First impressions matter greatly in any context, including on a flight. My flight to London on United this week had a very disappointing start.
I’ve resolved in 2019 to resist being offended. Thus, I’m not (or at least trying not to) directly complain. But I do want to point out what a missed opportunity poor service is.
I boarded my flight from Los Angeles to London earlier this week. Just 30 seconds after taking my seat in business class, a frowning FA appeared with a clipboard and simply stated:
First and second meal choice?
That was it. No smile. No “welcome onboard.” And certainly no, “Mr. Klint, we’re pleased to have you flying with us today. Have you had a chance to review the menu yet? I’m taking meal orders now so that we can get you served promptly after takeoff to maximize your rest.”
Same question to my seatmate. He asked if she had a recommendation and she shrugged and did not respond.
What a juxtaposition to the purser, who later came around to offer a personal greeting to every business class passenger.
It annoyed me so much. I know I should not let it bother me. Life is too short to be offended over things like that. But again, what a missed opportunity. What a failure to show kindness and extend a smile, like De Ann did on a recent United flight.
I know United has cut back a galley position and FAs feel overworked, but how much does a smile cost? Doesn’t even a forced smile make you feel better?
I’ll have more to say about the flight in a later post, but United has all the ingredients for success. But when flight attendants act like this one, human capital is not maximized. That’s ultimately a poor reflection on leadership and customers do take note. And even if they continue to fly United, as I certainly will, they shake their heads in disbelief. How can these levels of service be tolerated?
Maybe the frowning FA was just having a bad day. Move on….
@James: Let me start off by saying that I agree with you, in the sense that he, and all of us, should move on from something like that. However, I want to pose a question because he does bring up, if indirectly, a good point. At the end of the day, don’t you think that her bad day is irrelevant once she boards the aircraft? I presume that these passengers paid good money (or good miles, or got an upgrade through some trustworthy means), so shouldn’t we presume that we will get quality service? Shouldn’t we assume that if she is having a bad day, she will leave it at home? If you think no to the above, does that give us permission to act grumpily and without a genuine smile when we go to our own jobs?
Are you asking a question or writing an essay? Anyway, I don’t share your presumption since maybe I’m not an entitled person like you.
who said I’m using such excuse? Moreover, who said I work in service? (Facepalm)
Is it? A biz/first class pax should worry about such trivial matters? Is it because of the self entitlement or simply you have no other matters to think about?
@James: Pay for a business class ticket, then say that again. I’m curious how you come to the conclusion that I’m entitled. These folks on the plane are not volunteers, they’re people who are contributing members to society, and this is the way that they make their living. They’re expected to do good work. I, the customer, am a very, very small part of the reason why they can feed themselves. No, that’s not entitlement, that is the truth. If you PAY for a business class ticket yourself, then feel free to tell me that I’m an entitled brat.
I’m going to work for a major consulting company in HR when I graduate. I’m going to pick up the telephone when someone calls me and complains about their benefits, and I’m going to tell them “if you wanna file a complaint, speak with my supervisor” every time. I’m going to sound as grumpy and obnoxious as possible, and everyone’s going to just suck it up. Then, I’ll let you know how long I last in that job. My guess is less than three months.
@James: Welcome to reality, mate. No, I have plenty of other things to think about, thank you very much. It’s time, my friend, for you to get your head out of your ass and realize that you are completely wrong here. There is nothing entitling for a paying customer to ask for what they purchased. Either realize this, or shut up.
Yes, reality is, business people paying for business class have plenty other business matters to worry instead of being grumpy with an essay like you. The way you passionately wrote comments evidencing you are nobody. Your best experience in business only by accumulating lifetime points. I can see why you felt entitled to be treated as a king. Once in a lifetime right? Hahaha… Peasant!
I’ll be more blunt than Alan. If you’re the type that uses a bad day as an excuse to treat customers poorly, you have no business working in the service industry. Period.
@MeanMeosh: I know you’re agreeing with me, and I appreciate that. Do understand that people have bad days, and we all, myself and probably you included, are known to lose our cools during bad days…rarely. If this FA was having a bad day, I will do what I can to help her, and do agree with James that Matthew should let it go. And I agree with you that people who CONSISTENTLY use bad days as an excuse to behave poorly have no business in the service industry. It’s a tricky balance.
For all you know, on a personal level, “Move on” is exactly what Matthew did. This is a blog dedicated to points and miles (often) first class and business class travel and, as such, the apparent bad attitude of the FA is quite relevant and should be mentioned.
why should we “move on” ? Have you ever flown United Business First? If you have, than you know how much the seats cost. The reason we fly these high priced flights is for the comfort and service. This kind of service should not be tolerated. United needs to know how the FA treated these passengers. I had a great experience flying United’s Polaris Business first. I will definitely do it again but I would NOT put up with this treatment. That’s a 9-10hr flight and to start it off like that is horrible. Im so sorry you were treated so disrespectfully. I hope United compensated you.
