I don’t complain much. About anything. So when something compels me to take the time to complain, I feel pretty strongly about it. I recently flew from the West Coast to the East Coast. The first leg of my journey was fantastic. The flight was on time, and the flight attendants were attentive and fun. One of them received multiple rounds of applause from the passengers for keeping us entertained! The second leg of the trip was not so pleasant. When I boarded the plane, I chose the third row back for my seat. There was a little girl sitting by the window. I asked her if she was alone, and she confirmed she was. I took the aisle seat, hoping it wasn’t a full flight! I started a conversation with her, “how old are you?” She said she was nine and traveling from one parent to the other. We introduced ourselves and chatted while the plane was boarding. It was a full flight, so we did have someone sit in between us. A 30 something year old man who fits right into our conversation.
The weather delayed our flight from taking off by three hours. We sat on the runway the entire time. Anyone who has ever been through that knows it’s no fun. There were three flight attendants. One of them was clearly invisible. The other two almost as much, but when they did peek around the corner from behind their little kitchen cubby, they did not seem happy at all. I wrote the airline to tell them about the experience.
My primary complaint was (other than them not being friendly or happy) at no time, did any of them check on the three children (the one in my row and two behind us) to see if they needed or wanted anything. It’s difficult for an adult to have the patience to go through a flight delay. Three hours for a nine-year-old can be a much bigger deal. She had her moments of anxiety, near tears and lots of complaining. Even though I did so with the thought of (what if) my children were flying solo, at some point I felt like she was MY responsibility to watch and comfort. After about two hours, I asked one of the flight attendants if she could bring snacks to the kids as they were all complaining of being hungry. She walked off without a word and returned with two little bags of peanuts for each of them, but not with a smile. Now I could take this conversation down a whole different path, but I will just say if the airline isn’t going to make a commitment to at least “watch over” these single children travelers, then don’t allow them to fly alone. Just my opinion.
I was thinking of all the possibilities the airlines have for making this a much better experience. Delays happen. If you travel you expect it, but if an airline went out of their way to make it a “pleasant” experience wouldn’t you want to fly on that airline as much as possible? I would! Any number of things comes to mind but for this … perhaps offer a drink and a snack? Possibly don’t charge for an alcoholic beverage? Talk to the passengers… keep them apprised of what is going on. Play relaxing music. Show a movie. Give dance lessons. Something! Oh, and SMILE.
As a business owner, I’m inclined to tell another business if they aren’t being represented well. I feel like I am doing their business a “favor” by complaining. I could just as easily not fly that airline anymore. Other than this one incident, I’ve had all great experiences, and I like the airline overall. It has made me think of (my) clients’ complaints differently. While it doesn’t happen often, if they are complaining, it’s because they are invested in my company and want to continue working with us. Granted, it’s not as easy to change a development team (such as ours) as it is an airline. It has to be a “working” relationship, a “partnership.” If a client takes the time to reach out and complain, it’s worth the time to investigate their experience, resolve the issue, prevent it from happening again and communicate all of this to the client. Moreover, while it can be difficult to deal with some complaints and/or some complainers, we learn something new every time it happens, something to improve our business. So, dare I say, I’m thankful for complaints?