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Hi everyone. Welcome to the 5 Minutes Podcast. Today I'd like to share with you a case that happened with me, and it's a perfect example of how to manage extremely poorly when you are facing a challenge or a crisis. And this happened to me last week when I was in Zurich taking a flight with Swiss Airways to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. First, before I start, I need to understand, and we all understand, that the airline business is probably one of the most fragile businesses that anyone can conceive because the airline business is fragile due to the weather, due to the, I would say, threats, everything that happens. One of the first things that everyone does is to stop air traffic. If there is a, you know, a volcano in Iceland and the volcano starts to blow in ashes in the air, the first thing that people do let's close the air, the air traffic, When there is a terrorist threat, close the air traffic. When there is bad weather, close the air traffic. When it's Covid, close the air traffic. So, probably, the airline business is one of the worst business people can do. This, for me, is a paradox because it's such a needed business, but at the same time, it's so fragile that it's very hard for an airline company, I would say, to be profitable and to do a decent business.
However, this does not allow airlines to lack a basic understanding of their responsibility and their duty of care. And this is not about spending money. Okay. This is not so. Let me tell you the case. I flew from Lisbon to Zurich, and when I arrived in Zurich, I was expecting the flight from Zurich to Punta Cana. And then I saw on the panel one hour later, and I said, okay, one hour late. It's normal. Okay, something happened. It's okay. It's completely acceptable. I would say in normal conditions, knowing the fragility of the business. But then one hour became two hours. Two hours became three hours. Three hours became four hours. Four hours became six hours. Six hours became seven hours. And then the absolutely incredible happened. Seven hours of delay. The supervisor comes to the gate, followed by two policemen two policemen, not two by two other Swiss employees to help. No, to tell look, the flight was canceled. The flight we will do it tomorrow morning. It will be, I would say, almost 24 hours of delay. And, you know, it's it's a problem, a technical problem, and we understand the technical problem. But then she said incredible. And say, look, and regarding hotels, we cannot do anything. Okay? We don't have vouchers anymore.
So you need to take care of your own hotel. I said, what? What? And I was not thinking about myself, okay about myself. But I was thinking that flight had about 30, probably 40% of children and elderly people. And I say, where will these people sleep? Will these people sleep here in the corridors of the airport? You know, but the lady that was sharing, you know, the cancellation, she said, no, you just pay, and that's it. And this is life. We cannot fly because there is a problem I could not believe. And then I tried to get closer to it. I would say to the gate to ask a question to the lady because my problem would not be sorted out with the flight tomorrow, not even with the airport, because I needed to arrive on time. But then, when I reached a close to her, the policeman came to me and said, stop. And, you know, I was so surprised because, of course, I was not. I was sad, but I was not angry. I'm okay. I have very good self-control. And then I asked him why you are stopping me. I just want to ask. And she said, No, you cannot cross here, I say. And then I asked him, Look, this is Switzerland and Zurich, okay? I said. Why?
Who are you trying to protect here? There are 200, probably 200 plus customers here. People are not criminals here. People are customers instead of bringing the police. What we should have brought was 5 or 6 other people that could help to manage and support. These people that were there. So these were so incredible for me. I was stunned by that. And then the three lessons, because I work with crisis management, and that one hurt me a lot and not hurt me for myself. You know, I'm very well. I'm very used to travel. I know problems happen, but the lack of awareness of the Swiss was just amazing for me. It was just amazing at first. The first mistake is empathy. When you are facing a crisis, you must show empathy. Arriving with two policemen, then nothing else. Not answering any questions and just throwing that the flight was delayed that you cannot do and that everybody needs to take care of themselves. This is a lack of empathy in a crisis. When you are facing a crisis, for example, in this crisis, you need, for example, to dismiss or lay over a person. The first thing you need to have in mind is empathy, not thinking about what is good for me, that two policemen were not there to support the elderly people who were already seven hours waiting, these two policemen. They were there to protect the Swiss employees. That was not planning to travel.