I agree with you. A bad day is not a hall pass for curtness or rudeness. I used to fly to Asia regularly for business and I have never had a bad experience on CX, BR, JL, NH etc in any class, let alone business or first. Does that mean the flight attendants have never had a bad day to take out on their passengers? Unlikely. I fly domestic premium and occasionally the big 3 internationally and the service standards can be hit or miss. I pay for a higher level of service and product, in fact, several carriers explicitly state as much when selling premium cabin space, so yes, I am very much entitled to said higher level of service. Professionals do not take their personal issues out on their guests and customers.
I’m pretty sure she was working EWR-MUC a few months ago.
That’s the problem with all three legacy carriers. Sometimes you get a really great crew and sometimes you get miserable sods. I’m a firm supporter of unions to protect workers from arbitrary, capricious, and greedy employers and managers, but there has to be a limit on the power of seniority too.
I might be just lucky but flying over 200k miles per year on Delta and I never get this type of treatment from their crew. They get a hefty bonus every year and are all smiles on every flight.
You are lucky. I will agree that DL FAs are, in general, the best of the three (AA, DL, UA), but they’re far from universally great. The ex-NW folks are pretty uniformly unpleasant, in my experience, although even they are better than they were when they were with NW.
Time to fly Air Italy from LAX. Seems you’re in Italy as well.
Wait for the return. 😉
At least you didn’t answer her query like a person next to me did faced with a similar scenario. She answered :” I didn’t sleep with you last night hon’,how about introducing yourself first and asking again,but this time the way you used to do it while in training?”
Oh SNAP! (and YYYYAAAASSSS!)
Curious if you were presented with a menu before she asked you…..
I agree. A good attitude is infectuous and costs nothing. Some of my best memories from flights are when the FAs went out of their way to be kind and accomodating to my children, and it didn’t even involve them giving us free “stuff”.
That’s downright appalling. And my standards aren’t even very high. I’ll settle for a perfunctory “Have you decided what you would like to order, sir?”
Also, hile I applaud your resolution to be offended less, you absolutely have the right to be upset about this interaction. You really should complain to United on Twitter. It’s these types of bad apple FAs that need to be weeded out of the system in order for the domestic carriers to truly be taken seriously alongside foreign carriers.
This is what you would have got if flying Delta: “Mr. Klint, we’re pleased to have you flying with us today. We really appreciate your status and loyalty to Delta. Have you had a chance to review the menu yet? I’m taking meal orders now so that we can get you served promptly after takeoff to maximize your rest.”
BTW, On almost every Delta flight to Europe, the captain comes to the business class before the flight, introduces himself and explains how the flight will be (time, direction, which countries we will fly over, etc….) and thanks everyone for their loyalty. Also, since I became Diamond and now Delta 360 this year I usually have a personal card handwritten by the main purser waiting on my seat thanking me for my loyalty and letting me know they are there to help me in anything I need.
Seriously, if you have to fly one of the big 3 US airlines, fly Delta.
I’ll be trying Delta again soon, though without status. Looking forward to it.
agree with most of this sentiment but I’ve taken 6 tatls on DL one this year…. no captain coming thru biz on any… that sounds a bit extreme so when trying to make a point, let’s reel it in a bit
I had a very similar experience this week. I flew UA 944 ORD – FRA. I had just sat down in my business class seat when the FA appears and asks for a dinner order. Pro Alex was I didn’t have a menu. She insisted I did. I rifled through all the Saks stuff – no menu.
She huffed and went to find one at which time she stood over me impatiently until I ordered.
This flight did have a galley FA who worked very hard. What surprised me was the lack of team work as nobody really helped her when they had an opportunity to do so. I asked her later if she got any rest on her break and she said her feet hurt too mad.
All this on a old yet to be refurbished UA 777-200 made for a poor experience.
I wish I had taken LH.
Please give the feedback to UA so they can follow up with the flight attendant!
Report it. Not for the sake of having any miles or ETC handed out. But for the fact that this behavior when gone unchecked will only get worse. Re-training is needed.
This time I did in the online survey.
I have had this happen far too many times on my HND SFO and NRT LAX flights. I report it everytime in the survey. Nothing seems to change.
It’s so incredibly frustrating. The job is service and hospitality. If you don’t like it, fine something else.
I’m sick of these last two CEOs talking about the customer when clearly they have no idea what’s going on in their planes.
