Airports are emotional places. If it’s not about business, you’re either saying hello, saying goodbye or about to take flight to be connected with people you love or to pursue grand adventures. I’ve always loved airports for this reason – for the fact that they don’t just move cargo and humans. Airports are intravenous portals of love, feeding us with life experiences and memory trays that fold away into the creases.
Airlines, however, are machines. Flawed, icy, heartless machines. In the tangle of flight patterns there are missed flights, delays, storms, technical faults, overpriced tickets, frustrated staff and bumpy landings.
On March 13th, I was due to fly to Durban, just for the night, to celebrate Flatfoot Dance Company’s 10th Anniversary. I was one of the original 10 dancers in the company.
As I set foot in the airport, I received a message from Kulula.com saying: “We’re sorry to inform you that your flight MN603 on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 from JNB at 5:15pm has been amended. The departure time has changed to 9:10pm.”
Apart from saying that I’d have to wait 6 days for a refund and that they could offer a R400 meal voucher, they could do nothing. And no other airline had an available flight. I left the airport in tears.
Airlines don’t get it. It’s never just a delayed flight – it’s a ripple effect of disheartening proportions. Every year, billions of people sit in your seats in the upright position. You take their hard-earned dough and deliver an uncomfortable, unsophisticated experience. You position yourselves as biltong but charge us for caviar. You make us pay for our snacks. We tolerate your cheap jokes and bilious green uniforms. You over tax us and underwhelm us. You move us like cattle over the clouds. You lose our luggage and spit us out into the airport and the only reason we forget and travel with you again is because the destination is far more important than the journey.
Kulula.com, you’re not just in the travel business. You’re in the heart business. “Sorry, there is nothing we can do” is the emptiest statement in the world. Of course, some things are not within your control like weather and technical faults but most other things are. When the gaffer tape that holds your wings together comes undone, it’s how you handle it that matters. Do something. Surprise me. Don’t just leave me with my disillusionment and tear-stained cheeks. Don’t message me an hour before a flight and offer no explanation and don’t man your desks with disempowered, careless staff. What you made me miss, I can never get back. There are no refunds or vouchers that can reignite memories or reunite me with people that mean something in my life. Kulula.com, I don’t want anything from you. I just want you to stop behaving like an airline.