Dear airlines: please apologize for controllable delays

Dear airlines: please apologize for controllable delays

A recent Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Hong Kong (HKG) ended up being an hour late due to a controllable delay. We waited 20 minutes for connecting passengers to board, then  waited another half an hour for their bags.

I had counted on being roughly on time (I always add 30 minutes to the scheduled arrival just in case), but this delay ended-up being a lot longer as they hadn’t accounted for a hold over HKG in the block time (which, of course, we ended-up in as well). As a result, I had to reschedule an important meeting.

Here’s my bone to pick with Qatar: at no stage did the pilots or crew apologize, demonstrating a basic disregard for their passenger’s time and patience.

This isn’t a one-off, either. I’ve flown Qatar globally for years and have found this to be the case across the board. It may even be policy: perhaps they believe they’ll expose themselves to claims of compensation if they admit the delay was their fault.

Of course their policy could be to leave it up to the crew’s discretion, but this has happened too often to be an anomaly.¬†They’re not the only airline, either – I’ve been on flights that’ve been delayed but never addressed directly (a late January flight from Barcelona to Rome Fiumicino on Vueling comes to mind).

Good view, late arrival

I don’t mind a short delay to allow connecting passengers to make it – if it was me, I’d appreciate people’s patience. But there has to be a limit to holding the aircraft. I think 15-20 minutes is fair to passengers waiting on board – who may be on a tight connecting schedule, as well (for instance, many passengers on my flight were connecting to Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights).

It’s incumbent on the airline to apologize and thank passengers for their patience – ultimately, the rest of us were present and counted on being on-time.

Back in the day, United used to hold my red eye flights from San Francisco to Washington Dulles to allow for often-delayed passengers from Hawai’i to make the connection. It was never more than a quarter of an hour or so and often only a handful of passengers were actually able to make the connection successfully (the airline, rightly, could not wait for every single person). The pilots and crew would always thank us for our patience – both on the way out and when arriving into Washington.

It’s a similar situation with British Airways, whose crews go well out of their way to keep passengers informed at all times about any delays, irregular operations, etc. They always apologize for any inconvenience caused.

I appreciate an apology because it communicates that the airline understands the impact on its passengers’ schedules and may be inconveniencing us. It demonstrates an appreciation for the customer’s time and patience. It costs them nothing but can go a long way with customers. And, really, it’s not just Corporate Comms 101, it’s the decent thing to do.

On this score (if not many others), Qatar and other airlines would do well to take a lesson from British and American legacy airlines carriers.

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