A big shoutout to Captain Jeb Baum on my flight from Burbank to San Francisco last Friday. He modeled perfectly how pilots can quickly defuse anger over unexpected flight delays.
Morning fog is common in San Francisco during the summer. As lovely as that is to keep temperatures cool, it often leads to delays into San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
I was taking a mid-morning mainline A319 flight from Burbank to San Francisco last week. Although we boarded on time and were ready to pushback early, we received word of Air Traffic Control weather delay once onboard.
These are so common at SFO that I was not the least bit surprised. Other passengers, however, did not take to the initial announcement so kindly. Groans and cursing could be heard throughout the aircraft.
But rather than just hide in the flight deck, Captain Jeb Baum walked out, took the microphone, stepped into first class, and began talking.
He introduced himself, apologized for the delay, and carefully explained that it was weather-related. He explained that fog in SFO necessitates a “flow control program” in which landings are more spaced out than usual. That causes delays.
He promised to keep us updated and invited passengers to use the lavatories and their electronic devices while we waited. Our initial delay was 25 minutes.
25 minutes came and went. He returned and again provided an update. The fog had not lifted as anticipated and we’d need to wait another half hour. He apologized once again.
This time, there were no groans. In fact, everyone stayed calm.
Eventually we took off, made up some time (the schedule is always padded), and managed to land only about 40 minutes late.
The delay became secondary to how the delay was handled. By expressing empathy and being transparent, Captain Baum neutralized what could have been a very nasty situation. This is exactly what every captain should do during delays. As always, it is the little things that make big differences in terms of customer perception.
The Biscoff cookies helped as well…
So nice to see @BiscoffCookies back on @united! pic.twitter.com/YMzS0hMoQF
— Matthew Klint (@LiveandLetsFly) August 30, 2019
Hello Matthew, This is nice post about United Airlines.
Matt.. I promise you 100%.. this is not what this guy would want. Did you ask him if it was ok to post his picture? I know its perfectly legal but this is why as a pilot I I work DO NOT address the cabin face to face.. I NEVER want to be named on a blog…anywhere…. for any reason…. EVER. 99.9% of pilots would agree. Can’t we just do our jobs… do the right thing and move on without everything going on the internet? NOPE
Honest question. What are you afraid of? Why would you neglect to do your job the best you could because people might recognize you publicly for it? That certainly was not why Captain Baum made the announcement. But he should be credited for keeping everyone so calm. I appreciated him so much.
I don’t think it’s an issue of being afraid. Some people might not want their picture taken and posted on some blog. They are allowed to feel that way.
They are allowed to feel that way. But that’s it. They have absolutely no reasonable expectation of privacy in their public-facing position.
The older I get the more I am learning that it is impossible to please everyone no matter what is done. You could give a free thousand dollars to people walking down the street and five or ten percent of the people would be complaining about what you’re doing. This is a great captain, and we are lucky to hear about what he did.
Just because there is none, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be. And then you wonder why so many pilots just stay in the cockpit…
Aaron, what possible reason would a pilot not want to be recognized for providing good service? Fear of being Facebook stalked?
Not everyone wants their face plastered on the internet, regardless of the reason?
Not good enough.
I just had an easyJet captain do similar. He was on standby at Gatwick, got taxied to Southend to fly due to sickness. Pushed the schedule out by an hour plus.
Kudos for standing at the front not hiding in the cockpit.
Ryan – I don’t know where you work, but I can tell you, based upon being personally told by a United pilot, that their flight crews are being encouraged to do exactly what Capt. Baum did on this flight, not just in the case of IRROPS, but on every flight.
I’ve had multiple flights recently where the captain walked around the premium cabin and welcomed on board thanked each passenger individually.
I’ve spoken with several United captains who said that they are enjoying standing in front of the cabin and making an announcement, so long as it’s not interfering with getting the aircraft pushed back.
I will tell you on one flight that it made a serious impact on many of the frequent flyers on each of those flights (I’m a 1K Million Miler) – we were talking about it for some time on the flight.
I ran into one of the captains walking in the terminal after the flight and thanked him for doing it, and asked him if he minded if I tweeted to @united about him and how great the experience was. With a big smile, he said that would be great.
Apparently the flight operations folks at United have figured out that “just do our jobs” includes making sure that the people who pay the salaries, i.e., the passengers, feel valued and cared about by every United team member on the aircraft, not just the flight attendants. I don’t know what airline you fly for, but you might think about how you could do the same.
Exactly what every captain should do during delay…even though no one wants their picture to be on a blog on the internet for any reason…. The pilots I fly with are absolutely amazing people who would truly enjoy getting up and shaking hands of first class passengers, or addressing the cabin face to face.. it simply does not happen anymore due to blogs like this and the viral internet. q
Why oh why is it wrong to recognize a pilot for doing well? Is it because you are afraid you will be called out for doing something unprofessionally?
Yeah not sure about naming us on random blogs. That said, kudos to him for staying proactive & striving to provide good customer service. However negative points for apologizing for weather. Weather is out of our hands. Mechanicals, operational failures, sure; but never apologize for weather delays. Waaaay out of our hands as crew.
That’s what gave him even more credibility. Because passengers know he is not to blame for the weather, but did so anyway.
I agree kudos to the captain. I’m just saying as a courtesy would be nice to let him know or ask if you can put him on the internet. And yes we all like being recognized for a job well done and rest assured I will always do whatever I can to make passengers happy but in no way do I want to be on the internet on a blog and many of my peers the same. A captain during my indoctrine week said it best. “I used to greet the cabin and face them during ground announcements until the bloggers took over the internet “
Very very few people want to be on the internet. Matt… you probably don’t understand how it feels since you are comfortable being on here. I hope never to find my name or an article about me good or bad without knowing first. Why not extend some courtesy to the captain as he was doing for you. No good deed goes unpunished.
