I’m Kinda Surprised At What Drives Our Opinion On Airline Customer Service

Providing good customer service on an airplane shouldn’t be difficult.  Sure, there are rude customers to deal with.  There are also plenty of customers who need help or don’t understand the proper way to board a plane.  But, there are plenty of other jobs in the world where people have to deal with belligerent customers and folks who don’t know what they’re doing.

What exactly does good customer service mean to you?  On an airplane, most people don’t even interact with the crew other than maybe to be offered a drink.

View From The Wing cites data that seems to suggest greeting a customer in a premium cabin by name and serving them a beverage makes a huge difference in their opinion of the service.  That’s pretty surprising to me.

For starters, I generally don’t drink alcohol on planes.  I also bring my own bottled water so I’m not dependent on the crew.  Maybe that’s a default position because I’ve pre-conditioned myself to “poor service”, not getting offered a beverage.

Getting recognized by name doesn’t really move the needle for me, either.  It’s one of the more amusing parts of the flight (Good morning, Mr. Pee-ah-zoo-reelio!).  I’m much more attuned to a warm smile versus a frown.  A crabby flight attendant who manages to blurt out the name on the sheet of paper in front of him/her doesn’t make me more likely to appreciate the service.

Airline Customer Service

Sometimes, Numbers Are Just Numbers

Ever wait a really long time to get food in a restaurant?  Once you’re in a bad mood, everything else can just seem worse.  The food isn’t as hot as it’s supposed to be, maybe not as tasty.  In my day job, I see plenty of survey data from customers.  Initial impressions can set the tone for the rest of the customer service experience.

However, if I had to bet, a good chunk of customers filling out surveys don’t actually remember if the flight attendant greeted them by name.  I couldn’t tell you if I was greeted by name on my flight from a couple of days ago.  I have a general recollection of the service, but not terribly detailed (oddly, I recall I wasn’t offered a drink prior to departure).

The Final Two Pennies

I’m still a bit stunned that customers who believe they were greeted by name and received a drink before departing think the service was noticeably better.  I’m guessing that people filling out these surveys don’t recall every detail of their flights.  There’s really two questions here:

1.  Does being recognized by a flight attendant and offered a beverage make it a better experience for you?

2.  Do you actually remember if you were greeted by name or offered a beverage on your most recent flight?

The post I’m Kinda Surprised At What Drives Our Opinion On Airline Customer Service was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Your skepticism is solely based on you not doing something, or because it doesn’t move the needle for you. That’s a bit… lazy perhaps. Hilton had a study a while back that showed an increase in costumer satisfaction when Honors members were recognized and thanked for their loyalty at check-in. If you believed that, this is not a hard stretch.

  2. I suspect that these aren’t actually the drivers of customer satisfaction. Rather, these flight attendant behaviors correlate with good flight attendants more generally, whose efforts are noticed throughout the flight. If these two attributes are there so are plenty of others. If these two attributes aren’t there it’s a good likelihood that others aren’t either.

  3. I can recall on my last flight being offered both a welcome drink and being addressed by name. As far as the impact on my satisfaction, I couldn’t care less about being addressed by name, in fact I would prefer not to, it makes things too personal, just be polite and courteous, something that goes both ways. A welcome drink be it alcohol, soda, water or anything else you’d like is part of the service and amenities in the premium cabin and not getting it means part of what I am paying for is lacking, so unless I wasn’t thirsty at all, not getting it means service is lacking.

  4. I agree with some of your points. I couldn’t care less if the flight attendant comes up and greets me by name or greets me at all. I actively say hello to them when walking on a plane if they are standing there and will return any welcome I receive, but don’t really care if they come to my seat. I’m not saying it’s not good customer service, but some people seem peeved when they aren’t doted on like they are the most important customer the airline has. I know some bloggers seem to go out of their way to point out the “cabin service manager” or some other FA royalty came by to greet them by name. I don’t need/want that level service. Honestly for me, If the only words out of the FA’s mouth the whole flight are “would you like another cocktail” I’m good.

    And that’s the point I disagree with you on…..I love me some PDB! 90% of my flights are vacations/leisure so the drink is a nice way to start/end the trip.

  5. I think your points are valid – but look at this from a staff training perspective. If an employee is not being “friendly” or “attentive” or “helpful” or “engaging”, instructing them to just do more of those things won’t help. But measuring on this specific discrete task forces more interaction in an extremely personal way: people respond to their name. Bingo – interaction happens. With more practice over time it can even seem natural 🙂 It also over time zeros out staff who persistently ignore their customers.

  6. I personally cannot stand to have my computer data-based name used on me by a stranger in a fake attempt at intimacy. It feels icky and scammy. FAs on Southwest, Delta, and Virgin are great. They just honor reasonable requests.

  7. I think, as someone pointed out, there is likely a correlation between the smiles and hellos and then how well the flight goes… I was on a flight two days ago and specifically remember that the flight attendants were horrible; not friendly at all and any courtesy was fake – so that made for a bad flight… Suspect that this is what folks are responding to…

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