Air South West break the camels back

My alarm call this morning is at 4.00am and I enjoy the fast dawn drive to Newquay airport in the Pontiac, under a clear sky and a full moon.
Weather’s clear and it’s going to be a great day – I’m off to Leeds to meet with Nigel Hargreaves and help him grow The North of England Dental Academy – his brainchild and a project I have been coaching him on for 12 months now.
I’m all set to spend a full day with Nigel and his business manager, Holly Whittle, discussing plans for 2008, with an emphasis on marketing his innovative new service.
I arrive at the airport at 5.30am and check-in for my flight- the screen is telling me that the expected departure is 7.00am – just 30 minutes late – so I make a couple of quick calls to Nigel and Holly, explaining the delay.
Nigel is due to pick me up at Leeds/Bradford airport.
Laptop on, of course, and a few emails over coffee as I wait – using my 3G datacard and a weak GPRS signal as the airport is in the wilds. Better than nothing though.
At 7.00am the 20 or so passengers travelling to “Bristol, Leeds and Manchester” (which means the Manchester people disembark in Bristol and we fly on to Leeds) are asked to come forward and answer an intriguing question:

If we cancel the flight, will you wait until this afternoon, take a taxi or ask for a refund?”

Great question.
I’m 6 hours drive from Leeds and a cab, taking my own car, or taking the later flight are all out of the question – so my answer has to be “refund” and cancel the day.
Call to Nigel to explain that it’s up in the air or, should I say, precisley the opposite!
Somehow, I have a vision of a thin, greying accountant, sat in an office somewhere, collating our answers and calculating whether it would be more cost-effective to find an aircraft or expect the ground staff to take the crap that will follow.
In the event – his abacus says “cancel the flight” – which we are told at 7.45am.
I’ve already discussed options with Nigel – who is a pure gentleman about the situation – we organise a conference call later today and a rescheduling of the meeting on the evening of 8th October, after a day’s coaching I’ll be doing just a few minutes drive away from him in Derbyshire.
Not so lucky for the other passengers – a teenage boy who has been left at the airport by his Dad on the way to university. A collection of tired-looking businessmen who climb into their company cars and face a long drive North. A nice young chap from Manchester who cannot face the cab and elects to wait until 5.00pm this evening for the next flight. A group of elderly ladies who clamber into a Ford people-carrier resigned to a 6-hour motorway journey.
I wouldn’t mind if some half-assed explanation were offered – they do usually come out with “due to technical difficulties” which we all know is bullshit but at least well meant.
This morning they cannot even be bothered telling us why.
Accountant 1, Customers 0.
“Dear Air South West
Do you realise that you are treating us like shit?
We have your wages in our pockets.
And we have had enough.
BMI Baby where are you?”
So its back to Bonnie’s this morning, for a bonus business development session.
And my stomach rumbling for lunch at 10.30am.
My thanks to Nigel for accepting this so graciously – it’s so nice to work with nice people.
And to the faceless, nameless people at Air South West – go screw yourselves. Perhaps I could interest you in some customer service training?


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.