Air Travel Survival
There’s been a lot of recent news coverage surrounding bad attitudes at the airport: flight attendants getting confrontational, gate agents having mental meltdowns, ticket agents who won’t move a finger for you. It seems that airline employees are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. Is anyone really that shocked?
Changes in Airline Personnel
Airline employees have been dragged around quite a bit in recently. Management has leveraged their unions, reduced the zeros in their paychecks, cut their pensions, rearranged work protocol, slashed personnel and even hidden behind bankruptcy protection. Yet airlines have found a way to bathe CEOs and top brass in bonuses. Just pay close attention at LAX or JFK airport during the peak flight hours. You’ll find employees performing the functions of their jobs, but their spirit is broken.
It’s not that there aren’t any compassionate or competent airline employees around anymore, but they are few and far between. Chances are, the next time you fly, you’ll find one out of every three employees in a crabby mood or with a less than shining attitude. I wouldn’t accept it, but I can empathize with it and I understand the traveler’s pain as well.
Here are a few tips for dealing with airline employees with bad attitudes:
- Approach Cautiously: If the first thing to come out of your mouth is something to the effect of, “Could this airline mess up my trip anymore?” you are probably not going to get the most stellar service.
- Situational Awareness: Take a second to empathize with what the employee is experiencing at the time you approach her. Are they getting berated by another passenger? Is there a delay that is beyond their control? Is the airline clearly understaffed for this Particular flight? Give them a modicum of understanding. More understanding is really what the world needs now.
- Hands Off: You might mean it as a simple gesture to get the agent’s attention, but nobody likes getting groped or poked by a stranger, and most will take it the wrong way.
- Keep Your Voice Down: The easiest way to get a poor response is to shout at an airline employee. They will instantly put their guard up, and many of them will refuse you any further help or service
- Tone Down Your Language: The minute you start with any obscenities your cause is lost. What is guaranteed to happened is that the agent will shut down in a very calm manner and then refuse any further help. The other scenario will have them dishing it right back at you-and then refusing any further service.
- Kill Them With Kindness: If you are exceedingly nice to a rude person, sometimes you can disarm them-even improve their attitude. Besides, lowering yourself to their level of crassness is beneath you right?
- Be Selective: If you see that one employee seems grumpier than the others, go to the more agreeable one. Why set yourself up for an uncomfortable situation?
- Get a witness: If you are subject to extremely abusive behavior, ask someone who witnessed it to back up your story. Get a brief statement in writing if you can, along with a signature.
- Remain Calm: In a calm, metered tone ask nicely to speak with a supervisor, manager or a higher up. Nine times out of ten that will bring swift results and end the abuse. Whatever you do, don’t make a scene at the airport.
- Taking Formal Action: If you plan to file a formal complaint, get the agents name and employee number, along with the contact info of any witnesses. Draft a letter of complaint and reread it before you print it-time provides great perspective. Be detailed in your letter. If the airline gets a high number of complaint letters, sanctions will be taken against the employee.
Airline employees have had a rough time as of late and are less resilient to abuse than before. Honestly, the majority of complaints most business travelers share with me have very little to do with the actual airline employees; Delays, foul weather and smelly seat mates are often beyond their control. During the course of your travels, practicing a bit of smart empathy may eventually get you where you need to go that much smoother.
Special thanks: James Wysong