Oh Stewardess: I Speak Passenger

5 Tactics flight attendants use to remain calm when a passenger wants to fight.

Maybe you heard or read about passengers’ rioting’ against flight crews at Shanghai Pudong International Airport  (PVG) during the weekend of July 13, 2012. If not, here’s a link to the clip of the mutiny that ensued against the captain when passengers were reportedly stranded in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China,  for 3 days.

Unfortunately, during this busy travel season, with flights filled at 80-to-90 percent capacity with many passengers having to be turned away, tempers are bound to flare when a mechanical failure grounds a plane. Now as you may have seen in the ABC news clip, the plane’s captain came out to speak to the passengers, but in most cases, the captain is safely tucked behind the cockpit door, and a flight attendant has to do the heavy lifting.

A passenger can quickly transform into a combatant soon after s/he becomes dissatisfied with service. Unfortunately, the timing seems to coincide almost at the same time s/he embarks for his/her destination. Usually, the passenger’s frustration has nothing to do with the flight attendant. Still, they are the most visible airline representative, besides the customer service agents, and become the target of the unsatisfied passenger’s frustration. Unfortunately, flight attendants are also the airline reps who are stuffed inside the metal tube with the angry passenger.

– Not only does the passenger’s unruly behavior threaten the flight attendant, but depending on the stage of flight – it could threaten the entire operation if a flight attendant allows an altercation to climb to a threat level where the plane has to divert to an unplanned destination or get escorted by a fighter jet. Therefore, flight attendants diffuse uncomfortable situations by employing five easy tactics to quickly make peace.

Flight Attendants:

1.  – Listen.

The number one reason frustration escalate into anger is the injured party believes no one is listening.

2.  – Ask the customer for his suggestion on how to solve the problem.

“Help me help you, help me to help you…”

3. -Repeat the problem and the proposed solution back to the customer to make sure they’ve heard correctly.

Once the customer hears her/his complaint correctly relayed to him; he knows the flight attendant was listening and heard him.

4. -Will excuse their selves to apprise and then brainstorm with their co-workers/flying partners on how best they can serve the customer.

While it may seem like the flight attendants are talking about the customer they are actually relying on each other’s experience to provide solutions to diffuse the situation.

Read: Two heads even three are better than one in this case and what we call Crew Resource Management is invaluable.

5. -Provide the passenger with tools that will empower him and remedy the situation if possible. 

If the flight attendant doesn’t have the power to satisfy the passenger – she will assure him someone who does have the authority to remedy the situation will meet him once the plane has landed.

If you are in a business that deals directly with the public – you already know your business is built on maintaining successful relationships. While flight attendants are not responsible for winning contracts for the airline – they can easily undo the sales department’s hard work by not nurturing the relationships already developed.

A satisfied customer may or may not become a lifelong customer – but we know for sure an unsatisfied customer will most likely take his business elsewhere.

In the case of the “Shanghai mutiny,” according to an ABC news report, United management agreed to cover expenses incurred during the delay and refund the stranded passengers’ fares. It offered $1000 towards the purchase of the next United flight.