Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Things that we should not learn from airlines

The Event

Recently (Feb 2015) I was waiting at Stockholm to board BA781. It was scheduled to depart at 1850. The departure monitor showed a delayed expected departure time of 2010. Naturally, I was anxious and annoyed. I changed my arrangements in UK to suit a delayed arrival.

I then checked London Heathrow Terminal 5 arrival board which said the flight was on time (in contradiction to the Stockholm departure board). I then checked BA's website which also showed that the flight was on time.

Now my hopes raised slightly. Suddenly Stockholm departure board showed a new departure time reducing the delay and a little later the board at Stockholm stated that the flight will depart on time. We were allowed to board at the originally scheduled departure time without any delays.

I boarded the flight and then cancelled my changed arrangements in UK.

Once we were settled in our seats and the doors were locked the captain made an announcement.
The captain said that there was some equipment which was faulty. Replacement equipment was arriving soon by the next BA flight from London. The new equipment will be fitted in by the engineer and only then we will leave. There will be a delay expected to be around 50 minutes or so.

All these happened and the aircraft finally took off at about 1945 hours.

Of course the reasons were explained (apparently there was only one aerobridge for that kind of aircraft), BA staff were polite and courteous.

The Issues

However, the above episode means

That BA had information about the issue before asking customers to board the flight.
They withheld information from their customers before the customers boarded the flight.
The announcement on the ‘departure’ board about the flight time was wrong, deliberately wrong.
Customers were invited to board the aircraft under what seems like a false premise of a departure Customers had no say or choice in the situation, we were blissfully unaware.

I wonder if the event would have technically qualified to be counted as wrongful restraint or false imprisonment in case someone wanted to leave the aircraft or press charges.

That statement could have shocked you. But, just think about it, change the scenario away from an aircraft to another location. Just because it was air transport by private companies we are attuned to accepting many things to the point that we are no longer shocked by whatever they do. Never mind shocked, we are often not even mildly annoyed at the concept of locking you in a plane when they know it will not take off and fully accept their justification for doing so.

It also meant that I had to make yet more changes to my arrangements in UK.

At this point let me reiterate that it is not just BA, they happen to be the illustration for this blog because I personally experienced this. Every airline company does this, every airport does this, they are probably even allowed to do all these. I have already stated that the pilot and cabin crew were polite, it is not the staff behaviour that I am complaining about. It is about the underlying core attitudes which airlines do and perhaps allowed to do.

What NOT to learn

We in healthcare are asked to learn from airlines, especially scheduled airlines. In healthcare we are asked to co-create with patients. In health care we are patient centric and are asked to be even more patient centric, quite rightly.

If a doctor or nurse or other healthcare professional staff deliberately with held information from  or provided false information to patients, for the doctor's convenience or her organisations convenience that doctor, nurse or healthcare staff is at the risk of being investigated and reprimanded.

For pilots and airlines there seem to be no such issues.

Stop asking health care to learn from pilots and airlines as though it was a one-way street, especially about customer centeredness. In airlines it is often take it or leave it presented in a way that misleads you to thinking you have real choices.

In health care patient (customer) autonomy is a core value. There are numerous other fundamental values around honesty, choice, candour and others. These are at the risk of being changed so that the presentation of these values to the patient on how good  these look, feel or sound  rather than how good the values themselves are. If healthcare was persistent on this learning from commerce, we could one day convince the patients that the presentation was more important than the value being presented. We in healthcare will be lesser that day.

It is important to constantly look for what not to learn and make sure we do not learn it.


Follow me on twitter @HemadriTweets

I have already blogged on learning (or not) from airlines, they can be found by clicking the following links:
Healthcare is not similar to aviation but lessons can be learned
Scheduled airlines are safe, just like outpatient clinics
Blondes, pilots and doctors: Who should learn from whom?

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