November 28, 2010 in Business

Flying the friendly skies requires patience, sanity

Jan Quintrall
 

I’ve always said I would never be a homebuilder for all the money in the world, as people are just too hard to satisfy and expectations are way out of line. Some of my most outrageous customer stories come from the construction industry, but my experiences in the last 10 days have moved a couple of other professions to the top of my list: airline industry staff and hospital nurses.

Recent extensive air travel as well as having a family member in the hospital have given me the opportunity to watch customer interactions in both these areas. It was not a pretty sight. This week, I will concentrate on air travel and next time I will write about nurses.

Now, I know there are no shortages of service failures in all aspects of air travel these days, but the way some customers treat those they’re paying to keep them safe must make it really hard for staff to be nice. Seldom am I more driven to leap to the defense of some service provider than I have been lately when I’ve flown.

Tips for travelers:

• Educate yourself on the latest rules about items you can and can’t bring on a plane and in what sizes.

• No, you can’t carry on three assorted bags and then expect to stuff them all in the overhead. If they stick out, that door won’t close, delaying takeoff.

• The announcement to turn off your cell phones and electronic devices or put your seat back / tray table up actually applies to all passengers, even you.

• If a snowstorm closes the airport in Minneapolis, yelling at the ticket agent will not melt the snow and miraculously open the airport.

• If you arrived late and they gave your seat away, it is your fault, not everyone else’s.

• Yes, you need to take your shoes off for screening, so wearing boots that lace up to the knees is probably not the best idea.

• When you flip open your laptop, remember that the person seated next to you can see what you see, and sometimes that is not a good experience.

• Flight attendants are professionals intended to serve all the passengers; they are not your personal servants, and you are not the only one on the plane.

Nor are you the only one on the planet. Boarding and unloading would go so much more smoothly if only passengers were aware of other human beings. My favorites are the ones who stand in the aisle, sorting through a bag headed to the overhead bin, removing all the stuff they want to stick in the seat pocket, preventing everyone else from moving ahead. The other ones who amaze me are those who stop at the top of the jetway to get themselves organized in such a manner that nobody can get past them as everyone tries to get off the plane and make connections.

When faced with a repeatedly delayed flight, everyone gets a bit testy and stressed that they will not make connections as planned. But that stress is shared by all the passengers and often the whole crew. Your situation is no more important than anyone else’s, nor is it the single focus of the attendant. They can’t make the plane go faster or change the weather, so your complaining about it won’t help. And honestly, the rest of us do not care to hear your problems. Sorry.

Airplanes are very confined spaces, and we all need to respect the space of those around us. Don’t spill over into my space with your body, your music, the pornography on your laptop, your excessive drinking, your complaining, or your body odor.

If you plan to travel this holiday season, be prepared to be inconvenienced or stuck in some airport. Keep the important stuff in your carry-on so you have those necessary things if you do end up sleeping in Denver International Airport. Bring patience and know what you need to do before you go.

If you have a critical deadline, give yourself some extra time in case weather or other problems change your itinerary. Like most things in life, cutting it too close can be asking for trouble if there is even a small glitch. Building margins into your life will open up options and reduce your stress. Just sit back, smile, take a deep breath and enjoy the adventure. Getting angry seldom works, so why bother?

At the very least, don’t inflict your irritation on the rest of us. We’re trying to manage our own.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at jquintrall@spokane.bbb.org.


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