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OM in the News: Air Berlin’s Service Implosion

September 20, 2013

air berlinHow could a passenger plane take off without a single piece  of luggage? That’s the question from 200 Air Berlin passengers on flight AB 8109, whose bags were left sitting at the airport when their flight took off, and then apparently vanished. Nearly a month later the airline still doesn’t know where all the bags are, reports (Sept.4, 2013). 

Passengers’ inquiries were met with endless redirects. One email to Air Berlin reads: “ NONE of the checked luggage was loaded on the airplane—almost 200 missing pieces missing among the passengers. We filled out forms and were given baggage service numbers to call, but the phone line has no answer. Days later, still no information whatsoever, nobody to call, not sure what to do. Baggage company says to contact airline; airline says to contact baggage company. Why did the captain decide to take off before any pieces of luggage were loaded? We need support from Air Berlin. This isn’t one lost bag, it’s a whole plane of lost bags!”

And, in a separate event, here is twitter bot over a 2-day period earlier this month between a frustrated passenger and the airline:

@5Foot1: “Arrived in Dusseldorf without my bag. @airberlin are useless. No apology, no idea. What happened to German efficiency?”

@airberlin: “We’re sorry for the inconvenience caused. Did you contact the Lost & Found?”

@5Foot1: “Of course. Bag left in LDN. No assurance it will be on the next flight. I’m here for business meetings with no clothes.”

@airberlin: “We understand how annoying this is and apologise! Unfortunately we can’t help you right now. Lost & Found will contact you.”

@5Foot1: “Do you have a number I can call and speak to a human being. The tracking number is giving me no information.”

@airberlin: “Unfortunately there is no number I can give you. Lost & Found will get in touch as soon as they found your bag.”

Concludes Slate: “Air Berlin’s total inability to transport a suitcase from point A to point B can’t be a good sign”.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. In Chapter 6, Managing Quality, we list the 10 Determinants of Service Quality (see Table 6.5). On which of the 10 service determinants did Air Berlin fail?

2. Why did the pilot of AB 8109 leave without any baggage?

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