Up in the Air Communications
I was on a flight to the West Coast on Sunday when I witnessed a disagreement between a passenger and stewardess. I do not know what happened but it was clear that the passenger had complained about something and really disturbed the stewardess. At one point, the stewardness made it clear she was not going to take the tirade directed at her and heard something about an arrest. Since the woman was a few seats ahead of me, I could not hear what the problem was. I did see that afterwards, the stewardess brought a handwritten note to the woman and heard her mention that it was from the pilot. Surprisingly to me, the complaint had escalated to the cockpit. The pilot’s note was not just a single lined entry but several sentences because I could see that it nearly filled the page. When we finally landed, three police people were at the gate to meet the passenger, her husband and the stewardess to interview them.
The whole incident made me uncomfortable but as I thought about it later, I realized that the pilot had actually taken the time to respond to the passenger’s complaint. And it made me think about how airlines really have their hands full with reputational issues and that leadership communications — from the pilot no less — can make a difference. It seemed like a smart, customer focused attempt to diffuse a situation that was going to go nowhere. Probably not a good use of the pilot’s time but perhaps the pilot’s note kept us from returning to JFK and disrupting all of our travels.