The Flight Attendant’s Guide To Customer Service

Photo, circa 1970: My grandma Helen traveling from Pittsburgh to San Francisco for the holiday season to visit her only grand-daughters. This was when air travel was at its customer service best. Mainly because passengers were a little less demanding.

And life moved a little slower.

As a young girl, I loved going to the airport to pick up my grandma. There was electricity in the air, and as I watched the hustle and bustle of travelers racing to and fro, I knew somewhere deep down, this would be my destiny.

Fortuitously, nearly 20 years later, my career foray began at the tender age of 19 when I became a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines.

Flight attendants are the last line of defense with the ability to change a bad service experience into a positive one for passengers. I watched many a passenger charge on-board, upset over one issue or another, and after carefully assessing them, and doing my best to listen to their needs, while continuing to provide top-notch service, they would leave our air bubble – more calm, with faith restored in our brand.

At least, that was my hope.

Honestly, a job in the travel industry was the best customer service training ground possible. Passengers can’t leave once they are on board, so you have little options but try to make the best of your time together.

After racking up a few million miles, these are the tips I gleaned on how to provide excellent customer service,  flight attendant style. And they are effective skills that will work for all facets, whether you are a waitress in the sky, or a dog walker, or an ice-cream scooper at the local Dairy Queen, it all comes down to a few, simple tips.

#1 – First and foremost, don’t take anything personally

When Miss Shops-A-Lot rages on-board and demands that you fit her two-ton, over-sized gargantuan bag into the itty-bitty overhead compartment, announcing loudly, “The last time I flew, YOU lost my bag, so I am NOT checking it.” The key is to not take it personally.

She doesn’t literally blame you for her bag getting lost. You are simply part of the “process” that lost her bag. And since you are the one standing in front of her, she’ll take it out on you.  Be prepared.

#2 – The Customer is ALWAYS Right

Understand, this isn’t always easy to take, but we all know, above and beyond, whether we like it or agree with it, the mantra remains, “The Customer is Always Right.”

Smile, Agree, Smile, Agree.

Even if your passengers aren’t willing to smile or agree back.

After all, smiles are free.

#3 – Find out what your passengers want – then deliver it

When dealing with a frustrated passenger, simply ask them, “What can I do for you?” Then, LISTEN to their answer.
Many times, a simple, “I am so sorry that happened to you,” or “I am so sorry you had a bad experience with our company” will suffice. The key is, the apology must be sincere. People usually just want to vent their frustration, and to feel as they are heard and understood.

#4 – Refrain from “this isn’t my cabin” line

My biggest customer service pet peeve is when I hear, “that’s not my department.” Passengers see a uniform and are inclined to believe  they can get help.
Whether you are serving them a drink on-board, or walking through the terminal, you represent the company logo you are wearing – so act like it!

#5 – Remember to say thank you and ask for future business

Ask yourself, “What impression am I leaving with my passengers?”

Thank them for flying with you (or shopping with you, or recommending your company). They are your bread and butter, regardless of industry. Most importantly, it’s because of them that you have a job.

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. And, be sure they know what you want from them – their future business. If you don’t ask, they won’t know.

Do you have a particular customer service story to share? I’d love to hear about it.

Send me an email, or leave a note in the comments section.

Bu-Bye. Thanks for visiting An Authentic Life. Come back soon. And often.


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5 thoughts on “The Flight Attendant’s Guide To Customer Service”

  1. I love hearing stories from former flight attendants! My sister flew with TWA back in ’89 for a couple years as well and has great stories and experiences from her time, too. Love reading your blog!

    1. Thank you Kimberly!
      And glad to see you on the blog!
      I have a soft spot for good ol’ TWA, and miss it.

      Stop by and visit again soon.

  2. Trans World Airlines? Based in New York?? What years? You may have flown with my sister. A number of friends who were flight attendants for TWA … it was a good airline ….

    1. Yes, yes and 1986-1989. It was awesome. Some of the best times of my life.
      What was your sister’s name?

      I was Katie Lutsovich then.
      I loved those days.
      Thanks for visiting AAL!

      Would love to see you here again!

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