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Mini-Case: Service Marketing

Mini-Case: Service Marketing
(This mini-case is inspired by a true incident. However, the facts of the actual incident have been slightly altered to bring out certain key concepts in service marketing)
Anshu Sharma, MBA (ISB Hyderabad), B.Tech. (IIT Kharagpur), M.Tech. (IIT Kharagpur)
Indian family offloaded from a flight ‘over a crying 3-yr-old’
                                    Topic:              Role of Employees & Customers in Service Delivery
                                    Characters:      The 3-yr-old child,
                                                             Sameer & Rashmi, parents of the 3-yr-old
                                                             John Smith, Airline Operations Head
                                                             Timothy, Cabin Crew in-charge
                                                             Dough, co-passenger I
                                                             Sucheta, co-passenger II
An Indian family alleged that a leading European airline offloaded them from the flight because their 3 year old child was crying
·      This alleged racial behaviour took place on a London to Mumbai flight of a leading European airline in July 2018
Sameer and Rashmi, flying from London to Mumbai were allegedly offloaded from their flight because their 3 year old child was crying. While Rashmi had managed to comfort her child when the plane was taxiing for take-off, the allegedly intimidating behaviour of a cabin crew while asking the child to be seated scared the kid even more and then he started sobbing inconsolably.
The aircraft then returned to the terminal and the Indian family, along with a few other Indians seated next to them, was offloaded. This alleged racial behaviour took place on a London-Mumbai flight of a leading European airline in July 2018. Sameer, a 1984 batch IAS officer, complained to the aviation minister of the Indian government alleging ‘humiliation and racial behaviour’ by the airline.
John Smith, the airline operations head, in a statement said: “We take such claims extremely seriously and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have started a full investigation and are in direct touch with the customer.”
The airline cabin crew’s version:
Timothy, the cabin crew in-charge of the flight said: “The child was crying inconsolably. Other passengers were getting disturbed and were complaining. We requested the family to try and calm down the child, however the family wouldn’t listen and shouted back at us. We were just trying to do our job which was to ensure comfort for ALL the passengers in the aircraft. In the interest of the majority of the passengers, we had no option but to offload the family.”
The crew claimed that their behaviour was purely in the interest of the large portion of the customers on a long duration flight, and had no racial overtones at all as alleged by the grieved family. The crew expected Sameer & Rashmi to be a bit more considerate towards the comfort of 140 other passengers on-board the flight, and try to manage their child in a more proactive manner.
Other passengers’ version:
Dough, another passenger on this flight said: “The child was crying incessantly. It was a long flight and the loud noise was disturbing all of us. I was dead tired and wanted to sleep peacefully, but was not able to because of the continuous crying of the child”.
Sucheta, another Indian passenger on the flight said: “After all it is a baby, and babies do cry on flights. Nothing much one can do. We have to adjust this much when we are in public surroundings”
While most of the co-passengers accepted to being inconvenienced by the child’s incessant crying, many also expressed empathy for the parents of the 3-year old child.
The aggrieved family’s version:
Sameer and Rashmi, the parents of the child said: “The child was hungry and was crying for milk. We gave him milk and he was calming down. Just then the cabin crew came and started shouting rudely at us and the child. The child got scared very badly with all the shouting and started crying inconsolably. The airline crew rudely offloaded us back at the airport, along with some other Indians who were supporting us. We had a very important event to attend which we could not.”
The family claimed that they were trying their best to calm down their child, however there’s only so much they could’ve done to control a 3 year old. They expected the airline staff to have been more considerate, instead of shouting them down and offloading them from the aircraft.
1.      Discuss the role played by the airline crew and the family in this scenario. Evaluate their actions to identify what went wrong.
2.      What could have Timothy done differently in order to avoid this issue?
3.      What could have Sameer & Rashmi done differently in order to avoid this issue?
4.      What should John Smith do to recover this situation and avoid it from becoming a PR nightmare?
5.      An incident with one particular customer impacted the service experience of many other customers sitting in the flight. Discuss.