Saturday, April 6, 2013

To See Yourself through the Eyes of Another

What an interesting month April is promising to be! In addition to flying to a city that I've never before visited, I am "deadheading" all month to and from Newark, where the Berlin flight originates. Isn't "deadheading" an interesting word?

Essentially, deadheading is riding as a passenger in order to be positioned to operate a trip. Unlike traveling standby on my own during time off, deadheading is confirmed, positive space. In fact, deadhead (or DH) crew have "must ride" status, meaning that they will displace revenue passengers, if necessary. In certain circumstances, as happened yesterday, a DH crewmember can be "converted" to work the flight if operationally required. But if this happens, the DH crew are converted in REVERSE seniority order, most junior first. For pay purposes, a DH assignment is paid at exactly the same rate as any other work assignment. Although it may seem like a paid "joyride", DH duty carries plenty of restrictions about what a crewmember can and cannot do.

One of the most interesting aspects of DH to me is that I have the opportunity to see myself, my colleagues, my company as others must see us. What a conglomeration of humanity marches, slogs, strides, sometimes stumbles into the cabin of a commercial aircraft! While I don't have insight into the unique perspective that each of them brings onboard, I share with them there bird's eye view of the "face" of my company. And what conclusions do I draw?

1. Terminal & gate area: Modern, efficient-looking, seating a little crowded, not really welcoming or anxiety-relieving.

2. Aircraft (737-800): Modern-looking, CLEAN, seating a little crowded, confined, attractive, professional, safe.

3. Technology & entertainment: Ultra-modern, choices, pricey, no wifi?, high quality, functional, value.

4. Food & beverage: Variety, pricey, sufficient, available (2 complete bar services + one water service on this 3 hour flight).

5.. Staff: YOUNG, attractive, indifferent. During the pre-departure exit row briefing, the assigned F/A noticed a young man who was too young to sit in the exit row. She resolved the situation competently and professionally with a minimum of fuss or anxiety.

Overall impression: The millions spent on facilities, technology, aircraft, entertainment, food & beverage and upkeep all paled in the light of the cabin crew's utter indifference. Perhaps their approach to this flight could be characterized as "uber-professional", that they were above the role that they were there to perform. I am not sure what the appropriate characterization would be but it was palpable and set the tone.

Example: During the safety demonstration video, all cabin crew are mandated to be in the aisle at their "demo position", facing customers and invoking the look of a safety authority. Two flight attendants were in my sightline: one was animatedly chatting with a colleague who was standing behind a bulkhead out of view and the other was staring at the floor, looking as if she'd just learned her childhood pet had died, for the entirety of the video. And the tone was SET!

Lesson learned: For all of our professional prowess, trappings of safety & efficiency, thorough completion of our mandated duties, NOTHING supersedes the warmth & welcome of a genuine smile, desire to serve, and friendly approachability. I cannot fault the crew on yesterday's DH flight in any technical aspect of the completion of their duties.

Alas, I can also truthfully say that, all things being equal, where is the paying customer's reason to choose us over our competition? We all offer essentially the same amenities at essentially the same price. How do you make YOUR buying decisions? Do friendly, approachable, warm, welcoming staff make a difference?

Who "sets the tone", the customer or the crew?

1 comment:

  1. The crew sets the tone. If I view you as uncaring or robotic then I treat you as such.


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