Also you cali now apologized for the weather delay. I would word it empathetically and less apologetic. I still think what he did was great but someone from the company sees it and they may feel different. You see, don’t post stuff like this on the internet. Just enjoy life without having to blog every time something happens. You have zero understanding of how your mindless and what you feel harmless actions may effect ….. other people. Here is to hoping pilots can interact with customers and enjoy it without having to worry about how the internet perceives them
Just stick to the miles and points stuff.
Totally disagree. I’ve flown 1.5 million miles on United over the last 15 years and have called out many captains on this blog for their great behavior. They appreciate it. I will continue to do so. I believe your opinion is way out of line.
We experienced something similar on American a couple of months ago. I am paraphrasing here but the pilot said something along the lines of “no one wants to wait, I’ll keep you updated and all complaints come to me, not the flight crew. You have a problem or need to complain, you can and will deal with me.”
As a former Pan Am purser, I feel that the captain’s apology for the weather was an amazing show of humility. Any rational person should realize that an airline is not responsible for a weather delay. His acknowledgment of and apology for factors beyond the company’s control however, would reassure me as a passenger that this man is truly sorry for his airline’s inability to provide a timely flight segment regardless of the circumstances. Kudos to him!
As for the internet post, well it could quite possibly have a positive impact on his company’s image. Additionally, I would hope that in 2019 this professional would have considered the the possibility of his actions being recorded prior to stepping out of the cockpit and picking up the cabin mic. Thanks for posting Matthew and thank you captain for carrying the torch in such a “customer-focused” manner.
Thanks. I guarantee you no one was blaming United for the delay, but everyone was thankful to have this captain on our flight.
Antonio. I agree 100%. I was saying how others may see it. There have been wonderful YouTube channels by pilots shut down by their airlines even though they were never filming on duty or in the airplane. You never know how companies will view you on the internet. I am making a point that it shouldn’t have to be that way. We should all be able to serve and do our jobs without being thrown all over the internet by bloggers.
In the late 90’s, ATL had a ground stop shortly after we pushed back from the gate due to a line of serious storms which caused us to be stuck in the alley for quite a while. The Captain shut the engines down and invited anyone who was interested to the cockpit. He ran through all the alarms and gave a brief tutorial. I’d say I was up there for about 20 minutes. Had a great time- it was a great opportunity for PR and one of t(e best times I’ve had on a “flight”. Curious if that would be allowed today.
I hate the current PC climate and I generally avoid it. But I can’t help but wonder why a post positively identifying a male pilot is somehow wrong when we read and endorse blogs all the time ID-ing a great FA or purser. Are the rules different?
Great point Colleen. Great point!
I flew for Pan Am in the ’70s when it was ALL about the passengers. We had a formal dining room in the B zone of our 747s, American had a piano bar in the back of theirs, Continental Airlines (merged with United) had a Pub with stand up bar, games, foot long hotdogs and popcorn on their DC10s and the all people had were cameras, Polaroid SX70s and 1st and 2nd generation video cameras. Today, everyone is an armchair Steven Speilberg and/or a star. So if you dont want to end up on a blog, remain covert! 🙂
Giving people kudos is one thing, but you should always ask them first for their permission if you are going to post their picture online.
I strongly disagree theoretically and also due to United’s photo policy.
I’m not surprised you strongly disagree. Would you mind if people ever post pics of you and yours without your permission?
Nope. Not if I am in a public place, like an airplane. And that’s the honest truth.
Great. But just you’re ok with it, that doesn’t mean everybody else is…
That’s not the standard.
This is an excellent post and a fantastic reminder of someone doing the right thing. This Captain deserves to be recognized for doing the right thing. I see no issue with posting about him or posting his photo, he deserves recognition. I am on board with Matthew on this one, there is nothing wrong with this post.
I’m just going to drop this right here…
“The use of small cameras or mobile devices for photography and video is permitted on board, provided you limit the purpose of your photography and video to capturing personal events. Any photographing or recording that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members’ duties is prohibited.”
I think you’re really stretching on “personal event”. By posting crew members photos on the internet you are potentially risking their safety and security. This pilot may never do this again in fear of being plastered on the internet, in turn you would be interfering with crew members duties, which looks to be prohibited.
Not to mention, now the whole world knows his name and who he works for. I had a friend who’s a pilot who had his crew bag stolen with his uniform and passport in it. He filed a police report. Why? Because someone could and people have tried to impersonate pilots. You’re old enough to remember 9/11. Information on crew duties, location, next steps, were all documented via photographs. After flying 1.5million miles, you should know better then anyone else that the aviation field is reminded everyday. That every policy and procedure from the time you walk into the airport is because of that day. So maybe to a blogger you see no issue to it. But to aviation there’s everything wrong with it.
The reality is you used their verbiage to your advantage, making you feel ok about posting this photo. Most airlines have strict policies that you are not to photograph crew members, period.
You make it sounds like he is a Valerie Plame-like secret agent and I just exposed his CIA cover.
Put United’s photo policy aside, which clearly gave me the license to take and post the picture I did. The idea that the pilot had any reasonable expectation of privacy is absurd when his name is announced by FAS and when he walks around the cabin with his name tag prominently visible.
It is only misplaced delusions of grandeur and/or irrational fear that drives opposition to my story. And it’s only when a white male pilot is “outed” that there is any outrage. Quite telling…
If my ID was stolen, I would report it too. I’ve also faced defamatory fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in my name. Big deal. We don’t live in an anonymous world.
Great reply! However, his name is Jeb, not Jeff. Fantastic man that I’ve had the privilege of working with. Great article and glad to hear you had a good experience!