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Indigo Spat: Repeated fiascos will corrode brand value: Experts

12-April-2018
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Indigo Spat: Repeated fiascos will corrode brand value: Experts

Indigo Airlines yet again found itself in choppy waters after it offloaded a passenger from the flight as he complained of mosquitoes. The government has ordered an inquiry after a Bengaluru-based doctor was removed from an IndiGo flight on Monday, after a row which started when he complained about mosquitoes.

According to media reports, Dr Saurabh Rai said the flight was full of mosquitoes and when he complained, he was manhandled by the crew and threatened before being offloaded. "I heard the crew saying, 'If you have a problem with mosquitoes then why don't you leave India?" he said.

The airline on their part said that Rai "attempted to instigate other passengers on board to damage the aircraft, and used words such as hijack".

"Such actions are absolutely unacceptable, and there is zero tolerance for such threatening language on board an aircraft. Hence, keeping in mind applicable safety protocols, the crew apprised the pilot-in-command, who decided to offload Mr Rai from the flight," Indigo said in a statement.

The airline found itself at the receiving end of public uproar over more complaints of mosquitoes as the incident took over Twitter. Earlier too, IndiGo had received flak for another incident of man-handling a passenger. Olympic winner-shuttler, PV Sindhu had also claimed that a crew member had misbehaved with her.

The airline also apologized when a passenger fell off her wheelchair while being assisted by an IndiGo employee at the Lucknow airport in November 2017.

With all these controversies stirring around the insensitivity of the brand, the question which lingers around is with these repeated fiascoes, will the brand image and trust be hampered?

Brand experts who chatted with exchange4media pointed out that the repeated fiascoes are likely to take a toll on the brand image and brand trust. Says an industry source on the condition of anonymity, “It takes a lot of time to build up reputation but just a while for it to be devastated. The airline must keep in mind that while being on time is good, being sensitive is even more important.”

N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA opined that the airline is running on high-performance at a point where nothing else seems to matter. “The airline is efficiently managed, but not empathetically managed,” he says and shares examples of similar spats which were dealt with by other airlines with more grace and stature. “When you do something like this repeatedly, it’s a pattern. It’s important to keep in mind that empathy is the first foundation of trust,” he says.

Manveer Singh Malhi, National Digital Head, iGenero also voiced a similar opinion. "The only reason why it has sustained is because it is a low-cost airline. After these repeated goof-ups, the business and family crowd will prefer travelling from any other airline but not IndiGo," says Malhi as he recounts a bitter experience that he had with the airline when they denied to let him board a flight in spite of him being there 20 minutes prior.

"This incident will definitely hamper the brand image. The brand associations and sales will also witnessed a dip," he adds. 
Interestingly, Saurabh Uboweja, International Brand Expert and CEO Brands of Desire, has a different take."Indigo has grown to emerge as an airline with the largest market share due to sheer prudence and extraordinary brand building abilities. Brands and experiences are designed to serve a certain capacity which becomes limited with time and it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver consistently high experiences with scale. Indigo is in a transition phase right now. The biggest of the brands face this challenge when they become too big. However, some of these incidents also reflect on the level of tolerance of Indian passengers and to be honest, the blame almost inevitably goes to the brand when an issue crops up," he says.

Uboweja believes that in this case, the passenger may have been equally if not more responsible for the situation. "They can avoid similar confrontations in future or maybe handle them better. They would do well to maybe even re-look at slowing down their growth a bit, if it ensures they manage their brand equity better. Systems and processes need to be better calibrated before their next phase of big growth," he advises.

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