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Don’t fly with me…

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Where’s the year going my TMP Faithful? Holiday season is already upon us – signalled by everyone’s afternoon biscuit binge being replaced by a handful of almonds in preparation for the beach – and soon we’ll all be jetting off to warmer climates in search of sunshine, solace, sangria or whatever it is you prefer to do with your downtime.
A friend of The Monachie Project started her holidays early, with a trip to Spain to visit family. Lovely – until she suffered the consequences of deciding to return home with Ryanair. On her own, with her baby. Fair play to her.

Some good news to start with.

The staff at the airport were more than happy to help her navigate her way through check in and security with her baggage, buggy and baby and safely plonked the lot of them down near the terminal’s soft play area – after having given her a buggy to replace the one she’d just loaded on the plane. So far so good.

But not much…

When her flight was called, she made her way to the boarding gate to be faced with a humungous flight of stairs to negotiate. Three members of staff stood by and watched her try – and then fail – to carry baby, baggage and buggy with her. She eventually gave up with the buggy and abandoned it at the top of the stairs. At this point a member of staff decided to speak. “You can’t leave that there. You’ve got to take it with you,” they said. “How?” my friend asked – a reasonable enough question. Again, the member of staff told her that she couldn’t leave the buggy at the top of the stairs. After a couple more attempts – with three members of staff watching her struggle and telling her she had to take the buggy with her, my friend simply said that it was impossible and abandoned it. No consideration of actually helping her – do their job descriptions simply read “stand at top of stairs and look reproachfully at customers”? Incredible.

A new kind of hero emerges.

Once on board, she managed to find her seat and asked a member of the cabin crew for help with stashing her luggage whilst she held onto her more precious cargo. “There’s no room”, came the reply – despite the fact the woman hadn’t tried and the flight wasn’t full. Thankfully, someone did come to my friend’s rescue. Was it a kindly crew member? No.

It was a stag party from Newport.

A stag party from The Valleys saved my friend’s sanity and stopped the entire plane having to listen to a sobbing baby for over two hours. Big shout out to my new Newport heroes. They stashed her luggage for her (there was room – who’d have thought it?) and played with the baby while she got herself sorted – and didn’t even bat an eyelid when said baby got chocolate all down one of their white jackets. They even helped her find an empty two seats together so that her ever growing baby (they tend to do that don’t they?) had a bit of stretch/kick room. But that in itself caused problems.

When babies take flight.

When they were about to land my friend was told – understandably – that she’d have to return to her designated seat. And whilst Mum was getting their bags together, Action Baby took this as a cue to test out his legs and run down the aisle. A cabin crew member actually told her off. “Could you please keep your child under control and get in your seat” she said before standing and staring reproachfully at my friend. Newport Stags came to the rescue again – but not before shouting at the Ryanair staff member “why don’t you actually help her rather than shouting?” OK, I’ve omitted some of the more colourful language from that quote, but you get my drift.

They even helped her disembark – whilst Ryanair staff just stood and did their best waxwork impressions. And so the flight was saved – for all concerned, because let’s be honest nobody wants to share a flight with a sobbing baby or mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown  – by a bunch of seriously hungover young men from South Wales. Can they put an invoice in for administering some of the customer service that was so lacking from paid members of Ryanair’s staff?

‘Striving to keep kids smiling’.

That’s what the Ryanair website says to families who fly with them. I think they might need to take another look at that. Chief Marketing Officer for Ryanair, Kenny Jacobs, also gets some air time on the website. Under the banner ‘Always getting better, he says that “the continued drive to improve our customer experience has been reflected in the record passenger numbers and load factors we have had over the past 2 years” and that the company will continue to offer “a fantastic in-flight experience”. Really? Fantastic for who?
If we were back at the dawn of air travel, where families were always made up of 2.4 children and two parents, I could understand that an airline wouldn’t be prepared for lone parents travelling by themselves. But this is 2016. Families come in all shapes and sizes – and it didn’t happen overnight. This is the world we’ve lived in for quite some time. And I for one quite like it.

So Ryanair, get yourselves sorted in time for the summer holidays proper – or plan to have a lot of Welsh stag parties use your services so they can support your customers for you! Maybe offer them some kind of deal? It sounds like it might be easier than getting your cabin crew to turn that frown upside down.

So this week, we can all sit back and feel slightly smug about the customer service we offer. It can’t be as bad as that? But do you really know how your staff are representing you? And are you sure they’re standing for your company’s values at all times? Just in case the idea makes you feel a little edgy, remember that The Monachie Project has a fleet of shiny consumer research consultants that can find out how your team are doing – and so you can sit back on your sun lounger, leisurely sip on your poolside cocktail and know that your business is in safe hands. Now that’s the kind of holiday I’m looking forward to.

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