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Posts Tagged ‘Saudi Airlines’

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=airlines&iid=292693″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/292693/airplane-over-runway/airplane-over-runway.jpg?size=500&imageId=292693″ width=”234″ height=”350″ /]The Saudi low budget Sama Airlines is suspending its operations in the Kingdom starting today until further notice.

Should this be a surprise? I would say: No, it was expected!

The whole scene of civil aviation industry in Saudi does not look that good. Whether we are talking airports or airliners, It is a mess, to say the least!

Operating an airlines is a tough business, no doubt about it. Lots of head to head competition and very turbulent business environment. And when you are working in a messy market like the one both Sama and Nas had stepped in, the situation becomes even harder.

I am not sure what kind of business plans they had both studied to reach the decision that the Saudi market is an attractive investment opportunity. Maybe by only looking at the status of Saudia and how almost all Saudis agree that it suck! the idea of having a second airlines should’ve looked appealing. The fact of the matter is that Saudia is a company both owned and supported by the government. And what makes it even worse for commercial activities in such market is when the regulator (GACA in this situation) does not provide any guarantees to protect the fairness of competition. Maybe the new comers received some promises, but businesses are not usually built on promises, they are built on facts, at least when it comes to the market environment.

Now both of the companies are waiting for the promises to be fulfilled especially for fueling prices. It could be a tactic played by Sama to get the attention of higher authorities although it is a hugely damaging move to the company name (especially that Nas did not play along, if it was a tactic!!)

It is another sad story added to the book of sad stories of Saudi airlines business!!

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The videos you are about to see have been around the Internet since the beginning of the year. However, I’ve just got the chance to see one of them via an email that my sister sent me.

And let me tell you; beside having fun watching it … I am impressed  🙂

Now, we all may agree that traveling is fun. But the worst part of it is definitely going to the airport, any airport! I mean who really loves the waiting lines, security checks, dragging or pushing bags all over the place, and the constant anxiety over delaying or canceling flights at any moment. Add to that the glooming sensation that usually occupies airports at seasons when everybody wants to go back home or fly out and start vacationing.

So can you quickly think of any thing that could ease such situation and make it fun. Think … any thing … I am not sure you came up with any thing near this. The Portuguese airliner named TAP Portugal turned the airport floor … into a dancing floor.

Before seeing the video, let discuss some marketing stuff:

  • The Power of Surprise: For advertisers and social media marketers, nothing beats surprises in determining how successful a campaign might be. One of the videos had been seen by more than 300,000 people in only 3 days after being released through the company YouTube channel. Just to have a glimpse of how successful that campaign is, just think of what are the odds of you ever hearing about TAP Portugal!!
  • The Happy Brand: I am not sure you will be seeing the staff of TAP Portugal dancing all over the place every time you travel with them, but you will always remember that these people made you genuinely smile. That video was shot during the christmas vacation. So the company was actually celebrating with its customers, and easing the whole airport experience on them.

I cannot help but thinking about what our local carrier, Saudi Airlines, might do to entertain its customers in such a way??!!

Enjoy …

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[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=court+room&iid=265118″ src=”0261/b960e01d-7cca-4160-a309-31efc1681f53.jpg?adImageId=12026066&imageId=265118″ width=”234″ height=”331″ /]A Saudi businessman is suing Saudi Airlines after purchasing an ill-equipped aircraft (Arabnews). I thought at first that he was suing the Airlines because of a missed important meeting or over a lost investment opportunity caused by their well known off-time scheduling. But hey, everyone has his own reasons!!

The point is that this piece of news made me wonder about the whole idea of suing service companies; will it make any difference in Saudi? It is not unusual in Saudi Arabia to be faced by poor services provided by a number of major players in the market. Saudi Airlines just happens to be leading the list!!

Although I do not have hard numbers to support my claim, I can comfortably argue that Saudi consumers in regard to poor business performances have always been known to be … what should I say … loud-but-with-no-action kind of people. That means they could initiate a scene and get loud whenever faced by a poor service, but that’s it!!! No further steps.

Now, let me rephrase my question above; Do you think companies’ fear of being sued by customers who understand their rights would eventually push them to provide high quality services? So no Airlines would manipulate its schedules because they were poor planners since the start by having central reservation servers in one city with no back ups elsewhere? No telecom company will fool you with you nice advertisements about the huge X Mbps Internet connectivity you could get upon subscription and when you do, you find out that you can only get 20% of that because of technical reasons! No contractors will leave the street in front of your house full of holes or improperly asphalted and force you to take your car to mechanics every 15 days! No hospital would prefer low waged so called doctors without much of background check ups, and just out of the sudden you would read about one of them causing a medical mistake related death?

Just a note before leaving you here; I said in my question above “sued by customers who understand their rights,” so may be the right question should be: “Do Saudi customers understand their rights?”

