Excuse me – I’m an asshole

I’ve spent a lot of time on planes lately. I thanked an air hostess for good service during a flight and she stopped and we had a talk about customer service. She shared that hostesses are frequently abused by customers for things clearly outside their control.

Because most people feel the need to bring a suitcase as hand luggage, as well as a duffle coat, a pillow and handbag, overhead storage space quickly fills. One passenger’s hand luggage needed to be stowed five seats behind his, and he rounded on the air hostess. What did he hope to achieve by doing that?

The air hostess told me she had another customer fly into a rage at her when the pilot announced that they’d been put into a holding pattern by air traffic control. Normally she’d just wear it. On this occasion she said ‘I’m terribly sorry sir. I’ve been doing lots of overtime and I’ve nearly saved up enough money for the new runway’. At least this passenger had the good grace to apologise.

Here’s my suggested addition to the passenger flight briefing:

We try really hard to give you a perfect travel experience in a confined space. What we notice is that sometimes, when things don’t go perfectly, some people are generous and understanding of that. We’d just like to thank those people for their enlightened attitudes.

People are very quick to complain about low standards of customer service, but they almost never thank people for good service (e.g. most people exiting an aircraft walk past the cabin crew stony-faced). They almost never write constructive suggestions to management after the fact. When they do complain, they almost always do it to the person at the coal face. Coincidentally, that’s a person who has low status in the organisation and a limited ability to respond. In most contexts, you’d call that bullying.

Thanks to the Virgin Australia crew for repeatedly providing excellent and attentive service.

Photo of Virgin America by Albert Domasin


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