I had a long cherished desire to make a recent visit from Bangalore of India to Chicago and as such I have mulled over to make such a wondrous trip from which I along with some friends will go for paying a long visit to some places historically importance in the world. The long awaited weird and wonderful trip from Bangalore, India to Chicago normally takes 18 hours in the air and a couple more on the ground transitioning from plane to plane and gate to gate as a tentative flow. My friend Monir asked me to take various items of reading materials like Magazine, Newspaper, weeklies, and bi-weeklies etc., while making long journey at a stretch. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. If everything worked the way it was supposed to, we’d have little need for tutorial or training or maybe even our favorite manufacturing magazine. In the recognition that some things go wrong sometimes comes the desire by the best manufacturers to make sure things go better the next time. So we strive to comprehend what went wrong, how it can be fixed in the short-term and how to improve it for the future. Which wasn’t my first thought when the pilot of our British Airways flight came on the intercom to tell us we’d be landing shortly to deplane a Norwegian passenger who had developed a life-threatening condition. So 30 minutes later, we were landing at a one-runway airport in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the western edge of the Caspian Sea. They do get 747s at Baku; one pulled up to an adjoining gate as we were waiting to leave. Salma, one of my cousins felt embarrassed having found such awkward situation of the pilot. In these tight times, it’s important to get as much as we can out of our talent. If staff sizes are strained, we have to make sure that everyone is versatile. Had someone at Baku been cross-training on the care and fueling of the 747, we might have gotten out of there a couple hours earlier. But then the pilot and purser had to leave the plane to go pay for the fuel. I asked my friend Raju who was reading newspaper attentively having considered the real life situation. Baku is clearly not on British Airways’ normal routes, but called another co-pilot Rajesh and Khanna to say, ‘Send me an invoice and I’ll pay it right away. ‘After the paperwork and payment and such were completed, Salma and John roared down the runway and were back in the air to London. And we might have gotten there in time to make the connecting flight to Chicago, except that the delay in Baku had pushed the British Airways flight crew past its allotted flying time for the day. So Raju headed for Frankfurt, and another three hours on the ground, while a new flight crew came from London to take us back to London, where it was now clear we would be spending the night. The problems kept going downhill, but the solution should have been clear to someone before we got to Frankfurt. If stopping in Frankfurt couldn’t have been prevented, it could have been predicted, and a new flight crew could have been waiting for us on the ground when our plane touched down in Germany. Instead, we waited again. Salma, John and I began to think to switch over the difficulties and repeatedly shouted to lead us in the right direction. So the crew arrives and we get back on the plane and we take off for the third time that day to float into Heathrow. What followed was fairly remarkable, especially from a customer service standpoint. We arrived in London, and British Airways had secured us a room for the night at a nice hotel with a hot meal waiting for us, complimentary breakfast the next morning, a shuttle bus back to the airport, a ditty bag with toiletries in case we were caught without something and an automatic rebooking on the next available flight out of town. All our needs were taken care of promptly and without having to ask for anything. It was an expensive mistake, but cost wasn’t the factor. No one seemed surprised. By mid-afternoon, we were airborne again and heading home. The Boeing 777, like the flight on the 747, was smooth and crisp and painless. The trip took a lot longer because we were flying into a 75 mph headwind, but we’d never have known it inside the plane, which didn’t move an inch off dead level for eight hours. The plane was magnificently engineered and was being operated beautifully. The customer service on the flight was flawless for everyone. The flight operated the way every manufacturing plant should operate – with an eye toward excellent execution excellent efficiency and excellent service toward the end user.
My friends and I will never forget such unusual events in the plane and in this context the following few lines of poem composed by Robert Frost is worth mentioning:
“Like the empty words of a dream,
Remembered on waking”