Spanair: When Fawlty Towers take to the skies.

Spanair announcing the delay on monitors
No information. No messages. No announcements. The staff were just shaking their heads,
offering no more info than what all travellers already knew: Flight JKK049 was delayed.

Bad door. Bad, bad door.
Bad door. Bad, bad door! One of the emergency slides were malfunctioning.
Not much troubleshooting needed. But it took Spanair an amazing 4.5 hours
to figure out that they’d better bring in another plane. Impressive!

Basil Fawlty has a neat philosophy:
Basil’s take on hospitality goes something like this: Guests are a nuisance and an interruption of a hotel’s business. Going on flight JKK049 from Barcelona to Stockholm on the 1 June 2009 was a meeting with a Basil who just ventured into the airline industry…
That particular Monday morning in brief: Boarded plane. Minutes later the captain went on the speakers. Problem with the door, but it won’t take too long to fix – take-off will be delayed a mere 15 minutes. Twenty minutes later, a new PA message. This time it was 45 minutes. After almost an hour, passengers were asked to disembark. After yet half an hour the Luggage was offloaded. Then passengers waited. And waited. And waited. We were patient. We were stoic, quietly asking Spanair staff members when – and later if – JKK049 would take off. It didn’t.

Sure, it’s safety first. But what about a little information?
They needed 4.5 hours to decide that they needed another plane. That’s a long time to decide the obvious, but that’s not why I’m tainting my own site with negative vibes. Planes get delayed. Safety must come first. This is everyday routine for all airline passengers. If they ground a few aircraft every now and then to prevent them falling from the skies, so much the better. What Spanair must learn is to inform people. It’s not hard, as it’s only one way. From my experience travellers don’t need communication in cases like these, just messages. Then we call the office, flip our laptops open, and mind our own business. A message like “Flight delayed until 1430 hours. Waiting for new plane” would have sucked but what sucked more was the total absence of messages. In this case it doesn’t help to say: “It’s OK, he’s from Barcelona!” Not OK. You are Spanair. Fix it, or at least take note and learn. Thanks a lot.

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: Spanair was until very recently owned by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS Group) and has been a member of the Star Alliance since 2003. It would be interesting to see if the alliance, which obviously seek a much sharper profile compared to One World and SkyTeam, will impose quality measures on their members… This might be necessary, as there are 21 members. Naturally, standards will vary in many fields, from the airplane meals to the routines for information. My feeling is that without some kind of quality seal, the alliance may with time start to look less attractive for travellers. Size can not do the trick forever.

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