Iain Robertson flying from Johannesburg to Durban
I travel each week between Johannesburg and Durban. Downhill on Friday, uphill on Monday. In recent months Kulula have been the cheaper (more accurately, least expensive) of the three budget carriers, and with flights at convenient times on Friday and Monday have been my carrier of choice. When my current cycle of flights is complete, I will never fly with them again.
The most recent flights have been an example of hope over experience, since every Friday evening their early evening flights are at least one hour late in taking off. As a result, I spend hours in the warm clammy embrace of Oliver Tambo airport rather than with family and friends in Durban. I cannot make plans for supper, entertainment, anything because of the certainty that I will be late.
Monday, while slightly more reliable is dependent on the timely arrival of the incoming aircraft from Johannesburg at 7.35am, and the ability to disembark passengers and make the aircraft ready for boarding at 7.40am. This is obviously not feasible and the seeds of delay are sown early on for reaping later in the day. The current record I have suffered is for the 8.10am flight to leave at 2.15pm.
Why is this? Quite simple. Like the country - underinvestment in basic infrastructure, support services, systems and people. Coupled with a belief that customers don’t really matter. The wrong people are in the wrong places planning the wrong things badly or not at all. Kulula seem not to have any standby planes or crew, or seemingly any ability to replan on the hoof. One minor glitch early on, and things snowball out of control for the rest of the day.
As an example, last Thursday night they tell us there was a cable theft near their offices. This meant that on Friday their operational systems at all the SA airports weren’t working and passengers needed to be checked in and boarded manually. This led to a three hour delay on Friday evening at ORT.
Cable theft is endemic in SA, and it is a racing certainty that you will lose yours at some point, usually at the worst possible time. I am not an expert on Business Continuity, but it seems pretty obvious to me that any competent Business Continuity Plan will make provision for at least two independent links between airports and their key operational systems in case one link fails for whatever reason. See Business Continuity 101, or IT Disaster Planning for Dummies Page 1.
It does however cost money, which is where I expect inside Kulula the concept hits the rocks and capsizes like an Italian liner. Much better to have their passengers festering in airports than actually spending money.
I hope that the CEO is having a long and vigorous discussion with the CIO about why a situation was allowed to persist where there are no adequate disaster planning arrangements for their critical operational business systems. I would expect that discussion to conclude that he/she should be fired. And in view of my forced incarceration at ORT every recent Friday, preferably from a wide-bore cannon.
I also fervently hope that someone with a greater appreciation of the virtues of forward planning and business continuity is in charge of aircraft maintenance.
Kulula no more. I do wish it was you in Business Rescue, not 1Time.