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06 October 2012

What tough people are made of.....

Joby is one tough cookie.

Joby works as the Duty Manager for Kingfisher Airlines in Bangalore Airport. The airline is going through some tough times with the owner having piled up mountains of debt. With the airline virtually in doldrums, there are multiple instances when the airline cancels the flights.

I was involved in one such cancellation (hopefully my only one).

I had booked by this airline to travel from Bangalore to Mumbai on Monday, 1st October. On Sunday morning, the airline informed me that they have cancelled the Monday flight and they moved me to the flight leaving Bangalore at 7.20 PM.

Even though my Sunday was spoiled, I accepted the offer since I had to go to office on Monday.

At Bangalore airport, the airline first postponed the departure time to 8.20, and then to 8.50 and finally cancelled the flight. The reason for  cancellation was that the engineers, whose job was to make the aircraft ready for departure, stuck work since they had not been paid salary for the last 4 months.

All hell broke loose. Joby being the duty manager was the face of the airline at the airport and had to handle the volatile passengers. 

There were Delhi passengers, there were Mumbai passengers and there were Chennai passengers all having booked the tickets by this airline. Every one needed to reach their destination since they had to attend offices next day. All the irate passengers vented their frustration on Joby.

There was one passenger in particular, who was almost overtly aggressive and used very bad and filthy language on Joby. The other passengers were guilty of the same crime by association. 

All the passengers were having only one demand. The airline put them up in any other airline at no extra cost. Or, Kingfisher arrange another aircraft to take them to their destination.

Among all this aggression, Joby stood very calm and composed. He did not give in to the pressures. No, I cannot get another plane for you, he told some passengers. I can try to put you up in another airline going to the same destination. I will try to see if Kingfisher can pay the difference, but I can't promise.

The passengers piled on the pressure, but Joby was graceful, respectful and dignified. His implicit message was simple. I will try my best to help you, but I do not own the airline. 

There was an Indigo (another airline) flight to Mumbai. Joby tried to put us up in that airline. But that airline demanded cash payment from Kingfisher. Joby tried to arrange the cash. But he had a directive from his boss, no cash payment.

Indigo refused credit to Kingfisher. 

This refusal was blunt and in front of all the passengers. I, who was an observer, felt humiliated when I saw this blunt refusal. If Joby felt embarrassed, he did well to hide his feelings.

I also observed that for a long time, none of the Kingfisher colleagues was there to help Joby. He was single-handedly facing the anger, desperation and boorishness of the passengers with grace and dignity, at the same time never giving in to the pressure exerted by the passengers.

You were awesome, Joby. You were let down by your management and the owners. But the attitude you displayed was highly commendable.

I don't wish even my enemies to undergo the kind of experience that Joby went through. But, if they do, I want them to be as strong, graceful and dignified as he was.

Joby, you are a tough cookie. World need more of you.

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