The other day, I posted on Twitter the customer service scores for Miami based American Airlines flight attendants for the last three months.
In a nutshell, passengers receive email surveys from flights and are queried on basic service standards including:
- Pre departure beverages (whether they are offered)
- Use of name
- Personal thank you
- Whether the flight attendant smiled
- Whether there was eye contact
- Whether the flight attendant was friendly
Overall, scores for Miami based flight attendants improved from the surveys in November, through January 2019. In fact, all but one category improved – that of the pre departure beverage. Now, to be very fair, the scoring from the pre-departure beverage category was a bit skewed, and to say that things didn’t improve overall wouldn’t be fair.
- From November to December, scores increased
- From December to January, scores decreased, but not lower than the score in November
Now, I’ve gotten a fair amount of questions on this pre-departure beverage category — mostly to the tune of “who cares?”
In reality, it really is the most minor of things. I would much rather a flight attendant be friendly and smile than offer a pre-departure beverage for sure. I can probably go so far to say most passengers that board a plane aren’t in dire need of a drink and aren’t incredibly thirsty…and if they’re craving alcohol that bad, then they should probably seek help elsewhere.
But, the pre-departure beverage category comes up again and again, and it’s something that is complained about regularly on Twitter if you follow any blogger that flies any airline. Now, for full disclosure, I would say about 70% of my flights on American Airlines have pre-departure beverages offered, so, fairly, I am one of the complainers a portion of the time. A majority of the time when I give my preference for a beverage, I ask for the Dasani Lime club soda.
So why is this beverage so important to flight attendant scoring? Does a glass of water really have that much of an impact?
I think it comes down to several things:
Service protocol – there’s a service protocol that the beverage must be offered (there are exceptions, especially in the case of delayed departure or lack of catering, so by no means should anyone be faulted if extenuating circumstances exist). When that service protocol exists, passengers expect, so the PDB, as it is known, is something that represents.
A tangible service – Flight attendants have good days and bad days. They’re waking up at the crack of dawn, or may have multiple long flights in any given day. Those long days sometimes may result in less than stellar attitudes, and while in a service industry that’s not the best thing, it’s expected. The PDB is the tangible way of saying “I know you’re here, and I care.” Every customer interprets attitude in a different way and while I may think someone is doing a great job, the next person in the next seat over may think the complete opposite. However, the PDB represents a tangible service that every customer would receive to indicate they acknowledge the onboard service. Smiling, friendliness and eye contact are really things that can be interpreted much different by different customers, especially those of different nationalities. A beverage is something that is either there, or it isn’t, and I think that’s a huge thing to include in a survey measuring what was offered.
It differentiates service – Sure, first class seats are much larger than the ones in the Main Cabin. However, upon boarding, there’s not too much that differentiates these cabins from a service standpoint. Jackets may be hung, but that’s seasonal in many cases. The one thing that touches every passenger is that ask of “Would you like something to drink before we take off?” It’s a tangible service offering that isn’t featured in the economy cabin, and gives the paying customers up front a reason to pay, other than, of course, the obvious physical differences.
So, in the end, is everyone truly that thirsty up in the front of the plane? In reality, not really. However, that pre departure beverage is really a larger part of the service offering, and represents much more.
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