When Compliance Leaves the Customer Stranded

Are You Stuck with Procedures That Don’t Make Sense?

airplane corporate compliance

Most air-travelers these days do not have high expectations. Still, when flights are cancelled under questionable circumstances and they have to spend the night away stranded on an airport, the bitterness of the experience lasts a long time!

Aviation is a heavily regulated industry. Customers are used to rules and procedures. Bad weather is always a wild card. When a paper form that needs to be completed before the plane can leave the gate triggers a sequence of events leading to the flight cancellation, the level of frustration is simply too high to ignore.

I, along with about 200 others, learned this the hard way on a connecting flight late evening out of the busy Dallas Fort-Worth airport.

And yes, you got it right – it was all because of a paper form that could not be completed in time.

As we began settling down in our seats, the captain makes an announcement: “Well folks, we just inherited an aircraft which was scheduled to fly to Guatemala City, so we now have too much fuel for our destination. We can’t fly without completing some paperwork to account for the extra fuel. We don’t need to take out the fuel, we will change our flight path and fly lower to burn more fuel. Shouldn’t take too much time and we will be out of here as soon as we can.”

Well, not a big problem. It cannot take too long to fill the paperwork.

30 minutes slowly fly by when the captain comes back again on the intercom: “…folks, thanks for your patience. We are still waiting for one specific form to be brought to the plane by the fuel company. We will update you as soon as we can.”

By this time all the passengers are in their seats and we are already 15 minutes past the scheduled departure time. Not a good sign! 

Why does a form need to be physical brought to the plane? Why can’t this information be completed electronically? I don’t have a good feeling about this anymore…

Another 30 minutes slowly pass when I see a truck with the fuel company signage arrive by the plane side. 

Hopefully they have the right form with them!

Another 20 minutes later, the flight attendant comes on the intercom with a cheerful voice: “Ladies and gentlemen, the pilot has completed everything and we are ready to go.”

Yay! Finally, we can still get out tonight!

The plane is pushed back and begins to crawl slowly towards the runway. But after about 5 minutes, it comes to a full stop, still far from taking off. 10 minutes fly by, but no updates from the cockpit.

What now?!

“Folks, we are told that all flights taking off to the North and East are grounded due to an incoming thunderstorm. Don’t know how long we will need to wait. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience. We will give you an update as soon as possible.”

There is no way we are getting out now! Time to start calling the business travel center and find another flight!

After about 15 minutes, but what felt like an hour: “Folks, we are still in a holding pattern. But I have been on duty since 11 a.m., so legally I am not allowed to fly anymore. We need to head back to the gate where you will get more information about your options. We are really sorry for the inconvenience.”

Got it Captain! You have got to rest now but couldn’t you have just completed that form sooner?

It takes another 20 minutes to find a new gate to park the plane. Everyone gets out and lines up in front of the gate agent, who pretends hide behind her computer screen! 

News flash: “The flight will now leave in 45 minutes from the same gate. Everyone stay in the gate area, if you attempt to change your flight, your seat will be cancelled on this flight.”

Yeah, like I am going to believe that! Let us continue talking to the travel center and find another flight out.

In 10 minutes, the flight is cancelled. No new information available.

The Business Travel Center informs me that the airline has already booked me on another flight out next morning. It will take 5 hours longer than this flight to get me home!

How does this relate to the Medtech industry?

My experience made me think about paper forms and archaic procedures in the MedTech industry that don’t make any sense. How many times we simply keep doing the same thing just because it is required and we have always done it that way

Do we ever wonder how it impacts our customers? 

Compliance and customer experience are not mutually exclusive. It is not an either-or, but both are needed to run a successful business in a regulated industry such as ours. 

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.