So close again–the new qantas baggage tagging system

I recently commented on Virgin’s customer service – but I had an equally heroic level of service from Qantas recently.

Due to “the storms” my 6:30pm flight was delayed until 9pm, which was a bit disappointing.  Then they loaded us onto the plane to get ready to go … but unfortunately didn’t have a crew. 

Apparently they were hoping for a crew to turn up (I am not sure if they tend to drop by unannounced but who knows). 

So we sat in the plane for a while and another storm came, giving us a good view of the lightning, but not much other excitement.  Then after a while that storm passed and our captain started looking for a crew again.

But unfortunately it seems not many crews do turn up at 10pm at night during a storm, so eventually (at 10:30) the captain told us that the flight was cancelled and we would have to come back to try again tomorrow.

From what I gather the crew were frantically calling hotels to try and store some passengers over night but a lot of other flights beat us to the punch.  So a couple of hundred of us disembarked, not really that impressed with sitting down for an hour to get a view of some lightning.

As you can imagine there were four or five flight crew waiting to greet a few hundred grumpy (non) passengers.  And to make it worse they didn’t really know what the plans were so they had to wing it. 

They broke into a stash of taxi vouchers, opened the qantas club and stood their resolutely dealing with people who seemed to think the stewardess they were talking to could call in another plane if she wanted to.

But no matter how grumpy we acted the crew remained unphased.  I guess that’s how you know if you are cut out for the role – dealing with a crash is probably a matter of following the drill and hoping not to become a pancake on the ground, but dealing with a few hundred grumpy people would really test your mettle.  And the crew did an excellent job.

In the end I left in my free taxi, got a couple of hours sleep and then came back for a new flight.  I understood the impact of the storm, I still haven’t worked out why they didn’t know if there were any crews going to turn up up when the airport was closed, but I was really impressed with the attitude of the besieged staff.

Anyway – my next trip to the airport I got to try out the new boarding process that involves me getting to check my own baggage without any need for help.  I had a cool electronic baggage tag (free from qantas) and not-really-absolute confidence in Qantas getting the automated process right.

So I followed the instructions and sent my bag on its way, hoping it would end up in the same airport as me at the other end of the flight.

I needn’t have worried though – the process worked perfectly with the minor hitch that my  cool new baggage tag fell off my bag, leaving it with no record of where to go. 

Apparently they either have weight-lifters or evil robots moving the bags around because the baggage tag has a strong “ocky-strap” rope to tie it on with and the strap was somehow ripped in two in the process.  This meant I had a rope attached to my bag but no tag.

Someone (or some non-evil robot) clearly noticed because they attached an “oops – no baggage tag is attached – we guess this is going to Mel on flight xyz).  Happily for me this meant the bag ended up in the right place at the right time and there was no negative impact on me.

So its a cool new system and worked really well for me … but it must be a bit expensive for Qantas if they are ripping more of the electronic (architect designed) baggage tags off in the process and replacing them with manual ones.

Overall it meant two cases of dodgy processes recovered by excellent service.  I wonder though whether in reality it is good customer service to require heroic work from your crew when you could get your process to do the work for you.

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About James King

I coach organisations in how to better make use of the untapped talent they have in their people and to explore new ways of understanding and solving new and old problems I live in Sydney with my wife and daughter and have no real hobbies beyond the usual boring ones of reading, writing and watching tv.
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