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Brandstand: The human egos behind inhuman Indigo

‘Service Rage’ is clearly caused by the disconnect between brand promise and experience delivery due to unsustainable and inhuman expectations of greedy boardrooms

No brand wants to beat up its customers for it is certainly bad for reputation and business, apart from being an uncivilised and unethical act. Employees on the payroll, be it United or Indigo, however, are prone to losing control due to performance pressures, emanating from unreasonable expectations of management coupled with poor human resource practices, including recruitment and training, especially during periods of high growth. ‘Service Rage’ is clearly caused by the disconnect between brand promise and experience delivery due to unsustainable and inhuman expectations of greedy boardrooms.

Everybody who has ever boarded an Indigo aircraft is familiar with the nerve-wracking circus that is otherwise known as the orderly boarding process, when departing customers are forced to line up even before the aircraft is properly on the bay. In non-aerobridge terminals, we have to wait stiffly in packed buses for 15 minutes or more, accompanied by a melodious message about the craft being cleaned while truthfully even Row 1 has not yet disembarked. If you think it is stressful for the passenger, imagine how stressful this surgical operation is for the harried staff, attempting sub-30-minute turnaround times more than 15 times every day, ensuring the norms of security and procedure. With moderate training and limited experience, courtesy and good manners are likely to take a backseat under reasonable provocation, which the pampered Indian passenger delivers with frequent regularity. I consider these stress levels to be even higher than that of the CISF men who frisk passengers and luggage on their own terms, usually oblivious to flight timings or customer niceties which they are not compelled to respect.


The culprit, therefore, is definitely the limitless ambition of management, growing at a pace that is not compatible with the availability and competencies of service staff, under increasing pressure to multi-task. Just recently, I was told that check-in counters are banned by policy to allow even a discretionary extra kilo of excess baggage, adding to the average interaction time per passenger and thus leading to angry others potentially missing connections. The hosts and hostesses in-flight, apart from the primary function of safety and care-giving, must now be reasonable proficient in arithmetic, doubling up as cash clerks struggling to return the change for the Rs 2,000 note brandished by Chicken-Junglee-Sandwich-seeking travellers. Anecdotally, though not confirmed, there are reports of Indigo pilots operating at higher levels of duty pressure than their Indian peers, hopefully still within the limits prescribed by the regulator, in an era of fail-proof equipment where pilot fatigue is a major reason for crashes worldwide. The departure of every Indigo flight is visibly a heart-stopping experience, an orchestration of do-or-die actions completed just-in-time to ensure on-time performance, unlike my observational experience of Air Asia or Easyjet.

To ensure that ‘Service Rage’ does not dangerously recur–this incident was a blockbuster version of many such distasteful recent experiences–the Indigo management policies must be severely audited by the DGCA, every step in the service continuum as important as the maintenance of aircrafts and pilot duty timings. The increase in routes and frequencies a function not just of available equipment but also the minimum levels of qualification and training of service staff, by accredited institutions like their hotel management peers. What must be banned by law is the practice of announcing boarding prior to passengers leaving the aircraft, reducing stress levels of service staff and crew, leading possibly to an additional 10 minutes in turn-around while ensuring greater sanity all around. The Southwest Airlines kind of legendary 25-minute figure rendered unfeasible in the Indian context, due to the overall lower levels of efficiency in our service environment, just as standards differ in many other categories.


Certain other industries like home-delivery food services also fall prey to this syndrome, breezy bikers breaking traffic rules to conform to a promised timing a common sight in urban India. Sensible consumers like most of us will surely be comfortable with a rule-abiding 45-minute delivery of burgers than a frenetic 25-minute version, dangerous for both the courier and the commuter. In hotels during morning buffet service, this can be noticed quite frequently, although in this industry basic training levels of service staff are way above aviation for sure. During the early days of de-monetisation, irate teller counters became quite common, although short-term and explicable given the unexpected circumstances.

Every regulatory and influential body, including the common flyer, must compel Indigo Airlines to grow at a sustainable pace, as what happened on the tarmac can happen next on-air with potentially fatal consequences. When management egos are suitably restrained across industries, the incidence of ‘Service Rage’ will certainly reduce, leading to better long-term brand health.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: shivajidasgupta@inexgro.com)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)


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