Recently, we visited Norfolk Island for their annual Country Music Festival. Even though it was a late afternoon arrival time, the chartered plane was completely full of country music fans itching to get to their respective motels to unpack and get out to soak up the atmosphere – but the airline had other ideas.
It seems that because the number one choice for alternate landing was unsuitable, the plane needed to load more fuel so that it could make it to another island further away. In order to do that, some bags needed to be offloaded to balance the extra weight. No argument so far, because safety is paramount when human lives may be at risk.
As a result, six people on the plane were minus their baggage when they arrived on Norfolk Island. That’s bad enough, even though they were offered some overnight comforts plus $100 each to top up their belongings. But here’s where the airline could have done better.
All of those people who had their baggage offloaded waited until the last bag came off the baggage carousel before being advised on enquiry to report to the airline desk on the other side of customs clearance. How hard would it have been for those passengers to have been told in flight that their baggage would not be on the carousel when they got there? Presumably there is some kind of ground contact with the aircraft available and it would be a simple matter to convey that message in flight – or even get a message to those affected at Norfolk Island airport before we disembarked.
So because of that oversight, all passengers on the aircraft had to wait on their respective transfer buses until it was sorted and the affected passengers were on board. To me, this was a poor public relations exercise, and could have been easily overcome. Sure, it wouldn’t make up for the inconvenience of the affected passengers, but at least they would have been through customs and on their buses a lot quicker. Poor, poor service, and definitely an opportunity lost!