She was not suffering anything. Anything. She was just massaging, and she was doing that instead of protecting their core client. The most relevant thing in the business line was that they were protecting the employees because they thought that people were animals and people would hurt the lady. So, did you see this is empathy, and this is the first thing you need to do when you are in crisis? So if you are facing a project facing a crisis, you need to show empathy. Second, learning, you need to assume your responsibility every time people ask for everything, she said. We care about your safety. We are fixing the airline. Of course, you cared about my safety when I paid for the ticket. I am also paying for that security. This is not a favor any airline is not doing a favor for bringing me safely to my destination. Companies cannot say, okay, if the plane crashes, then your ticket will be free because this makes no sense. So, having a safe flight, you can give a plus to people. Okay, I will give you a chocolate when you are inside the plane. But safety is not something that you are trading as a benefit for your customer. This is part of your core business and its part, and it's included in the price tag you charge your clients. So you need to assume your responsibility.
Nobody said that their aircraft was 20 years old, and I'm not saying that an aircraft that is 20 years old cannot fly, of course, but. Why not make sure that you did the proper checks and everything that you had to do? Okay. Maybe something very bad happened, and you don't have any other line, but you need to manage and assume your responsibility. And this drives me to the third point. The third point contains damage. You know, stop the draining. Stop. You need to contain the damage and to contain the damage. What you need to do is you need to arrive there. Let me give you a perfect answer. You arrive there with 4 or 5 people, and you open, I would say, two gates and say, please, everybody go to the lines. We will find ways of providing hotels, of providing this, you know, and this is what is expected. What happened to me? I had to go out of the gates, and I had to go through security. I have to leave practically the airport and go back to the checking to sort it out. I waited 20 minutes in line, and I went to the lady to discuss, and she was nice, by the way. She was nice, but. But she said I cannot do anything for you. I cannot refund you. I cannot change your flight. I cannot do anything. The only thing I can do is please wait until 10 a.m. the next day.
And I told her I cannot. In the end, I spent the whole night at the airport because they didn't provide a hotel at 6 a.m. I flew back to Portugal and then went to Recife. I missed that opportunity to be with my fellow colleagues in the Dominican Republic. I missed one day of work, and she said the only answer was that I had a problem, and this is what damages the image, the business, and the credibility of an organization. So imagine for me, what is my feeling about the professionalism of the Swiss after something like that. And look, I fly 800,000 miles every year, so I would never record something. And I don't want to look. I don't feel angry about the attitude of the Swiss. I feel sad, and I feel sad for the Swiss employees. And this because probably this is their determination to say, you know, we don't care about business. You know, if the plane cannot fly, let's just say to the people that we don't care after them waiting for seven hours and then let's cancel and let's not even provide a hotel room and a hotel room, not for Ricardo, because for me, it's not a problem. I'm not talking about myself here. I'm talking about those children and elderly that I don't know what they did, honestly. I don't know what they did.
So it was like you, for example, going to a Starbucks in a line, and then you pay for a coffee, and then when you go there, they say, sorry, the machine is broken. And then they say, okay, that's fine, I want back my money. No, we cannot because we cannot. It's our policy not to return the money. And, you know, and then you say, okay, so now I paid, but I don't have my service, you know, And then suddenly the person from Starbucks invited the police to come and say, the police is saying, no, don't touch, don't it like criminals. So please, Swiss, if you were the CEO of Swiss and are listening to this, don't do that. It's the worst thing you can do to keep your customer centricity. That is such a core value of most of the organizations that we work with people. So just think about that. And I'm talking as a crisis management expert. This is an example of how people can do everything wrong when they are facing a challenge. Always think about that. And for everyone that is listening. If you are facing a similar case, remember empathy. Assume your responsibility and containing the damage should be your top priorities, even more than protecting yourself against the anger of other people. Think about that, and see you next week with another 5 Minutes Podcast.