Thai Airways will discipline two staff members over the first class seating controversy last week that deeply embarrassed the Thai flag carrier.
In a statement quoted in the Bangkok Post, Thai Airways President Sumeth Damrongchaitham said:
It was found and concluded that the TG971 pilot and Thai Zurich station manager performed their duties accordingly but failed to exercise good judgement in meeting the company’s mission and ethics of providing of providing passengers with the best possible air transportation experience.
They failed to coordinate with each other to resolve the problem regarding passive crew seating, and this resulted in the flight delay that impacted adversely on passengers and the company’s reputation.
So let me get this straight: they “performed their duties accordingly” but failed to meet a broader, somewhat murky, standard of protecting passengers and Thai’s reputation? That seems to be a moving target.
I want to reassure our passengers and customers that at Thai, safety and customer satisfaction are our top priority. We shall take corrective action, create better alignment and efficiency with a stronger customer-centric approach to prevent any recurrence of this kind of incident and make Thai the pride of Thailand again.
When I wrote about this issue last week, I took a rather even-handed approach in my analysis. On the one hand, I empathize with Thai Airways: what an embarrassing delay and one that seems rather petty considering the off-duty crew members were offered business class seats. On the other hand, labor contracts represent a hard-fought compromise and it appears the off-duty pilots were contractually entitled to those first class seats.
I don’t think the latest statements from Thai Airways help the matter. In fact, I think it will further exacerbate fragile labor tensions and not lead to a constructive outcome. And realistically, what kind of discipline will the captain and Zurich station manager actually recieve? A downgrade to business class?
image: Masakatsu Ukon / Flickr