I fly a lot on a lot of different air carriers around the world. Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot about Air Canada, and how good their customer service is relative to their competitors. Just a couple of months ago I wrote about a particularly amazing flight attendant, who personified great service.
My last two experiences, however, have definitely not been up to standard. The first was a week ago on a flight to Hong Kong (business class), and the second on the flight home (economy). The experiences were similarly disappointing.
They both began with the moment I walked on the plane. No smile, no ‘welcome aboard’ – nothing. They were intent on processing their passengers, and any sense of warmth or interest in passengers was conspicuously absent. They simply looked at the tickets, muttered “19D” and waved their hands in the direction of the seats.
How much extra time or effort would it have taken to just look up, make eye contact, smile and say “welcome aboard?” Too much, apparently. More than one passenger commented that “they don’t look very happy.” It didn’t get any better over the next 14 hours, with the only respite from the dispassionate flight attendants being one who donned a Santa hat for effect. She still didn’t smile much, but in comparison to the rest of them, she was welcome relief.
They all should have known better. None of them were rookies – some of them I would wager were older than me. But maybe that’s the problem. One has to wonder how many of them were just bored with the whole routine, waiting for retirement, and didn’t really care any more about being cheerful and pleasant.
At the risk of being politically incorrect, the job of a flight attendant is a young person’s game. It’s a tough gig, and requires a lot of positive energy to do it well. Now, it’s not that I haven’t seen cheerful and friendly folks who are north of 40, but they seem to be the exception, not the norm.
These long-haul flights are tough on passengers, and the demeanour of the staff plays a huge role in the experience. While the in-flight entertainment system serves as a great distraction and makes the flight more bearable, it can’t replace the personal touch of an individual who genuinely cares that you’re there.
To the cabin crews of Air Canada: You can do better than this – I know because I’ve seen it.
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