Where are the Peanuts …
I thought it was a simple question when talking with the American Airlines flight attendant. “We do pretzels now,” came the sharp response, as she slapped down the small packet on my lap tray together with a napkin. She moved on to the row behind me. Soon to follow was the attendant offering beverages. I waited my turn, rehearsed what I was going to say when asked: “What beverage can I get you?”
“A red wine please,” I responded. “That will be US$8. Do you want cab or merlot?” I didn’t hear the question since her voice trailed off after the word “want” as she looked away in the other direction towards the passengers across the aisle.
“CAB OR MERLOT,” she snapped back when not hearing a response. “Cab, Cab please, I spluttered” and I offered her eight bucks, a US$5 note and three ones. “No Cash! No cash! Only card,” she insisted with a raised voice. She looked around eyeing immediate passengers sitting within earshot. It was a warning for no one else to screw up. I handed over my credit card. She swiped it. I got no receipt and no “thank you” before she waddled off down the aisle. Only another nine hours and 40 minutes to go. GREAT.
I dozed off: one of the good side effects from a glass of red wine when travelling. I felt a tap on my shoulder as I shifted into a less cramped position. Opening my eyes fully I see the head flight attendant kneeling down to make eye contact. She is holding a clipboard with a printout out of passenger names. “Hello. Mr Weedon isn’t it? I am Kathy, the head flight attendant on this flight. I see you are a three million miler with American Airline Platinum and I see you are sitting in coach class. I have an empty seat in first class and thought you might be more comfortable up there.”
I looked at her in disbelief. Was I dreaming? “Really?” I asked. “Absolutely,” came the response, “Let me help you with your overhead bag.” Without protest, I got up and followed her to the first-class section.
I could sense the dagger-like looks striking me in the back as I walked away knowing “they” were all looking and thinking, “He’s the idiot that screwed up.”
“Here, let’s put your bag here, and you take this seat, give me a minute and I will send an attendant to see what we can get for you”.
“My goodness. This is the way it’s meant to be,” I thought. I got comfortable. “Hello Mr Weedon, can I get you something to eat and a beverage to drink?” said a highly attractive attendant. She handed me a menu. “A glass of red wine please,” I said.
“We have an award-winning Cabernet from Napa Valley or a French Margaux.”
“Oh I’ll take the Margaux, thank you.” She bought me a glass and poured from the bottle, showing me the label first. “OK, I will prepare your meal and be back in about ten minutes,” she added. I sat back and enjoyed my FREE Margaux smiling like a Cheshire cat that licked the cream. Some minutes later my meal arrived on a tray all laid out like a fancy restaurant. A small flower, metal tableware, white linen tablecloth and napkin. Perfect. Seeing my empty glass, the attendant dutifully filled it up again without even asking. The next eight and a half hours went by quickly.
Customer service is how you retain customers. Loyalty programs work— although the rewards for loyalty in the airline industry are becoming less and less. Small customers need looking after as much as big ones. I was lucky on this flight. Most of the time I grin and bear the cattle class service and keep the travel budget in check. But I did enjoy the special treatment.
On one of the frequent trips, the attendant made to see if I was ok, I asked, “So why don’t you serve peanuts any more?”
“Too many people have nut allergies,“ she said. “Don’t you like pretzels?”
“I hate pretzels!”
Steve Weedon is an award-winning CEO who has held senior management positions at various OEMs as well as Katun Corp and SCC. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Print-Rite Europe Limited, Print-Rite Pelikan GmbH Germany and Print-Rite Pelikan SAS France.
He was the original founder of The Recycler Magazine and of trade shows in Europe. He also established Static Control’s Worldwide Subsidiaries and relocated to the US to become executive vice president. Weedon headed up the global Cartridge World network after it was acquired in 2016. He can be contacted on LinkedIn.
Weedon is a popular columnist in RT ImagingWorld Magazine and speaker at RT Summits and events. You can read his other blogs.
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