Aditya Ghosh, President, IndiGo
IndiGo, the world’s fastest-growing airline, faced a public relations crisis recently. In an interview, Aditya Ghosh, president of the airline, tells Arindam Majumder how the company works on keeping customer complaints to a minimum and much more. Edited excerpts:
Why did IndiGo decide to invest heavily in training?
Traditionally, at least in India, when airlines did their training, it used to be segmented. Pilots did their own training, cabin attendants did it separately, and customer service was like it was the function of a single group of people. A couple of years after starting, we realised the training of the crew needed to transform into learning about how to react to situations that were changing every day, so that the outcome should be consistent. The same crew may be dealing with delayed flights one day and bad weather the next day.
The airline recently faced a situation that showed it in a poor light. How do you ensure the staff is ready to deal with such situations?
Oh yes, we change constantly. Every batch, when they pass out and start flying, instructors take feedback from them about the training module. I think there are two aspects to deal with such situations. The first is the attitude with which you approach such an incident. The second is the process.
The attitude has to be to learn what could have been done differently rather than getting defensive about it. The next is the process. It can be a customer issue or a faulty landing. We take that situation, create that into a case study and, through learning manual and software, and discussion with trainers, it is immediately passed on to everyone — this is what happened, we think we should have reacted differently to this.
How has IndiGo’s growth posed a challenge for you?
The complexity of the structure has become manifold; infrastructure has not kept pace. Airports that seemed to be easy two years back are now congested. There is a completely new kind of flyer to cater to. There were questions asked when IndiGo placed a big order for planes — where are you going to park those planes? We are now parking those planes, even getting new planes every month and flying to new places. So, scale has changed. That’s where system has to change, training has to change, process has to keep up. That’s why we try to bring in people from different environment and try to develop every day.
For many Indians, their first flight has been with IndiGo. How does the airline cater to their needs?
You are right. Where once it was a challenge to enter cities where getting traffic was difficult, suddenly there were multiple flights from there. Today, those airports are bursting with capacity, and the challenge is now to make people understand that it is such a business where safety, procedure of operations, punctuality cannot be compromised for even 1 per cent. Often a pilot cannot fly in weathers which may seem alright to a passenger. To them, we have to explain that regulations don’t allow one to fly in this visibility. It’s a perfect opportunity for the cabin crew or the pilot to educate the passenger why we can’t fly. That’s what we teach our crew here.
One of the complaints against IndiGo is that as it grew in size, it became mechanical. Focus is only on on-time performance, and the touch of hospitality has been lost. Do you agree?
We definitely need to look internally and introspect. But, I will point out that strangely no one is saying that IndiGo is not consistent or that it is whimsical. In fact, the compliment is that they are so consistent. So, we have to find the right balance. For someone who has genuine reason for showing up late or having two kg of excess baggage and he complains, it is fair. But at IndiGo, we also have to think about others who showed up on time, followed all rules. It’s a difficult question to answer. A lot of customer-facing organisation face this. We have to find a way so that we listen, but we can’t stray from what IndiGo offers — reliability and punctuality.
Is there a need for IndiGo to reassure its flyers after the recent incident?
I think the answer to that question is that every day we fly 150,000 people. So, everyday gives us an opportunity to reassure them. Do we make mistakes? Yes. Are we perfect? No. Are we constantly trying to improve? Absolutely yes. The proof of that is that we consistently have the lowest number of customer complaints.