Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saudia .... Changes on the Horizon

Recently I read an article at regarding some of the problems facing Saudia entitled "What Ails Saudia" (click here to read full story). Saudia blamed its 2008 losses on its passengers not cancelling their bookings when they decide not to fly.

In these modern times, airlines suffer from overbooking their flights and not from passengers not showing up. The problem of Saudia has a simple solution, do what all the other airline in the world do. If you book
1. through the airline website you pay in advance or;
2. through a travel agent or consultant, you are given a date to pay otherwise the booking is automatically canceled.
So simple shift the money problem to the passenger side of the equation.

But to come out and publicly blame your passengers for your problems shows a lack of sensitivity towards the traveling public and a lack of customer support culture within the organisation. No airline can afford to treat its passengers in such a way.

Saudi Arabia is an oil rich country that is liberalizing its civil aviation rules by allowing domestic carriers to operate and is adopting a more open sky policy within the region. The massive government drive to invest in industry and infra structure and the ensuing social changes that comes with development, needs to be supported by the aviation sector both domestically and internationally.

Saudia can not be complacent, as it approaches privatisation. The airline has a modern fleet with the latest technology. However, the competition will not be only with the domestic airlines but also internationally, with the likes of Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and even the smaller carriers such as Gulf Air, Egypt Air or Royal Jordanian. They have to compete on service and customer relation and satisfaction.

To attribute your problems to your customers (those who eventually pay the salaries) is not the best way to approach your organisational problems. Saudia has inefficiencies, lack of sensitivity to customers and a different work ethics to those that exist in the region.

The privatisation effort should address all these problems and resolve them prior to the airline being actually privatised. These are core issues that need to be put in place as they constitue some of the core values of any airline.

Change will be painful as ever, but if Saudia wants to maintain its position it has to move towards a more customer centric culture, where the passenger is usually right.

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