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Did inept airline staff call cops on frustrated passengers?

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Comments came in thick and fast all day about Jambojet stranding passengers from Ukunda who were destined for their international flight connections in Nairobi. A clearer picture began to emerge today as passenger feedback also started to appear on the airline’s Facebook page and broadly spread across social media via Facebook and Twitter.

There has been no comment from the airline.

Suggestions have been made to this correspondent that the rushed launch of three additional destinations at the Kenya coast – Lamu, Malindi, and Ukunda – perhaps may have been too much to integrate into the airline’s existing operations, which were already afflicted by delays and customer complaints in recent weeks.

An added component in the present hullabaloo appears to be the use of just one Bombardier Q400NextGen aircraft to serve not only the coast destinations but also being used on the Eldoret/Kisumu route. According to sources, Jambojet intends to use the turboprop on that route when bookings for the Boeing B737 are light, but then of course adding stress on the rotations to the coast.

It is also still to be explained why pictures obtained from the maiden flight celebration in Ukunda showed what appears to be a Dash8-100 aircraft, perplexing at least some of the more apt observers who had expected the liveried Q400 to make an appearance.

Longtime residents from Ukunda continued to file their complaints, three more of which were selected for publication here to show the strength of sentiment by those affected, and also demonstrating that none of them received any kind of acceptable response at the time of uploading the article:

START TEXT:

Am a frequent traveler of Jambojet a Diani resident and I was very happy to hear the good news when they introduced their new route to Ukunda until today after I booked my moms flight from Ukunda to nairobi ,then nairobi kisumu . After I spoke to several people in call centre namely Florence,Christine,Loren and finally mr. Erick okeyo the supervisor. My mom came to Diani for her regular medical check-up after she had a heart attack which lead to her regular travels to Mombasa on a monthly basis. I did an online checking on your web for seat no. 4D from Ukunda to nairobi at the same time I checked her in online for kisumu to avoid lateness upon arrival to my surprise they left her yet their flight left late from Ukunda which lead to her delay as am writing this no solution was offered to me and my mom of 67yrs is left to sleep on the metallic benches till morning that’s when they will have a solution till tomorrow despite of her age shame on you Jambo Jet you have lost a great client check with your records how frequent I travel with your flights I regret posting good comments and to all my friends I take that back though I had booked my ticket for tomorrow I wish I knew………………

Cheap but useless service.full of delays.shame on jambojet managment.nothing like gd customer service.pilots on go slow.

Thank you for the informations about the flight Nairobi-Ukunda before the Take off on the 29th of March. We didn’t know that we will land in Mombasa and not in Ukunda. 7 hours between Karen (Nairobi) and Diani Beach. The delay was because the staff was searching a laptop in the plane coming from Lamu??? One passenger can create a huge problem like that? What is now the compensation for the passengers? We are just waiting for the comments of the company about this incident. Thank you for your prompt answer.

END TEXT

The only response seen from the airline was in response to one of the comments posted and shared with this correspondent and reads as follows:

START TEXT:

The flight to Ukunda was delayed in Nairobi and wasn’t able to make it to Ukunda airstrip during daytime. As you know, the Ukunda Airstrip runway has no lights so the flight diverted to Moi International.

The flight from Mombasa had also delayed so there was confusion on the ground as to what was going on when the Ukunda – Nairobi passengers boarded the flight and left the Mombasa – Nairobi passengers there.

Our staff on the ground had challenges explaining what was happening and we apologise for that.

We have streamlined our communication and from today henceforth we have 24hr manned disruptions desk whereby communication will be pushed out to all affected passengers in real time.

Again our sincere apologies for this delay, we trust that we can count on your partnership and continued support by flying with us again in the near future when an opportunity arises.

END TEXT

It is not, however, that the airline’s troubles ended there with passengers from and to Ukunda filing complaints.

Others traveling out of Mombasa’s Moi International Airport also found themselves delayed as their evening flight with a B737-300 arrived hours late. The comment shown below by Ms. Rosemary Mugambi, Director of Sales and Marketing of Serena Hotels, narrates how chaos broke out which was in the end only contained by armed police. She filed her comments at 0421 hours after eventually reaching home in Nairobi following a business related trip to the coast while another passenger’s observations, apparently on the flight which delayed to leave Nairobi for Mombasa are also reproduced below:

START TEXT

Today at 4:21 am

Jambo jet- Low cost, no frills airline ? The experience I have had at Mombasa airport has left me asking whether no frills and low cost also means no customer care ? I am so puzzled by this I can’t even sleep despite finally getting to Nairobi after 1am this morning, when I should have gotten to Nairobi at 9.15 pm yesterday as per my ticket purchased from Jambojet. When did I learn of the changes with My flight? An announcement a few minutes to 8 that the 8.15 flight departure would be delayed, to 8.45pm. We finally boarded at 12.18am. In between the drama that unfolded was of soap opera proportions ,just not funny at all. I don’t recall any other announcement after that, but I could be excused if I didn’t hear any announcement over the commotion that lasted for quite a while as angry passengers vented. Perhaps there was, but then why would we be screaming at the Jambojet staff for explanations? The screen did show flight information regarding my flight – firstly – delayed, then cancelled, then delayed to 12.15am. Ever wondered what you are supposed to do when you see your flight is cancelled and you don’t know why ? The shouting and venting was partly as a result of this information , it said little as to why the delay, cancellation. And it didn’t help that the Mombasa passengers didn’t know anything about the Ukunda flight problems – no one thought it important to explain that there were transit passengers who obviously were more inconvienced than us, who needed to get on the earliest flight to Nairobi. The Mombasa passengers saw other passengers being pushed through and immediately tempers flew. I felt sorry, terribly sorry for the staff- to be surrounded by angry passengers demanding explanations, accusing Jambojet of mistreatment, racism etc. terrible. But what crisis management guidelines were they following? Surely they did not need to go through that if the situation would have been handled a little , well, a lot better than it was, right from the begining,when Jambojet knew there was a problem – Ukunda flight, transit passengers, delayed flights -a plan of action to handle the situation. I am not saying there was no plan in place, just that the way things turned chaotic it seemed like there was no plan. Or the plan didn’t include showing paying customers that they matter. Perhaps. That s how I felt anyway. Especially when armed cops called to restrain angry passengers from pushing open the departure doors made me feel like I was wrong to ask questions. I think we were perfectly within our rights to ask and if people became passionate and excited, it is only because Jambojet did not handle things properly from the beginning. A bad experience

15 hours

Jambo jet. This airline has poorest services. Flight no 8608 from nairobi to mombasa which supposed to depart at 6.30pm has not yet departed upto 8.20pm and dont know when it will depart. Jambo jet does not care for sick people. A woman sitting on a wheel chair since 4.30pm asking for a water which they dont seem attend. Their staff too ignorant to attend the old lady.

Jambo jet is this the hospitality you give to your customers.

END TEXT

Considering that this correspondent gave extensive positive exposure in recent days to Jambojet, this should be sufficient to dispel any potential claims of bias or ill will against the airline, but in cases like this, especially when aggravated as happened over the past days, the truth must be told. Those responsible in running the airline must take a hard look at their staff training, their response procedures, their intervention measures when something goes wrong – and my oh my did things go wrong of late – and their corporate communications team dealing with customer complaints, or as was the case here, did NOT deal with them in any satisfactory manner.

Of course, we all want Jambojet to succeed, because Kenya does need a decent low-cost airline, but hard work is clearly needed to give Kenyans not just acceptable service levels but also reliability and punctuality.

Source: Prof. Wolfgang H. Thome, Ph.D., eTN Africa Correspondent

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