Small customer service gestures go a long way toward making delays bearable and building loyalty. I want to pay tribute today to a classy captain on American Airlines who turned an annoying delay into a lovely case study in providing superior customer service.
How A Classy American Airlines Captain Turned A Delay Into A Great Customer Service Moment
View From The Wing shared about how a caption handled a delay from Puerto Vallarta with a plane full of impatient passengers. Rather than hide in the cockpit or blame others, the pilot walked into the passenger cabin, explained the reason for the delay (a late arriving aircraft), apologized (even though it was not his fault), and then offered to take questions.
This is customer service. Passengers tend to be amazingly resilient when they feel they are being respected. Transparency is a sign of respect. Humility is a sign of respect. Approachability is a sign of respect.
The very act of walking down the aisle is itself a huge gesture.
I have traveled a lot but this has never happened. The captain himself comes face to face to tell why we are late and of course apologized. Also promised to provide free drinks on the @AmericanAir bill. This is customer service. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/gSLyy9wFlq
— Sami Muhonen (@samimuho) May 21, 2023
Adding icing on the cake, the captain finally announced that all drinks would be complimentary once in the air. That’s a nice gesture. Rather than see it as misappropriating company resources (those weren’t his drinks to give away) or encouraging overconsumption and drunkenness onboard, I see it as the sort of gesture that reflects well on American Airlines and will make people far more forgiving of the delay.
Kudos to the classy captain on American Airlines who turned an unfortunate delay into a chance for customer service to shine. Objectively, American Airlines was late (again). But do you think that the delay is what people are going to be telling their friends? No, they’ll be talking about the cool pilot and the free drinks.
Do you know what is wrong about this? This should be the norm. The fact that you are calling it out shows how customer service has died in the US. It should be the captain and FAs job to keep passengers informed all the time but not by only announcing from the mic that they don’t know when the plane will be ready to leave. What this captain did should be done all the time so passengers will fell shamed if they misbehave. Giving a detailed explanation makes people basically understand that there is nothing that can be done more than what is being done so they will calm down.
This would be the norm if half the customers didn’t whip out their cellphones and start recording us!
Is it really that bad that something like this got recorded?
When I’ve had a rough long day and now I’m dealing with some kind of stupid mechanical issue and I come out of the flight deck and I have 150-200 people that I’m trying to level with, trying my best to simplify complex technical subjects into layman’s terms or trying to empathize with some company induced delay which I myself am enraged by more than you…..yes I expect just a little respect on the passengers end to not plaster me all over YouTube because guess what? I’m not a public speaker and maybe 10% of the time I might say the wrong thing, heck these days if you say “ladies and gentlemen” you’re liable to offend someone….on the other hand if I say “folks” I’m liable to offend the other people…… it’s not your “right” to film me, if you think it is I’ll just stay in the cockpit and make a PA….. I “work the aisle” (which I do until the phones come out) as a heartfelt curtesy to my passengers, I just ask for the lil bit of curtesy from said passengers that while I’m doing that do me that small favor. I’m not a stage actor, I’m not your entertainment, I’m your pilot.
Yeah I couldn’t possibly agree more! And Matthew’s response was obnoxious. Negative or positive, people have the right to NOT be recorded and not the other way around.
Customer service is really not that hard, but the bigger the organization gets, the harder it is to maintain. This is made even harder in union shops where there is little incentive to provide good customer service and no repercussions for failing to do so. Good for this Captain in setting an example and treating his customers well.
Flght crew need to focus on flying the aircraft and leave the customer service to the relevant professionals. This kind of action does nothing but undercut their colleagues and set unreasonable expectations.
Agreed with Sean 100%. Now a new floor of expectations has been set. I’ve seen it before both as a passenger and as an airline manager: “Well last time I was delayed, they gave us pizza…” The Department of Transportation takes an employee’s actions (such as the Captain) as the acts of the airline, and you don’t want them setting precedents.
I don’t drink, so what do I get out of this if I’m on the plane? I asked a similar question at an Intercontinental hotel recently on check in where they offered me vouchers for a drink at the bar as a welcome amenity. I declined asking if I could have some water bottles instead. Nope, they were happy to give me points and charge me for two bottles of water. Taken a nice thing and made me irritated.
Maybe this should be the floor for expectations.
Maybe it should be, but it’s not the job of the plane driver to decide that.
Do you know why Intercontinental did that? Because the guy that you talked went to a stupid training that had all rules written and he was not told he could have any flexibility. Stupid water bottle cost $0.10 but they prefer to piss off a customer than being flexible and offering them to you instead of a welcome drink.
Except they weren’t flying. Perhaps the relevant “professionals” could learn from this guy. Then next time he can stay in the cockpit.
The captain is the commander of his/her flight; assuming responsibility for his/her crew, passengers and metal is his/her job. Good on the captain in this story for doing what’s right and appropriate: taking responsibility and communicating with those under his care.
Last year on a TAP flight from VIE to LIS whilst still at the gate, the captain noticed that several carry-ons were still not moved from the jetbridge, delaying our departure. He put on a yellow vest, and single handedly took all the bags down the stairs to the loading area. When I thanked him at the end of the flight for doing that, his response was: “I am here to serve my passengers”. I was very impressed.
I am surprised that there were enough minis of alcohol to meet the demands of the passengers.
Maybe it’s rubbing off, or maybe it’s the same captain, but I was on a delayed flight tonight DFW to DCA and the same thing happened. A four bar pilot walked from the front to back apologizing for the delay and explaining what was happening. Didn’t offer free booze but not needed because I appreciated the effort. It was noticed by most.
I have a directly opposite story! My Iberia Express flight two days ago developed a technical fault and we were meant to be shifted to another plane. As we were waiting to board, we saw our flight crew coming off the airbridge. The captain this whispered something to the one member of gate staff who then announced that the flight as cancelled. As, by his time, it was gone 11pm, the situation was chaotic!
Returning to San Diego on a UA flight,we made an unscheduled emergency landing in Kansas due to a passengers critical medical condition.Once back in the air,the FA made a really smarmy,and frankly condescending,announcement how proud we should all be responding so graciously,blah,blah,blah.No complimentary drinks offered though,and it cost many like myself an extra days parking at San Diego airport.Good to know AA got this right,I usually find them much stingier than UA.
I thought it was nice of the pilot to do that. I have had too many flights where the cockpit and attendants don’t have brain one when it comes to communications let alone customer service. When you have your life in the hands of other people good communications should be the bare minimum. If they can’t do it in nonstressful situations what can you expect when the stress hits the fan?