I was recently the victim of delay creep. I'm pretty sure most of the people reading this will have also fallen victim to this at one time or other. It's what happens when you turn up two hours early for a flight, bus, train, event...and the starting time for your journey or experience is delayed. Then when the new time approaches the time once again moves out.
I was heading to Broome, flying with a national carrier that is known for its great maintenance record and recently lauded in an earlier blog for their fab customer service. My flight was at 9.55, I arrived at 8.00 in line with my custom of arriving early, having a nice leisurely coffee and buying a book I don't need from the newsagent.
One of my travel companions thought it would be very amusing to rush up to us and exclaim that the plane had been cancelled because of a cyclone. My how we laughed! The laughter quickly subsided though when the SMS came through on my phone to say that the flight had been delayed until 11.45. Rats! There was no information as to why we weren't leaving until then other than the late arrival of the inbound plane.
As 11.45 approached we watched the screens with anticipation, waiting to see where we should go to board. Imagine our disappointment at 11.30 when the announcement came that the plane would not be arriving until 12.45 making our leaving time 1.10. Then guess what happened? At 12.55 the time changed to 1.30! No announcement it just changed silently. At 1.20 it changed to 1.45 and bets were being laid as to what time it would actually go. My colleague won $5 when it was announced that we wouldn't be leaving until 2.10. At 2.30 we finally taxied to the runway.
As it turned out the plane was faulty when it arrived in Kalgoorlie and they needed to get engineers there to fix it and then check the repairs before they headed for Broome. Don't get me wrong I'm all for delaying a plane until it's fixed. What did bother me was the fact that no announcements were made and the boarding time just kept creeping forward. Nearly five extra hours in Perth domestic terminal is not the best use of anyone's time but not knowing what was going on or even being offered a cup of tea is a little frustrating. We eventually got food vouchers after my colleague went to complain at 2.15 - too late by then.
From an experience point of view communicating with your customers can have an enormous impact on their willingness to forgive just about anything. Letting them know what's happening, apologising for the delay and providing some passenger care all go a long way to making a great experience out of an unavoidable situation.