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So Saudi Airlines just signed five privatization agreements (link); I do not know why I am not impressed by this!

As a summary, these are the five agreements:

  1. Privatizing the core aviation unit.
  2. Establish a new ground service company.
  3. Financing its new fleet of Aircrafts.
  4. Manage its IPO (initial public offering) of its catering company.
  5. Developing aircraft maintenance at KAIA.

Now, none of the agreements above seem to address Saudia long, lasting, and main problem of poor customer service performance. None of these agreements, arguably, would directly impact the final customers (passengers) except the one ending with a new fleet of aircrafts. In addition to that, these headlines or projects’ titles do not disclose much about their true value or how they are related to Saudia strategic goals (I am assuming they have strategic goals here!!). Take the project number two for example, my understanding is that Saudia has always been subcontracting its ground services to several companies; so what is the point now of forming a company with one of them, how that will enhance the service?

Moreover, one of the interesting parts in this piece of news is the gesture towards Saudia’s revenue which, in 2009, reached SAR 18.5 billions. For a company that is working in a near monopoly status, that should not be so surprising. Nevertheless, the revenue figure itself is not of a much importance here because we do not know their operational costs, and hence we do not know their net profit!

All in all, privatization in itself should not be looked at as a step toward open and modern market mentality. Lack of competition, clear understanding of the market and its needs, and the well to be different and competent at the first place cannot be compensated by the mere move from being ‘public’ to ‘private.’

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=angry+manager&iid=5243917″ src=”0/1/9/1/Angry_businessman_yelling_2fea.jpg?adImageId=8774502&imageId=5243917″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]Here is an interesting question asked by Gill Corkindale in her HBR blog; does your company’s reputation really matter? She is arguing that some big companies in certain industries do not really care about customer services! Despite regular customers complains, such companies are keeping their lousy performances and customers are still coming back.

The blog post is filled with examples and cases supporting her point; and thinking about it, we do have our own fair share of examples: our beloved Saudi Airlines (I love Saudi Airlines so much; I already have two posts about them 🙂 here and here), most of service industries and most, if not all, public services are bright examples of lousy performers.

Lack of competition is the most obvious reason comes to your mind in your desperate need to understand those companies’ mindsets. That could be true in a lot of cases and, furthermore, even with some minimum competition, the situation is not that different. Again, Saudi Airlines and its competitors are good examples. Saudia has the power and the support of the government while NAS and SAMA are struggling to get a small piece of the cake.

However, I would not accept this point as a justification, or at least as the only justification. There is another big problem in our own behavior and mindset; I am talking about us, customers!

I believe we mostly lack a certain understanding of our own rights. We acknowledge companies’ mistreating us, we get angry about it, may be shouting all the way and telling everybody about it, and … that’s it! We return to these companies and use their products/services again! If there is no alternative and the company is enjoying a monopoly state in the market; then it is really sad for you, you do not have a choice! Actually you still have the option of making official complains, talking to their managers, and even going and talk to regulatory bodies supervising their sector. The most important point, do not simply let it go!

Finally, those companies ignorant enough at the moment should always remember that they might face the moment of truth when the market is opened for real competition. Globalization is a trend; and one of the lessons coming with it is customer services philosophy as an essential aspect of companies’ differentiation strategies.

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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?

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Saudi Airlines

 

No matter how much money some organizations are budgeting for their advertisement, it won’t work and they better keep it for more rewarding plans. This occurred to me while watching the new commercial of Saudi Airlines. 

It is really sad to see some big companies lose all their sense of direction and start stumbling in the dark seeking to score a point here or there when their main concern should be realizing their critical position in the market and how customers are actually looking at them (and bad mouthing them for that matter). 

Saudi Airlines is, unfortunately, one good example of such companies. A good example of a company lost its brand value by being ignorant at times and short sighted at others. A lot of market opportunities have been lost following that behaviour, back then, when it was the largest player in the region. 

Now, should the solution lay in producing more ads? I do not think so! Saudi Airlines needs to start thinking about adapting an integrative marketing strategy to rebuild its brand. A strategy based on the main reason of its existence; that is, SERVING its customers!! 

The lack of a truly believe in the essence of customer service is the main reason why people are looking down on it, especially when comparing its services to the neighbors: Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways. Therefore, its managment should really consider building a customer service supporting culture. Yes, not an easy job, but not an impossible one either! Thereafter, this culture should be embraced by all its members, throughout its many levels (I do not remember the last time I met someone of its staff who was genuinely smiling or really trying to help!!). 

Having said that, I really doubt people will be interested in its new comfortable seats! Because, I am sure, whenever Saudi Airlines pop up on their minds, they will be remembering the time wasted on its reservation line, the rudeness of its sales and ground staff, and the lameness of its on-flight services. 

Now, I would really like to see how many commercials could possibly fix that.

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