Air Asia India to roll out etiquette video for first-time flyers
Kiran Stacey in New Delhi
Air Asia India is working on a novel way to help its many first-time flyers: an etiquette video instructing them on things such as when to arrive at the airport, how to clear security and when to stand up on an aeroplane.
The Indian arm of Tony Fernandes’ airline is producing the how-to video as one way to ease the experience of flying for those boarding an aircraft for the first time. The carrier estimates that first-time flyers account for one in four of its customers.
As the size of country’s aviation industry has expanded, airlines have found themselves sometimes struggling to keep up with demand — whether because of a lack of aircraft, not enough senior pilots, or passengers who do not know how to use the onboard toilets.
“The video is still in production, but we will try to make sure people see it before the flight, whether through our social media channels or website,” said Amar Abrol, the chief executive of Air Asia India.
“There are a lot of things frequent flyers take for granted, which many Indian passengers don’t necessarily know, such as the importance of packing light or arriving at the airport on time.”
Air fares in India have fallen rapidly in recent years, to the extent that Jayant Sinha, the aviation minister, calculated this month that on some routes air travel is now cheaper per kilometre than riding in one of India’s ubiquitous rickshaws.
This is helping fuel a boom in passenger numbers, as people increasingly choose air over train travel, which is often slow and unreliable. Last month, 11.5m people flew with one of 11 domestic carriers, up 19.7 per cent on the previous month.
Carriers say the number of new flyers causes unique challenges, such as trying to keep to schedules when passengers take a long time to clear security or trying to prevent customers standing up when the flight is landing.
One frequent problem is keeping the aircraft’s toilets clean, with many passengers unaccustomed to waterless flushes or automatic taps. “Many people don’t have a loo at home and suddenly they are having to use a loo in the sky,” said Mr Abrol.
He added that the levels of experience were often shown in the questions passengers ask.
“We have been asked ‘Can I carry live fish in a tank?’, ‘Can I carry fish packed in ice?’ and ‘Can I carry blood?’,” he said. “People are used to rail travel and bus travel, where anything goes.”
Occasionally this can create more serious problems. Vistara, which is a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata, once had to manage a group of passengers staging a sit-down protest in front of an aeroplane when told their flight would not reach its intended destination because of fog.
“Luckily, some of the more experienced flyers stepped in and helped talk them down,” said Sanjiv Kapoor, the company’s chief strategy officer.
As well as etiquette videos, courtesy calls and special training for crew members, some experts believe airports and airlines could help new flyers by making a few simple changes.
“If you go to a major airport in India the signs will be mainly in English,” said Shakti Lumba, a former Air India manager and aviation commentator.
“People would get much less confused if they could read simple instructions in their own local language.”