The year is 1979, which for the aviation world and Yugoslav Airlines itself was far from smooth. The aviation industry had just begun to recover from the global oil shock. JAT, like all DC10 operators, was forced to ground its newly arrived DC10s due to the crash of American Airlines flight 191. This threw the airline’s long haul services into disarray. The airline also feared that passenger numbers would decline by the end of the year, especially on domestic services. However, JAT did manage to post record passenger figures by the end of the year, reintroduce the DC10s and was still riding on some major successes from 1978 including the famous birth of Jugoslav “Jatko” Todev on a flight from Belgrade to Sydney, which brought worldwide media attention for the airline and the introduction of the most modern booking system. 1979 was also the year before JAT underwent mass expansion, service and fleet improvement.
The following news item was published in 1979 at the beginning of that year’s summer season. It was published in the 141st edition of JAT’s “Newspaper of labour organisation”. The following is the transcript of the news article:
Responsibility fails test
Approximately 10 days ago, Gradimir Mičić, vice president of JAT’s labour board had many reasons to be unhappy and angry. With a few colleagues from the management board (and the author of this article), in the early morning hours, he commenced an ad hock “inspection” of JAT’s aircraft. It is the first of its kind at the airline (and let’s hope, not the last). He found out something that all of us at Yugoslav Airlines knew and something passengers have warned us about. The interior look and cleanliness of our aircraft, prepared for morning departures, as well as customer service cannot be commended and are not up to standard for a world renowned company like JAT.
We must introduce rigorous checks on our aircraft and hold accountable all those that have failed to provide the highest standard of service on our aircraft. This has been agreed at the latest meeting of the airline’s management board. This situation must be resolved as soon as possible so JAT can become a leader in customer service and the nice look of its cabins rather than just the operation of modern aircraft which keeps us at the top of world standards today. So what is this all about? The night before the inspection at 23.59, a Boeing B707 was schedule to depart to America. However, due to technical problems the flight’s departure time was delayed until 07.00, with passengers accommodated in Hotel Yugoslavia. From our technical division we were told the aircraft would be ready to depart in the morning. At 6.00 we found the B707 in front of the hanger without mechanics or anyone working on the aircraft. Offcourse, the plane did not depart on time. Passengers were brought to the airport at 06.00 (woke up at 05.00) without any need. Work began at 07.00 and the aircraft departed at 11.00. We can only imagine the dissatisfaction of our passengers. Another example would be a domestic DC9 flight which was to depart at 06.30. At 06.07 the mechanics arrived to do regular pre-take off checks and catering was loaded on the aircraft at 06.13. The pilot turned on the engines at 06.20. We believe that the technicians and the catering should have arrived at least half an hour earlier. Why they didn’t – we don’t know. A third example would be a flight arriving from the Middle East early in the morning. The technical report the cabin crew had to fill in was not done regularly throughout the flight and worst still it was soaked in coffee. We also found that on the DC9, registered JY-AKF (leased from Jersey European Aiways), the refrigerator was not working which means that drinks were not served cold and there was no ice.
We must improve the situation immediately as we face strong competition. We cannot allow articles titled “Fly JAT if you have nothing better to do”, which appeared in a Belgrade newspaper, to ruin our image. We will act at once.
NEXT WEEK: World first – artworks auctioned over the Atlantic on JAT.