One Flight, Two Departure Times at Rodrigues

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In no less than two passengers’ air tickets the time of departure from Plaine Corail Airport for flight MK 145 on Wednesday 26 July 2017 read as 20h20. On another traveler’s ticket it was 21h15. Which is which?

Just after winning two distinctions at the World Travel Awards – Indian Ocean 2017, the Officer-in-charge of Air Mauritius had stated: “We are pleased that Air Mauritius has consistently been ranked among the leading airlines in the region for the past 12 years. We are constantly striving to improve our products and services”.

Ranking among the leading airlines in the region is a matter of great prestige. There’s every reason to be proud of such achievement. It’s a good signal to be “constantly striving to improve our products and services”. But has the airline management given a thought to improving the services on the Rodrigues trips?

Last week we reported on the type of meal served on board. This is not the only issue. If there’s one issue that needs urgent attention, it’s communication with passengers. How often have you arrived at the airport within the prescribed time only to learn from the bill board that the flight has been delayed, and you have to wait for longer periods of time before you can check-in. Worse still, at times you may have different departure times for the same flight, as was the case on Wednesday 26 July 2017 for the flight MK 145.

Two passengers who had bought their tickets from a travel agent in Port Louis were supposed to depart from Plaine Corail airport at 20h20 on their way back to mainland. Once at the airport the live screen projecting the flight details mentioned the time of departure as 21h15 with the remark “on time”. Another passenger travelling by the same flight had his ticket bearing a departure time at 21h15. Which is which?

Information gathered from the Air Mauritius counter at Plaine Corail, confirmed there was no delay whatsoever and the flight was on time as “scheduled”. Well, what was the real scheduled time?  As intriguing as it was the airline officer at the counter couldn’t clarify this ambiguity. Is it the airline’s fault or the travel agent’s?

How is it that for the same flight there are two departure times? There’s a hypothesis. It would appear that the flight was initially scheduled for 20h20 which was then amended in due course to 21h15. Fair enough. If they may, for whatever reasons, have to differ the time, don’t they have a duty to inform the passengers concerned beforehand? Is it not for this reason that they record your phone number at the time of booking? It has not been possible to ascertain the exact scenario.

Flight delays and ambiguous departure times, being a common feature, give rise to a number of complications to travelers: long waiting time at the airport, pick up problems at the destination (where they may have to struggle to differ pick up arrangements or in some cases pay extra waiting time for taxi), and moral and physical fatigue, especially if it’s a night flight. Ironically passengers are not compensated for delays as opposed to the penalty ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 700 charged if ever they miss a flight due to their own fault for lateness.

Awards enhance credibility and trust. If issues like this are allowed to grow over time they may become big enough to provoke a crash of the hard-earned distinctions. Airline operators can’t afford to be complacent.