Flying…Right Up There With Going to the Dentist…

I began flying the friendly skies 30 years ago this year.  And after all of this flying, I can definitely say for most flights there no longer is such a thing as customer service.  And, the concept of first class really is a joke nowadays—unless you are fortunate enough to be flying on an Asian airline like Singapore airlines, which really still gets it right. 

Interestingly, while most companies are pulling back travel budgets and requiring less in person meetings, I seem to be flying more for my job (much to my husband and 4 year olds’ chagrin) than I ever have.  And, with each flight, I seem to hit a new low when it comes to customer service.   Some of the worst experiences I’ve had include:

  • Getting the worst viral infection I have had in my life while in Egypt and the flight attendant refusing to give me extra water during the almost 6 hour flight from France to NYC
  • Having to wait 3 hours on the tarmac after a 6 hour flight because there was no gate available for us—because all outgoing flights had been stopped
  • Having no time between flights to stop and get food on a 9 hour flight and having the food you can buy on the plane run out a few rows ahead of me—and I was not in the back of the plane!
  • Missing my connecting flight in San Francisco by about 3 minutes due to bad weather in a state I wasn’t even flying over when I was 6 months pregnant. I had no clothes, no toothbrush or anything and I had to pay for my own hotel room!
  • Having no hot nuts or hot cookie when I was fortunate enough to fly in first class—okay this sounds quite snobbish, but at this point the only thing you really get in first class any more is hot nuts and a hot cookie.

After all these bad experiences, the article “To a United Pilot, the Friendly Skies are a Point of Pride” was a real opener to me.  I couldn’t image someone, a pilot nonetheless, would take it upon himself to provide the excellent customer experience for his employer.  Could you imagine if just 10% of employees took this much pride and care in serving their customers?  What a revolution!  With all the airlines cutting back their flights and cutting the pay and hours of their workforce, I can’t imagine that this customer engagement phenomenon will spread to other pilots and flight attendants.  Oh but what a wonderful world if it did!

So at the end of the day, what did this pilot really do?  He treated his passengers like he would himself want to be treated…with dignity, grace and a whole lot of fun.  After reading this article, it made me want to try United again (they were the pregnant story above carrier).  Will I do it?  Who knows, but maybe just maybe, I will remember this story as I select the carrier for my next trip, which is undoubtedly coming soon.


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