When did customer service stop flying the friendly skies?

Posted on by in Editorial Musings

First United was dragging passengers off a plane to accommodate a crew shift; and now, less than two weeks later, American has hit a woman in the head with a stroller and a flight attendant has challenged a passenger to a fight. What is happening to the “friendly skies”?

The airlines have been trying to squeeze every thin dime from the passenger for years. Elimination of food, additional fees, fuel surcharges, and smaller seats with more rows became the norm. As passengers, we accepted it and considered it the downside of air travel. What I am guessing the airlines did not anticipate is that their paying passengers are not the only ones crammed into a silver metal tube. Their own employees are starting to feel the results of the pressure.

As I tax my own memory, the following incidents come to mind

  • The flight that was held on the tarmac for 8 hours
  • The flight where the pilot decided to preach the gospel
  • The flight where the flight attendant pulled the slide and checked out
  • The flight (well many) where the captains have been intoxicated and removed
  • The flight where they forcibly dragged a man off the plane
  • The flight where a flight attendant challenged a passenger to a fight

And let’s not even consider the lost baggage, the delayed or canceled flights because of crew fatigue, or the myriad of other non force-majeure issues passengers deal with every day. The message passengers are getting as they board a plane is that the flight crews are there because the government makes them be there.

Airline travel is a service industry like a hotel or a cruise ship. Not all of us are cut out for that—I know I’m not. And we all have bad days. But when we ask for another drink or some assistance, it seems that the request is truly putting off the crewmember—certainly not all, but a good amount.

What the airlines need to do is to mandate that all client-facing employees undergo some sort of basic customer service re-training. It can be online…at will. It does not need to be complex. After all, treating a client courteously is simple—just remember the golden rule.

OK, your move airlines!

 

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