They will argue that their job is for your safety. At least on U.S. carriers. Since 9/11 many of the older line FA’s have been brainwashed to think that this is their main priority – and for many that is a nice excuse to stop being service oriented. I am convinced that much of this is still the post 9/11 culture with some airline employees. It would make an interesting study actually within the service sector.
I refuse to make such generalizations, but it was an interesting juxtaposition on this flight. The offending FA was not old by any means, but definitely a pre-9/11 EX-CON employee. What a difference between her and the young man who served with her in the cabin, who was attentive and friendly.
The point here is that there’s been a real uptick in the poor service lately. My last three flights have had some of the worst UA experiences, and I am pretty much a loyalist. Few examples:
– Hot towel had dark stains on it, so I politely asked for another, to which the FA said “well someone has to have it, as I’ve got one for each of you – get over it – it’s probably just coffee splatter”.
– Not a single drink refill in four hours from HNL-SFO
– When asking for a wine I had seen on the other cart in the other aisle, “well, I don’t have it on my cart, so these are your choices”
They have to get a grip on these things.
Wow…such nasty bad attitudes by flight attendants toward customers is really appalling. This is because they are not afraid to lose their jobs. These flight attendants are losers on a power trip. They know that most Business Class passengers are probably better off than them financially and they resent having to serve them. So since they are not afraid to lose their jobs they decide to give the passengers the middle finger. Even if they are having a bad day, it does not in any way justify such bad service. I have bad days all the time, but I am all smiles and polite to all customers, no matter how bad my day is. How a person treats others is a direct reflection of their character.
I don’t think it is envy or even a power trip. But I do think poor attitudes by FAs are based upon an entitlement mentality. In my opinion, they should be afraid to lose their jobs for not addressing every passenger by name and smiling.
Everyone has a bad day but you can’t excuse treating people poorly or uncharacteristically because of it. If I won’t accept it from a cop or any other public service then I won’t be hypocritical and accept it from someone for something I paid for. Everyone in Disney World can treat you like royalty regardless of personal situations. The problem is it is accepted and people get away with it with no repercussions.
Same experience here – Polaris EWR-DUB. FA comes down the aisle during boarding –
FA: Can I have your first and second meal choice? (no hello or welcome)
Nick: My choice is the ravioli
FA: Your second choice?
Nick: I thought GS get their first choice?
FA: I don’t know that you’re GS
Nick: Thats not my problem
FA: Company policy is to take first and second meal choices
Nick: (no response)
The Purser later came by, introduced himself, and said he would make sure I would have the ravioli. Now how hard was that?
BTW – never saw the first FA for the reminder of the flight… odd 🙂
It’s really sad. And frankly, I see this primarily on the EX-CON side and am getting very tired of it.
Same experience last week on LHR-SFO. FA did the whole “First choice, second choice?” without introducing herself – or acknowledging my GS status.
It’s incredible how much service has gone downhill in the last 3 months in Polaris.
As someone who doesn’t fly much domestically, I had a surprisingly good experience on a SFO-IAD flight this week.
I get this especially from older ex-Cons. You?
I keep hearing about how UA removed the mid-galley FA but isn’t that the same level of FAs that DL has on their aircraft? It’s not an excuse.
UA business class cabins tend to be larger than Delta’s so having the same level of staffing doesn’t make sense.
Had the same experience a couple of weeks ago LHR-SFO. Confused him when I said there should be a special meal for me.
Interestingly, with a simple words I know that deep in most people mind, are expecting some level of courtesy as premium passenger.
So why that most people, in another instance (re: articles) also insisted that FA was there for safety?
Hypocrite much? Hahaha….
As a flight attendant for more than 40 years, I assure you that there is no excuse for being nasty. It costs nothing to be kind. If she hates her job so much, quit. She’ll find out very quickly how much she’ll miss the perks of being a flight attendant. My guess is that she doesn’t have the guts to quit. All she can offer the world is making life miserable for people who don’t deserve it. Shame.
Nice to hear an actual FA weigh in!
You need to re-title the article: “Fan-Boy Matthew Confronts the Reality of United Service.” I fly on UA a lot and I encounter Flight Attendants like this all the time. It’s usually worst in Intl Business class, where the most senior, entitled flight attendants are concentrated. I’d switch to Delta if I could.
I feel it’s gotten much worse since they finally merged the UA and CO crews. Many of the younger, more uppity crew (from the CO side) all got relegated to working domestic, and now all Polaris flights are staffed by incredibly senior and entitled FAs.
As a GS, I fly for the route network, amazing irrops handling, and good customer service (on the phone), but I can’t help but shake my head 8 times out of 10 when I interact with the FAs.