing how lousy a network would be without the A-B-C of technical building designing and 101 of network protection (wait a minute; it does not even take an engineer to figure out that there is something called back up.)
Anyway, when I landed in Riyadh, there were about 90 minutes before my next flight to Jeddah. I do not want to bother you with the details. I am sure you already been through some of them. Simply put, the terminal area was a mess. A lot of flights have been canceled (including my own) and some people were camping at the airport for more than 12 hours. The funny thing was that no one from Saudia staff was able to answer any inquiry from passengers. They kept repeating ‘I do not know’ and ‘this is not my problem.’ Even more, one of those managers with the nice Saudia suit and tie said, and this is a direct quote, ‘I do not know anything, I am just coming from home after being asleep for the whole day.’ Just to double confirm, this was a direct quote!
Interestingly, three flights to Jeddah have been canceled and surprise … surprise, they only have one airplane that can go to Jeddah. So Saudia came with a very innovative idea to solve the problem. They asked, do I have to say very rudely, everybody to stand in a line (I was one of the lucky people standing up front). Of course that took some time and when all passengers stood in line; the show began. Another Saudia manager stood there and started shouting ‘families … families … come here’ … >>> I will leave the mental image for you to draw your own conclusions!!
The end of the story that I was lucky enough to be among the few who found a seat after the airplane has been filled with families. And I won’t start talking about the 2 hours in the plane waiting for Saudia to load the baggage manually for each and every passenger!!
Should I comment on customer service, customer respect, brand image, brand values, service processes, etc … I won’t, because I am sure you got the picture.
Now, why the title of this post has been influenced by the famous book about reviving a company? The answer is that I really wish that, someday, a book will be written by some Saudi Airlines executive describing how he/she/they managed to turnaround the miserable status of Saudi Airlines at the moment to a highly competitive airline!!
Don’t you wish to read such book?